Located in Banff National Park, Lake Louise Ski Resort is a world-class skiing and snowboarding destination. With extensive terrain for all abilities, it’s an excellent intro-to-Canada resort…
It is the largest of the SkiBig3 resorts (and third largest ski resort in Canada) and boasts views of geologic giants, Victoria and Temple mountains, and the namesake lake from the frontside. Those views are largely unchanged thanks to the conservation efforts of Parks Canada, and snowboarding here is downright magical.
Lake Louise’s 4,200 skiable acres receives nearly 200 inches of annual snowfall and the high elevation can often extend the season into the month of May. (Worth noting, the snowfall is highly variable year to year.) With dry fluffy snow and 145 trails plus sweeping bowls, there is so much for all ages and abilities to explore at SkiBig3’s Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Best Runs at Lake Louise Ski Resort:
Lake Louise Ski Resort is a wonderful destination for families and groups of all abilities. Every lift has green, blue, and black run options. There’s no need to separate.
When the weather is clear, frontside laps are a must-do. There are runs for all abilities off the Grizzly Express Gondola and the iconic views that make Lake Louise famous. Two of the best are the Men’s Downhill and Ladies’ Downhill runs, and intermediate to advanced riders should zoom down them at least once. Even if you’re hitting only a fraction of the top racing speeds, you’ll still feel all the thrill.
On the front, there is a little of everything, from mellow greens under the gondola to steep blacks near the summit. There’s also an impressive jumpline and more than 30 features at the Boulevard and Boulevard XL Terrain Parks, both located under the Glacier Express Chair near the base. Or, work your way up to the big kickers with rollers and smaller rails and boxes on Easy Street Park on lower Wixaxy.
A majority of Lake Louise Ski Resort’s terrain is in the back bowls, which are easily accessible via the Top of the World Express and/or Summit Platter. There are thrilling trails for all abilities in the back. On powder days people line up waiting for Whitehorn 1 to open through Whitehorn Bowl. Even beginners aren’t left out. There’s the winding green Saddleback off Top of the World or Pika off the Ptarmigan lift.
All the runs on the back funnel down to these green runs so keep that in mind and keep up your speed to make it to the appropriately named Paradise Triple Chair. One of our favorite laps here is Paradise Bowl combined with the Pika Trees.
Larch is a catch-all of fun surprises with groomed runs, steep glades, and the Rock Garden, a must-ride slope covered with massive boulders. Take the trail on the lift left through the trees which opens up into a field of powder pillows and natural moguls to ride over, around, and through. This is by far our favorite run at Lake Louise.
If you want more on-the-snow guidance, you can meet up with one of many volunteer “Ski Friends” who conduct guided tours and share their wisdom about local wildlife, vegetation, conservation, and heritage of the area.
Best Powder Stash in Lake Louise Ski Resort
Lake Louise Ski Resort’s snowfall is variable, so knowing where to find powder between storms is key. (For example the 2018/2019 season had around 200 inches, but the previous year had 294 inches.)
Paradise Bowl, especially the far rider’s right lines, holds powder and is a perfect area for laps. A run here isn’t complete without some turns through the Pika Trees glades filled with nicely spaced Larch trees that have a similar feel to aspen glades. Larch trees are one of the few coniferous trees that change color and lose their needles in winter. Even amid a dry spell, Pika Trees hold onto powder. There are so many routes and lines, you can find fluffy turns in and around the trees.
If all else fails, unstrap and bootpack to reach untracked slopes. Most of the hike-to terrain is located off the top of the Larch lift. Head straight up the mountain and drop into the double black diamond Elevator Shaft. Hiking further takes you to Purple Bowl and Wolverine Bowl but proper backcountry equipment is recommended.
Where to Eat on Mountain
There are two main dining options on the Lake Louise slopes and more to choose from down in the base lodges. Warming up and refueling is an important part of a successful snowboarding day.
On-mountain dining ranges from cafeteria style grab and go to sit-down with a side of a scenic view. Whitehorn Bistro in Whitehorn Lodge is the place to go for an upscale mid-day meal in a chill atmosphere. If it’s clear, the relatively new deck offers an expansive view and a vibe reminiscent of the European Alps.
Or, if you’ve ventured to the Back Bowls, Temple Lodge is a conveniently located warm-up and snack stop. Inside you can stop for a quick bite at Temple Cafeteria or a more leisurely lunch in Sawyer’s Nook. Alpine-inspired entrees and local drinks, including Okanagan cider on tap, make it worth the extra time. Temple Lodge also welcomes brown-bag lunches, and there’s usually plenty of seating inside or out on the patio’s colorful picnic tables.
At the base, there’s an unexpected offering: Kuma Yama sushi bar. Landlocked Banff National Park has surprisingly tasty sushi and this is a popular spot.
Most Instagrammable Spots at Lake Louise Mountain
On clear days, the breathtaking views are rarely out of sight no matter where you are on the heart-pumping 3,250-foot vertical of Lake Louise Ski Resort. A few spots really stand out around the mountain.
Grizzly Express Gondola: As you ascend, you can also watch Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise slowly come into view.
Top of Summit Platter: Arguably the best view of the Back Bowls is from the top of this minimal lift. The ridge leading up to Mt. Whitehorn offers gorgeous views of the front and back of Lake Louise.
Rock Garden: Whether you jump over or carve around the massive boulders off the Larch Express lift, be sure to snap plenty of photos on the way.
Observation Deck: Right off the Glacier Express lift, you can soak up the view and pose with the binoculars.
Best Après Ski in Lake Louise
There are several bars serving up sips right on the slopes of Lake Louise, including Whitehorn Lodge off the gondola for early birds or Kokanee Kabin (our pick) and Powder Keg Lounge at the base.
If you’re staying in Banff, head back to town first before grabbing a drink. Our picks are The Bison Restaurant + Terrace (for local B.C. wine), Banff Ave. Brewing Co. (for nightly deals on craft beer and the can’t-miss Thursday stein night), Park Distillery (for craft cocktails), and Earl’s for cheap/quick booze and discounted pub food.
Why You’ll Love It:
On a clear day, you’ll get panoramic views of Lake Louise, Mount Temple, glaciers, and the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from many different vantage points all over Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Larch trees offer a fun and totally unique glade experience. They are one of the few coniferous trees that change color in the fall and lose their needles. That means the trees are widely spaced and perfect for floaty turns.
Snowboard Traveler Tip
You can’t leave Lake Louise Ski Resort without hitting up the men’s or women’s downhill race courses. You’ll feel like a real pro no matter how fast or slow you take your turns. Don’t be afraid of trying the Platter lift, either. The lift operators are used to newbies, and there are plenty of snowboarders in line that you can learn from before you’re up.
Though Lake Louise has more than enough to entertain adventurous snowboarders for days, a trip to the area is best when combined with a few days at nearby Banff Sunshine Resort, splitboarding and backcountry touring, or a road trip to ski resorts farther west in British Columbia (Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Revelstoke Mountain Resort).
Snowboard Traveler Favorite
We love how accessible the expert terrain and so many of the back bowls are at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Very few resorts have the kind of steep, powdery bowls right under a lift. It’s easy to ride laps around whichever bowl has the best snow that day.
Getting Here & Around
Lake Louise is a 2-hour drive from Calgary International Airport or 40 minutes from the town of Banff along the trans-Canada highway. It’s a popular day trip from Calgary and there are several parking lots close to the base, but they fill up so arrive early to beat the crowds. A Banff National Park pass is needed to park. Pick one up ahead of time or online as the nearby ranger station opens at 9am when the lifts turn making you miss out on first tracks.
History of Lake Louise
Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the first in Canada and is still family owned to this day. Wealthy travelers and royals from Europe came to Lake Louise by rail in the 1800s. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the first lifts were built to take visitors up to the slopes of Lake Louise. After more buildings and lifts were developed, Lake Louise Ski Resort officially came together in 1971. Big changes came when Charlie Locke bought the resort in 1981 with new lifts, new runs, and snowmaking.
Today, Lake Louise Ski Resort is owned and operated by the Locke family, Charlie, his wife Louise, and their daughters Robin and Kimberley. The future is bright, and Parks Canada just approved a significant redevelopment plan. The transformative plan includes two new lodges, as many as six new lifts, and access to the newly acquired West Bowl. There will be new beginner and intermediate terrain as well as new buildings, coming in the near future.