There are certain places on this planet that seem to have been created as sanctuaries for us to find a sense of calm; places where you can escape the everyday and simply enjoy some natural beauty. At the very top of my personal list of sanctuaries is Lake Louise. It may be overrun with tourists, but it’s almost impossible to not become enraptured by its views.
Except my view of the lake has only ever been from its shore. Little did I know that it’s possible to see the lake from above, at a great local offered to you by the Lake Louise Ski Resort on the opposite side of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Located at the end of Whitehorn Drive, the resort offers year-round sightseeing on its ski lift, in either an open chair or a fully-enclosed gondola. Feeling adventurous (I’m afraid of heights), we chose an open chair for our fourteen-minute ride up to our 2088m (6850ft) drop-off point.
In preparing the itinerary for our time in the Rockies, I snooped around the gondola’s website and came across this blurb:
The Lake Louise Gondola is one of the best places on earth to see wild grizzly bears in their natural environment. With almost daily sightings, many of our guests are treated to this rare and awesome spectacle of nature.
I’ve spent many summers of my youth camping in Ontario’s Algonquin Park, but I never once saw a bear. The only time I’ve ever seen one in the wild was on the drive up to Banff during my first visit to Alberta in 2012. Even then, it was a black bear. I’m a sucker for wildlife watching, so the prospect of seeing a grizzly bear in its natural habitat got me really excited to visit the resort.
The ride up was a bit chilly and slightly nerve-raking for me, whereas Gary was estimating how high we were with every hill, chill as a cucumber. It was, however, a great vantage point to see all the pockets of Alpine Larch as they turn into their yellow autumn hues.
Once we reached the top, right there waiting for us was a bear. I immediately thought it was a grizzly (because I was hyping myself up to see one), but upon further inspection it would appear to be either a brown or black bear. Nonetheless, it’s still an amazing sight to see.
It was well worth the fourteen minute ride up. The views were spectacular, and Lake Louise looked like a little turquoise pond nestled in between the mountains. The memories from this gondola ride will definitely stay with me for life.
Once we were back down at the base of the gondola, I took Gary to see the more traditional side of Lake Louise. We parked in a lot adjacent to the main parking site, away from the paved path that leads up to the Fairmont and the lake shore. Instead, we had a short walk through the forest and approached the lake near the canoe shack.
Coming up to the lake I could see its blue water through the trees. I asked Gary if he could see the lake yet, but being unfamiliar with the area he couldn’t pick out the blue hues in the distance. As the path opened up near the water’s edge and he got his first full view of Lake Louise, his immediate response was “Well, that’s impressive.”
This is a holy place. Regardless of how I’m feeling, or how many tourists are surrounding me, I’m always able to gain a sense of peace while I’m here.
Lake Louise will forever remain a sanctuary for me, and I’m glad that this trip allowed me to see it from a new angle.