Magazine article Sunset

Blissfully Snowbound in Canada's Rockies

Magazine article Sunset

Blissfully Snowbound in Canada's Rockies

Article excerpt

Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff offer magnificent scenery, luxurious lodgings, and whiz-bang winter fun

Big, feathery snowflakes float from the sky as we clib into a sleigh for a moonlight ride ong the shore of Lake Louise. The powerful draft horses are anxious to get going, shifting from one foot to another, snorting out jets of steamy breath, shaking their heads, and making their bells jingle. In a moment the horses pull in unison, and the 17-passenger sleigh begins gliding over the snow. Silhouettes of massive mountains loom all around us, and in the distance Chateau Lake Louise twinkles like a jewel box filled with diamonds. We are halfway through a winter vacation in the Canadian Rockies, and our dream is coming true.

In search of a memorable trip, my wife, my son, and I had planned an itinerary that included stays at the three grand lodges operated by Canadian Pacific Hotels at Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff. Each of these resorts offered a mix of cross-country and downhill skiing as well as a taste of luxury. Though we could have flown into nearby Calgary or Edmonton, we chose to ride to Jasper aboard VIA Rail, Canada's classic transcontinental train.

After boarding the train one evening in Vancouver, British Columbia, we climbed into the bunks in our snug sleeping compartment. The next morning, we lingered over breakfast, staring out the windows at a magical scene: snow covered every inch of the landscape, from the ground to the 12,972-foot summit of Mount Robson. As the train neared Jasper for our 1:45 PM. arrival, the mood onboard became festive, almost giddy, as if everyone knew a fabulous party was about to start.

JASPER: LOG-CABIN LUXURY

Jasper Park Lodge was built in 1922 on the shore of Lac Beauvert. Most of the guest rooms are in elegantly rustic cabins and small lodges that dot the grounds (a few rooms are in the main lodge). We settled into a log cabin for three cozy nights on beds with down quilts and feather pillows.

We feasted in the Edith Cavell Dining Room, starting the first evening with chowder made from wild mushrooms, mixed grains, and fireweed honey. The blackened beef tenderloin came with a roasted-tomato compote. The rack of lamb had a Dijon mustard, garlic, and rosemary crust and was served with pear and mint jelly. And the chocolate-praline tart with mango sauce and caramelized bananas was heavenly.

Later, swimming beneath the stars in an enormous heated pool, we watched as a few hardy bathers flopped in the snow before diving back into the steaming water.

The next morning, we skied at Marmot Basin, a 25-minute ride by shuttle bus from Jasper Park Lodge. This alpine ski area boasts a respectable 2,944-foot vertical drop and good intermediate slopes, with large open bowls near the summit and tree-lined runs farther down the mountain. It was refreshing not to have to wait in a lift line-and that was the case everywhere we skied on this trip. The following day, hiking into Maligne Canyon, just 10 minutes from the lodge, we found frozen waterfalls and gigantic icicles cascading from rock walls.

LAKE LOUISE: PUTTING ON THE RITZ Three nights go fast in paradise. Soon we were on the road, headed 140 miles south to Chateau Lake Louise for a twonight stay. The eight-story chateau, built in 1913, is backed by the icy face of the Victoria Glacier. …

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