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Hello From The Canadian Rockies: Skiing In Lake Louise
Lake Louise strikes you for two reasons: the absolutely stunning scenery that surrounds it, and its huge size. Lake Louise is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in Canada's first National Park. It has more than 4200 skiable acres (1700 hectares), which makes it one of the largest ski areas in all of North America. What's nice about Lake Louise, it offers all sorts of terrain, from bunny hills and easy green runs, to manageable blue runs and more difficult single and double-black diamond runs. The terrain is nicely divided into 25% beginner runs, 45% intermediate and 30% for advanced skiers, so there is truly something for everyone. For us who most enjoy blue and single-black diamond runs, Lake Louise was heaven since it offered such a huge selection.
Naturally, such a large area needs to be serviced by a highly efficient lift system, and Lake Louise offers Summit Platter t-bar (which whisks you up to summit area of Mount Whitehorn which clocks in with an altitude of 8,765 feet (2,675 m). There are 7 chairlifts, most of them high-speed, and the Top of the World Chairlift actually holds 6 passengers, this was the first time we saw a 6-passenger chairlift. Our favourite of course was the Grizzly Express Gondola which is more than 2900 m long (over 9500 feet) and in just about 10 minutes takes you up a vertical of more than 2400 feet (736 m). In our skiing experience (essentially East Coast skiing up until now), this was the highest vertical that we ever transcended in the shortest amount of time. Naturally, Lake Louise Ski Area is a well-known stop on the World Cup Circuit: it hosts the Winterstart Men's & Ladies World Cup Downhill & Super-G Races.
Since 1991 Lake Louise has become the traditional venue for the year’s first Women’s Speed event. We partook of the World Cup spirit by "racing" down the Men's and Women's Downhill Slopes. The steepness of this slopes is astounding, and it is hard to imagine that ski racers actually go down these mountains straight, searching for speed, without making a turn. These two runs, the Men's and Ladies' downhill actually became my favourite runs and they were quite doable (although I didn't go straight down), especially since they were perfectly groomed. We had a chance to go skiing twice: yesterday and today (after my exciting dog-sledding advanture) , and fortunately for us, today was a perfect winter day with crystal blue skies. The view at Lake Louise on a clear simply knocks your socks off. This mountain panorama is something else. Right when you come out of the gondola you are looking straight at a rugged mountain range whose center is highlighted by a frozen Lake Louise nestled into the Victoria Glacier. For those who get hungry on the mountain, Lake Louise has a wide variety of choices: The Lodge of the Ten Peaks is located at the base of the gondola, and the place where I enjoyed another nourishing poutine (yes, I do feel guilty.) and a very tasty cream of asparagus.
It holds a variety of eating, shopping and pub facilities. Temple Lodge is located in the valley between the Powderbowls and the Larch Area and Whitehorn Lodge is located half way up the south side of the mountain at 6750 ft (2057 m). Lake Louise has 3 main ski areas: the Front Side or South Face which offers 1100 skiable acres. This area offers a variety of green, blue and single black diamond runs and is quite skiable for intermediate / advanced skiers. The grooming was great and we skied down some smooth mountain slopes, many of them quite steep, but nevertheless very skiable. Our favourite runs were coming down from the Gondola and taking the Top of the World Express 6-Pack Express where you get to ski above the treeline and since you are on the edge of the mountain you get to see down into the gentler south side and the much more treacherous north side of the mountain. The "Powderbowls" are located on the north side of the mountain and they are primarily intended for expert skiers. Most of the runs on the north side are single and double black diamond runs. The steepness and the moguls were quite intimidating for us, but nevertheless we found some green and blue runs to get us down safely. Riding up the Ptarmigan Quad Chair it's an awesome sight to watch some of the expert level skiers and how they manage this terrain so skillfully.
I have a feeling we'll be sticking to blue and single black diamond runs for the foreseeable future. Across the Powderbowls is another ski area called the "Larch Area" which offers a vertical drop of about 1230 feet (375 m). This area features mostly green and blue runs, although some of the blue runs (especially a run called the "Wolverine") had some pretty pronounced bumps built into them too. Runs like the Larch and Larch Poma are wide expansive trails with excellent grooming where you can really enjoy gliding down the mountain at pretty high speeds. For the last hour and a half of our skiing today we made our way back to the South Side, taking the older Ptarmigan Quad back up to the top station of the Gondola. We made it up to the Top of the World a few more times and just couldn't get over the view. I made sure at 3:50 pm today that I got another run in to the Top of the World and I really took my time going down.
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