The headlamps from guests attending the Torchlight dinner create beautiful moving art as they ski down into the base area of Lake Louise.
LAKE LOUISE, AB — Following the orange glow of torches and accompanied by hoots and hollors, bright white lights could be seen snaking down the lower area of Wiwaxy at Lake Louise Ski Area. As the lights got closer to the base, figures started emerging in the black; adults and children were becoming more visible as they entered the pools of light coming from the overhead base area lights.
Everyone sported a huge grin and you could almost feel the joy pulsating through the night air as they started removing their headlamps and chattering about the excitement of coming down a run in the dark.
It's a scene that plays out a couple of very special evenings during ski season at Lake Louise Ski Area – the Torchlight Dinner & Ski: The Ultimate Apres Ski Party.
"It is the ultimate party," said Sandy Best, director of Public Relations for the resort. "It's a full dinner show that's all about crowd participation and fun."
As the group converged on the Sitzmark Lounge, Best, always the consummate host, went to work ensuring everyone's drink needs were looked after and then he disappeared into the kitchens to see how dinner was coming along.
Meanwhile, the group were busy mingling; chatting about their already novel evening which started with an apres party up at the Whitehorn Lodge at mid-mountain.
"This has been absolutely fantastic," said Ben Page from Liverpool, England. "My girlfriend's skied three times and I thought it was time I gave it a go. We checked out a number of places, including France, but when we came across Lake Louise and looked at the price comparison, especially through Ski Big 3 (a local Banff booking company), there was no decision to be made. Tonight's a lark and it's been really great fun so far."
The petro chemical engineer had few days of lessons under his belt and though he admitted that skiing in the dark, "was a bit scary at first, it was brilliant. And, I skied my first black run today. It's amazing and the people are so friendly here. They are very warm and welcoming. Canadians really know how to treat visitors, not like some countries we've been to."
Had Best heard that, he would have been beaming.
Presiding over the buffet table, a chef stands at the carving station at the Lake Louise Friday night Torchlight dinner.
"We really strive to make sure our guests have a great time," he said, "and it all comes down to the staff. Whether it's the guy cleaning out the toilets, the ski school instructors or senior management – everyone here at Lake Louise is focused on making sure the guest experience is positive and one they will always remember."
With that said, the band – a duo called Suds – struck up a decidedly western hoedown tune and out came a group of chefs making do with brooms as horses. They were hooting and hollering and circling the wagons, or in this case, a large, flaming cut of roast beef on a wheeled table.
The band may have started out playing a Stevie Ray Vaughn song, but the evening was definitely all about western Canadian hospitality – with enough food to feed a large group of cowhands. Or an entire ski school and their charges, depending on how you looked at it.
Tucking into his dinner, David Payne couldn't help but remark on the taste of the beef. His son, Lee agreed saying that he would, "like to take this Alberta beef back to England with me."
David and his wife, Karen were visiting Lee who has been working as a ski instructor at Lake Louise for the past two seasons and who was one of the torchbearers for the evening. "It's our first time here (Lake Louise) and it's really quite beautiful," said Karen. "We haven't really had a lot of time to explore and we only have the week, so we are spending as much time as we can with Lee."
And for Lee, that meant getting his parents on skis. "Lee gave us lessons on Monday," said David, "but we really didn’t made it off the training hills for the rest of the week."
As the Paynes continued to regal me with their exploits on the hill and share some of their life back in Kent, England, Darren May, another British subject working as an instructor, put down his knife and fork and said, "The only thing missing from this meal is Yorkshire Pudding. How come when I mention Yorkshire Pudding to a Canadian, they have no idea of what I am talking about?"
Karen Payne (left in green) and her husband, David (right in beige) share a laugh as they learn to line dance at the Lake Louise Friday night Torchlight dinner.
Of course, this statement, like most that happen at a dinner party, switched the conversation up with the focus on a good Yorkshire and my promising May that many Canadians know exactly what the traditional British accompaniment to a roast beef dinner was, and serve it all the time.
After dinner, including a wide array of desserts that featured enough chocolate mousse to smother everything the boys put on their plates, Best was back at the mic taking over lead vocals (the man has a voice) followed by letting everyone know it was time to learn how to line dance.
As I was walking out, I stopped for a minute to watch the Paynes as they were put through their paces on the dance floor. They may not have mastered the art of skiing in a single day, but it only took them a few go-arounds to nail down the line dance steps and when I left, they were smiling and having a great time. As was the little fella of about five or six who was concentrating hard on his steps right beside them.
The Torchlight Dinner & Ski: The Ultimate Apres-Ski Party is definitely an excellent program that combines skiing/riding, dinner and dancing – making it the perfect night out. To find out more on the torchlight dinner and Lake Louise in general, visit http://www.skilouise.com/things-to-do/torchlight_dinner_and_ski_event.php
For more information on Lake Louise Ski Area or to book your ski, snowboard, or winter getaway to Banff, Sunshine Village, or Lake Louise, check out Ski Big 3's website at www.skibig3.com.
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