too icy to enjoy Lake Louise?

Old May 17th, 2005, 05:43 PM
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too icy to enjoy Lake Louise?

Hi, I was planning an extended weekend at Lake Louise/Banff area from May25-May30 traveling from L.A. Since we have a 4 yearold with us and we're not able to walk long distances, we're primarily going to enjoy the scenic beauty. Is Lake Louise going to be too frozen over to really see it at it's finest? Also, is it generally overcast at this time of year, or does the area get a lot of Sunshine? What's the best itinerary? Shall we stay at both Lake Louise and Banff? And should we include Jasper. We get into Calgary on the 25th and plan to rent a car, so we'll arrive in the evening, and will leave on the 30th, giving us basically 4 days there. Since, I'm booking air last minute, it's a fairly expensive trip so I"m wondering if we should put it off if this is not an ideal time. I'd appreciate any suggestions.
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Old May 17th, 2005, 06:29 PM
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I suggest you call the information office in the park. The number is (403) 762-1550

Whether or not the lake has thawed by the end of May is hard to predict. Usually at the elevation of Lake Louise, just over 5,000 feet, lakes thaw about mid June.
At over 6,000 feet, usually the thawing time is in the first week of July, or later.

My friends in Field told me that snow fall was light this year and tempertures moderate. So there is a chance the lake may thaw earlier than normal.

The only way to know for sure is to call the people on the scene.

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Old May 17th, 2005, 09:44 PM
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Dear Bob, thanks for the phone No. Is it still worth the trip if it's covered in ice? Also, can anyone suggest hotels? I tried the Fairmonts, but they're especially pricey last minute. I thought we'd makeup for the air fare and not splurge on five stars, but stay in something that's still very nice, yet a little more reasonable. I'm planning this trip as a birthday surprise for my husband so I would like to go, if climate and atmosphere is worth it at the end of May. If anyone has any more info, please write. Thanks.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 06:50 AM
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We've been in the Rockies every month of the year, in all sorts of weather conditions from blizzards to blazing heat, and have always loved it. We adjust our plans (for activities) to suit the weather, and just enjoy the ambience and splendid mountain scenery.

As to your weather question - we've had an early spring this year in this part of Canada, the temperatures in the past week were up to 75F already, and the trees have leafed out two to three weeks earlier than normal.
Although we are currently experiencing some cool and rainy weather, on average it is sunny with some scattered clouds.
It is worth noting that even when the temperatures are warm during the day, at night (after sunset) the temperatures plummet to near freezing, so bring some warm clothes (fleece jackets) to layer.
Accommodation is always expensive in the Rocky Mountain Parks, and the rates increase on the Victoria Day long weekend (My 21st to 23rd this year) and stay that way all summer.

We like to stay at Baker Creek Chalets when in the LL area. They have a website (www.bakercreek.com) that you can check out. The chalets are near a mountain creek in the woods about 8 to 10 minutes from Lake Louise (just off the Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and LL). It's a comfy woodsy atmosphere, the chalets have full kitchens and are well equipped, plus there is a dining room in the lodge - it's like having your own little home in the mountains!!
If that doesn't suit you, search for other accommodation at www.explorealberta.com (and look under "Banff").
If you do a search on this forum, you'll find reviews for other accommodation. If I remember correctly, Paradise Lodge and Bungalows always get good reviews, so you may want to check them out as well.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 07:39 AM
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>>>Is Lake Louise going to be too frozen over to really see it at it's finest?<<<

I just called the Lake Louise Visitor Centre at 403-522-3833, and the woman with whom I spoke said that Lake Louise was still frozen at this point. Given that that is the case, I do not believe it will thaw out by next week. More important than Lake Louise, in my mind, is the state of Moraine Lake. The same woman said that it was very iffy at this point as to whether or not the road to Moraine Lake (9 miles from Lake Louise) would be open in time for the May 21st Ė 23rd long weekend. Regardless of whether or not the road to Moraine Lake is open, I know from prior experience that Moraine Lake does not look its turquoise best at the beginning of June. If you give it just a couple more weeks, and see it in the middle of June, it makes all the difference in the world.

I also tried calling the Banff National Park phone number that Bob Brown provided. However, their phone lines were so busy that I twice got bumped to their answering service located in Calgary. The people who staffed the answering service were no wiser about the current state of Lake Louise than I was.

Borealis is right that the mountains look beautiful in any month of the year. There are some people who even say that they love the appearance of the lakes when they are close to being thawed but still have a thin sheet of ice on them. However, I belong to the school of thought that the lakes, when they are turquoise, are the jewels in the crown. If there was any possibility of delaying the trip by a couple of weeks, I would delay it. Thatís my personal bias.

>>>Also, is it generally overcast at this time of year, or does the area get a lot of Sunshine?<<<

The weather in the mountains is very changeable at all times of the year. You can get four seasons in one day. I've been in the mountains at the end of May and it's been sunny with a temperature of 85 deg F. By the same token, I've also experienced a bit of snow and night time temperatures a little below freezing. The AVERAGE temperatures at the end of May are about 62 deg F during the day and 37 deg F at night. However, the averages mean very little. As Borealis said, you need to bring layers so that you can adjust to changing weather conditions.

>>>Shall we stay at both Lake Louise and Banff?<<<

No. They are 50 minutes apart, and one can serve as a base for seeing the other.

>>>And should we include Jasper.<<<

If possible, yes. This would be made more feasible if you were to catch a morning flight out of LA and an afternoon flight out of Calgary.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 07:48 AM
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If you can get a morning flight out of LA, you could consider an itinerary like this:

May 25 - Fly to Calgary. Count on spending an hour going through immigration, picking up your luggage, going through customs, getting Canadian cash from an ATM, and taking delivery of your rental car.

Drive to Jasper. This takes 5 hours, not counting stops. However, it would be good to stop for dinner at Lake Louise. This would give all of you a chance to re-fuel your bodies, get out, walk around and stretch. That much flying and driving might be a challenge for your 4-year-old, I would think. However, if you were able to get this longer drive out of the way today, it would make the rest of your itinerary easier and it would mean fewer hotel changes. Consider dining at the Station Restaurant on the edge of Lake Louise village.

Overnight in Jasper. Do a word search on this forum for Beckerís Chalets to decide if the property would suit you.

May 26 - Explore Jasper's environs. If the road to Mount Edith Cavell is open (it's usually open from June to October), I highly recommend driving it. The views are lovely. (The Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hiking trail usually opens early to mid-July. But the drive to the trailhead still is worth it even if the hiking trail itself is closed.)

Other good things to do are the ride in the tramway up Whistler's Mountain, a walk in Maligne Canyon and possibly a cruise across Maligne Lake to Spirit Island.

Overnight in Jasper again.

May 27 - Drive back down the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93) to Lake Louise. Do it slowly this time, and stop at the scenic lookout points. See Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls and Peyto Lake Lookout. If you have not seen a glacier up close before, consider a ride in the Snocoach on the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields.

Overnight in either Lake Louise or Banff. The decision of which place to choose depends on the time of your departure from Calgary on May 30th. The later your departure, the further from Calgary you can afford to base yourselves.

Borealis already has mentioned Lake Louise accommodation.

If you choose Banff as your base, consider Buffalo Mountain Lodge. If you want a separate bedroom for your child, consider Douglas Fir Resort.

May 28 - Visit the lake of Lake Louise (3 miles from the village of the same name) and, if the road to it is open, Moraine Lake. Also visit Emerald Lake in nearby Yoho National Park, just to the west of Lake Louise. (Travellers who visit the area from late June onwards should add Takakkaw Falls to that list. July / August visitors also should go to Moraine Lake first, as its parking lot really fills up in the summer.)

Your 4-year-old probably would enjoy a canoe ride at Lake Louise or, if you visit when Moraine Lake is properly up and running, a canoe ride at ML.

May 29 - Walk in Johnston Canyon and explore Banff townsite and its environs. Consider a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, a stroll down Banff's main shopping street, perhaps a soak in the hot springs, and a visit to Lake Minnewanka.

Overnight in your Banff / LL base again or, if you have an early morning flight, drive to Calgary for the night. If you overnight in Calgary, consider the Greenwood Inn, which is in the same quadrant of the city as the airport or else the Delta Calgary Airport Hotel, which is right within the airport complex.

May 30 - Fly home.

If you think that the initial drive to Jasper would be too much to ask of your 4-year-old, or if you cannot get a morning flight out of LA, consider dropping Jasper and spending all of your time in Lake Louise or Banff. In that case you could do a day trip to Peyto Lake Lookout and the Columbia Icefields, but not go all the way to Jasper.

Here is a recent thread in which I provided suggested lead times that travellers needed to allow for catching flights out of Calgary if they were staying in Lake Louise or Banff:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...9&tid=34619121

My suggested itinerary has included activities that cost a fair amount of money -- lake cruises, gondola rides, and a ride in the Snocoach on the Athabasca Glacier. In fact you don't need to do those activities to enjoy yourselves. The mountains can give you great pleasure even if you don't spend extra money. Your tastes and budget should decide how many of those extra activities you do. But your 4-year-old probably would enjoy something hands on, like a canoe ride.

Hope that helps.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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This forum is amazing! Borealis, thanks for the tips. I'm sure the mountains and lakes are gorgeous at any time of the year, but I'm going to reconsider and delay a few weeks,because Judy in Calgary read my mind: I want to see those turquoise waters! I'll look up Baker Creek chalets as well. Judy in Calgary, I was reading some of your suggestions from way back in march last night at midnight. Your attention to detail is incredible! Thank you so much for the detailed itinerary. I'm not feeling so overwhelmed now. You know when you take hard-earned vacations, you want to see the area at its most stunning, so I'm going to try for around June 16th. I hope the lakes are beautiful and the throngs of tourists have not arrived yet.Let me know if you have any thoughts. Thanks again to everyone who responded, it's been incredibly helpful.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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if your 4 yr old enjoys waterslids, you may want to look into the douglas fir resort. it is midrange for banff. often have deer at the balconies if you are facing away from the road. with only 4 days, i would just stay in banff and explore the banff, lake louise and you could take a short drive down the parkway without going all the way to jasper.
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Old May 18th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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I think Judy is right about Moraine Lake. It is dependent on the light to show off its beauty.

If the ice is starting to break up, and patches of inky water show through, the contrast is startling.

We hiked from Lake O'Hara to Lake McArthur at a time when O'Hara was mostly ice free, but McArthur was about 70% ice covered but with cracks in the ice cover. I had not seen that particular lake in that condition before. It was one of the most amazing sights I have seen clambering around those hills for a decade or more.

The calendar read July 3, but McArthur was still that icy.

As for Lake Louise, the motels are expensive. Even the Mountaineer is high for a standard 3-star establishment.

I certainly would not let ice on a lake stop me. Bow Lake, Peyto Lake and others along the Icefields Parkway are beautiful as well. So is Emerald Lake in Yoho, and it is at a lower altitude with more sun exposure.

I would like to see the Rockies when they have a heavy snow mantle. Unfortunately, my visit this year is in late August.

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Old May 25th, 2005, 09:31 AM
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Our response is a little late but for other travelers this may be helpful. We just returned from Banff / Lake Louise and loved it. Feedback from locals is that this was one of the best times of the year to visit because it isn't crowded yet and the wild life is very active. Lake Louise was still very much frozen over (80% covered in ice). We stayed at both Fairmont properties and then checked out early to stay at Baker Creek Chalets after driving by the property. The property was extremely clean and the atmosphere very friendly. We felt it was a much better value and more of a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Many of the people staying there were socializing with each other, kind of like at a campground (but with nice cabins). Only caution is there are no TVs or phones in the room. This was great for us but some people need their TV....
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