Monday, December 20, 2021

Ski out your Cabin Door at Baker Creek Mountain Resort in Banff

My family recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise for some amazing "ski out your cabin door" fun in a beautiful winter wonderland setting.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is one of twelve incredible properties with the Charming Inns & Small Hotels of Alberta and from my personal experience, adventure awaits just outside your door at each one of their inns or resorts.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise, Alberta

An Authentic Rocky Mountain Experience at Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is located along the Highway 1A in Banff National Park just 20 minutes east of Lake Louise. The resort has cozy cabins and suites, most with kitchenettes and all with fireplaces (including wood burning fireplaces in the cabins.) The largest cabins fit up to 5 people.

A stay at Baker Creek gives you an authentic Rocky Mountain experience, tucked away in a pristine wilderness setting off the beaten tourist path. We also appreciated the "intimate" nature of this cozy resort with only 16 suites & beautiful log cabins. It was a far cry from a loud ski hotel one might find in a busy mountain town.

Creekside firepits at Baker Creek Mountain Resort (firewood included)

Amenities at the property include a fitness centre, steam room, sauna, ice skating rink, and outdoor firepits along the creek.  There is also a café on site with basic food and beverage supplies in case you've forgotten anything (from marshmallows to a bottle of wine.)

My family stayed in a deluxe one bedroom suite in one of the lodge buildings. We thoroughly enjoyed our fireplace which provided heat to our room and warmed us up from an afternoon on the ski trails. We also loved having a separate bedroom (rather than the standard hotel room where the whole family sleeps in the same room) and our son was able to sleep on the pull out sofa.

The lodge that we stayed in with cozy suites, each one very much like a private cabin

Our kitchenette was just large enough for us to enjoy a simple breakfast each morning and we appreciated the amenities including a hot plate for cooking, fridge, microwave, coffee Bodum, and electric kettle. We were given fresh ground coffee when we checked in, and our fridge was stocked with coffee creamers. Our kitchen also had sugar, tea, and cooking supplies/dishes. 

We brought supplies with us to make lunches for our ski outings but chose to eat out for dinner each night. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy, there are several options for great dining at both Lake Louise and in the Town of Banff. Otherwise, should you choose to eat in your cabin, we discovered that the resort has outdoor barbecues on the property which would make it very easy to grill up some burgers or steaks for dinner.

A snowy winter evening at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise

Tips for planning an amazing stay at Baker Creek:

  • Bring slippers or thick fuzzy socks. The cabin floors can be chilly,

  • Bring a board game, fun card game, or crib board for cozy evenings in your cabin.

  • Bring your ice skates for the skating rink.

  • Bring your swim suits if you want to use the sauna.

  • Bring your indoor exercise clothes if you want to use the fitness centre.

  • Bring a sled if you have young children. You can pull them around the resort on the snowy pathways.

  • Bring roasting sticks and marshmallows for the outdoor firepits. I'd also recommend bringing travel mugs and hot chocolate to enjoy by the fire.

  • Bring your winter boots if you want to walk around the resort or play in the snow with the kids.

  • Download any movies you want to watch with the kids on an iPad before coming out. The WiFi at the resort is "basic" and certainly not high speed. - Which means you can unplug, leave the work behind in the city, and relax!

  • Pets are allowed at the resorts so you can bring Fido or Fluffy with you.

  • Our suite had a microwave but not a full oven (so maybe don't bring a frozen pizza for dinner - or at the very least, ask the resort if your cabin has a microwave or an oven)

A look at the inside of our cabin suite at Baker Creek

Ski Out Your Cabin Door at Baker Creek 

Baker Creek Mountain Resort grooms 10 kilometres of Nordic trails for cross-country skiing and all you have to do is walk across the road to access the trailhead. The first 3.5 km of trail is very flat and perfect for families with young children. Ski to the Protection Mountain Campground and back in an easy 7 km return trip outing before switching to your ice skates, relaxing in your cabin, or playing in the snow around the resort with your family.

For a longer ski, continue past Protection Mountain towards Castle Mountain Lookout, another 6.2 km past the campground for a round trip distance of 19 km. There are incredible views between Protection Mountain and Castle Mountain Lookout, and train lovers will get plenty of opportunities to watch trains go by as you ski alongside the tracks or traverse high above the river and the train tracks, with several great vantage points along the ski trail.

Skiing along the Highway 1A between Baker Creek and Castle Mountain Lookout

If you're fortunate to have a second vehicle, you can also set up a shuttle to ski one-way from Baker Creek back to Castle Junction, 15 km away (and 30 km round trip for adults wanting a long day tour from the resort.)

Gorgeous views can be seen from the Nordic Ski Trail from Baker Creek

To read more about the ski trails between Baker Creek and Castle Junction check out my recent story below.

All the Trains and Snowy Rockies Scenery!

Easy family-friendly skiing from Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Other Winter Activities to Enjoy from Baker Creek Mountain Resort

There is no shortage of adventure to be had while staying at Baker  Creek. Below are just some of the possibilities:

  • Visit Lake Louise for a day to skate on the lake, enjoy cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, participate in a guided dog sled tour, or even go on a horse drawn sleigh ride.

  • Visit the Lake Louise Ski Resort for downhill skiing, family tubing, a sightseeing chairlift ride, or a guided snowshoe tour.

  • Take a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway towards the Columbia Icefields (winter tires required) where you'll see some of the most stunning scenery in Banff National Park.

  • Visit the Town of Banff for a day where opportunities are endless. Enjoy shopping, dining, a visit to the Banff Gondola, a soak in the Banff hot springs, cross-country skiing or hiking, or even fat biking with rentals available in town.

  • Enjoy some relaxing time at the resort, borrow a few hockey sticks and start up a casual game on the skating rink, or unwind with a hot chocolate and s'mores by one of the creekside firepits. 

  • Go snowshoeing near the resort. There are several trails nearby and the resort lends out complimentary snowshoes to its guests. 

  • Visit nearby Johnston Canyon, a winter wonderland of frozen ice where you'll see two large frozen waterfalls. Ice cleats or spikes highly recommended.

Cross country skiing under the cliffs of Castle Mountain near Baker Creek

A Unique and Special Stay Every Time with the Charming Inns of Alberta

The Charming Inns & Small Hotels of Alberta are a collection of 12 boutique independent inns and hotels found in locations across Alberta. The inn keepers of these properties work together to support each other and share resources. They stand out from the generic hotels you find when traveling that look as if they were cut out using a "hotel cookie cutter."

Baker Creek Mountain Resort is one of these unique properties where one stay will never be enough, and an annual trip is certainly guaranteed after you spend a couple of nights here.

Every Stay at a Charming Inns of Alberta Property is Unique and Distinctive

A quick glance at the Charming Inns of Alberta website introduces you to a wide range of experiences (because a stay at one of these properties is always more than just an overnight accommodation.) You'll find everything from honeymoon getaways to quick overnight escapes, mountain or wilderness retreats, private cabins, and spa vacations. Some of the properties are also pet friendly and many are very welcoming of children as well.

The common ground between each property is that you'll always find something distinctive, unique, and "local" in flavor. We've stayed at two other Charming Inn properties now, Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis, and the Bear and Bison Inn in Canmore. At both properties it was very clear we were staying in the Rocky Mountains, and that atmosphere was present everywhere around each resort from the art work to the décor and even to the meals we ate. 

A Rocky Mountain Winter Wonderland at Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Mount Engadine Resort allows you the unique experience of staying in a winterized glamping tent where "camping" gets a whole lot more decadent with indoor plumbing, comfortable king sized beds, and fireplaces in each cabin. All meals are included at the resort including afternoon tea, a charcuterie board, and dessert for each group. You'll also feast on a delicious three course dinner, a two course breakfast the next day, and a packed lunch for the trails.

Pets are welcome at Mount Engadine, and you'll find a wide assortment of rooms in addition to the glamping tents including cabins, suites, and cozy lodge rooms. There's truly something for everyone. And kids are always more than welcome here as well.

For couples looking for a romantic getaway close to shopping and a wide variety of find dining options, look no further than the Bear and Bison Inn in Canmore. Each comfortable suite includes breakfast in your room the next morning, and I loved our room so much I was ready to move in permanently. 

From your basecamp in Canmore, you're close to winter hiking or snowshoeing trails, the Canmore Nordic Centre for XC skiing, The Town of Banff to the west, and the incredible wilderness playground of Kananaskis just up the Spray Lakes Road.

Glamping Tents at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis 

Visit Baker Creek Mountain Resort during the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet

If you time your visit to Baker Creek right, you can also ski the special Lake Louise to Banff Loppet Course mid to late January. The section from the Lake Louise Campground to Baker Creek Mountain Resort only gets groomed for the loppet in January each year, and so you can only ski between Lake Louise and Baker Creek during this time.

Visit the link above to register for the loppet. 

The distance from Lake Louise to Baker Creek during the loppet is 20.7 km. Total distance to Castle Junction is around 34 km one way.

Last year we set up a shuttle with friends and skied from Lake Louise to Castle Mountain Lookout. It was an incredible experience.

Skiing the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet Course in January 

Give the Gift of a Getaway with a Charming Inns Gift Card

The Charming Inns of Alberta has gift cards available for their properties and the best part is that one gift card allows for 12 different getaway options. Buy a gift card for a special person in your life and let them choose whether they want a mountain getaway, a romantic spa weekend, or a wilderness stay.

Family members, friends, and even coworkers can be difficult to shop for, but this is truly a gift that's meaningful, simple to buy, and guaranteed to please any recipient! 

Gift cards are great for corporate incentives, anniversaries, birthdays, wedding gifts or any special occasion. - And there's still time to buy a gift card for Christmas!

Visit the Charming Inns of Alberta website for more information on ordering gift cards. They can be mailed or emailed to the recipient.

Give the Gift of a Getaway this Winter!

Disclaimer: Our stay at Baker Creek Mountain Resort was hosted in partnership with the Charming Inns of Alberta. All words and opinions are my own and I wasn't compensated beyond the stay.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Cross-country Skiing along the Highway 1A in Banff: Baker Creek to Castle Junction

This has become an extremely popular cross-country ski tail and most of it is very scenic and beginner-friendly. You'll parallel the Highway 1A the entire time on a groomed ski trail from Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise, ending at Castle Junction approximately 15 km away.

One of the amazing viewpoints as you ski under the cliffs of Castle Mountain along the 1A

Below I've broken the trail down into popular distances that local skiers enjoy including my personal favourite, a one way traverse from Baker Creek to Castle Junction with a shuttle where the trail trends downhill at a gradual angle other than a few short hills that you'll climb up and over.

Below is my modified copy of the Parks Canada map that I've marked up for easy reference. Note however that Parks Canada lists the 5 km section from Castle Mountain Lookout to Castle Junction as green or "easy." This is not true. This is the only section of the trail that is actually intermediate with several short hills and one steep descent towards Castle Junction at the end where you'll have to control your speed on a twisty trail through tight trees.

The middle 6.4 km section between Protection Mountain Campground and Castle Mountain Lookout could be rated as green, as it is quite beginner friendly. 

Baker Creek to Castle Junction along the Highway 1A

Skiing from Castle Lookout to Baker Creek Return (Easy/low intermediate)

If you're just skiing out and back, I recommend starting at the lookout in the middle and skiing to Baker Creek and back. This is your best bet for having a groomed trackset trail to ski as well. The section from the lookout to Castle Junction is not groomed as often.

You can always turn around early as well around the Protection Mountain Campground. After the campground it's not as scenic for the final 3.5 km to Baker Creek.

From Castle Mountain Lookout, the trail is generally easy heading towards Baker Creek. There's one steep hill out of the parking lot but honestly you just have to take your skis off at the bottom anyway to cross the highway, so walk the hill if you don't want to ski down it. (I never ski up it at the end of the trip.)

High above the Bow River between Castle Lookout and Protection Mountain

Once you're on the other side of the highway from the lookout parking lot, the trail is relatively flat other than the double humps you'll climb up and over. Each one is gentle enough that you can usually stay in the tracks going both up and down.

Turn around at Protection Mountain after 6.2 km or continue the final 3.5 km to Baker Creek where you can have lunch in the red chairs outside the resort beside the creek. There is also a café at Baker Creek where you can grab snacks, lunch, and coffee to go. (Bring your mask if you plan to go inside.)

The 6.2 km section from the Lookout to Protection Mountain is the prettiest part of the whole trail.

This is the beginning of the trail from the Castle Mountain Lookout (flat and very beginner-friendly)

Parking Directions:

Follow this link to find the Castle Lookout parking lot on Google Maps.

Note you are not parking right at Castle Junction where you turn off from the TransCanada Highway. You must turn off the highway at the Castle Mountain Chalets and then turn left on the Highway 1A, heading towards Lake Louise.

You'll see a sign for the Castle Lookout parking lot on your right if coming from Castle Junction.

Skiing high above the Bow River between Castle Mountain Lookout and Protection Mountain

Trail Reports: 

Follow this link to the Banff National Park Trail Reports page. 

The "Tunnel" a 1 km long flat section between Protection Mountain and the Lookout

Ski Directions:

From Castle Lookout, jump on the ski trail that starts right from the parking lot and head west towards Lake Louise. Within 5 minutes you'll come to a short steep hill. Walk it if you have to because you're just crossing the highway.

The trail continues on the other side of the road. The trail starts off flat as you wind your way through the trees until you start to climb gradually until you're high above the river. This is where you'll go up and over two humps en route to the Protection Mountain Campground. Neither hill is especially big and you should be able to stay in the tracks.

The section above the river is the prettiest part of the trail and you'll get good views of trains going by.

The larger of the two humps you'll ski up and over
Train lovers will love this ski trail!

After you've descended the second hump, you'll arrive at the tunnel, a 1 km straight section that's 100% flat but often very pretty with snowy trees hanging over the trail. 

After coming out of the tunnel you ski alongside the railway tracks for the final bit until you reach the road crossing for the Protection Mountain Campground.

Skiing through the snowy tunnel 

The Tunnel between Castle Lookout and Protection Mountain

Easy flat skiing along the train tracks between Baker Creek and Protection Mountain

Cross the highway to enter the campground and then follow the trail to the Baker Creek Mountain Resort skiing beside a powerline for the final 2.5 km.

You'll end up on the other side of the highway from the resort at a parking lot (which you should use if you're starting at Baker Creek.) Cross the road if you want to visit the resort or have lunch there.

The first part of the trail from Baker Creek follows beside a powerline and is very beginner-friendly

Follow this link to download a map of the winter trails in the Lake Louise area.

Distance from Castle Lookout to Protection Mountain Campground - 6.2 km one way

Distance from the campground to Baker Creek - 3.5 km one way

And if you're starting at Baker Creek, follow this link on Google Maps to see the Baker Creek Ski parking lot. Do not park at the resort itself if you are not an overnight guest.

Easy beginner-friendly skiing between Castle Lookout and Protection Mountain

Ski Traverse from Baker Creek to Castle Junction (Intermediate)

Most people don't ski the section between the Lookout to Castle Junction by itself because it isn't as pretty and you follow a powerline much of the way. This section also isn't groomed as often unfortunately.

As a one-way traverse though when you have good conditions, it's a lot of fun. Start at Baker Creek to take advantage of the height loss as you ski down river. 

If you're up for the full 30 km round trip distance, start at Castle Junction and climb on your way out for a more relaxed ski back.

Skiing under the powerline between the Lookout and Castle Junction 

Before setting up a shuttle, you'll want to ensure the section from the Castle Lookout to Castle Junction is groomed and trackset before you plan to do the full traverse. Do not trust the Parks Canada trail report on this. The photo below is from our most recent trip. The Parks Canada website said the trail had been recently trackset within the last few days (but unfortunately it had not seen a snowmobile yet this season even for preliminary packing.)

Our recent ski from the Lookout to Castle Junction was full on backcountry ski touring and thankfully somebody had gone ahead of us the day before or we would not have known where to go because there are very few to no signs on the entire 1A ski traverse.

If you want an up to date trail report, call the Castle Mountain Chalets because they take care of the grooming between the junction and the lookout.

On the other side, Baker Creek Mountain Resort does the grooming between their property and the Lookout.

Make sure the Lookout - Castle Junction section is groomed before you head out!

Parking Directions:

You'll either be parking at Baker Creek Mountain Resort or you'll be parking at Castle Junction across from the gas station where there is a parking lot.

Follow this link to Google Maps to find the Baker Creek Ski parking lot.

Follow this link to Google Maps to find the Castle Junction parking lot

Following a skier tracked trail between Castle Lookout and Castle Junction

Trail Reports: 

Check the recent grooming report for Banff and Lake Louise here. As the season goes on, the grooming reports for the 1A Trails will be more accurate and reliable.

Skiing under the powerline towards Castle Junction on an ungroomed trail

Ski Directions: 

From the Baker Creek Skiers Parking lot (across the road and just east of the resort) follow the trail as described above for the Castle Mountain Lookout to Baker Creek trip. 

You'll follow the powerline until you reach the Protection Mountain Campground, cross the highway, ski along the railway tracks until you reach the tree tunnel, ski through the tunnel of trees, ski up and over the two humps, and then make your way through the forest to Castle Lookout (on the other side of the highway.)

From the lookout, ski around the back of the parking lot and take the trail that continues heading east towards Castle Junction. - and this is a great place to turn around if the trail has not been groomed and there are no tracks to follow.

The trail from the lookout to the junction mostly follows a powerline climbing up and down over several small hills. You then make your way down a steep hill that twists and turns through fairly tight trees. Don't be scared to walk this section if it's icy or not in good condition! (It's better than hitting a tree.)

At the bottom of the steep hill the trail finishes off with about a kilometre of easy flat skiing as you parallel the road (other than one final hill that you'll steeply climb.) 

Castle Junction at the end of the Baker Creek to Castle ski traverse 

Follow this link to download a map of the winter trails in the Lake Louise area.

Distance from Castle Lookout to Castle Junction - 5 km one way

Full distance from Baker Creek to Castle Junction - 14.7 km one way

Skiing along the Highway 1A between Baker Creek and Castle Junction

Stay Overnight at Baker Creek Mountain Resort 

Stay overnight for easy access to the trails along the 1A at the Baker Creek Mountain ResortThe resort has cozy cabins and suites, most with kitchenettes and all with fireplaces (including wood burning fireplaces in the cabins.) The largest cabins fit up to 5 people.

By staying at Baker Creek, you'll also be very close to either the trails at Lake Louise or the trails near the Town of Banff. 

Best of all though, if you choose to ski from Baker Creek without driving, it's an easy 19.4 km round trip ski to the Lookout and back. Adults with young children can even take turns skiing from the resort while the other adult plays with the kids in the giant snow banks around the cabins.

A snowy winter evening at Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Lake Louise

Ski the 1A Traverse during the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet 

If you time your ski day right, you can also ski the special Lake Louise to Banff Loppet Course. The section from the Lake Louise Campground to Baker Creek Mountain Resort only gets groomed for the loppet and so you can only ski between Lake Louise and Baker Creek during this time.

Visit the link above to register for the loppet which is always held mid to late January.

The distance from Lake Louise to Baker Creek during the loppet is 20.7 km. Total distance to Castle Junction is around 34 km one way.

Last year we set up a shuttle with friends and skied from Lake Louise to Castle Mountain Lookout. It was an incredible experience.

Skiing the Lake Louise Loppet Course between Lake Louise and Baker Creek

Final Notes on this Ski Traverse

This trail is dog-friendly as long as your pooch is on leash and well behaved.

This is a ski trail and is not a multi-use hiking, snowshoeing, or fat biking trail. If you want to go for a winter hike or bike ride, please consult the Parks Canada website where it lists the best trails for each sport.

Parts of the trail are double trackset, but much of it is only single trackset. Cooperation is required if you meet another group coming towards you. Nobody really has the right of way on a flat single tracked trail so be kind.

This trail is groomed for classic skiing, not skate skiing. If you want to skate ski go to Lake Louise where you can skate on the Moraine Lake Road or the Divide Trails.

There is very little signage on this trail. As long as it's been freshly groomed and trackset you'll have no problems following the trail. Early season however (or after a large dump of snow) it could be challenging to know where to go at times.

There is no official shuttle or bus service for this trail. If you only want to ski one-way, you'll have to set up a shuttle with friends. 

And finally as a reminder, Parks Canada is not responsible for grooming this trail so their website may not always be accurate for conditions. Baker Creek Mountain Resort and Castle Mountain Chalets share the grooming.

Join Cross-country Skiing YYC on Facebook to participate in great conservations about skiing the local trails in Kananaskis and Banff. It's also a great place to get trip reports from other skiers who may have skied trails like the 1A Traverse in the last day or two.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

7 Days of Big Mountain Skiing in the Canadian Rockies for $400!

Save BIG this winter with a Lake Louise Plus Card where you'll receive three free days of skiing along with discounts on every other ski day at four major mountain resorts across Alberta and British Columbia.

Ski days at Lake Louise are pretty glorious!

The Details! What you get with a Lake Louise Plus Card

The Lake Louise Plus Card costs $134.00 + GST. Purchase a card for each adult or teenager (age 13+) in your family and you'll get the following benefits:

  • Free skiing on your first, fourth, and seventh day

  • 20% off full-day, full-priced lift tickets on paid visits to the four participating resorts

  • You can use your card at Lake Louise, Castle Mountain in Southern Alberta, Panorama Mountain Resort outside Invermere in BC, and RED Mountain in Rossland, BC. 

  • Spring Value Days - Save 30% OFF full-day lift tickets for you and up to two friends daily plus get up to two free child lift tickets on paid visits from mid April through the end of the ski season early May. 

  • Free direct-to-lift upgrades! Link the discount card to your credit card and go straight to the chairlifts at Lake Louise when you arrive at the hill. Your credit card will be charged the discounted rate on your paid days and you will not be charged on your free days. 

    The upgrade also includes two free Child Direct-To-Lift Cards (for kids under 13) which saves you 20% off your child’s full-price, full-day lift tickets. Children will get their own direct-to-lift card tied to your credit card. (Note kids do not get free days.)  - Children's lift tickets should cost ~ $32.00 + GST.

  • Lake Louise Plus cardholders are also entitled to benefits and savings on ski or snowboard lessons, rentals, dining, hotel accommodations, discounts on lift tickets at partner hills, tours, and retail purchases. Read more about additional benefits here.

Follow this link for complete information on the benefits associated with the Lake Louise Plus Card

Note the Lake Louise Plus Card isn't available for purchase until at least mid October most years. Watch the website for updates. 

This story is updated annually but prices may change slightly year to year. The official website should be your source for most up to date information.

Very happy child skiing at Lake Louise 

Doing the Math to get you 7 days of Skiing for $400! 

First of all: Ask for a Lake Louise Plus Card for an early Christmas present. This way you truly get a "free" first day. - and it's an easy gift for family members who don't like shopping or who have to mail gifts across Canada. 

Next, do the math and you'll end up with something similar to what I've got below:

Day 1. Louise Ski Day - FREE

Days 2 and 3. Castle Mountain Ski Weekend - roughly $88 per day with your 20% discount + GST

Day 4. Louise Ski Day - FREE

Days 5 and 6. Panorama Ski Weekend - roughly $107 per day with your 20% discount + GST

Day 7. Louise Ski Day - FREE

Crunch the numbers and you'll see that you're spending just over $400 per person once you add in GST for 7 days of skiing this winter at amazing resorts!!

Continue skiing through the winter and you'll still get the 20% discount on all subsequent days.

And while I focused on Louise, Panorama, and Castle, you'll find that it's a similar price for adding on RED Mountain as well.

Disclaimer: the rates above change slightly each season per resort, so it is an approximate $400. Current lift pass prices aren't usually released until November.

Enjoy epic skiing at Castle Mountain Resort this winter

Where to buy a Lake Louise Plus Card

You can buy your card online (which is great news if you have family buying the cards as Christmas presents.) The cards will be mailed to you after purchase.

You can also buy them at many different places in person (skipping the need to have them mailed to you - which is good news if you plan to ski in November when the hill opens.)

Purchase cards here:

  • The Calgary Lake Louise Sales Office  (934 15 Ave SW)

  • Experience Lake Louise (101 Lake Louise Dr #2, Lake Louise Village)

  • SkiBig3 Adventure Hub (114 Banff Ave in the Town of Banff)

  • Grocery stores across Calgary (Sobeys, Safeway, Save on Foods, CO-OP)

  • Sports stores in Calgary (Sport Check, Decathlon, Atmosphere, MEC, Sporting Life)

  • AMA offices across Alberta

Disclaimer: Check the link above before heading out to buy your pass. New locations are added each year and previous ones sometimes change.

Spring skiing at Lake Louise Resort

Activate your Card and Upgrade to Direct-to-Lift

Once you purchase your card, the first step is to activate it on the Lake Louise website! Do not forget this step or you won't be able to use it when you arrive at the resort this winter.

Once it's activated, you want to upgrade it to direct-to-lift with your credit card linked to it so that you can show up at the lifts without having to go to guest services first.

You can also link your card to the ski resort so that all food purchases scan with it (avoiding the need to have your credit card with you at the hill at all.) - And this would be extremely useful if you have teens using their own cards. Link your credit card to their ski cards so that they can stop in and grab a drink or snack when hungry at the hill if you get separated.

Where to upgrade your card

You can go direct-to-lift right from the start when you purchase your pass online.

Buy your Louise+ Card online with this free upgrade already included! Make sure to upload your photo in your online profile and complete your online waiver (emailed to you after purchase). Once everything is completed you can pick up your card at the the Resort, the Calgary Sales Office, The Ski Big 3 office in Banff, or Experience Lake Louise in Samson Mall. It will also be automatically activated and you will be entered into the activation contest before January 31, 2023!

Alternately, purchase your card first and upgrade after at any of the locations above.

A photo, email address, and a credit card are required. You can either bring photos with you or have your photos taken on site.

You'll also need to fill out a waiver and list each person on it that will be using one of the cards. (So make sure you have everybody with you to sign their own waiver.)

Follow this link for the hours of operation for the Calgary office. (This is by far the easiest way to upgrade without having to do it at the hill on your first visit.)

Big Mountain Views at Lake Louise

How to Claim your Ski Days at Partner Resorts

Your upgrade for direct-to-lift only works at Lake Louise. If you visit other partner resorts you'll have to go in to guest services when you arrive with your Lake Louise Plus card. 

Show your Direct-To-Lift Lake Louise Plus Card to Guest Services at Castle, Panorama, and RED for free days or discounted lift tickets. 

Note that at Panorama, you'll have to pay a small $5 fee for a RFID enabled lift ticket. Save this card because you can bring it with you on all future visits and they'll reload it for you.

Top of the Summit Chair at Panorama

Skiing with Kids under 13 

Your free direct-to-lift upgrade includes two free Child Direct-To-Lift Cards (optional), which save you 20% off your child’s full-price, full-day lift tickets. 

You'll pay approximately $32 + GST per ski day per child 12 and under. Age is based on how old your child is at the end of December. Even if your child turns 13 in January, they can still get a child's companion card (though they will pay youth pricing.)

Show your child's direct-to-lift card at partner resorts for a discounted lift ticket. At Lake Louise, just show up at the lifts and your credit card will be charged for the ski day. (Note kids do not get the free days.)

Once your children turn 13, they can get their own Lake Louise Plus Card.

Get the kids direct-to-lift cards for Lake Louise

Affordable Ski Getaways at Lake Louise, Panorama, and Castle Mountain 

These are the three resorts we focus on as a family for our ski getaways because all three can be reached in a 3 hour drive (or less) from Calgary.

For affordable accommodations, I have the following suggestions for you:

Affordable Getaways to Lake Louise

This is the easiest one because you can make it a day trip from Calgary if you are willing to leave the city by 6:30am. To make this happen, pack the car the night before and leave a list out for the "last minute items" you want to throw in the following morning. 

Skip breakfast and stop at the Tim Hortons at the Casino at the junction of Highway 40 to grab a fast breakfast. You could also stop in Canmore for breakfast to break up the drive a bit. You can even have the kids change into their base layers for skiing while you stop for breakfast if you just want to start the drive out in pjs. 

If you'd like a more relaxed trip, I recommend spending a night or two at the HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre where you'll receive discounts as either a member of the Alpine Club of Canada or Hosteling International. 

For a one-night ski weekend at Louise, drive out Saturday, ski, stay overnight at the Alpine Centre, ski Sunday, and drive home. It's rushed, but it allows you to ski for two days with only one night accommodations.

LLP cardholders also get discounts off several hotels in the Banff/Lake Louise area. More information can be found here on discounted stays.

Read more about ski getaways at Lake Louise here:

Plan affordable ski weekends from Calgary at Lake Louise this winter

Affordable Getaways to Castle Mountain

This resort is far enough from Calgary that you'll probably want to spend two nights here (unless you live in deep south Calgary and can make it out for a day.) 

For the most affordable accommodations close to the resort, stay at the Castle Ski Lodge located across the parking lot from the resort. You can either stay in hostel style rooms or in the hotel style rooms. 

The Castle Ski Lodge hostel style rooms have 6 or 8 beds per room (bunk beds) with a shared kitchen on site. The hotel style rooms come with either 2 queen sized beds (for 4 people) or a queen bed and a double / single bunk (for 4-5 people.) 

We've stayed at the Castle Ski Lodge a couple of times in the hotel style room and found them to be quite comfortable.

Alternately you can find affordable accommodations nearby in the Town of Pincher Creek. 

Read more about ski getaways at Castle Mountain here:

Disclaimer: The Castle Ski Lodge has not operated their hostel or shared kitchen since 2020. Check to see if it will be open for this coming season. Otherwise, the hotel rooms upstairs are still affordable and there are options for your meals mentioned in the stories above.

We love skiing Castle Mountain Resort for the gorgeous views and epic ski terrain!

Affordable Getaways to Panorama Mountain Resort

This is another resort that will require an actual 2-3 night getaway. Fortunately, you'll save money on lodging with your Lake Louise Plus Card.

For the best "value" on accommodations at Panorama, consider staying at the Approach Inn, a modern motel style property that's been recently renovated. It's a great deal with ski in ski out accommodations right in the Upper Village, free outdoor parking, restaurants just a short stroll away, and access to the Panorama Springs Hot Pools.

Usually Louise Plus card holders get discounts at slopeside condos at the resort as well which allow you to do your own cooking.

Read more about ski getaways at Panorama Mountain Resort here:

Escape to British Columbia's sunny valley for a ski weekend this winter at Panorama Mountain Resort 

Other Cost Saving Tips for Affordable Family Skiing 

Kids 5 and under ski for free!- Get them out when they're young! Just pick up a free lift ticket in the day lodge at your resort of choice.

Grade 2 Passes - Get a Lake Louise Grade 2 Pass for $40 (for an entire winter of skiing at Lake Louise!)

Snow Pass Cards - If you have a child in grade 4 or 5, you can purchase a Snow Pass card for $29.99  allowing the child to ski for two days at pretty much every resort across Alberta and BC. So that's two days at Louise, two days at Panorama, two days at Castle, etc. - Note, they only get two days per resort total spread over the two years, so if you use both days at Lake Louise in grade 4, you'll have to visit other resorts in grade 5. 

Save money on Discovery Zone Lift Tickets at Panorama - The Discovery Zone tickets give you access to the Discovery Quad, Silver Platter, Red Carpet, and Little Ripper Carpet for a discounted cost. 

Save money on beginner chairlifts at Castle Mountain Resort - Buy a lift ticket for the green beginner chair or for the beginner/intermediate Huckleberry Chair at a discounted cost. 

Mornings are glorious at Panorama Mountain Resort