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The Canadian Rockies - warmer than you think.

Morning dawns late on Lake Louise as a pale lemon sun attempts to arch above the granite massifs of the Canadian Rockies. The light gradually seeks out the curve of the lake, the blue-white wedge of Victoria Glacier, and an ice castle glistening on the shore.

Breakfasters at the windowed Poppy Room of the Chateau Lake Louise watch the play of light and shadows while sorting through the day's list of possible pursuits: ice skating, dog sledding, Bavarian curling, tobogganing, or a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Around the Ice Castle, an eight-foot pile of chiseled ice, hotel patrons can spend their evening hours skating in the glow of a bonfire or sipping hot chocolate at nearby picnic tables. Skiers may opt for wilderness skiing from a helicopter; cross-country skiing on the hotel's 60 miles of trails; or downhill skiing at Lake Louise, the largest ski area in the Canadian Rockies. Among winter vacationers, the grand hotel atmosphere coupled with old-world service and a varied slate of activities have popularized the chiteau and sister Canadian Pacific resorts in Kananaskis and Banff.

The elegant Hotel Kananaskis and the more informal lodge at Kananaskis are the newest CP Alberta resorts. Set in a peaceful valley surrounded by snow-crowned granite peaks, the wood-and-native-stone buildings of the village project a get-away-from-it-all atmosphere attractive to devoted winter sports fans who skate, toboggan, and glide over the valley's 40 kilometers of cross-country tracks, or ski the slopes of Nakiska at Mount Allen, the alpine site of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

In contrast, the Banff Springs is located on one end of the bustling town of Banff. Its well-known silhouette once occasioned a wag to observe he couldn't decide whether it resembled the chiteaus of the Loire or early William Randolph Hearst.

With a tradition of hospitality that goes back to 1888, the hotel is a city unto itself: more than 50 shops; an Olympic-size indoor pool; a year round outdoor heated pool; 14 dining rooms and lounges; and 584 rooms in the old main building plus 245 in the recently renovated manor. Befuddled by this immensity, many guests opt to take the daily historical tour not only to orient themselves but also to learn more of the hotel's rich past.

After exploring Banff Spring's extensive resources, visitors bundle up and go downtown, where there's a wide selection of restaurants serving everything from saumonfumi to sushi. Shops lining Banff Avenue carry merchandise ranging from fine furs to Hudson Bay point blankets.

A surprising array of cultural institutions flourishes. On Banff Avenue, the Natural History Museum traces the area's geological history and biological evolution, and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies mounts exhibits of Canadian and international artists. Near the Bow River, the Luxton Museum highlights the culture of early Indians; and in the national park, the Cave & Basin Centennial Centre houses historical and geological displays about the area's natural hot springs and illustrates the various ways the warm water affects flora and fauna in the area.

Even with its more urban setting, Banff still enjoys such winter sports as curling, skating, and cross-country skiing along the river or in the national park. Downhill skiers have a choice of staying close to town at Mt. Norquay, a modest day area noted for expert terrain, or traveling 13 miles to Sunshine Village, a resort perched near the Continental Divide and reached by a 20-minute gondola ride. Lake Louise is only 35 miles distant.

Proximity makes it easy to access the whole area and sample all three resorts. Banff is 83 miles and Lake Louise 122 miles from Calgary along the Trans-Canada Highway. Rental cars are available at Calgary International Airport, and regular buses run between town and the resorts.
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Author:Moore, Sally
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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