Lake Louise, the hamlet within Canada's Banff National Park, is as vast as it is small.
On the one hand, there are only a handful of hotels, a ski resort, no real business district and few roads.
On the other, there is the epic natural grandeur of Lake Louise and the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, stretched as far as the eye can see. The locale's remoteness and natural beauty creates an ambiance of peace and perfection, as well as a desire to never travel back to the "real world."
It's a family business
Lake Louise Ski Resort, one of the first (and best) in North America, is one of the area's main draws aside from the lake itself.
Named the best ski resort in Canada by the World Ski Awards in November 2018, Lake Louise contains 4,200 acres of ski terrain within Banff National Park, part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ask anyone who's been, and you'll likely hear how it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. And It looks much the same as it always has, thanks to the protection of its park designation and the stewardship of one family.
The Lake Louise Ski Resort is family owned and operated by Charlie Locke, his wife, Louise and their two daughters, Robin and Kimberley. Both women grew up in Calgary and Lake Louise and are thrilled to be running the place that was so integral to their upbringing,
"We've been coming up basically since we were born," Kimberley says. "We each learned to ski when we were 2, and we haven't slowed down since."
Their fingerprints can be seen all over The Lodge of Ten Peaks, which serves as base camp for the resort. The two-story stone fireplace at the center of the lodge is literally a product of their handiwork.
"Remember when we had to collect all of these rocks?" asks Kimberly Locke.
"Oh my gosh that was crazy," Robin Locke says. "Our dad put us to work as teenagers -- gathering rocks and stones, putting them in wheelbarrows -- that are now part of this fireplace."
Stepping away to come home
The sisters, who both had careers before taking on their executive roles at Lake Louise Ski Resort, are co-vice president, and their father is president. (With two MBAs and a law degree between them, there isn't much about business, let alone the ski business, that the sisters don't know.)
"We learned all about the ski area growing up, and then we learned outside the ski industry and outside of Lake Louise and then we were able to come back here and put all that knowledge to work," Robin says.
The resort offers lots of activities year-round. Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there's hiking and snow-shoeing, a wildlife interpretive center, and in the summer, there are sightseeing gondola rides and a good chance you'll spot a grizzly bear from your perch.
They've expanded the dining offerings at the lodge, including a sushi bar, Kuma Yama, that might seem out of place in a rustic Canadian ski resort, but works perfectly owing to its winning combination of quality ingredients and culinary craftsmanship. They're negotiating with Parks Canada to sustainably expand the resort's terrain.
Your newest ski friends offer guided tours
"We come from the perspective that it's such a privilege to be able to operate ski area in a national park. That underpins everything that we do and everything that we try to offer," says Kimberley.
They've organized a group of volunteers called "Ski Friends" to conduct guided tours, imparting knowledge about local wildlife, vegetation, conservation and heritage.
As they continue to balance a thriving business with family and the demands of operating within a national park, Kimberley and Robin remain Lake Louise evangelists.
"There's just something about this place. We've been here since we were born. It's in our blood. It's in our DNA. We love it here. When the opportunity presented itself to come back and set the path forward for the next many years and decades, we jumped on it because it's somewhere that we love," Robin says.
Where to stay
If you've dreamed of living the movie "Frozen," then a stay at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the lake is a dream come true. The property is vast, and the views of the lake are mesmerizing. (And pony up for a room with a lake view, since you've come all this way).
There's a lovely ice-skating area and a seasonal weekends-only outdoor "Ice Bar." Inside is a lobby bar that overlooks the lake, a few different restaurants, shops, a spa, indoor pool and spa, a takeaway coffee joint and almost everything you need to brave the great outdoors. (111 Lake Louise Drive, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada; +1 403-522-3511)
There are a few other hotels in the area, all of which offer a different take. As luxurious but significantly more intimate is Post Hotel & Spa, which opened its doors in the 1940s.
A Relais & Châteaux property since 1990, the property's relaxed elegance is on display in every corner, whether next to the stone fireplace at the après-ski Sir Norman Lounge or in the 24 seat Fondue Stübli (meaning small, cozy room) which serves a selection of Swiss-style fondues every evening. The property also boasts a massive spa, an indoor salt-water pool and a small, outdoor ice-skating rink. (200 Pipestone Road, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada; +1 403-522-3989)
The most singular accommodation
Perhaps the most singular accommodation option in Lake Louise is Skoki Lodge, which is owned by the Lockes. There is a catch: Guests have to snow-shoe or ski (or hike in summer) a trail of 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the Lake Louise Ski Area. That is unless you're royalty and you helicopter in, as Prince William and Kate did in the summer of 2011. A luxurious yet rustic backcountry lodge, Skoki offers an off-the-grid experience like no other.
The main lodge and three cabins can accommodate a maximum of 22 guests, and there is no electricity or running water, though any and all needs are seen to by the attentive staff. There are three homemade meals a day, fresh bread baked daily on the premises and plenty of free time to do absolutely nothing. (1 Whitehorn Drive, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada; +1 403-522-1347)
If you go
Lake Louise is a two-hour drive from Calgary, Alberta, and about 45 minutes from downtown Banff, depending on conditions. There is also a park bus that can get you from Lake Louise to Banff and back.