Experiencing the winter season at Lake Louise in the Banff National Park should be at the top of every traveller’s bucket list. Lake Louise sits majestically at the heart of the Canadian Rockies, and during the winter months, it is surrounded by beautiful snowy forests and ice-capped peaks. Is Lake Louise open in winter? Read more to know!
Of course, Lake Louise is open for tourists on all 365 days of the year. There is a myriad of fun activities to delve into, and many mesmerizing spots to visit as well. If you are looking for a winter getaway trip in the lap of Nature, consider visiting this snowy paradise and spending a dreamlike winter. To know more about how to get to Lake Louise, and what places to check out, keep reading!
2. Transportation to Lake Louise
Banff is 58 km from Lake Louise. If your accommodation is in Banff town, it will take 45 minutes to ride to Lake Louise. However, IF you’re using a personal vehicle make sure to reach the lake early in the day. Lake Louise is the top tourist attraction in Banff, and this makes the demand for parking spots high. If all spots fill up you might be left disappointed, so make sure to leave at the earliest!
If you don’t have your vehicle, opt for a bus or shuttle. The shuttle service at Banff National Park is very convenient and hassle-free. You can take the Roam Public Transit service. The Roam transit avails one of two routes to Lake Louise from Banff train station: the 8X and the 8S. The 8X route is direct, where you take the Lake Louise Express or the Lakeshore Express. The 8S route goes to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway.
3. Top Accommodations and Things to Do Near Them
3.1. The Lake Louise Inn
The Lake Louise Inn is a lodge-style hotel located close to the Lake Louise ski resort, and moderately close to Lake Agnes. Not only that, but the Lake Louise Inn is also a ten-minute walk from Lake Louise and very close to the village as well. It is a good accommodation option for families, as there are one-bedroom apartments available along with multi-bedroom condos.
There are two restaurants inside the premises, along with a dining area. As is desirable for the chilly winter, there are hot tubs and indoor pools at this inn! The inn makes available wonderful amenities, including a free shuttle to the Lake Louise ski resort. If you are a skier and want to lodge somewhere near the ski resort, this is your perfect pick!
3.2. Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise
To have a holistic winter experience at Lake Louise, the Fairmont Chateau is the ultimate place to be. The Fairmont is essentially an accommodation in function, but it is also a major tourist attraction. Even if you are not living here, you must pay a visit to this grand hotel. You can make a reservation for Afternoon tea offered here and enjoy the multiple choices of delicacies.
If you want a luxurious stay centred around activities at Lake Louise, you might want to make your reservations right away! The great hotel lies right at the shorefront of Lake Louise overlooking the Lake, the Victoria glacier, and the ice castle. This hotel attracts thousands of tourists from across the globe, throughout the year.
Lodging here, you can easily access all the winter activities that the hotel and its surroundings have to offer. There are stalls and shops in the lobby of the hotel where you can collect souvenirs. The restaurant and dining hall at the Fairmont Chateau are magnificent. There are large windows overlooking Lake Louise, and you can enjoy a delicious meal along with a breathtaking view!
A special attraction for the boarders at this hotel is its hot tub. On a chilly day, taking a relaxing bath in the warm waters is one of the most rewarding feelings. While doing so one can even enjoy the scenic views that the surroundings have to offer!
3.3. The Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise
The name of the festival is self-explanatory, it is magical. The Annual Ice Magic Festival has been taking place at Lake Louise since 1994. It is one of those places in the world whose grandeur cannot be put into words; one has to experience it.
At this festival, artists from all around the world compete against each other at the ice-carving event held in January. The competition lasts for three days after which the winners are declared. There are shorter battles as well, where the contestants carve sculptures out of ice in a span of one hour.
The Ice Magic festival is mesmerizing to outsiders as they can witness and observe all the pieces of art intricately carved ice, created by skilled craftsmen. The final completed pieces, including the winning piece, are left outside on the patio of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for tourists to see.
At night the sculptures are lit with flood lights making them even more blue and dreamy, making it feel like you have been transported to a different world. You will need to purchase a ticket to enter the premises on the stipulated days of the festival. Once it ends, you can view the sculptures on the patio for free. Unfortunately, the ice magic festival for 2023 has been postponed to 2024.
3.4. The Ice Castle
Amongst other prestigious ice sculptures, the team at Fairmont Chateau puts together the ice castle every year. The backdrop of magnificent snow-covered mountains adds to the beauty of this masterpiece. This is a popular spot for family pictures or even selfies, so do not forget to keep your camera ready!
3.4. Ice Skating Ring on Lake Louise
In winter, Lake Louise freezes into solid ice, and there is a designated area on which a skating rink is demarcated. If you are up for a fun winter sport activity, you can try skating on the rink, for free! The skating rink is in front of the Fairmont Chateau and is very well-maintained by the hotel’s staff.
The Lake receives a heavy amount of snowfall that creates a layer on its surface, but it is regularly cleared out for convenience. You can rent hockey sticks and pucks and try playing ice hockey on the skating rink.
The frozen-Lake-turned-ice-rink is a beautiful area that a lot of people flock to and enjoy themselves. Amid surrounding mountains and forests, one of the best things to do is to just take a pleasant walk, explore the place and absorb the spectacular snowy views.
3.5. Lake Louise Ski Resort
The Lake Louise Ski Resort is an extremely renowned tourist hotspot and is known to be one of the best ski resorts in the world. The resort is one of the Big Three ski resorts at Banff and is one of the biggest ski resorts in North America. It is just a short ride from the Fairmont Chateau. It is huge, of about 4200 acres, and has hosted world-class skiing events.
Do not be intimidated by its professional history, the ski resort has all of the levels available. You can choose well-planned trails according to your comfort level, for example: easy for beginners with a 35 km run, intermediate with a 62 km run, and difficult with a 42 km run.
Be assured that you are signing up for an exciting adventure if you go skiing, you can ski from the top of the mountain down to Lake Louise. The sublime view of the slopes and mountains is very worth it.
3.6. Cross-Country Skiing
If you are an adventurer, cross-country skiing or Nordic skiing is an activity that should not be overlooked. You can cruise around the lake or on the mountains on the various cross-country skiing trails maintained at Lake Louise, Banff.
3.7. Snow Tubing
If you are not very keen on skiing or are intimidated by it, you can try snow tubing in the snow tubing park! Snow tubing is appropriate for kids who wish to slide down the snowy slopes of the mountains, in an inflated tube, having as much fun as a skier or snowboarder. (if not more!) You can rent a tube by yourself, go in groups, or even race down the snowy hill slopes.
If you are not very keen on skiing or are intimidated by it, you can try snow tubing in the snow tubing park! Snow tubing is appropriate for kids who wish to slide down the snowy slopes of the mountains, in an inflated tube, having as much fun as a skier or snowboarder. (If not more!) You can rent a tube by yourself, go in groups, or even race down the snowy hill slopes.
3.8. The Lake Louise Chairlift at Ski Resort
The Lake Louise ski resort also offers a gondola ride over Lake Louise offering surreal scenic views of the Lake and encompassing Mountain ranges. An extremely entertaining ride, this chairlift provides an unbeatable panoramic view of the mountains and ridges.
3.9. The Ski World Cup
An exciting event takes place at Lake Louise in the winter, held by the FIS or Alpine Canada- the ski World Cup at Lake Louise. This entertaining event takes place from November to December. The fastest skiers from all around the world compete in the ski race, while tourists and onlookers cheer for them.
Unfortunately, as of July 2023, the Ski World Cup of 2023-23 will not be held at Lake Louise. The Lake Louise ski resort is planning to make more expansions and renovations during this time. There is no doubt, therefore, that the Lake Louise resort has been voted as Canada’s best at the World Ski Awards.
3.10. The Lake Louise Village
The Lake Louise village is a hamlet in the Banff National Park, named after “the Lake,” of this park. It is said to be less crowded and quieter than downtown Banff, and considerably smaller, too.
Lake Louise Village has a variety of stores and restaurants, accommodations, and diners. The hiking and skiing options are also very easily accessible from this village.
3.11. Chateau Sleigh Ride at Lake Louise
Is there a better winter holiday activity than a cozy sleigh ride? I do not think so. The Fairmont Chateau Hotel offers a sleigh ride at Lake Louise.
It is a fairytale feeling, cruising around the Lake on the snow, on a horse-drawn sleigh. You can sit in the backseat with your partner or your family and peacefully take in the view around the Lake. It is a one-hour ride that will ring the bells in your heart and get your spirits high for the festivity of Christmas!
3.12. Dog Sledging at Lake Louise
For all the dog lovers out there, here is an irresistible chance to spend precious time with the four-legged ones! It is a fun and unique outdoor experience that should have a place in your itinerary.
Undeniably, Kingmik Dog Sled Tours is the most highly-rated dog sledding company operating at Lake Louise. Whichever company you choose, you must spend your money on one that takes good care of the animals.
The duration of the tours that Kingmik offers ranges from as short as thirty minutes, too long, four hours. You can choose and book the one that is appropriate for you. You can ride quickly and quietly, meeting the dogs at the end of the journey.
3.13. Snow Shoeing Around the Lake
If you want to try an easy sport, snowshoeing is a doable activity for all. Moreover, Lake Louise is a wonderful place for this. The Lake receives a high amount of snowfall creating a thick covering of snow perfect for snowshoeing.
Rent snowshoes at one of the rentals and embark on this unforgettable journey! Booking a tour around the Lake is a good option. You can go for the Lake Louise snowshoe tour available at the Lake Louise ski resort. Fairmont Chateau also provides snowshoe tours. You could also take a tour on your own along the snowy trails.
4. The Five Best Snowshoe Trails
Here are the five best snowshoe trails to try out:
4.1. Lake Louise Lakeshore Snowshoe
The most popular snowshoe trails are in the Northern parts of Lake Louise. The Lakeshore trail is the best known among them all. It is short and easy, hence very suitable for families with kids or elders. As you finish walking this trail, you will come across the gorgeous frozen waterfalls.
You might come across ice climbers attempting to climb the frozen falls. Only enjoy the waterfall from a reasonably safe distance. Never go too close to it or climb it, there is a danger of encountering falling ice.
4.2. Mirror Lake Snowshoe Trail
Another popular snowshoe trail, this walk ends with a majestic view of the small but scenic Mirror Lake at Banff. The Mirror Lake trail starts near the Fairmont Chateau and winds up through forests. The trail is lined by trees on both sides, which prevents the chilly winds from hitting you.
However, at times you can get glimpses of the Lakes and surrounding mountains. The end destination is unbelievably beautiful with the Mirror Lake towered by the snow-covered big beehive. This snowshoe trail is avalanche prone. Before setting out enquire about the conditions and proceed only if it is completely safe.
4.3. Lake Louise Creek Snowshoe Trail
The Louise Creek trail is known to have a moderate difficulty level. It is popular for hikes, climbs, and bike rides as well. This trail begins in the parking lot of Lake Louise village and goes all the way up to Lake Louise. Once you reach the top you will be greeted by eye-catching views of the Lake.
Again, before venturing be informed of the risks and danger zones of the trail. The trail is very popular, so be ready to meet a lot of people. But more importantly, bring bear sprays in case you encounter bears on the way!
4.4. Fairview Lookout Snowshoe Trail
This is a 1.5-mile loop trail at Lake Louise, on a moderate difficulty level. It is short, steep, and continuous, so be prepared to be faced with a bit of a challenge. There are views of Lakes and pines along the way, and, of course, a rewarding view in the end!
The trail loops back smoothly to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, however, sometimes during the winter the second part of the trail is closed down. This is due to potential dangers like muddy paths, which are difficult to navigate for novices.
4.5. Castle Mountain Lookout Trail
The Castle Mountain lookout trail is a longer trail of 4.5 miles. It is considered to be a challenging trail because of its incline, but popular nonetheless, for hikes and snowshoeing. It is easy to follow, with mesmerizing views. Especially during the winter months, this trail is an excellent option with the soft snow and ice coverings.
There are no technical parts on this trail, only a part through the forest. At certain places, through gaps in the trees, you can get splendid views. It is a popular tourist spot, so make sure to arrive early and claim your space in the parking lot!
There are so many fun winter activities here, you can do one after the other! There is nothing you can’t do at Lake Louise. After snowshoeing through one of the Lake Louise trails you can ice skate or play ice hockey. If you get cold or tired and want a break, you can enjoy some drinks or delicacies at the Fairmont!
If you are a nature enthusiast, the winter season at Lake Louise in Banff will be your paradise. Occasionally one can spot a bright blue glacier on the peak of snow-covered mountains. It is also very common to come across frozen waterfalls on steep mountain slopes. Magical icicles are formed from these waterfalls, sometimes even giving rise to caves that are lined with icicles on their rooftops.
5. Final Words
In the peak winter months, the weather can be very chilly and cruel! Make sure to pack enough warm clothes with you and use proper boots during hikes to tackle the snow. Always be bundled up, have warm drinks by the fireplace to be comfortable, and enjoy your holiday!
It is the snow season. Hence in hikes and unbeaten paths, there are fewer people around. This creates a heightened risk of animal encounters. The Banff National Park has many wild animals like grizzly bears, elks, and wolves who are very frequently spotted. However, if you are not in a group or hiking on an unknown trail in the winter, wild animals can be a potential danger. Always carry bear bells and bear sprays along with you. And avoid isolated areas at all costs.
In the mountains in winter, the danger of avalanches cannot be overlooked. Around Lake Louise and at viewpoints there are posters or boards where dangerous areas are marked and mentioned. Do not venture into these avalanche-prone areas and stay only in the safer areas that have people.
With all these things to experience, Lake Louise is the most vibrant and fulfilling winter destination. It is not surprising, therefore, that among all the Lakes at Banff Louise is referred to as ‘the Lake’. It is indeed a ‘winter wonderland’ as people call it.