Late morning, we drove from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a beautiful three-hour drive through Jasper National Park into Banff National Park. We were less than a mile from the Jasper lodge when I spotted something black out of the corner of my eye. Bear! David slowed down and pulled to the shoulder of the road. In a lush meadow, which sat about thirty feet below the highway, a lone black bear was foraging. He paid us no mind, busy searching for something to eat. We snapped photos, until six vehicles joined us. I was pleased to see that no one attempted to approach the bear. In fact, everyone spoke in low tones as to not spook him.
At the hotel check-in counter, there seemed to be a problem with our room reservation, so I waited in the lounge area with our roller bags while a guest service employee went to find the hotel manager. Soon thereafter, David waved me over to the registration desk. The manager informed us that since we had “suffered an issue” with the hotel in Vancouver and had booked exclusively with the Fairmont chain on our Canadian trip, they wanted to upgrade our room. David told him that the Fairmont had already done so in Whistler and there was really no need to upgrade us again. But he insisted.
Our impressive two-level accommodation was the Belvedere Suite on the top floor of the hotel, with over a thousand square feet and two private covered balconies—one overlooked the grounds and the other the lake. The spiral staircase in the penthouse suite led to a secluded bedroom, and the luxurious bath with glass walls opened to stunning views of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier.
After we settled into our room, we strolled the trails around the hotel and the lake. It pays to do your research before you go, I reminded myself, as I was quite surprised to see Lake Louise covered in ice in May. I learned much later that many visitors plan their trip in early June when the Rocky Mountain lakes thaw—the best time to snap pictures of the turquoise water. The striking blue-green color, also seen in New Zealand’s lakes, comes from silt-like rock flour carried into the lake by ice and snowmelt from the surrounding glaciers. The minute particles of silt become suspended in the water, refracting blue and green wavelengths of light.
Every year, the lake’s thawing is a highly anticipated event with many Fairmont Chateau employees participating in a lake-thawing lottery. Each employee places a small bet and picks a day and time, a.m. or p.m., when he or she thinks the lake will clear of ice. Depending upon the weather patterns, Lake Louise has cleared as early as May 30 and as late as June 17.
For dinner, we ate fondue at Walliser Stube in our hotel and watched the day slip into night over Lake Louise.