A mountain-loving local, somewhat disenchanted by the overdevelopment of one of the Rockies’ most beautiful lakes, takes the time to rediscover it.
Quiet mornings spent standing on the shores of Lake Louise with no one else in sight often stir up a small injection of adrenaline for me.
While indigo waters gently lap on shore, I close my eyes and imagine “The Lake of the Little Fishes” as Tom Wilson saw it with Edwin Hunter back in 1882. No buildings, no road; just pure wilderness. Then I imagine a small log cabin standing behind me, chimney smoking. Mountaineers descend the cabin steps, and set out to climb Mts. Lefroy, Victoria or perhaps The Mitre, while Swiss guides follow, ice axes and hemp rope in hand.
Then I open my eyes, turn around and am struck by the large, beige-coloured building standing proudly beyond the terraced yard, overlooking this otherwise serene mountain lake. In just a few hours, this place will be overrun with tourists snapping their photos or getting me to snap their photos. Sometimes I feel that we have photographed the beauty right out of it.
But while I’ll never see the untouched version of Lake Louise, I decided that I could, at the very least, make an attempt to rediscover it, to recognize the beauty, history and significance of the place (buildings included) as a mountain-loving local. So, this past week I journeyed to the lake and did just that…
6 Ways to Rediscover Lake Louise
1. Walk through the main lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and through to the Lakeview Lounge. Imagine women in flapper dresses enjoying a glass of champagne by the large windows. Take a look up on your way there and notice the chandeliers featuring women holding candles. As the story goes, they are inspired by the Swiss tradition of women placing a candle in the window to bring their mountaineer husbands home safely.
2. Get to the lakeshore at a time of year (shoulder season) or time of day (early morning) when you can really get the views to yourself. Then take a hike to one or both of the historic teahouses, the Lake Agnes or the Plain of Six Glaciers, and treat yourself to a pot of tea and piece of pie. You can also take a hike with one of the Chateau’s Mountain Heritage Guides. They’ll blow your socks off with their knowledge of the area.
3. Disregard the cars in the lower and upper parking lots and walk your way up to the corner of the upper parking lot nearest the lake. Get close enough so that you can see Lake Louise through the trees and imagine this view as Tom Wilson would have seen it back in 1882.
4. Enjoy the ambiance of nearby Deer Lodge and treat yourself to a superb meal in their dining room, which was built in the 1920s. Prices here are similar to those at other fine, Rocky Mountain Cuisine-style restaurants in the rest of the Rockies. If you’re looking for a little getaway, enjoy a night’s stay, which includes the use of a rooftop hot tub that offers great views of Mt. Fairview.
5. Take some time to peruse the historic photos on display in the hallways and sitting room of Deer Lodge, as well as the area upstairs from the lobby at the Chateau Lake Louise. These mini museums will help you understand the stories of this area, the various stages of development it went through, and the people who made their mark here.
6. Close to the Village, take the turn-off to the Lake Louise Train Station. This is now a museum/restaurant full of archive images and railway instruments from a bygone era. The train station was built back in 1910 and visitors to Lake Louise used to take a tramline up to the lake before motor vehicles made the trip.
What do you love about Lake Louise? In what ways have you rediscovered it? Post your ideas and comments below!