Photos by Marlene Greer, Correspondent
By Marlene Greer, Correspondent
It was -6 degrees when my daughter and
I hit the slopes of Lake Louise at 9 a.m. But we felt lucky. The day before it
was -22 degrees; two days ago, it was down to an impossible to ski in -24
degrees. It was so cold, we were told, the gondola could not operate, and most
of the resort was closed.
The last week of February is usually a
pleasant time to ski the Canadian Rocky Mountain resort. But this year, the cold
front sweeping across much of North America was keeping the temperatures below
Today, all lifts were open. But there
were warnings posted everywhere: “Watch for signs of frostbite. Keep skin
covered.” With wind gusts on the mountain of 17 mph, the temperature felt much
colder than it was, and frostbite was definitely a concern.
My daughter April and I layered up
with everything we had and hit the front face of the ski area first. The resort,
located within Banff National Park a few miles from the tiny town of Lake
Louise, encompasses three mountains with most of the resort’s named runs on the
front side, and the backside an incredible selection of black and double-black
diamond powder bowls for expert skiers and snowboarders.
We are intermediate skiers, but this
was April’s first time on skis for the season, and we wanted to take an easy
beginning run to get the feel of our skis and the snow.
The problem with Lake Louise, though,
is most of its beginning runs would be labeled intermediate at other resorts.
Our driver on the shuttle bus from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where we
stayed for the weekend, had warned us about this. And he was right.
From the main base area, a 12-minute
ride on the gondola takes skiers and snowboarders to the mountain ridge.
here, the map indicates Easy Meadows is a long, winding green trail from the top
back to the base area. We thought this would be a good warm up, but it turned
out to be a bit more than we wanted.
In several places the pitch was steep
for a beginning run and the trail narrowed. Both of which could be difficult for
beginning skiers to navigate. We saw one petrified skier looking down at a
particularly long, steep pitch wondering what she got herself into.
The resort categorizes itself as 25%
beginner, 45% intermediate, and 30% expert. But that’s somewhat misleading –
both on the beginning and expert calculations. If you include all the bowls on
the backside, it’s more like 50% expert, and maybe 15% beginning. But within
that 15%, beginners can ski the front and back of the mountains.
With the temperatures so cold and no new
snow in several days, the snow was hard-packed. It was a bit crunchy and even
icy in places. Our skis at times felt gripped by the snow, like a car about to
As we worked our way across the face,
then to the top of the mountain, the wind became so fierce it turned our fingers
painfully cold within a matter of minutes – even with two sets of gloves.
We needed to find a more sheltered
spot on the mountain to ski.
Fortunately, Lake Louise is one of the
largest ski areas in North America with 4,200 skiable acres and 139 marked runs
plus its numerous bowls. Among the
bowls on the backside are four very long runs for intermediate and beginning
skiers that gracefully meander down the slopes, all meeting at the Temple Lodge.
It was here we found the perfect place to ski.
From Temple Lodge, skiers and
snowboarders can access the fourth area of the mountain – the Larch Area. Here, out of the wind and in the partial
sunshine, it felt warm. The snow was softer and the skiing more pleasant. This
was like a little slice of heaven after the icy, windy front face.
The 600-acre ski area on the side of a
yet another mountain has maybe a dozen or so beginning and intermediate runs.
And for those skiers who don’t want to take the lift back to the top and ski
down the face to the main lodge, there’s an easy ski-out that takes you back to
the main lodge.
Also hunkered down in this section of
the resort were Zev and his young daughter. The family has been coming to Lake
Louise every year for the past three years. And despite the severely cold
weather, he professed his love for the resort.
“It’s my favorite ski resort in North
America – and I’ve been to all of them,” the New Yorker said. “It’s got great
terrain, and it’s not crowded.” He paused, and continued. “My wife doesn’t like
the cold (this year) and doesn’t want to come back. But we’ll be back next
His daughter nodded in
I turned and looked at my daughter.
She was smiling.
It seems a Canadian deep freeze won’t
keep a father and daughter – or mother and daughter – from coming back for
Marlene Greer is a
La Verne freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org