The Lake Louise Ski Lodge, as it was originally known, welcomed its first guests in 1942 for a short season. It reopened in 1947 under the ownership of British aircraft manufacturer and avid outdoorsman, Sir Norman Watson. With its handy railway station access, Watson’s vision was to provide easily accessible lodging for travelers looking to ski and hike the Rockies. In 1957 the name was changed to the Post Hotel (becoming Post Hotel & Spa in 2005) and ten years later an adjacent 25-room motel was completed.
During his 30 years of ownership, much of Watson’s dreams had come to fruition: he had created a hotel that had become the heart of the village. Satisfied with this success and having confidence that new owners André, George and Barb Schwarz would work hard to fulfill his dreams, the Post was sold in 1978. A new era had begun.
Watson had chosen his successors wisely. The Schwarz’s hail from Switzerland, where André says very bluntly, “you have no hope to do anything unless you have money.” In Canada, the three could see it was possible to do more with less and they relished the opportunity to bring their European style to the Alberta tourism scene and to help nourish the local food culture.
Stylishly subdued from the outside, the Post Hotel & Spa is a grand place. Globally recognized, the gold emblazoned Relais & Chateau insignia at the entrance speaks of the luxurious standards adhered to within these doors. Prospective and current members of Relais & Chateau must adhere to the organization’s traditional 5 C motto: “Character, Courtesy, Calm, Charm and Cuisine.”
Once inside, one can glide through peaceful hallways in deep woody tones and soothing lighting, treading lightly on European style carpeting. It is an atmosphere of relaxation and calm. This establishment is far grander than most, yet speaks of home through its warmth and welcome. Through the eyes of their father, an accomplished chef and within their half-Italian grandmother’s kitchen, André and George grew up with special exposure to European fare. It was no surprise that the restaurant would become the hotel’s core. At the time of their arrival in the 70s, Alberta was a virtual culinary wasteland. The Post Hotel & Spa soon became renowned for outstanding culinary fare and service while Alberta ski country also worked to raise its gastronomic game.
Being the recipient since 2002 of the esteemed Wine Spectator’s most prestigious “Grand Award” – one of only four restaurants so named in Canada – speaks highly of the Schwarz family’s dedication. Lying beneath the restaurant in a spectacular cellar are 29,000 bottles of fine wine carefully selected by sommelier George; teasers extolling some of the headiest options decorate the restaurant walls above. Though the restaurant itself is immense, it is spectacularly dressed with soft lighting – it simply glows. Delicately lit willow blanket the ceiling from the lobby throughout the restaurant. André and George, the ever gracious hosts, indulged our senses with a mouthwatering traditional Swiss cheese fondue. Homemade bread immersed in warm velvet, and a bottle of the most exquisite wine I’ve ever had the pleasure of savouring – each complementing the other to perfection. Followed by fruits and melted chocolate fondue, we were sated and forever spoiled.
Opulent guest rooms (93 of them) with open fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a personal bottle of one of George’s specially chosen bottles, complete the experience of enjoying the views and warming toes, perhaps even choosing to stay in the room all evening. The excellence is in the details, from L’Occitane and Aveda bathroom accoutrements, and the tiled Jacuzzi tub to the kindling neatly wrapped near the fireplace, matches at the ready. Visible below is the hotel’s gorgeous skating rink, lit up with the white lights that are synonymous with ski towns. In a particularly peaceful wing of the hotel sits the grand ceilinged library, complete with a huge fireplace, antler chandelier, games and books. Guests can spend time in the elaborate, 3,200 square-foot elaborate Temple Mountain Spa to further enhance their relaxation with a massage treatment or rejuvenate tired muscles in the Jacuzzi after a long skiing day.
It’s rugged and wild in the Rocky Mountains, but you can look forward to coming “home” to more comfort than you could hope for in this most glorious of hotels.