The snow whispered under my snowboard as I glided down the wintery wonderland slopes at Lake Louise. A series of chairlifts brought us to the Top of the World (as the chairlift is named) where I could see the gorgeous snowy Rocky Mountains all around us and the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 snaking through the valley below like a distant black ribbon.
At the moment, the terrain was relatively flat and I carved back and forth, making wide, lazy curves.
Weight is on the heels and then switch to leaning on the toes and then switch back to weight on the heels…
Then… the whole world seemed to drop out before me. I braced myself and ride it down the steep slope. With a grin on his face, Bryan cheered and flew down.
It had been years since I’ve been snowboarding as we were chasing summer on our bikes across the Americas and Bryan’s knee was injured before that. Our Aussie friends Andrew and Alechia, who we first met in Peru on our travels while we were heading south as they were heading north, had made it to Canada and is now working at Lake Louise Ski Resort. They invited us to come and visit them and it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up — we get to see them again, see Lake Louise which I had never been before and hit the slopes. Well Lake Louise Ski Resort is huge with 7 chairlifts that go up one side of a mountain, down the powder bowls in the back and then up the side of the next mountain.
I went on two runs on the bunny hill with Alechia and then all four of us went up the chairlift. My first time on the bunny hill was hilarious. I stood up on my board and then promptly fell over again. I must have fell about 20 times by the time I reached the bottom of the bunny hill. Bryan diagnosed my problem as “the bunny hill sucks” and it was too flat which meant I was going too slow. Well, it seemed a little counter-intuitive to me but I was kinda tired of the crowds of other learners in the small space so all four of us went up on the Glacier Chairlift up to a run called Pinecone. After a couple steep-ish hills, Pinecone tucked into a winding forest path that was quiet and perfectly graded. It was not too steep that I had that “OH MY GOD!” moment switching from my back edge of the board to the front edge where I am not on any edge and just flying down the slope with little friction but not so flat that I wasn’t moving. Pinecone was like the Goldilocks sweet spot that was perfect and continued to be my favorite run even after trying out almost all of the green runs at the park. It was also Alechia’s first time since she had just started learning to ski in the couple months they have been up here. Pats on the back all around!
We had a lovely week up at wintery Lake Louise snowboarding, going to the Upper Banff Hot Springs with snow all around us and then snowshoeing across the actual Lake Louise to a frozen waterfall on the far side.
Travel tips for visiting Lake Louise:
- Greyhound buses drop off and pick up at Lake Louise. Greyhound buses are cheaper if you book two seats at once, if you buy the ticket online and/or if you buy it more than 2 weeks in advanced. For us, it worked out to around $90 per person each way from Vancouver and an additional $15 for the extra snowboard bag. First bag is included in the fare. The bus is usually a little late in either direction to reach Lake Louise.
- Banff Upper Hot Springs – Route 1 on the Banff “Roam” bus goes up to Banff Upper Hot Springs. The buses run down the main Banff Ave street, run every 40 minutes (every 20 minutes in the summer) and is $2 per ride. Admission to Banff Upper Hot Springs is $7 and there are lockers available to rent ($1) as well as towels and bathing suits (both modern and traditional!)
- The Old Spaghetti Factory is probably the best deal going for food in both Lake Louise and Banff. They have lunch specials – $10.45 for lunch sized pasta dishes including fresh bread to start, soup or salad, the main and ice cream, tea/coffee for dessert!
- Snowshoeing around Lake Louise – There are a lot of trails around Lake Louise. The main one along the lake side to the frozen waterfall is actually groomed so you don’t need snowshoes. It’s completely flat (on a frozen lake…) and about 4km round trip. With snowshoes, we took the adventure route right across the frozen lake making our own path through the deep powdery snow. We went around 1pm when I guess everyone was having lunch and had the whole area all to ourselves but when we were heading back, there were a lot more people out.
- There is a trail from Lake Louise to Lake Louise Village that starts out alongside the road but heads into the forest beside the creek. Alternatively, there is a free shuttle every half hour from Lake Louise Chateau to the Ski Resort where there is another free shuttle into Lake Louise Village. Unfortunately, the Lake Louise Chateau to Ski Resort shuttle does not stop in the village.
- The runs on Lake Louise can be quite steep, even for “easy” green runs. The blues can be very steep, like black diamond runs on other mountains. Bryan says that many of the blue runs are just as steep as the black runs but the black runs often have more terrain challenges such as going on narrow paths through trees and moguls. Expect to have to jump off cliffs on the double black diamond runs! As someone relearning to snowboarding, my favorites were Pinecone (quieter than Wiwaxy and also less steep, there are some flattish sections on this run. You can keep speed through the whole run but if you stop in some parts, you will probably have to walk your board a bit), Pika on the back and Lookout on Larch Mtn.