trip to the Canadian Rockies brought the unexpected elation of landing on
the doorsteps of two of the most historic hotels on the continent. These grand
sibling hotels, just three quarters of an hour drive apart within the Canadian
province of Banff, share a proud legacy (dating from the late 19th century) of
stunning architecture, world-class hospitality and spectacular mountain scenery.
Our palatial lodging while in Lake Louise was the famous
Château Lake Louise.
Just 10 minutes from the immense Lake Louise ski area, this monumental 1890
hotel was built by Canadian Railroad mogul Cornelius Van Horne, just two years
after the Banff Spring Hotel.
Van Horne's goal was to increase train rider ship to this remote outpost in the
Canadian Rockies. His lure was to allow guests to experience this unique
wilderness while being lodged in grand style he succeeded.
our well-trained Bellman opened our drapes exposing the stunning Lake and
Victoria Glacier, he explained that Lake Louise is the most photographed lake in
the world. The color of the Lake in the summer is the most wonderful turquoise,
because it is glacially fed. He went on to explain that 4 million people visit
in the summer months.
In the quieter winter months, each of the Château's three dining rooms, the
mahogany decked bars and opulent lounges of the 488-room window-lined hotel give
way to postcard caliber scenes. Skaters, snowshoers, and sleigh rides glide over
the famous Lake that is outlined by jagged snow covered mountains.
That night, we dined on fondue at the Hotel's popular Walliser Stube. The Swiss
décor and menu was befitting this grand alpine setting. I could have been in
Switzerland if not for the Canadian beer and the exchange rate on our
two luxurious days at Château Lake Louise, spent skiing by day and returning to
our balconied room and chocolate covered strawberries from the turndown maid
each evening, I reluctantly checked out. I told the bellman, I will be back and
I will splurge on a lake view suite again. The good news, we were on our way to
Alberta s other grand hotel, The Banff Springs Hotel.
We packed into our car for a scenic 45-minute drive east along the Trans Canada
Highway, back toward Banff.
In the quaint town of Banff, we arrived at the older sister to the Château, the
world-famous Banff Springs Hotel. This was the flagship hotel to the Canadian
Pacific Hotel Empire (now part of the prestigious Fairmont family), it does not
disappoint. The Banff Springs was originally built in 1888, an oasis of luxury
in the vast Canadian wild.
the medieval style hotel's baronial stone staircases that led to large halls and
ballrooms, you can easily get lost in another era. I expect to see ladies in
long gowns waltzing to an orchestra as I pass through stone archways, and see
the rich fabric tapestries in the grand meeting rooms. Instead, I find a
Japanese tour group, snapping photos of the larger than life scale fireplaces
In the last decade, The Banff Springs has seen over $100 million invested in
renovations. The grand entry and lobby have been completely redesigned, but the
old world feel has been replicated at every turn.
The Hotel's $30 million (I assume Canadian $$) Solace Spa offers every
treatment imaginable, and a palatial mineral bath atrium complimented by
waterfalls. You can visit the nearby open to the public natural Banff hot
springs, but I found the elegant and pampering atmosphere of the Solace mineral
baths far more soothing than bathing with scads of other tourists.
After our days skiing at nearby Lake Louise,
Banff Norquay, the four
temperature-controlled waterfalls restored my energy and made me feel all
tingly. I was now ready for a culinary adventure.
We dined that night to the strings of a harpist in the Hotel's elegant,
Banffshire dining room. Jacket is required, or in our case supplied by the
Mâitre d', as my husband's sportcoat did not make it into our suitcase. Upon my
request for a glass of wine, the sommelier said that he would be delighted to
open any vintage from the extensive wine cellar. The food was of culinary competition caliber,
magnificent to the eye and the palate.
The animated downtown area of Banff deserves at least an afternoon off from
skiing to browse the shops, malls, cafes and galleries.
Place and the Natural History Museum have free exhibits, offering insight to the
history of the Banff and a glimpse of legendary Big Foot Saskwatch himself.
Architecturally, these century-old fortresses are as beautiful as their natural
alpine surroundings. Banff National Park, the first established park in Canada,
is in many ways remote and wild. Every day we saw wildlife you might expect from
a camping trip; elk, caribou, wolves, big horn sheep. Nightly, we happily
returned to these two fabulous palaces.
No wonder they attract millions of visitors from around the world. There was a
stream of tour buses that circled the Hotels during our stay. As a guest, I was
glad certain parts of the Hotels are exclusive and not accessible to the throngs
of day-trip visitors toting cameras.
Between the herd of caribou grazing on the front lawn of the
Hotel, the horse drawn sleigh along the
Château Lake Louise, and the stunning
mountain scenery in every direction, we too snapped off 8900 photos during
our memorable visit to these fabled resort properties.