Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Affordable Ski Weekends at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre

I love ski weekends at Lake Louise because you're almost always guaranteed to have good snow. With a two hour drive from Calgary, it's hard to drive out and back as a day trip though. We solve this by staying at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre for an affordable family getaway.

Ski in-out Accommodations at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre

Last winter we spent two nights at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre so that we could try a variety of winter activities in the area. We spent two days at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, one day downhill skiing, and the other day snowshoeing and tubing, and then we also got out for some cross country skiing, went skating on Lake Louise, and checked out the ice sculptures from the recent Ice Magic festival. Yes, it was a busy three day weekend!

The Lake Louise Alpine Centre is a joint venture between Hostelling International Canada and the Alpine Club of Canada. Members of either club get discounts to stay here. The Centre has two buildings and each one has its own kitchen and lounge area. We had a room in the main building where the check in desk and restaurant are located. This is also the building with the biggest lounge area, a beautiful fireside room with pool table and plenty of room for kids to play in.

The kitchen in our building was very big and great for large groups. We shared it with a school group the first night and with a group of scouts the second night. Fortunately, there were plenty of tables, stoves, fridges, and even ovens in the industrial sized kitchen so that everybody could cook together at the same time.

Fireside room at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre

Rooms come in a few different configurations here. We had a private room that slept 3 people in a single over double bunk. It wasn't anything fancy but it did the trick for allowing us to stay at Lake Louise. We had a shared bathroom just outside our room which we shared with one other private room. Showers were further down the hall and each shower had its own private room.

Friends that went with us got a "family room" which had two bunk beds and a loft, sleeping a total of 6 people. It had its own private bathroom and was much bigger in size. Families can also rent the regular shared dorm rooms too which sleep between 4 - 6 people.

Small Family Rooms at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre

Tips for Staying at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre with Kids:

  • Our bedroom in the main building was on the 3rd floor and the kitchen was in the basement. That's a LOT of stair climbing and there are no elevators. I'd suggest packing in a way that you can get your stuff to your room easily (our large hockey bag with wheels that weighs 60 pounds was maybe not a good idea.) You'll also be carrying your food down a flight of stairs so make sure you can easily do so.

  • If stairs and climbing are a problem for you, request a ground floor room and you'll be placed in the other building which has private rooms on the bottom floor. It's also closer to the parking lot. AND, if you request to be placed in this building, there's a good chance you'll have the kitchen and lounge to yourself because they fill the main building first before using this "overflow" building.

  • Expect to be sharing the Centre with groups. If you don't like crowded or noisy places, this might not be the quiet alpine retreat you were looking for. I was told though that the second building (not the main building) is quieter and that it helps if you don't plan your stay over a major festival at Lake Louise. (We were there over the Ice Magic festival so the hostel was packed.)

  • Bring snowshoes or cross country skis if you want to enjoy the trails right outside the door of the hostel. I enjoyed skiing the Bow River Loop with my girlfriend later in the afternoon Saturday while the kids were resting. We also skied from the lake down to the village earlier in the day with the kids and skied right up to the door of the Alpine Centre.

  • You'll have to drive up to the main Lake Louise area for skating and to access the trails around the Chateau. It's a short 5 minute drive though.

  • Finally, if you want to book a shared dorm room for your family rather than a private room, just tell the person you make your booking with that you'll have kids with you. They'll try to make sure you get your room to yourself.

To read about all room options here, follow this link to find out about the various rooms and packages.

Large industrial kitchen for groups at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre

Reasons we'll definitely return to stay at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre:

  • Affordable accommodations in a premier area of the Canadian Rockies

  • Ability to cook our own meals in a shared kitchen rather than having to eat out the entire weekend (And there is a restaurant on site should you wish to eat out at times.)

  • Ski in/out accommodations for cross country skiing (and the trails are great for biking in the summer)

  • Cozy rooms that allowed us to sleep in privacy as a family rather than sharing a large dorm room with people we don't know (which you'd have to do at many other hostels)

  • We loved the big fireside room for hanging out in together with our friends and their children. This is harder if you stay in hotel rooms where you have no common area to visit.

  • Because it's Lake Louise and it's a 5 minute drive from the Lake Louise Ski Resort. It's also a short drive to scenic hiking trails that we enjoy year round and world class scenery around every corner.

Skiing the Bow River Loop at Lake Louise

Other Winter Activities to Enjoy at Lake Louise 

The beauty of planning a weekend at Lake Louise is that the activities we did are just a sampling of what a family could enjoy over a few days in this magical place. Dog sledding would have been another fun option and we barely skimmed the surface of snowshoe and ski trails in the area that we wanted to explore. My son has also made it very clear that he wants to do a sleigh ride next time we visit Lake Louise to see the waterfall at the far end of the lake. (I told him we could just hike or ski across the lake to see the waterfall but that didn't quite cut it.)

Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise

Below are just some of the many things you can do at Lake Louise (with links if you're curious to check the activities out.) Note we have not done all of these activities and companies did not pay to have links placed in this story. I'm just seeking to be a good "source of information" here.

Downhill Skiing, Guided Snowshoe Tours, and Tubing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort - And you can read more about this here at my story that I wrote last winter: Family Guide to the Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort

Skating on Lake Louise - cleared rinks for both recreational skating and hockey. Ice is cleared of snow by staff at the Chateau so you can skate here all winter long. There's an ice castle on the ice too by January and it will be there until it melts.

Ice Skating at Lake Louise

Cross country skiing - We love the Tramline Trail which descends down from the lake to the Village with roughly 200 metres of elevation lost. It's a great trail for teaching kids to glide with gravity in their favour. Last year we also tried the Upper Telemark Trail from the Village down to the Great Divide Parking Lot. Then we hopped across the road, climbed a short hill, and got onto the Tramline Trail to finish our descent to the Village. (Note that you'll need a vehicle shuttle for these options or an adult will have to ski back up at the end to fetch the vehicle from the Lake Louise parking area.)

Other great trails for kids are the Bow River Loop, the Fairview Loop and the Lake Louise Loop.

Read more about skiing at Lake Louise in my previous story here: Family X-Country Skiing at Lake Louise.

Skiing at Lake Louise in a winter wonderland

Snowshoeing - While we chose to snowshoe at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, there are many great trails around the Village. I've heard that the Louise Creek Trail is nice if you have a shuttle so that you can hike down from the lake to the village.

Find out more on guided snowshoe tours at the Lake Louise Ski Resort here.

Snowshoeing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort

Sleigh Rides - Brewster Adventures operates daily sleigh rides across Lake Louise to see the frozen ice falls at the back of the lake. As with most "tourist" activities, there is a high price that goes with this activity. It is a great trip though for those with limited mobility who can't walk or ski to reach the far end of the lake - but still want the experience and the views. It would also be one of those special "treat" activities that visitors to Louise would not forget anytime soon.

Dog Sledding - Another one of those "life experiences" and "bucket list' activities that comes with a price. Worth every penny though. I have never done the tour at Lake Louise but I've done another tour in Kananaskis and it was incredible! 

And for more information on the Ice Magic Festival in January, please visit the Banff Lake Louise Tourism website

Ice Castle at Lake Louise during Ice Magic in January 

Disclaimer:  We received complimentary accommodations at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre from Hostelling International Canada. As always, all words and opinions are my own and I wasn't paid to write this story.

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