Snowcapped mountains, glaciers, river valleys and lakes define Banff National Park, in the province of Alberta. It was precisely because of this majestic landscape that the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the developers, chose the hotel sites. The company’s philosophy: “If we can’t export the scenery, we will import the tourists.”Pretty shrewd for a 19th century railroad company hoping to sell train passage. The castle-like Banff Springs, offering upmarket accommodations, opened in 1888. For Lake Louise, Cornelius Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, envisioned “a hotel for the outdoor adventurer and alpinist.” In 1890, a simple wooden structure debuted. As the Lake Louise location gained popularity, the company in the 1900s built a pair of Tudor style, half-timbered wings that increased capacity to 240 guests. In 1913, CPR added the concrete Painter wing and a grand dining room. After a 1924 fire destroyed the wooden structure, the company erected an eight-story brick wing, changed the hotel’s name to the Chateau Lake Louise and reopened in 1925.The property operated as a summer only resort until 1982. In 1990 after $65 million in renovations, upgrades and a new wing, the Chateau turned into a year-round resort. In 2000, Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts acquired the Fairmont Hotels. In 2004, an additional wing geared to meetings debuted.
The Chateau’s storied past, large scale and AAA Four Diamond rating reinforce its image as a grande dame resort. So do the public rooms. Couches and upholstered chairs fill the large lobby’s seating area, but our favorite spot is the Lakeview Lounge. The floor to ceiling Palladian windows overlook the green lake, the snow-capped mountains and the glacier. Sitting here is a joy, but the waiters really expect patrons to order something. With afternoon tea, served from noon until 4 p.m., you and your kids get pastries, chocolate and the great view. Another option is Sunday brunch.
Children do not receive any special welcome gift; arriving at the property is its own reward. It’s in that spirit that you should choose this hotel. The Chateau is the sort of place where you and your children explore the magical setting together by hiking, canoeing, fishing, skiing or simply strolling around the dazzling green lake.
Photos courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts