Alberta Winter Redux

Going big in Lake Louise
skier at lake louise, alberta
Scenic Edge: Finding the perfect line at Lake Louise (Photo © Bill Marsh)

The Lake Louise liftee (one of the area's rare non-Antipodeans—gasp, a local!) said it best when he saw the line of skiers waiting to get back on the mountain after lunch the following day: "There's a whole big playground up there, so what you doing down here?" he mocked. "Get up there and leave me alone." And this was no bombastic jest. Lake Louise is big: 4,200 acres, a summit elevation of 8,650 feet, a longest run of fully five miles, 11 lifts to take you to all corners, plus two mid-mountain lodges that should mean you don't have to go back to the base-level Lodge of the Ten Peaks until it's beer time.

With all that to choose from, it's hard to know where to begin. When in a quandary, though, trust the Canadians. World standard-bearers on the hospitality front, they deliver on the slopes, too. Resorts usually organize a mountain-host program, with free (and, yes, very smiley) guides ready to shuttle visitors to the best sections of the mountain. In return, the guides get to enjoy free skiing into the bargain. So everybody's happy.

And I was happy once I got into this big, inviting place. There's something for everyone, and even this erratic Scot refound his mojo, bumping and turning like he'd spent his entire life on fluffy, virgin pow. My biggest smile of the day was reserved for what I like to call my World Cup Moment—two unforgettable charges down the gorgeous black-diamond Men's Downhill and Women's Downhill, both runs guaranteed to have you pretending you're Jonny Moseley (on a bad day, mind). These glam trails invite big, showboating turns, plunge down some steeper faces, then dump you out into the lower bowl where you can pretend the milling crowds are watching you (um, well, maybe someone did).

Unfortunately, our final day sampling the best of Alberta skiing didn't pan out as planned. Slated to ski at 3,358-acre Sunshine Village, 15 minutes from Banff and rated as having some of the finest snow in North America, a massive power outage caused by a generator failure had shut down the entire mountain: no lifts, no access, no skiing. So we were left to cool our heels in Banff for our final day in the Canadian Rockies. While we joined a hastily arranged interpretative nature hike led by a guide from Banff Springs Hotel's excellent Heritage Guide Program—a great way to enjoy some non-skiing downtime—I couldn't help but smirk at the bitter irony of our Sunshine Village denouement: I may have become a vastly better skier on the powder-perfect Rocky Mountain slopes, but I'll never shake the curse of that damn Jimmy Cho until I return and ski the best the region has to offer.

Published: 9 Aug 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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