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The Inside Line: Lake Louise, Alberta

Inside Line
posted: 01/07/2004

Max Elevation: 8,650 feet

Max vertical drop: 3,250 feet

Acreage: 4,200

Annual snowfall: 139 inches

Prices: C$58

Info: 403-256-8473; skilouise.com

Beta: Staring at the blue runs that braid Lake Louise's front side you might be tempted to dismiss this Canadian Rockies resort as a starlet with no substance. You'd be mistaken. Louise has got plenty of character: Behind her sunny face lies a shaded back side with naked bowls, gullies, cliff drops—more than 40 expert runs. And while it's true that annual snowfall is a scandalous 139 inches, the sheltered back side can see twice that amount thanks to prevailing winds that scour neighboring peaks and sift it onto these lee slopes. Best of all, while many resorts have a look-but-don't-touch OB policy, Lake Louise doesn't restrict access into surrounding Banff National Park. Several playgrounds—Wolverine Ridge and White Rabbit—are within striking distance for ambitious powder fiends. You get all of this for a sub-$45 lift ticket due to the ongoing travails of the Great Northern peso. Classy, edgy, and a cheap date to boot—you might end up making a long-term commitment.

Powder Day Grab the Summit Platter lift, dive into the back side's Whitehorn 1 chute, and catch Paradise Chair. Traverse to the wind-deposited fluff in Crow Bowl and Ptarmigan Chutes. Then ascend Ptarmigan Quad, plunder the front side's Eagle Trees, and regain the Platter. Repeat until lactic acid spills from ears.

3 Days Later Check avy conditions and then cross Louise's open boundary to the 800-vertical-foot shots in West Bowl. Or hike for an hour to the top of 8,902-foot Lipalian Mountain and bag Elevator Shaft—a 1,300-foot, in-bounds sluice ride that tips 50 degrees at its crux.

Fuel The locals' favorite Outpost Pub (403-522-3989) has cheap, high-grade bar food. Fondue at the Walliser Stube (403-522-3511) is pricey, but the atmosphere doesn't feel, ahem, cheesy.

Digs The $20 hostel rooms at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre Hostel (866-762-4122) are a godsend for the cash-conscious. Big spenders choose the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (403-522-3511) or the Post Hotel (403-522-3989). Middle ground: the Lake Louise Inn (800-661-9237).

Drinking and Dancing True nightlife lies 38 miles east, in the clubland of Banff, but the glitter ball spins locally on Friday nights at the Lake Louise Inn's Explorers Club (403-522-3791).

Backcountry Access Great, legal backcountry skiing lies just steps beyond the boundary rope. Check avy conditions, strap on your beacon and thinking cap, and hike over Lipalian to the broad cirque of Purple Bowl, home of the Canadian Powder 8 Championships.

Essential Gear Arrive before February without your rock skis and the Louise's stone-strewn terrain will make you a custom pair. Grab your circa 1990 Pre's.

Must KnowDon't hit snooze when the report says three inches of new snow. Thanks to Louise's topography and winds, a mere sifting at the base frequently translates to boot-high drifts on the back side.

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