Canadian Rockies

Old Jul 26, 20, 6:35 pm
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Canadian Rockies

Welcome your suggestions for best lodgings in the Canadian Rockies. My indulgent expectations in this region are not as lofty as usual so please cite properties you loved for whatever reasons. Lake Louise recs appreciated yet interested also in venues outside that locale.

Planning a 2021 respite, pandemic and Canadian border control permitting.
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Old Jul 27, 20, 1:20 am
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Following with interest
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Old Jul 27, 20, 3:03 pm
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I'll take a stab at this.

1) Lake Louise: there are two good choices: the Post (no view, better hotel, smaller and more "boutique") or the Chateau Lake Louise (in my opinion has the view and only the view going for it; of course the view is so spectacular you probably don't need more). There isn't even a close second choice, unfortunately.

2) Banff... Yeah. Luxury... There is the Banff Springs and the Rimrock. Neither is great. Both are big. The Rimrock does have a really good if somewhat pretentious restaurant on property. On a good day that would eke out a Michelin star (Canada doesn't do Michelin ratings or vice versa). Again, views are great at either, get a suite at either and you won't be too unhappy if you lower your expectations appropriately

3) You could always try Emerald Lake Lodge if you want to take a big pile of money and set it on fire.

4) If you want a bit more of a genuine wilderness experience (I know you have mentioned your SO might have some mobility issues, so I say this guardedly) you might want to consider a lodge you can access by helicopter for a night or two, like Mt Assiniboine Lodge or Lake O'Hara (which is drive in, and if you are lucky you might be able to get a spot at next year if you reserve now). Both offer great experiences, but aren't luxury. Assiniboine is very much wilderness, Lake O'Hara a bit less monomaniacally so.

5) Depending on how much time you have, Jasper is worth considering. I like it more, actually, as it is a little less crowded/touristy. But it is much harder to get to from a major airport (3-4 hr drive from YEG, vs. Banff being 90 minutes from YYC). In Jasper your only option, like it or lump it, for comfort or luxury is Jasper Park Lodge. Not my favourite place as I think it is pretty bad value but your USD can help mitigate that!

Happy to provide some more reasoning for any of the above, or other miscellaneous opinions if you like. Best time of year: August or September. Although Lake Louise early October can be spectacular if you don't mind a little cool with snow on the mountaintops and the Larch trees changing color.
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Old Jul 27, 20, 3:13 pm
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This would be a great trip. The Fairmont Banff Springs or Lake Louise are the most iconic, but I'm not a fan of Fairmonts or large hotels generally. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is good though, especially given that it's really the only decent option there. I recommend Moraine Lake Lodge. https://morainelake.com/ Directly on Moraine Lake and it's nice and quiet once the day trippers go home, but you are paying for the location most of all. They have a sister property, Cathedral Mountain Lodge, that also looks very nice but I'm not familiar with it. I think they offer a package for both properties. I haven't been to Post Hotel & Spa, but it has its fans as well. And looking back at my notes from prior planning, the Lake O'Hara or Mount Engadine Lodges could also be options.
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Old Jul 27, 20, 3:59 pm
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Some good recommendations here. At the various Fairmont properties, I'd recommend trying for the Gold Floor. Here's a link to a trip report I did several years back (gosh - was it really that long ago? ) that will hopefully be helpful.
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Old Jul 29, 20, 5:26 pm
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Thanks to you all for excellent feedback. I appreciate reliable information especially when luxury venues are in short supply. Planning a driving trip around best locales. What is best airport to fly into, out of? What kind of driving distances am I looking at?
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Old Jul 29, 20, 5:30 pm
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Dear ridefar,

I fear I regularly (pre-pandemic) set fire to money. Sometimes pays off, sometimes not. I am high on the incorrigible spectrum.

Cheers,
KatW
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Old Jul 30, 20, 8:44 am
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Originally Posted by KatW View Post
Thanks to you all for excellent feedback. I appreciate reliable information especially when luxury venues are in short supply. Planning a driving trip around best locales. What is best airport to fly into, out of? What kind of driving distances am I looking at?
For any trip to Banff or Lake Louise, your only flying choice is Calgary International (YYC). It has flights from SFO, LAX, DEN, SEA, EWR, IAH, etc. during normal times. The selection is somewhat more limited (understatement) right now, but SFO and LAX are still possible and hopefully this will return to normal by the time you make your trip. It is about a 90 min drive from YYC to Banff townsite, and you can rent a limo if you don't want the hassle of driving once you get there. However, Banff is sufficiently spread out, and both the Rimrock and Banff Springs are further than easy/short walking distance if you want to sample other restaurants or what not. And you probably want to drive to some of the local scenic locations like the Sulfur Mountain Gondola or Johnston Canyon. Lake Louise is another 45 minutes past Banff, and again, unless you stay in the hotel to eat all meals and don't want to go to Maligne Lake or anything you will need a car.

Going north from Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway is one of the most spectacular drives you can do, anywhere. It is about 2-3 hours to Jasper from Lake Louise, but there are a couple of good stops to break it up, including the ice fields themselves. Jasper is also spread out so you need a car to get to various sights. Jasper is 3-4 hours from Edmonton International Airport (YEG). Edmonton may or may not have much in the way of international connections when you are planning for, it depends on how air travel bounces back. And there is a giant load of nothing to see between YEG and Jasper, until you get within 30-50 miles of Jasper and the scenery improves.

The only other destination in the area that may appeal is Waterton National Park (the Canadian sister? brother? park to Glacier National Park in Montana). Again visually totally spectacular, but isolated (3 hours south west of YYC). And the only hotel (Prince of Wales) was reviewed as follows by a friend: "it has a roof". I will be able to verify the accuracy of this in a few weeks; thanks to the plague I find myself willing to try all sorts of things that I would not have previously considered: mediocre local hotels amongst them.
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Old Aug 2, 20, 1:12 am
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I agree with the various useful advice offered above.

The two most popular itineraries probably are:

1) YYC - Banff - Lake Louise - Jasper - YEG
2) YYC - Banff - Jasper - Lake Louise - YYC

The drive between YEG and Jasper is rather boring for the most part, while the Icefield Parkway between Banff / Lake Louise and Jasper is one of the most scenic drives in Canada, so I would suggest the latter option.

Having stayed at the three Fairmont properties in the Rockies on various occasions and having booked hundreds of nights for clients at those properties, here are some additional thoughts:

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise:

The hotel as a whole is not a luxury hotel. There are just too many rooms, the entry level rooms are tiny and distinctly unremarkable and the property is flooded with thousands of tourists daily in additionl to guests staying at the hotel (at least during normal times). However, the Gold floor offers a completely different experience: rooms and suites on the Gold floor are very nice and the Gold concierge team offers excellent service. I wouldn't hesitate to rank the Gold floor experience as 4.5*-5* and staying in a suite on the Gold floor at CLLprobably offers the most luxurious experience in the Cdn Rockies.

My recommendation would be to book any of the following:

- Fairmont Gold One-Bedroom Lakeview Suite
- Marquis de Lorre Suite (the floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the lake)
- if you want to splurge, either the Glacier Suite or Belvedere Suite (each with a private balcony overlooking the lake, though both suites are spread across two floors in case that's an issue)

Fairmont Banff Springs:

Similar issues as CLL. Unfortunately the Gold lounge is much, much larger than at CLL, therefore the value of booking a Gold room/suite is debatable.

If available, I would suggest staying in one of the Terrace Suites.

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge:

This is not a "regular hotel", but instead consists of a main lodge and over hundred cabins (each with 1-6 rooms/suites) spread across a large property. The style is more "upscale rustic" than "true luxury", but the location and the more "authentic" lodging experience appeal to many. IMO there is something special about sitting on your cabin's patio overlooking the lake with various wildlife (moose/deer/elk/etc.) walking by.

My recommendation would be to book any of the following:

- Lakefront Suite (there are four Lakefront Suites in one cabin, two on the lower level and two on the upper level)
- any of the Signature Cabins
- Main Building Suite (if you prefer staying in the main lodge; decor also is more modern / less rustic than in the cabins)

-----------

FWIW, the published rates for the signature suites can be rather steep, though I've found management to be generally cooperative when negotiating a more reasonable rate.

You can also save an extra 16.7% by purchasing gift cards during the bi-annual sales.

And last but not least, you can find plenty of reviews in the three property threads in the Fairmont/Accor forum.
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Old Aug 2, 20, 1:57 am
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Great info, thank you, Jasper2009.
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Old Aug 2, 20, 2:04 am
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Glacier View Lodge

As others have mentioned upthread, the drive on the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper is to die for. You'll be pulling over constantly to enjoy the incredible views and snapping tons of photos. You definitely want to take it slow in order to soak it all in.

With that in mind, I would recommend that you break up the drive by spending the night at The Glacier View Lodge, which is roughly halfway between Banff and Jasper. It's right across from the Athabasca Glacier, so you can easily spend half a day exploring the Glacier and surrounds. It was recently completely renovated and is far more upscale than when we stayed there.

Back in 2017, we combined Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, The Glacier View Inn (as it was called back then) and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The hotels did the job, but weren't world class by any means. But Banff and Jasper are must-visit places, and each of the properties were perfectly located and had enough charm to offset some of the shortcomings.

At the Fairmont Lake Louise, you should definitely spring for one of the Suites with the best views. We stayed in the Belvedere Lakeview Suite, and the views from the large-wrap-around balcony were definitely Instagram-worthy.

Here is one photo from our room:

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Old Aug 5, 20, 4:49 pm
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Moraine lake lodge is another in a nice setting that you can drive to. The food in their restaurant is poor but cabins are nice. I am staying at Emerald Lake lodge later this summer can report back with a comparison. Banff springs and Jasper park lodge are uninspiring to me, although the later is the best option in Jasper from what i hear. Post hotel has far better food than Fairmont lake Louise but doesn't have the views as shown above. Cathedral mountain lodge i've heard good things about their restaurant, it is near emerald lake lodge.

Involving helicopters makes things much more interesting. Durrand glacier chalet we just returned from and was amazing (although a bit further west than Rockies). There were several guests in their 80s. CMH buggabos has really nice packages for all abilities of heli hiking and relatively comfortable lodges (for some elderly guide was telling me it could be as simple as helicopter to an alpine meadows for lunch then back to lodge) . Assiniboone mentioned above, stellar location. Purcell lodge is another of the more comfortable upsacpe options, i haven't been to the later three (although hoping to take MIL to CMH next summer and have hiked through assiniboine). In a normal year the main hot spots near banff are filled with hordes of tourists so i think the experience in these lodges is vastly superior overall.

I think you'd probably be best suited to fly into Calgary, head to lake Louise area and base there for a few nights, then head to a helicopter access lodge and return to Calgary to fly out. Add on Jasper and icefields parkway if you have time

Last edited by tdiddy23; Aug 5, 20 at 6:15 pm
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Old Aug 7, 20, 6:47 am
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I'm originally from Alberta so have visited Banff and Jasper many times. What others say about the Fairmonts (Lake Louise, Jasper Park Lodge and Banff Springs) and Rimrock are similar to my own experience. They are not full luxury hotels, IMO, with mediocre service and lacklustre rooms. That said, along with the Post Hotel in Lake Louise (a relais et chateaux property), they're pretty much your only options for higher end hotel experiences and there are certain room categories that can be quite nice.

In Banff, my personal preference is the RimRock. The views from the Rimrock are truly spectacular and superior to the Banff Springs because it is built higher up. Also, the Signature Grandview rooms (Room #s 700, 701, 702 and 800 - around $700-$1000/night in high season) and Grandview Suites are genuinely good quality for a luxury property. We usually stay at one of the RimRock's Signature Grandviews and they range from 500-700 sq ft, each come with a gas fireplace, exceptionally comfortable king-size bed, sitting area, separate large soaking tub/shower, high quality furnishings and most importantly, world-class views of the township valley and surrounding mountains. These offer the best views in Banff and IMO are the highest quality room in the area as well. Some of the signature grand views come with bathtubs with windows and panoramic views and others with large terraces with bucket-list quality views.

For Jasper, while I have my problems with the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (too many lacklustre service experiences in the past), I still think it can be a nice place to visit in the summer. The Lakefront Suite with wood-burning fireplace are tranquil, decently sized and good quality.

The prime tourist spots in the Alberta rockies are all within National Parks. While this is great for conservation, it also means development is restricted such that there's always a mismatch with greater demand than supply. This enables the hotels to get away with less than stellar service and the result is that there is no true luxury hotel in the area. I believe the Fairmonts and Rimrock are all rated 4 diamonds by AAA ,not 5. Still, it's well worth a visit. The mountains are stunning, there are some decent restaurants and the aforementioned hotels do have select room categories that are quite nice.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to add about the Rimrock is that its amenities/facilities are worse than the Banff Springs. I'm not sure it would matter during coronavirus though as I expect the Banff Springs' spa will be closed. Rimrock has a very uninspired spa and an indoor pool that could be out of any 4-star hotel. The Banff Springs' large spa, on the other hand, is fairly impressive.

EDIT 2: One other thing to add is that the RimRock's Signature Grandviews do not come with any dedicated lounge access or special concierge service like Fairmont Gold does at the Banff Springs. Something worth noting if that is important to you.
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Last edited by jbb; Yesterday at 4:07 pm Reason: Corrected name of suite at JPL
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Old Yesterday, 4:22 pm
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Another option no one has mentioned (probably for fair reasons) is the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge - an Autograph Collection hotel. I stayed at this hotel once years back when it was the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis. It definitely doesn't have the pedigree of the Fairmonts, Post or Rimrock and it's not located in a pleasant tourist town like Banff or Jasper, but it might be worth researching online if you want to check all possible options.

It's sort of on its own in Kananaskis country, a provincial park, which is kind of in between Calgary and Banff National Park. So, you don't really get to walk around in a nice town with different shop and restaurant options. But, from my understanding, there's still lots of outdoor activities on offer in Kananaskis and it could suit some who are looking for more of a value option while still getting a 4-star (not Luxury) standard.
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Old Today, 7:20 am
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Originally Posted by jbb View Post
Another option no one has mentioned (probably for fair reasons) is the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge - an Autograph Collection hotel. I stayed at this hotel once years back when it was the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis. It definitely doesn't have the pedigree of the Fairmonts, Post or Rimrock and it's not located in a pleasant tourist town like Banff or Jasper, but it might be worth researching online if you want to check all possible options.

It's sort of on its own in Kananaskis country, a provincial park, which is kind of in between Calgary and Banff National Park. So, you don't really get to walk around in a nice town with different shop and restaurant options. But, from my understanding, there's still lots of outdoor activities on offer in Kananaskis and it could suit some who are looking for more of a value option while still getting a 4-star (not Luxury) standard.
While I love Kananaskis, there are essentially no activities besides hiking and golfing (at the one course, which I think is still only partially open after some devastating floods a few years back) in the area. It is also worthwhile noting that there is *no* town there at all. There is a hotel. That is it. And it is a 45 min+ drive to Calgary or similar to Canmore to have an option to eating at the on-site restaurant. While it was recently renovated, I wouldn't say it comes anywhere near luxury. All of which you note -- I just wanted to emphasize that once you are there, there is quite literally nothing else to do unless it is outdoors, and nowhere else to go.
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