The railway hotels of the Canadian Rockies are famous for their grand scale, improbable luxury, and their stunning natural surroundings — and among them perhaps none is so well-known as the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Two hours west of Calgary may seem an unlikely setting for a world-class luxury hotel, but this one has been an institution for decades, the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and Alfred Hitchcock gracing its halls, living the high life against the backdrop of the snow-capped Rockies, overlooking the steep majesty of the glacial lake and escaping into the wilderness at every opportunity.
The vast lobby and public spaces recall an opulent and outsize hunting lodge, hung with ornate chandeliers and furnished with sturdy and elegant armchairs and sofas. Guest rooms are spacious and comfortable, decorated in a lavish alpine-colonial style, packed with modern luxuries. It’s worth springing for the lakeside rooms — the views up the hillside behind the hotel are far from unsightly, but can’t compete with the postcard scenery of Lake Louise.
It’s come a long way since its opening in 1890 — back then the guests were strictly mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts, and the thought of the Chateau as one of Canada’s most luxurious lodgings was likely far off. Yet as much as the atmosphere has changed, the Rockies, of course, haven’t; some of the best skiing and climbing in North America is close at hand, and the Chateau offers professional mountain guides as well as the Snow School, a top-flight ski instruction program.
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