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travel to Lake Louise

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My husband and I are dying to see Lake Louise... We are from Chicago. I'm looking at the weekend of January 15... Is this an okay time to visit? If so, suggestions on places to stay? Thank you :)

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    Welcome!

    You can visit Lake Louise any time of year. The experience is different,but quite magical, in the winter when the lake is frozen and everything is covered in a thick layer of snow.

    You have to be prepared for short days (less than 8 hrs of daylight) and cold temps - it can dip below -30c. Warm clothes (think layers), hat, mitts/gloces and solid boots with good tread are a must.

    However, there are lots of activities including xc skiing, downhill skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, dog sled rides, sleigh rides, ice walks in Johnston Canyon and winter walks. Most of the summer trails are not accessible due to snow & avalanche risk, but you can walk along part of the lakeside trail. If you venture out on xc skis or snowshoes it's important to seek advice first in order to make sure you are on safe trails. There are more walking options in Banff townsite.

    Lake Louise is accessed via the TransCanada Highway, which is a major highway and usually well plowed. However, between Calgary and Lake Louise, it's not uncommon to have winter conditions like blowing/drifting snow and snow on the road. Black ice and strong winds with snow drifting have been an issue a number of times so far this winter. So it is STRONGLY suggested that you get a vehicle with snow tires (not standard, you will need to request & pay extra). And to avoid driving after dark.

    If winter driving isn't something you are comfortable with, then you can take an airport shuttle. As a note, a regular sedan is fine - there's no advantage to an SUV - 4 wheel drive just becomes four wheel slide when roads aren't good. Get only as large a vehicle as you need for yourselves & your luggage. If the roads are so bad that you need 4 wheel drive to get around, you should not be driving.

    As to accommodation - I would book ASAP as Lake Louise ia a popular winter destination for skiers. In Lake Louise most of the hotels are actually about 4km from the lake. The only two hotels within walking distance of the lake that are open in the winter are the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Deer Lodge. The former is the most luxurious hotel in Lake Louise and the quickest to book. Great food (it can be hard to impossible to get reservations at the Chateau restaurants if you are not a guest) and lots of tours/activities for guests. Deer Lodge is nice, albeit having some ups & downs. The nicer rooms are in the new section - i.e. the tower rooms.

    Up in the tiny "village" the Post Hotel is the fanciest with a gourmet restaurant, but likely to be tight on availability. There's also the Lake Louise Inn and I think one other hotel, and the hostel. Note that outside of hotel restaurants, there are only 2 or 3 other places to eat in Lake Louise. So that might be a consideration in choosing a hotel - and if you really want to eat in a certain restaurant outside your hotel, book ahead for Friday or Saturday nights.

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    Lake Louise is a wonderful place to visit. Place to stay can be decided on the budget you want to spend. You can go for hotel stay, camp grounds, Back country lodges, chalets and condos.

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    The trip is happening in January, so I think hotel/hostel is the only realistic option.

    While the campground in LL is open year round, I don't think anyone camps there in winter (other than in a winterized RV). There are some beautiful backcountry lodges in the area, but all require ski or snowshoe access and are usually booked up far in advance.

    There are no condos or chalets in Lake Louise - private rentals are not permitted in the national parks. There are a couple of year round hotels that do offer some units with self catering - Mountaineer Lodge and Lake Louise Inn, I believe.

    It's worth pointing out that there are a few lodges outside of Lake Louise - Baker Creek, Cathedral Mountain and Emerald Lake. You'd need to be OK with very limited dining & shopping options (read no shopping and only the hotel restaurant). The latter two are across the border in BC, so M+S tires would be required. I'd also want to be a confident winter driver as both Kicking Horse Pass and the road up to Emerald Lake can be challenging in the snow. Baker Creek is much closer to LL.

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