Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Xmas at The Post

Austria? Switzerland? No, it's The Post Hotel at Lake Louise

Me with hubby at The Post last December
Where better to spend Christmas than The Post Hotel at Lake Louise? Set in one of the most beautiful National Parks in the world, it not only has Canadian comforts and high-standard service, but, owned by elegant and eclectic Europeans, it has that air of Alpine authenticity and finesse. General Manager, Geoff Booth greets all the guests, noting that come from as far afield as Florida, Texas, and New York along with regulars from Calgary and Edmonton. "The general atmosphere has been described as a quintessential winter wonderland," says Geoff. "Trees blanked in snow, twinkling lights, crackling fireplaces, families skating on the ice rink and the winter activities abound." These include downhill skiing, cross country, ice skating, snow shoeing, sleigh rides, and dogsledding. While the kitchen creates special festive menus for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Geoff recommends trying the Fondue Stübli for a tantalizing taste of Austria. 

Calgary skier, Rod Green first spent Christmas at The Post 10 years ago. "My wife and I had been at The Post a number of times before but never for Christmas," he says. "I told her that after 35 years of her making Christmas dinner for the family that we were going to The Post for Christmas and if the kids wanted to join us that would be great. They did and we've continued with that tradition of a Post Christmas." Morph to today and they are planning their eleventh Christmas there along with kids and grandchildren. Arriving Dec 4, they typically spend four days over Christmas combining all the local wintersports on offer. "I have to say after staying there over 20 years and 10 for Christmas it has become like a second home to us," Rod says. "From the moment you leave your car with the bellman, the staff get to know you and you know them and they will go out of their way to provide a four-star experience for you." Now dubbed "The Christmas Hotel" by his eight-year-old granddaughter, the kids were initially concerned that Santa wouldn't be able to find them there. They were reassured though when they saw the fireplace and a four foot decorated Christmas tree in their room. After an "over the top" Christmas dinner, the family lingers in the luxuriantly-decorated library for family gift opening along with desserts: "The room is cozy, comfortable and the total ambience is like being at home with the family at Christmas except we don't have to clean up." 

Me giving a copy of my
Winter Sport Tourism book to
Andre Schwartz, co-owner of The Post 
At the end of each day, one of the things they like best is coming 'home' after all the outdoor exertion: "The best part of the whole experience whether skating, dog sleighing, skiing, or snowshoeing is coming back to the lobby of The Post Hotel, it's intimate, lots of warm wood, tea and deserts can be had in the lobby where you can sit and look at Mount Temple and realize how lucky you are to experience a great resort," Rod reflects. 

With the Lake Louise ski hill just minutes away by hotel bus, various family members ski there over the holidays, others go to The Post Spa, and they all join in ice skating, snow shoeing, and dog sledding. "The children love it and so do the adults," says Rod. "It's great fun to ride along with your rear-end right on the ground being pulled along by 6-8 dogs through the cold, the shadows and the snow." (Having tried it myself a few years back, I'm not so keen, especially with all that dog pooh flying in the air as the team races along - my advice: remember to bring your goggles!)
Me, below Paradise bumps, at the backside of Lake Louise on Xmas Day 2015

Here's the kind of snow to expect at Lake Louise Ski Resort, where fluffy powder, soft groomers, challenging bumps and wide open bowls punctuate the 145 trails. 
Right up to Dec 26, it is low on traffic while locals are still intent on Christmas shopping and cooking. I've skied there for 17 straight Christmases and I'm always amazed why so few people ski on the run-up to the hectic holidays. 

November and December are the best time of the winter to get in maximum vertical, get ski fitness restored for the season ahead and luxuriate in all the Christmas decorations and seasonal spirit.

Sunshine Village on Dec 24 a few years ago
Sister resort, Sunshine Village is linked by ski bus, included within the SkiBig3 lift ticket. The first Canadian resort to open this season, the snow is all natural, thanks to an inventive snow-harvesting system. You'll notice the regimental fences at various points of the mountain. The snow deposited there by strong winds is used to replenish worn areas of the slopes - the ultimate recycling! - and the only snow guns used are on the ski out for the last run of the day down to the carpark. I got my first ski day of the season there last week on a breathtaking bluebird day. Great coverage everywhere! 
Tempting tube park at Mt Norquay
From Dec 26-Jan 2, little sister Mt Norquay just outside Banff is the perfect place to escape the holiday crowds. 
Get there early to scoot over to Mystic chairlift for some fast groomers before too many people arrive. 
And then over to the North American, an expert-only mountain which never gets too busy. Notch up six or seven gnarly descents and you'll have worked off the turkey dinner in no time. 
Johnston Canyon in the wilderness between Banff and Lake Louise

Hiking in winter in Canada? Yes! With the right layers and grippy footwear, it's very do-able on a clear day. 

Especially, here, at Johnston Canyon where the path is crisply cared for and cleared of snow regularly. Amazing photo opps - wear bright colours if you want to stand out against the surreal snowscape complete with phenomenal frozen waterfalls and river ice flows. 

Look out for hardy ice climbers when you get to the viewing platform as well as mule deer skitting through the forests on the way there.

Bonus: No burly bears to bother you at this time of year!
Merry Christmas from the UK: Photo by Gunn Elise Buttress
LATEST ARTICLES: Please check out my article on how ski slopes are giving back at: 

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