In January of 2017 I got married!
My husband and I were crazy and got married in the middle of winter, in the Canadian Rockies, at the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Here I recount our trip into the snowy mountains of Canada with beautiful photos from our wedding.
We had points on Southwest and so we took a flight from Chicago to Seattle on New Years Eve and toured Seattle for a day. It’s been a while since I visited Seattle but it’s pretty much how I remembered. A small downtown area with beautiful landscape all around with occasional rain, snow and terrible weather. We probably picked the worst time to visit Seattle as the city was experiencing a snow storm late on New Year’s Eve through New Years Day. That prompted our Alaska Airlines to Calgary to be cancelled on New Years Day!
We checked in the Hyatt Seattle, a perfect hotel in the downtown area, and then went to get the most important thing in Seattle, Starbucks.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
I’m joking, it’s not the most important thing in Seattle but it’s certainly something to experience. If you’re not familiar with Starbucks Reserve Roastery, they are more upscale and more crafted Starbucks. It’s possible to find rare Starbucks coffee and to have a more unique experience. I wanted to check it out and see if it was worth visiting.
First of all it was packed and apparently always is. And although it’s not impossible to find seats, we did. It was all kind of stressful! So it’s certainly not a lounging experience but the inside is still gorgeous and there is many wonderful Starbucks products to look at. We got two specialty Starbucks Reserve coffees and enjoyed them.
It’s been about 13 years since I was last in Seattle and I remember going to Pike Place Market. I remember mostly the flowers that were there. So I had to show Roman, Pike Place, despite being a tad touristy, it’s well known and I wanted to take Roman ther. Luckily it was right on our hotels street, just down the hill, and a place to hang out away from the cold.
This time around I found Pike Place to be interesting but a place to spend maybe 20 minutes at. Unless you’re buying flowers or other perishable goods, there really isn’t much else. A great place for a photo-op and that’s about it.
Nearby there is the first Starbucks ever created. It was nearly impossible to get into as it’s so packed and very small. In fact there is usually a line standing outside which makes the experience not so great. So we took some pictures and then went back up the hill towards our hotel to rest.
I knew it would be winter in Canada when we arrived but I hoped it would be sunny and easy. We had none of those things the day we arrived to Calgary. First Alaska Airlines emailed me that morning saying our flight was cancelled due to snow in Seattle. Then they said the next available flight was 4 days away on January 4th, our wedding day. Obviously a no-go, so I hopped online to book tickets with Air Canada through Vancouver. I don’t understand why some flights flew out while others like Alaska just cancelled their flights. They did refund me but I ended up paying an extra 500 dollars for a new flight. In the end I was glad to leave Seattle and to see that Vancouver Airport was operating.
Because now we were on a different flight out of Seattle we got in later than I would have liked in Calgary. In fact the area was also suffering from a storm and we were caught up in it. In the dark, snow coming down, and icy roads. It was exactly what I wanted to avoid. I drove slow the entire 2 hours from Calgary to Banff, following cars closely and never changing lanes. We finally made it to the snowy Banff National Park and didn’t have to pay since it was the first day of Canada’s 150th birthday. We made it all in one piece and after a long day I was able to relax.
We were crazy enough to ski on a day where the high was in the negatives on the mountain. Frankly it was freezing. The low that morning was apparently -35 F, an extremely cold day. However skiing was still open and we did have clear weather which makes a huge difference. When the sun rose that morning we were in awe of the mountains around us.
If you follow my blog then you know I love mountains. I also love skiing and the après-ski culture. I love the architecture that most European and North American cities have in the mountains. Sunshine Village and Banff is a great place to start for anybody who wants to experience easy skiing. It’s beautiful, relatively moderately priced and very accessible.
I sent Roman off to lessons with a hot trainer, his first time, and I did harder runs on both mountains that Sunshine Village makes up. Roman did really well for his first time, even getting some green runs in. I only fell once after flying down a green run with confidence. Because it was so cold we also had to take breaks after every run and had an actual sit down lunch. Skiing really does make you tired after a while!
At night, we would briefly walk the city, scurrying to a restaurant. When the temperature is in the negatives all you want to do is drink and luckily Banff has plenty of bars!
Lake Louise & the Wedding
The next day, with a little warmer weather, we took to the highway 45 minutes north to Lake Louise. We were to marry at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, in front of Lake Louise, a gorgeous hotel with spectacular views. I made sure to book on the upper floor with a lake view, with special access to an 8th floor lounge. Honestly I’m happy I spent the money as it was beautiful and well worth it.
After checking into our room, we went down for afternoon tea. It’s pretty expensive but an amazing assortment of cakes, sandwiches and teas with huge windows overlooking the lake. The sun was going down and I wanted to step out side for some photos of the beautiful snow and the lake. On the 8th floor lounge there is beautiful kitchen and they serve all sorts of appetizers, coffee, wine and beer. Honestly just having a space to relax out of the room was well worth it for the extra upgrade.
At around 1pm in the afternoon we married right on the lake with a photographer and an officiant. It was easy and beautiful.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
They day after we married we slowly got up and went across town to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. The roads were so icy; this was the only time our car spun out while we were driving in the parking lot of the ski resort. Roman decided not to ski but wanted to do some tubing. So we bought one pass for me to ski and then we bought two passes so we could go tubing. Lake Louise Ski Resort also has a huge reception lounge and dining area so it’s easy to take a break, grab a coffee and relax.
Tubing consisted of a hill and it was fun for like 5 times. The weather had warmed so it was easier to stay outside for longer periods. Roman spent a lot of the time in the cabin while I went skiing for about half of the day.
Skiing at Lake Louise was a lot of fun. It’s different than Sunshine Village, a bit more difficult, but I had a lot of fun. Once you get to the top of the mountain, there are several paths that take you around the mountain or criss-cross path runs. I took some blues and greens, with the blues being rather steep and I did fall a couple of times on those. I love the remoteness of the backside of the mountain and the beautiful views. Also there are several runs that have restaurants at the bottom of the run, even on the backside of the mountain, and that’s cool.
For me skiing is fun because you get to follow different paths and go up chair lifts. I don’t need difficult runs, just fun and fast runs with beautiful scenery to make it worthwhile. Skiing for long-term is exhausting though and my mid-day I got my fill.
Back to Banff
Did I tell you that the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is super expensive. Most guests only stay for a few days given that the rooms can cost between $300 – $400 a night. Also, unless you plan to ski for a whole week, there isn’t much in the area to do, at least in the winter. So for us it was time to head back to Banff for two nights.
In the winter, there isn’t much to do in Banff either except hang out, drink and shopping. There is a gondola ride that takes you up with a view of all of Banff however it’s also kind of expensive. We choose not to do this. Our hotel did have an outside heated pool with a sauna and if you want to relax from the crippling cold, this is the perfect way to do it.
We did have some awesome meals around Banff. Previously we went to Park Distillery, a downtown Banff Restaurant, and apparently the place to be. We made a reservation our first time and got right in. You should make one in advance since this place was always packed by 5:30 pm. The second time we came back we barely got in! We settled for a couple of drinks including this cocktail with a burnt wood smell they served with the cocktail in the form of a wooden block. It was definitely unique and tasty.
The main street is really the shopping area of Banff. There is actually a lot of shops and if you have money you could easily spend half a day looking at all the shops. One of my goals was to find this specific hat and scarf by a specific brand. I kid you not, I was able to find the scarf and brand at the very last shop we looked at.
Winding down our trip we came into a snowy Calgary and stayed at the lovely Calgary Hyatt right downtown. To be honest, since it was the middle of the winter, there wasn’t much to do in Calgary and we didn’t do much in the city except walk around the center. And for a weekend, it was mostly dead. I know there is more things to do just outside of the city but given we we’re just in Banff and Lake Louise, we settled to just drinking cocktails around our hotel. We did make our way over to a shopping mall and down a street that seemed geared for nightlife but couldn’t stay out that long given how cold it was.
We flew home the next day on a Sunday but had to connect through Seattle, making it a long day back home. This time no delays!
Overall we really loved our wedding trip to Canada and grateful we had snowy beautiful backdrop.
This part of Canada is undeniably beautiful in winter and I’m happy we decided to get married here. We were lucky to have great weather although it was unbelievably cold at times, getting down to -30 F. But everywhere we went was like a postcard and we had unbelievable shots on our wedding day.
Banff is an expensive city and although it’s tiny, there is plenty around the area in both summer and winter. This is a place where you can go hiking, skiing, climbing, canoeing, or just general sight-seeing in your car. The restaurants are also pretty good and make sure to get a reservation before to get in at a good hour!
Lake Louise is like Banff but even more tiny and more expensive with stunning views. In the summer it swarms with tourists and sometimes should be avoided. But in the winter, with a beautiful backdrop, it’s undeniably alluring and peaceful. Surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains on all sides, it’s enough to feel cut off from the world but have the amenities to feel like you’re in luxury. An insane backdrop to walk out on ice and snow and get married!
Wedding and Honeymoon Video!
Just an extra video of videos from my wedding and honeymoon!