Lake Louise

From humble beginnings, the Chateau emerged as a grand lady

Chateau Lake Louise , Banff , AB

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in Canada.
Photo courtesy of TRAVEL ALBERTA

DOC POW

LAKE LOUISE, AB — She's a grand lady and she has been around in various incarnations since 1890. Originally a single log cabin which burnt to the ground in 1893, the first chalet was built in 1894. It wasn't much—two bedrooms, a kitchen and a sitting room. By 1913, the Painter Wing had been added but once again, fire consumed the structure with firefighters only just managing to save the Painter Wing. The Barott Wing was added and completed in 1925 and that's when the lady finally received her official name—the Chateau Lake Louise. 

In 1982, the Chateau began winter operations and by 1987, the Glacier Wing was completed with the Mount Temple Wing in 2004, bringing the total number of rooms, including meeting spaces, restaurants and shops to 552—a far cry from the single log cabin that originally sat on the banks of the "Lake of Little Fishes" (Ho-Run-Num-Nay) the Stoney native name for what we know as Lake Louise, probably one of the most photographed and recognizable lakes in the world.

Beautiful surroundings

"The Chateau is the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies," said Lori Cote, the regional director of public relations for Fairmont, the Chateau's parent company. "There is no other place like it, it's one of a kind surrounded by spectacular scenery with amazing forests, mountains and lakes. And it's because of it's surroundings that we strive to create an experience for our guests that gives them a true sense of place, of where the Chateau is located and how unbelievably beautiful the setting is."

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta Canada

Guests of The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise take advantage of the warm weather to stroll around the frozen lake and enjoy the ice castle and Olympic Rings ice sculpture.
Photo by Barb Martowski

I know exactly what she is talking about. 

From the moment you pull up to the front doors, and if you forget about the road that winds up through a small forest from the Village of Lake Louise and the highways beyond, you could really believe that you have just pulled up to a castle of sorts that is completely isolated from the world around it by Mother Nature. This feeling is only heightened when you step out onto the expansive patio on the other side of the Chateau and look down onto the famous lake that sits in the heart of a steep valley surrounded by mountain peaks. From this side, there seems to be no way in or out except on foot—okay, maybe some air transport would get you in as well.

Back inside, there's a charming sense of European style about the place, with wide expansive windows and comfortable seating everywhere where one can sit and take in the amazing views. There's no aura of hurry here, not even from the staff, though they are quick and efficient in their service; service that is always given with a warm, welcoming smile.

Large staff

"During our peak seasons, we can have anywhere from 750 to 900 staff working here," said Cote. "It's almost a village in itself." Yet, another reason for one to believe they are in a very singular place that's removed from the craziness of the world.

Each time I visit the Chateau, I discover something new—on my last visit, it was the upper promenade. While every dining spot seemed filled with lunch-time crowds, many of whom were taking in the Ice Magic Festival, Kurt Schroeder and Stuart Back from Banff Lake Louise Tourism and I grabbed sandwiches and coffees from the Chateau Deli and we headed upstairs at Back's suggestion. Quiet and peaceful, the promenade was virtually empty and with it's comfortable seating, low tables and yet more expansive windows, it was an excellent spot to enjoy our lunch.

Ice Skating, Lake Louise, Alberta Canada

Visitors to The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise often grab skates from the rental office and enjoy a Canadian classic game of pick-up hockey on the frozen lake.
Photo by Barb Martowski

The Chateau Deli is open 24 hours a day and is the perfect place to grab some quick breakfast before heading up to Lake Louise Ski Area, or a bagged lunch if you intend heading out for some snowshoeing or Nordic skiing. Options include both hot and cold items with homemade soups and breads made fresh daily by the Chateau kitchens. 

From pizza to classic fondue

When it comes to dining at the Chateau, there are a number of options; each with its own unique character, from the Walliser Stube with its classic fondue selections to the four-star rated Fairview Dining Room featuring a 300 label Master Wine List. If you are looking for something a little more relaxed, settle into the Lakeview Lounge for a little apres dining or head downstairs to the Glacier Saloon for some pub-style food and pizza that is anything but standard. For a congenial family atmosphere, the Poppy Brasserie serves not only lunch and dinner, but a full breakfast buffet with chefs who can whip up an omelette to your liking while you watch. 

One of the great things about the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is its guest programs, one of which is a return to its roots. 

The Chateau's beginnings were based around mountaineering and in 1997, the hotel re-instituted its historic mountain guiding program by offering naturalist-led hiking programs. The program evolved to include snowshoeing, several Nordic programs and a icefalls walk at nearby Johnston Canyon. Guests can also enjoy a leisurely horse-drawn sleigh ride or ice skating on Lake Louise.

The Chateau offers a lot of reasons for making it your hotel of choice while visiting the Banff area, but my favourite of all is walking into my room at the end of an evening, noticing the turned down bed, the large bottle of water and the selection of treats left on the table—just in case I get peckish during the night. These and the fact that I know I will be getting into one of the most comfortable beds, sliding in between crisp, clean sheets and laying my head on the equally famous Fairmont pillows. If you have stayed at a Fairmont hotel, you’ll know what I'm talking about.

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