A chain of 5-compass hotels began in 1907 with the opening of the fabled Fairmont on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. In 1999, Fairmont joined Canadian Pacific Hotels to run 3 stupendous hotels in the Canadian Rockies–the Fairmont Banff Springs, Chateau Lake Louise, and Jasper Park Lodge. We visited all 3 again while in Alberta and found them better than ever.
William Cornelius Van Horne, a Canadian Pacific Railway manager with an impressive name, was travel oriented. “Since we can’t export the scenery,” he said about the magnificent Canadian Rockies, “we’ll have to import the tourists.” So in 1886 his railroad company began developing its own hotels, the 4th being a wooden property where Alberta’s Bow and Spray Rivers join. Opened in 1888 as the Banff Springs Hotel, it went up in flames in 1926 and was replaced with the current castle that the King in The King’s Speech, George VI, visited.
Ruth, the cousins, and I spent a few hours touring BSH but didn’t stay there. By the time we inquired, all of its 768 rooms were taken. The published rate of $449 per night according to Where–Canadian Rockies apparently keeps no one from booking the best. We didn’t even dine in one of its 12 restaurants.
We did, however, have an elegant lunch in Chateau Lake Louise, our table facing a gigantic, spotless window with Louise’s eerily green gorgeousness just beyond. Named for Queen Victoria’s 4th daughter, Lake Louise’s famous Chateau began taking its current shape in 1911. Again, we didn’t stay in one of its 554 rooms. We opted instead for nearby Deer Lodge, much to our regret.
The Chateau’s available programs include a Voyager Adventure in a cedar strip & canvas canoe, the only type of conveyance allowed on Louise, and a guided hike that includes Mirror Lake, the rarely used Highline Trail, and the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Sigh.
As we drove onto the Jasper Park Lodge property, 2 young caribou were grazing on its flawless lawn. Owned by Canadian Pacific Hotels since 1988, JPL quickly became the cousins favorite of the three. Originally opened in 1922, its 446 rooms still include some of the Lodge’s original cabins among 56 available. A 1924 McLaughlin Buick Touring Car was parked at the entrance. Sporting zero evidence of a make-over, this black beauty with 65,689 miles on its odometer, was one of 5 designed for the Lodge and used to pick up guests.
It didn’t surprise me to learn that Hollywood has used JPL as a movie set. Marilyn Monroe’s River of No Return was filmed here. While starring in Billy Wilder’s The Emperor’s Waltz, Bing Crosby won a golf trophy on the Lodge’s Edenic course.
Browsing the Beauvert Shopping Promenade, I spied a window display inviting me back for JPL’s Christmas treat that includes skating with elves on Lake Mildred and an in-room tree and decoration kit. Starting from $399, packages are available from Sunday, December 23, until Thursday, the 27th. Some very pampered guests will have an unprecedented holiday. Ruth & me? If only.