Eyes Wide Open 1

Revelling in the majestic, yet humble, lake louise and the elegant post hotel

STORY: S-Media
BY: Claire Challen PHOTOGRAPHY:  John Evely & Frankie Miller

Taking in the unmatched beauty surrounding me, I breathe deeply. Wide open, not a soul to disrupt my turns, I point my tips downhill. With stunning mountain foreground and background enveloped in blue sky and a perfectly groomed piste under my skis, I slice the grippy base. My edges dig deeper with each turn, the snow holding me with that perfect resistance every serious skier loves. The pace quickens, and I feel myself awakening with each arc. A flash of red to my left triggers a defensive right turn out of harm’s way. The intruder hurtles by in what, strangely, appears to be slow motion. He’s one of the smoothest skiers I’ve ever seen. I realize I must have hindered the flow for my lodging host, who also appears to prefer his runs wide open, nobody in front. The intruder is none other than ski instructing legend and Lake Louise fixture André Schwarz – part owner of the magnificent Post Hotel & Spa.

Two days earlier, I arrived at Lake Louise, an easy two-hour drive from Calgary along the Trans Canada Highway, to find a compact, easy-to-navigate village with all that was needed within a few select stores, coffee shops, restaurants and a few choice accommodation options. From here, Canada’s second-largest ski resort beckoned just a couple of kilometers up the access road.

Tucking in behind André on Upper Wiwaxy the next morning, I’m amazed at the incredible turning power of this 67-year-old Swiss Italian. I thought I was generating speed up high, but this guy is doing it turn after turn. No wonder he has been tagged the “Father of the Modern Ski Technique” in Canadian ski instructing circles, having had a profound influence on the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) in the early 80s, and becoming the first inductee into the CSIA’s Hall of Fame. Yet despite influencing the technique of thousands of ski instructors and uncounted skiers, Andre has honed a style that is distinctly his own. He earns my respect within a couple of turns, not that he needs it. Today he sports red ski pants, a grey jacket and – speaking of his own style – no helmet or eyewear. “Using any kind of glasses or goggle lenses weakens your eyes,” he tells me with confidence as teary waterfalls stream down his face. Hmmm, I think to myself, interesting theory.

Eyes Wide Open 2

We were joined by S-Magazine editor Gordie Bowles and esteemed photographer and chiseled Banff veteran John Evely for the day, as we cruised over to the steep Men’s Downhill run. Soon we’re back near the base, four colourful specks dotting the snow outside the massive Lodge of the Ten Peaks. Remnants from the Ice Magic Festival mingle with the ski racks. With no mad dash for the lift lines required, we cruise up to the Glacier Express Quad and ride above the world-class snow-cross course and World Cup downhill finish area.

It had been years since I’d skied at Lake Louise, and I was eager to explore its 4,200 acres and four mountain faces. Shooting off the Top of the World Express six-pack, Andre leads the charge with Gordie in tow. We stop mid-run to take in still more incredible views. I can see why this resort is internationally recognized as one of the most scenic ski destinations on the planet. The low-angled January sun is barely above the rugged spine of the high Rockies across the valley, the small white oval of Lake Louise enveloped by a ring of rising peaks, the near-vertical Victoria Glacier forming a white wall. To the left, Mount Temple, a frequent destination of hikers in summer. Farther on, the successive square cliff tops of Mount Quadra. Incredibly, its 60-plus degree couloirs have been skied.

André tells us that he skis mostly on piste nowadays, about 35 days a year, far less than in his pro skiing era, but still more than most recreational skiers. There may be fewer off-piste challenges in his skiing these days but I can’t imagine he’d be mistaken for a man who has slowed down. In the 1970s, skiing was in full swing throughout Alberta and André made the Rockies his home. He was entranced with the sheer magnitude of available space. “In Europe, millions of people live in close proximity,” whereas in the Rockies, he found ski runs shared by fewer people. He muses philosophically that in Europe, “systems are sacred and they come ahead of humanity.” Here he discovered not everything was established; there was room for growth and new voices to develop a stronger skiing technique and thus establish Canada as a force in the ski industry. Topping off his list of positives, André says with a smile, “he