Last week’s post was all about the outside of the beautiful Lake Louise and this week we are moving inside to take a look around and find out how this beautiful hotel started out.
Like so many places in Canada, Lake Louise has a connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway. Back in the summer of 1882 one of its employees, Thomas Wilson, was getting ready to take supplies and equipment out to the construction crews at Kicking Horse Pass. He camped with a group of local Stoney Indians and during the night they heard the loud rumble of avalanches. Wilson, with his limited knowledge of their language, asked his companions what the noise was and where it came from. They told him it came from “snow mountains above the lake of little fishes”. The following day they took Wilson to the lake. Thomas Wilson was the first white man to see the lake, which he named Emerald Lake due to the colour of the water.
According to locals the fish in this glacier-fed lake never grow to be very big, hence the natives called it “lake of little fishes”. Emerald Lake was eventually renamed Lake Louise in honour of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, who was married to the Marquis of Lorne, Canadian Governor General from 1878 to 1883. Even the village was renamed Lake Louise, having formerly been called Laggan and prior to that Holt City. The Princess however, never visited her namesake lake and village.
In 1890 the original log cabin was built along the shore of the lake by Cornelius Van Horne, who was the general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway (yes that train company was everywhere in Canada back in those days!). He wanted to create a base for alpinists and outdoor enthusiasts from where they could go and explore the mountains. The cabin had a central area, which was used as the dining room, there was also an office, a bar, a kitchen and two small bedrooms. Even back then they made use of the fabulous views out to the lake by having built a veranda for guests to sit and take the views in. The chalet accommodated day guests that had travelled up from its sister hotel, the Banff Springs Hotel, and whilst only 50 guests registered in 1890 this jumped up to 50,000 guests by 1912.
Out of this small cabin, which had suffered through some small fires, with the help of four different architects, rose this large, luxurious hotel. The building dates back to 1911 and it just rises majestically at the shore of the lake.
The area is no strangers to celebrity visitors, none more famous than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who stayed at the Lake Louise Skoki Lodge during their first official overseas tour as a married couple in 2011. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, King George VI and his wife all visited the area . The hotel itself had its fair share of famous guests, which include Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Christoper Reeve, Queen Margaret of Denmark, and many others.
The area was also used for a lot of Hollywood films back in the 1920s/30s/40s, one of them being “Son of Lassie”, a sequel to “Lassie Come Home”.
During WWII the hotel closed due to gas rationing, but also out of patriotism, but that did not stop the locals from enjoying the mountains; full-scale ski areas had been in operation since the early 1930s and going further back, the youngsters of the area were taken up the mountains for skiing as early as 1909 as part of a ski club.
Originally this hotel, together with its sister property in Banff, was meant to be for the summer season only, but based on some winter opening trials for skiers in the 1970s, both hotels have now become all season hotels and Lake Louise hosts the annual Lake Louise World Cup every November. The 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics did their bid to highlight this areas ski resorts to the world.
The interior of the hotel is stunning; it is based on what I would call the southern German style; think Bavaria with its wooden chalets, lederhosen bedecked men – you get the idea. The minute you enter the hotel lobby you stop in your tracks; it is quite large and the check in desks at the back almost look a little forlorn. To your right is a staircase which takes you to the second floor from where you get a great view of the lobby.
The hotel has a number of different restaurants, ranging from the relatively reasonable priced Glacier Salon to the high-end Fairview restaurant. The Walliser Stube, which unfortunately was closed the night we stayed, looked like a typical German Kneipe (Pub), offering Swiss Fondue as one of its specialities.
The hotel has everything you might need, aside from restaurants it has a sports shop, book store, fitness room, pool, art gallery, Christmas shop, souvenir shop, clothing store, jewelers, and a spa.
I actually think the hotel is nicer during the winter season; it just adds to the magic of the place.