Ahhhh, Lake Louise. If you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I have many pictures of this world wonder destination. At the age of 18, I made my first trip to Lake Louise and worked as a housekeeper for the summer at the Chateau Lake Louise. It was the hardest job I had experienced up to that point. It didn’t pay well and the hours were long, but the other benefits seemed to balance the grueling workload. That summer I lived in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I made lifelong friends. I returned for 4 more summers to work in the Poppy Room. Again, long hours and hard work but the balance were the friendships I had made who were in the same boat as me. These friendships from across the country and around the world were priceless. Also, living in a massive nature playground that is called the
The Canadian Rockies was too good to be true.
After the Chateau I moved to the village and worked at the Relais Chateau, Post Hotel. If you are familiar with this hotel, it is truly world-class. It was my first experience working for a company that was so detailed orientated. The housekeeping staff would use toothbrushes to clean the grout between the tiles. At 23, I was introduced to first-class hospitality, and it is still ingrained into my being. It's the little things that make a huge difference.
I will always remember the day I was working Tea Service in the lobby back in 2003 when I worked at the Post for a winter season. I had set up the beautiful decorative cakes in the display case, made sure the cups and saucers and plates were lined up straight, the teas organized by color, the flowers set on the table just so, and my desk neat and tidy, offering a welcoming first impression.
There was a lamp that stood by my desk which I never thought about but gave me light as the afternoon grew darker.
That day one of the owners, George, came by my desk to make his inspection. All seemed to be set up to his approval. Then he looked at the lamp and suddenly, he had a little concerning look on his face. "Rikki", he said. "What is wrong with this lamp?". I got up and looked at it feeling a bit nervous because my personality was that I hated getting in trouble for doing something wrong. "I am not sure", I replied. He then went to show me the seam in the lampshade. He told me that the seam should be at the back as it does not look good facing out to the customer. "It is all about the little details Rikki." He then moved the shade to the back, stepped away to see the whole picture, and approved.
It's funny how one little remark can stick with you for the rest of your life. That moment he taught me how important "Little Things" are and that attention to the smallest of detail can make a world of difference.
The Post Hotel is where I met several of my Western Family members and where I met my husband, Thomas. I was a server, and he was a chef de partie. We were set up by my supervisor who was a woman from Laos with a beautiful big personality and an amazing cook. She said to me one day “that’s it, you need a man!” She gave me two options, my pot-smoking roommate or the Swiss Chef de Partie who "looked like Tom Cruise". I picked the latter and the rest has been 25 years in the making.
Years later, Thomas would be offered the Head Chef position at Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, owned by Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts. They also own
Deer Lodge in Lake Louise and Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park.
Except for a 3-year break that took us to PEI, Thomas has worked for this company since 1999. I also worked for the company in several different roles on and off since 2000 including reservations for the hotels and function server when the company owned The Ranche Restaurant. So, to this day we are still connected to the mountains and Lake Louise, even though we live a couple of hours away.
THE SEASONS OF LAKE LOUISE
Lake Louise is a small hamlet located 40 minutes west of Banff. It’s very well known for the ski area in the winter and the beautiful emerald colors of Lake Louise in the summer. It’s not a very big place but pre-pandemic it was visited by an average of
3.6 million people per year, wanting to capture pictures of Mother Nature’s World Wonder. Lake Louise was named after Queen Victoria’s daughter and Victoria Glacier after the queen herself. The original Stony First Nations name for this beautiful place is Ho-Run-Num-Nay (meaning lake of little fishes).
There’s more to this place than running out to the shoreline and capturing pictures in front of the Chateau Lake Louise. In the summer there are pretty hikes that follow along the edge of the lake to the backside. You can continue into the valley and follow the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers where you have spectacular views of the hanging glaciers of Mount Aberdeen, Lefroy, and Victoria, as well as the Lower Victoria and Lefroy glaciers and the hanging glacier on Popes Peak. There’s also a teahouse there, open in the summer, inviting you to have a cup of tea and a treat after a job well done.
From the Chateau you can climb up to the right and follow the crowd to the
Lake Agnes Tea House (open in the summer) or leave some behind to climb little and Big Beehive for distant views of the lake and valley. There are several other hikes to explore from this location as well.
To the left of the Chateau, you can climb Mt Fairview or head East towards the
Giant Steps and Paradise Valley. However, heading East finds you in some grizzly bear territory and you cannot hike in groups of less than 6 people. It is always best to check with the Visitor’s Centre in Lake Louise Village to find out the conditions of the trails and if there has been much bear activity. Click HERE for more information on the trails around Lake Louise.
Story Break.... (scroll down if you just want the info)
I would love to share another story with you from my time in Lake Louise.
My second summer in Lake Louise I decided I wanted to do more hiking, more camping and get out into nature and take in the beauty of my surroundings. I was 19 and was pretty naive; like most 19-year-olds out on their own discovering life.
I was coming up to a couple of days off trying to figure out what I should do. Three of the servers from the Poppy Room had told me they were going to go backcountry camping and asked if I wanted to join them. "Absolutely", I said. This was my chance to learn how to be one of those cool people who hike for miles carrying their life on their back and being one with nature in the middle of nowhere. That sounded pretty awesome to me and you know, sometimes you just have to take that leap and do it.
I hardly had any supplies, but luckily the three girls who I was with were set up and one had been backcountry camping for years. I just needed my sleeping bag, some extra clothes, and a little bit of food and they would take care of the rest. Cool.
The hike roundtrip was about 20 km's and a moderate hike, so it wasn't too bad. You didn't gain a lot of elevation. However, this was 1992. Back then there were no rules that you had to hike in groups of 6 because of the grizzly bears. Yeah, when I was 19 I didn't think too much about the bears. When I think back now at the number of times I went biking on trails by myself in Lake Louise or the hiking I did with a couple of friends, with no bear spray, because nobody carried that stuff, I just shake my head. I think ever since I became a mom, I have become more aware of the fact that I was hiking in bear country with my girls. Maybe I take on the instinct of a mama bear does...needing to protect her cubs.
The hike to the Giant Steps and Paradise Valley was beautiful....of course. I just remember sitting in this valley with mountains surrounding me and hearing the thunder of several avalanches that were naturally being set off, since it was the middle of June and the weather was getting warmer.
I had found a little piece of heaven.
We had two, two-man tents that we set up for the evening. I shared a tent with Allison who was the more experienced backcountry camper and was a few years older than me. Our tent had two sections, one for sleeping and a vestibule for our backpacks and shoes. Since it was the middle of June, it was light until after 11 pm. We headed to bed to tuck into our sleeping bags as the nights were still very chilly in the mountains.
I am not sure what time it was, but it was dark outside. I was woken up with my heart beating fast as I heard a scratching noise very close to my tent. At that moment I realized, "here we were, 4 girls out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the mountains, 6km's from home, "guests" to the wildlife that live there full time, with no means of protection. Holy crap!" My friend woke up beside me, shaking like I was, and she was the experienced one. Our first thoughts... "bear!". "Oh my god, we are going to get eaten alive, I thought. What the heck were we thinking?"
Once we processed what was going on, we realized that whatever it was, was in our vestibule. Too close. I remember my friend's hand was shaking as she tried to unzip the window to see what was on the other side. As she quietly unzipped the tent, we slowly looked to the other side to see a.... porcupine going through our bags and caught in our tent. My first thought "don't they shoot quills! "
Then I heard my friend say, "go and try to unzip the tent to let the thing out." What?" I thought to myself. "I am the inexperienced one, why do I have to do it?" Then I realized, I must have been the sucker. There was no way I was putting my hand in that area to go set the porcupine free. I was so incredibly scared. Anyway, Allison reached across from me and took charge. She opened the zipper to the vestibule and quickly lifted the tent as we yelled really loud to get the porcupine out. In my mind, I thought to myself that I was grateful that it didn't shoot any quills at us and that it was probably just as happy to find a way out.
I don't think I slept very well the rest of the night as with every noise I heard, I figured it was another animal out to get us. To this day, even though I love camping so very much, I hate the nights and hardly ever have a good night's sleep. But, I would trade bad nights of sleep for spending days surrounded by nature anytime.
Back to business and the seasons of Lake Louise.
Lake Louise is a beautiful place any time of the year. From June to November the water of the lake can be seen. The rest of the year it is frozen and when the ice is strong enough it can be walked on all the way back to the end of the lake. The Chateau Lake Louise also creates a skating rink at the front and usually at Christmas time there’s hot chocolate and music. There are even smaller rinks made for a little game of hockey.
October and November are the slow seasons as there’s not much going on. But, that can be a great thing. No crowds, no lineups. You share the lake with fewer people and you are not fighting for a spot to take a picture. The water is usually still visible with the edges slowly freezing from the outer rim inward. The weather is unpredictable. You can get rain, snow, and sunshine in an hour. However, the mountains take on a new personality as the weather changes. If you love taking photographs, it’s a great time of year to take some dramatic pictures. The other day I ran into a photography tour from Spain. They were traveling to Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, and Jasper and were so excited to capture the wilds of the Canadian Rockies. They loved the weather and how unpredictable it was, capturing images of the mountains peaking through the clouds at the right moment.
These are great times are great to visit to get some R&R. You can relax in the hotels by the fireplace drinking a warm beverage and take advantage of their other services. Read a good book and eat in some great restaurants in the surrounding hotels. I also love The Station Restaurant. They reopen on the 19th. They serve up delicious meals in the old Lake Louise station. We have also enjoyed eating at Bill Peyto's Cafe in the Lake Louise Hostel. Reduced hours at this time.
Winter brings skating, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, and ice climbing…just to name a few activities. There are so many fun options to do here in the wintertime if you are the active type. You can rent equipment from Wilson Sports in the Village. In January Lake Louise hosts the Snow Days Festival where ice carvers from around the world compete to win the title of world’s best ice carvers. The displays are incredible. In 2022 this festival will run from January 19th to the 30th.
April and May are again in-between seasons. The days start to warm up a bit. The lake begins its melt usually mid-May and you will be provided with a peek a boo glimpse of the emerald waters again. Once again, it is a nice time of year to enjoy the area without too many people around.
Lake Louise will always be one of my homes. Heck, our oldest child's middle name is Louise. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend many seasons there. It's a place that many from around the world have on their bucket list, a once-in-a-lifetime dream to visit Lake Louise and the beautiful Canadian Rockies. When you go to Lake Louise outside of summer and zoom into the beauty that surrounds you, you will get tuned into the magic of the littlest things and what Mother Nature has to offer.