Just returned from 7 days in Jasper and Lake Louise. The following summarizes the highlights and opportunities for improvement.
Flight/Drive to Jasper – Flew to Calgary on Air Canada. Decided to spring for First Class and were very glad we did. Main cabin was full but 1st had only 4 people. Great way to start a trip. From the time our plane landed to the time we got to our hotel in Jasper was 7 1/2 hours! It took awhile to get our luggage and car. Also there are construction delays in Calgary and Banff and we stopped a few times for cash, lunch, etc.
Jasper Lodging (Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge) – This hotel was a disappointment. Service was excellent but they need to put a lot of money in into the common areas to bring the hotel up to reflect the prices they charge. 1st impressions weren’t great. The property resembles a mountain army barrack to me. As we arrived, 1st building appeared to be an office location with the front room piled with old, broken chairs. Staff dorms are immediately on the right and look like a very tired summer camp building. Common areas need a lot of work, carpet detached in the restrooms, worn and unraveling wicker furniture in another, pool chaise cushions cracked and faded, pool towels were thin and shredded, etc. etc. etc. Restaurants are tired and dated. Also, we happened to arrive during a heat wave. The daily highs were in the low 90’s during our 4-day stay and the Lodge has NO air conditioning. It was pretty miserable. We stayed in their Lake Front Suite. The rooms were large and nicely appointed but still need work. Carpet was stained and had several cigarette holes (in a non-smoking room). Worst of all, there is a common “mudroom” entrance that you go through before you enter your room. This room gets direct sunlight most of the day and is sweltering. When we arrived, there were easily >100 mosquitoes and large black flies crawling on the interior screen of the room. It was a constant struggle to enter or leave our room without letting in the swarms of insects that lurked 3 feet away. Every day there were at least 3-5 large, dead black flies on the mudroom window sill. It was depressing. The lakefront rooms are the closest to the lake but do not have lake views as this side of the lake is thickly planted with pine trees. The Jr. Lake View Suites do have unobstructed lake views. These are much smaller and not as nice but have much better views. On the plus side, we found the service to be excellent. Apparently this is one of the best summer jobs in Jasper so they seem to attract the best of the best. Too bad management attempts to create the “luxury hotel” experience on the backs of their employees as a means to not have to put any money into their properties. This hotel charges “Four Seasons” rates (our room lists for $869/night) without the “Four Seasons” attention to detail. Unfortunately, the Fairmont JPL is still the nicest place in Jasper so as bad as this was, there is still no other nice place to stay in this are. Jasper is a fabulous town so hopefully someone will figure this out at some point. As it is, I can’t see us returning.
Jasper Food – In general, we found the food in Jasper to be way over priced and hit or miss. We ate several meals in the Emerald Room at the JPL. Food was quite good and we love the passion fruit iced tea. $16 for a burger but service was good. Best place for a light breakfast was the Bear Paw in town. Fantastic baked goods at very fair prices, a rarity on this trip. Pizza at Northface was good and Italian food at Miss Italia was fine but the restaurant is very tacky. Earls was the best dinner spot. Restaurant was well decorated, food was great, prices were moderate and service was terrific. Chili at the Maligne Lake restaurant was a highlight, go figure.
Jasper Activities – The extreme heat limited our activities somewhat but we loved everything we were able to do. Golf at the Fairmont JPL was fun. We loved white water rafting on the Athabasca. This really helped during the heat wave. Jasper tramway was also a cool respite. The hike to the top of the lookout was only about 25 minutes and was gorgeous. The cruise to Spirit Island on Maligne Lake was fine but a little dull. Hikes include Maligne Canyon 5th bridge, Old Fort Point, Sunwapta Falls (about 100 people at the upper falls but only saw 2 people along the route to the lower falls), Edith Cavell Angel Glacier. We loved every hike we went on. We were disappointed to not make it to the Miette Hot Springs but the thought of sitting in 104 degree pools on a 94 degree day did not sound appealing. Saw 2 bears eating by the side of the road on the way to Medicine Lake. Lots of Elk at the Lodge and a caribou by Maligne Canyon. Wildlife viewing is always the hit of the trip.
Lake Louise Lodging (Post Hotel) – My husband and I never discussed how disappointing the Jasper PL was until we reached the Post Hotel (This is a vacation rule of ours, you never mention a vacation disappointment until well after you leave the offending activity). The moment we entered the Post hotel parking lot we felt immediate relief. The Post hotel is everything that the JPL isn’t…Immaculate attention to detail. Every flower bed is meticulously planted and tended. Every flower box and Adirondack chair is freshly painted. The carpet is in perfect condition and there are no scuffs on the wall, etc. We stay at the Post Hotel because we love their waterfront cabins. We stay in the smallest and cheapest and absolutely love it. The room is tiny but perfectly appointed. Every afternoon we would bring a book and bottle wine out to the rivers’ edge and watch for kayakers shooting the rapids of the river. We brought a couple of bottles of wine from home as we remembered the selection at the local liquor store to be minimal and outrageously over-priced. No air conditioning here either but it was much cooler at this location. New indoor pool a Jacuzzi was also a great evening activity. When we stayed in this cabin 3 years ago we paid about $220. This time it was $380 for the same dates. Prices throughout Alberta have increased ridiculously as of late but at least at the Post Hotel you feel like you get what you paid for.
Lake Louise Food – Every morning we got western omelet sandwiches from Langhams. Went into Banff for dinner twice and had decent Mexican food at Magpie and Stumps. Lunch at the Fairmont Lake Louise Bistro was also quite good and a great way to relax after a long hike. Highlight of the week was dinner at the Post Hotel. My husband and I dine out often in Los Angeles so dining on vacation is not a thrill. We’d rather just eat something casual and then get on to the next activity. However, dinner at the Post Hotel is not to be missed. Perfect service and food presentation. Quality was top notch. It was pricey but worth every penny.
Lake Louise Activities – Loved the hike to Plain of the 6 Glaciers Tea House. It’s about 8 miles roundtrip and the scenery is gorgeous. Very few people do the final .6 miles after the teahouse but the views are the best from this point. Also did the Lake Agnes teahouse before our plane left on Saturday. This is always great but very crowded. Went fishing at Lake Minnewanka. Not a bite but saw a lot of bighorn sheep.
In summary, we loved our vacation to Jasper and Lake Louise. This is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. The extreme heat made this trip a little uncomfortable but we still enjoyed our stay. Lake Louise is the best “base” in the area but the activities in Jasper should be experienced if possible. The key to happiness with the accommodations in Jasper is to keep expectations very low. No trip to the area is complete without a dinner at the Post Hotel.