By Juliette Recompsat
It’s easy to drop into the back bowls of the Lake Louise Ski Resort from your first morning trip up the gondola and find yourself exploring this playground for the entire day. The open bowls and steep glades are known to keep skiers and snowboarders lapping run after run after run.
Luckily for those who can’t resist “just one more run before lunch” until their grumbling stomachs make themselves heard, there’s a sanctuary waiting. Tucked into the valley above Ptarmigan and Larch Express chairlifts, Temple Lodge is a place for gathering, refueling and relaxing. It’s also the place where it all started for the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
On Temple Time
A quintessentially Canadian timber frame lodge, Temple Lodge is named in honour of the iconic peak that towers over Lake Louise. Mount Temple was the first peak over 11,000 feet in the Rockies to be summited and it has the same allure for spellbound climbers today that it did in the early 20th century.
Back then, the only way into the Ptarmigan Valley, where the Lake Louise Ski Resort sits now, was a lengthy ski tour to Skoki Lodge. In 1930 the Mount Temple View Chalet was built to break up this long journey. Guests could make the trip in from the Lake Louise Train Station by foot or on horse-drawn sleighs. With cozy rooms and (occasionally functioning) electricity, the lodge felt like an oasis of luxury in the wild – not so different from today.
Come springtime, the legendary Temple Beach comes to life on the expansive deck of the lodge. The Temple Cantina serves up tacos and beers to a happy crowd, and you’ll find many a Lake Louise old timer lounging in the sun here. They’ll often be quick to tell you that Temple and the surrounding runs are the best places on the mountain.
Sheltered from the prevailing winds and regularly filled in with fresh snow, it’s easy to see why. And while there is wifi at the lodge it’s possible to escape cell phone service for a few minutes here. These might just be excuses to spend an extra-long lunch in a colourful deck chair on “the beach”, but visit once and you’ll likely agree.
A Mountain Hideaway
The Lake Louise Ski Resort as we know it today grew up and out from Temple Lodge. Skiers were able to trade in their climbing skins for more vertical mileage when a portable rope tow was first installed just above the lodge in 1952. A Poma lift came two years later, and the rest is history.
While resort skiing has come a long way since those early days, the tradition of coming together for a midday break is still an essential part of every good ski day. Around lunch time on the back side of Lake Louise, skiers and boarders converge at Temple Lodge and fill in the many nooks and crannies that hold tucked-away tables and a café and restaurant.
Upstairs in Sawyer’s Nook, the décor tells the story of the timber frame construction of the current lodge, built in 1978 after the original building was lost to a fire. Old photographs and tools pay homage to the delicate craft of binding logs in a traditional style using pegs to hold the timber together.