The Alberta Rockies once represented the height of luxury travel, with well-heeled visitors arriving by train for stays at grand hotels the railway built to entice them to the area. While travel to the region has become much more accessible, those seeking a taste of the high life can still tap into that legacy of alpine luxury. As seasoned Calgarians know, fall is an optimum time to experience the best of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper — along with autumn colours, you’ll find relative peace and quiet and much-desired elbow room if you wait out the busy summer tourist season. Here are some ways to truly indulge yourself in the mountains (and Foothills region) near Calgary this season.
The Rimrock Resort Hotel up near Banff’s famed hot springs is where you’ll find Eden, the only restaurant in Banff National Park with a five-diamond rating from the AAA/CAA Diamond-Rating program. (Because the Michelin Guide does not rate restaurants in Canada and Canadian restaurants are not eligible for James Beard awards in the restaurant and chef categories, the AAA/CAA is the regional restaurant-rating authority.)
At Eden, it’s all about French-inspired tasting menus and prix-fixe meals in the rustic-but-dramatic room — think a hyper-elevated take on The Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks. Choose your number of courses and tier of pairings and let the chef and sommelier take care of the rest. Expect decadent foie gras and caviar served up alongside local beef and bison to arrive at your table, or request a vegetarian tasting menu if that’s more your style.
The Post Hotel in Lake Louise is part of Relais & Châteaux, a prestigious French-founded hospitality group for boutique properties. While that distinction has earned The Post a certain cachet, in the last two decades, the hotel’s claim to fame has been its wine cellar. Curated by co-owner George Schwarz, the wine cellar at The Post contains more than 25,000 bottles and has received Wine Spectator’s Grand Award for 19 consecutive years. The cellar is not open to the general public, but guests of the hotel can arrange for private tours and tastings as an add-on to dinner reservations.
Secluded Azuridge Estate Hotel near Priddis was originally built in 1997 as a private residence. Now it’s a boutique hotel with 13 exclusive rooms on a property that spans 13 acres. Professional butlers are on hand to cater to your every need, while the relatively new (as of spring 2020) Flourish — The LIV Well Spa offers a crystal-themed experience as designed by author and “transformational change” coach Sean Liv. Consider the stay package that includes two nights at Azuridge with three meals each day, one spa service of your choosing, an in-person coaching session and guided trail walk with Liv, and a Flourish journal.
This past February, the Fairmont Banff Springs — the only Forbes Travel Guide star-rated hotel in the region — added a new private-dining experience to its hospitality repertoire: The 360° Dome. Seating a maximum of six, the heated Dome is made of transparent hexagonal panels that provide clear views of the world-famous alpine scenery. The Dome has been on the Vermillion lawn for the summer and will move to the Lookout Patio for the upcoming winter. Two-hour bookings are available for brunch; wine, charcuterie and cheese spreads; or five-course dinners featuring dishes such as Brant Lake Wagyu beef carpaccio, scallop rumaki and bison short ribs.
Up on Tunnel Mountain, just far enough removed from bustling Banff Avenue, Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts’ Buffalo Mountain Lodge recently did extensive renovations to its Buffalo Suites. The new Buffalo Suites feature wood-burning stone fireplaces with sitting areas. Mobility-accessible and pet-friendly suites are also available. While the suites have kitchenettes, it’s unlikely you’ll do much cooking if you opt for the gourmet getaway package, which includes dinner for each night of your stay as well as breakfast in the lodge’s restaurant, The Prow — the pancakes with macadamia nuts, strawberries and melted-ice-cream sauce are about as decadent as breakfast gets.
Striking Mount Assiniboine is often referred to as “the Matterhorn of the Rockies” and without a doubt, the coolest way to see it is by helicopter. The Canmore base of Alpine Helicopters offers sightseeing tours to Assiniboine, which is on the Continental Divide where Alberta and B.C. meet. Your pilot will point out various landmarks along the way, and you are also free to ask any questions you like. Most bookings require a minimum of two people, but if you’d like to fly solo, give Alpine a call and they’ll see what they can do.
Best Room in the House
These superior suites are the height of luxury in the nearby mountains. If you’re looking for the best of the best, you’ve found it.
The best rooms at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge are not rooms at all — they are cabins, though this humble descriptor hardly begins to describe the Outlook Cabin, which has housed Royals on more than one occasion. At 6,000 square feet, the Outlook has sleeping capacity for up to 16, and each bedroom has its own ensuite bathroom. Outlook guests enjoy views of idyllic Lac Beauvert, an enclosed conservatory and veranda, two wood-burning fireplaces, a full kitchen with private catering entrance, a generous patio and private parking.
This suite is often booked for wedding parties due to its expansive dressing room, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay there just because you feel like it. Named for a mineral that, according to Azuridge, “opens the heart, lifting you up and encouraging a positive and cheerful outlook,” Rhodochrosite also has a custom ensuite bathroom with curved-glass shower and Jacuzzi and a king-sized bed.
Pretty much any room at the Chateau with a view of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier is special, but the Belvedere Suite is next-level special. The 870-square-foot, two-storey corner suite has a living-dining area and powder room on the lower level and a bedroom and ensuite on the upper level, with the two levels connected by a spiral staircase. The suite has two private lakeview balconies, and there are large windows in the ensuite so you can gaze out at the world-famous scenery from the deluxe soaker tub.
This 800-square-foot suite is located at the tip-top of the Rimrock. Amenities include a king-sized bed, granite-appointed ensuite bathroom with a soaker tub, and Bose sound system. A royal-blue-and-plush-brown colour scheme gives the suite a historic alpine-Victorian feel, though the star attraction is undoubtedly the 1,100-square-foot balcony: its expansive size, lounge chairs and tremendous vistas are worth the price of a stay.
The grandest room in K-Country is certainly this one, which was designed with entertaining in mind. The 1,200-square-foot suite features a large, spacious living room area with a dining table that seats eight and a bedroom with a king-sized bed. With its earth-toned alpine-modern decor and stylish pendant lighting, the interior is nearly as beautiful as the view of Mount Allan.
The 850-square-foot Gallery Suite at the Springs is part of the hotel’s Signature Collection. The suite boasts two spacious bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom, positioned on either side of a large sitting room with a fireplace (and additional powder room) where you can gaze out over the Bow River and Spray Valley. The suite has its own foyer entrance with a food-preparation area for in-room dining. Gallery Suite guests also get full access to Signature Collection amenities including private VIP concierge, daily fresh flowers and more.
Avenue’s writers and editors are occasionally invited to experience dining or adventure experiences as a guest, including some of the experiences in this story. Neither complimentary experiences nor advertising are required for coverage in Avenue. Neither companies that advertise nor those that provide other incentives are promised editorial coverage, nor do they have the opportunity to review or approve stories before publication.