Deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, you will find the picturesque Lake Louise. Surrounded by soaring mountain peaks and intimidating glaciers, Lake Louise is one of the premier winter destinations for the whole of North America. Visit Lake Louise in winter and you can’t help but fall in love with this beautiful place.
This is a guest post by Ben Lloyd from Ticket 4 Two Please
The glacial lake can be found in Banff National Park, one of the oldest national parks in the world and Alberta’s signature tourist destination. In the summer, visitors flock to Lake Louise to catch a glimpse of the famous blue water – but once the water freezes over around the end of October, Lake Louise transforms into a winter wonderland.
A thick layer of impenetrable Albertan snow covers the mountains, and a frigid chill permeates the air. Pack plenty of layers and head straight for the slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort – one of Banff National Park’s “big 3” ski resorts and home to an annual leg of the Ski World Cup.
Why Visit Lake Louise In January
Visiting Lake Louise in the winter is a truly unforgettable Canadian travel experience. Yet despite this, there are still some times during the winter that cannot be missed and January in Lake Louise is a month like no other.
Picture yourself skating along the frozen ice at Lake Louise, watching snowshoers traipsing through the thick blanket of snow and cross-country skiers gliding along the trails by your side.
In January, you can also throw a world-famous international ice-carving competition into the equation.
Ice Magic Festival
The renowned Ice Magic Festival is an annual competition hosted on the grounds of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise where competitors from around the world are tasked with creating an icy masterpiece over a gruelling 36 hour period.
The results are truly awe-inspiring and it is certainly worth planning your trip to Lake Louise to coincide with the festival.
Thankfully, if you aren’t able to visit during the actual competition itself, the ice-carvings remain in place for the majority of the winter until the sun begins to melt them towards the end of spring. Giving you plenty of time to see the magnificent creations for yourself.
Info: Ice Magic Festival Dates 2022 (Wednesday, January 19th – Sunday, January 30th)
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Lake Louise Ice Bar
Another reason that makes Lake Louise a great destination to visit in January is the prospect of drinking at the Ice Bar that the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise painstakingly creates every winter.
In case drinking a hot chocolate with the magnificent Victoria Glacier towering over you wasn’t endearing enough, the luxury hotel adds to the appeal by allowing you to sample some of the finest beverages in Alberta from their very own ice bar.
The ice bar itself is created from a number of beautifully carved, frozen blocks and contains a fully functioning bar, seating area, outdoor heaters and even windows. Typically the ice bar will be made during December but will not be fully finished until the new year – making January the best month to visit the grounds of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Feeling Very Cool
Finally, if you have ever wondered what temperatures as low as -35 degrees celsius (-31 Fahrenheit) feels like, then a January in Lake Louise can provide.
It really is a fascinating experience to walk outdoors and have your eyelashes and nose hairs dusted by a thin layer of ice. Not to mention the amazing feeling of breathing in the freshest, coolest air straight from the Canadian Rockies.
Given that the average temperature for Lake Louise in January seldom floats above -20 degrees celsius (-4 Fahrenheit), you are virtually guaranteed to have the chance to experience the freezing temperatures for yourself. It is an opportunity you certainly won’t want to miss – just make sure you bring appropriate clothing!
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Other Things to do in Lake Louise in Winter
While seeing the scenery and beauty of Lake Louise first-hand should be enough motivation to plan your visit there this winter, the number of once-in-a-lifetime activities available near Lake Louise will make the decision even easier.
Ice Skating on Lake Louise
A bucket-list activity for travellers from across the globe, ice skating on Lake Louise is arguably the most quintessential winter activity available in Banff National Park.
Rent your skates from the nearby Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Rental Shop, and head straight down to the well-maintained natural rink. It is very hard to imagine a more serene setting to ice-skate in front of, filled with natural beauty as well as a gorgeous ice castle, carved by the team at the Fairmont Chateau.
Hiking in Lake Louise
Banff National Park has a vast array of hiking trails for all abilities, but it is no secret that the hikes and walks in Lake Louise are some of Alberta’s finest trails.
During winter, the trails are less populated, meaning you can easily escape the crowds in search of your own piece of Lake Louise paradise. Head along the lakefront trail (4km out-and-back trail) with a pair of ice cleats and a piping hot chocolate to discover the true appeal of Lake Louise in the winter.
Note: as with all hiking in the winter, it is recommended to use caution when hiking in the Lake Louise area. Remember to keep up to date with trail and avalanche conditions, particularly directly after heavy snowfall.
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Skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline thrill during your winter stay in Lake Louise, then you should look no further than the adjacent Lake Louise Ski Resort. 4200 acres of world-renowned, skiable terrain provides ample opportunity for even the heartiest of daredevils to experience a winter thrill.
Experienced winter sports enthusiasts should head straight to the backside of the resort to conquer the world-famous backbowls. For those slightly less experienced, sticking to the front side will provide a number of relatively comfortable, well-groomed runs to find your ski legs.
Ski and snowboard hire is available throughout the Lake Louise area, but the best prices can arguably be found at the ski resort itself. Combine your rentals with your ski pass for the best possible deal.
Take a Sleigh Ride
There are several companies that offer sleigh rides at Lake Louise, where you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings snuggled up in a horse-drawn sled. Wrap up warm in plenty of layers and relax as your guide points out wildlife along the way as well as stories and information about the local area.
Sleigh rides in Lake Louise during the day will take you along the lake beneath Victoria Glacier and to the Ice Falls, or for a truly special experience ask about a nighttime ride under a crystal clear night sky filled with stars. What could be more romantic than that?
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When curious railway workers for the Canadian Pacific Railroad company stumbled across the natural hot springs in Banff, all the way back in 1883, they could not have imagined how much their discovery would shape the entire area’s future.
As the national park’s flagship destination, and only a 30-minute drive south along the Trans-Canada Highway (1A), it would be criminal to miss out on visiting the town of Banff during your stay in Lake Louise.
The Swiss guide’s influence on Banff National Park can be felt greatest when you stroll aimlessly along Banff Avenue, the town’s main street. Cheese fondue from the Grizzly House Restaurant is sure to last long in the culinary memory.
Alternatively, Banff Park Distillery offers a gourmet twist on traditional camping food, with a vast array of homebrewed spirits on hand to wash down your meal.
READ MORE: The Best Things to do in Banff in Winter
Where to Stay in Lake Louise in Winter
Lake Louise is an esteemed, relatively isolated destination in Banff National Park and is categorically one of the best places to visit in the Canadian Rockies – making Lake Louise a hugely popular destination to tick off the bucket list.
As a result, the prices of many of the accommodation options are likely to be much higher than expected.
For this reason, many visitors to Lake Louise that are on a stricter budget find themselves best suited to staying in the nearby town of Banff, and commuting to Lake Louise during the day. For example, a bed in a 9-person hostel room at Banff International Hostel can go for as little as $69CAD per night, during the Winter.
Having said that, the price of accommodation in Lake Louise tends to fall significantly in Winter, when compared against the inflated summer costs, meaning there are still some great options out there.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise ($$$)
Undeniably the highlight of any Lake Louise winter trip is the prospect of staying at the world-class resort of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Towering directly over the frozen shores of Lake Louise itself, the Chateau has been welcoming guests through its doors since 1882, when it began life as a mere two-bedroom wooden shack.
Nowadays, the wood and rustic decor has been replaced with gold and the highest quality 5-star service. During your stay, relax in the state of the art Health Club, before wandering down to one of the many dining options for dinner – the menu at the Walliser Stube is hard to resist.
Of course, this kind of privilege does come at quite a cost and is certainly not within everybody’s budget. Despite this, the hotel’s communal areas are accessible to day visitors and it is certainly advisable to at least wander around the grand establishment, if only for a few fleeting moments.
Deer Lodge ($$)
One of the Canadian Rockies Mountain Resorts hotels, Deer Lodge is a mere 2-minute walk from Lake Louise and is therefore an ideal location to base yourself from during your stay.
The hotel offers a wide variety of single, double or quad room options to suit any traveller’s needs. Remember to treat yourself to an afternoon tea at the wonderful Caribou Lounge, with panoramic views of the stunning Fairview Mountain.
Lake Louise Inn ($$)
Comprising five lodges with 10 different guest room options available, it is difficult to find an itinerary that Lake Louise Inn will not be able to cater to. Whether you are looking for a suite for two or a self-sufficient mountain condo for all your travelling party, Lake Louise Inn will be there for you.
During the winter months, the Inn provides a free shuttle service to the Lake Louise Ski Resort, making it a perfect place for you and your snow sport buddies to call home during your Lake Louise winter vacation.
Regardless of where you find yourself staying during your trip to Lake Louise this winter, one thing will remain constant – the views are staggeringly beautiful and the feeling of being in a winter wonderland is enough to take your breath away.
About the Author
Ben Lloyd is a travel enthusiast from the UK. He spent a year working at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada and is the co-creator of Ticket 4 Two Please – a travel blog that offers advice and inspiration for couples seeking long-term travel options. You can find him on Instagram and Pinterest.
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