We flew Air Canada from LAX to Calgary. The Air Canada Lounge at LAX, Terminal 2 is small but pleasant, and offers a healthy selection of refreshments and large selection of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. The flight was pleasant, with excellent entertainment and movie selection -- even in economy.
We checked in to the Calgary Fairmont Palliser, an elegant, historic 5-star hotel in the center of town. Rooms are large and newly renovated. The Deluxe rooms are larger than Junior suites in some other Fairmont hotels. Typical of Fairmont in Canada, bathrooms are small with combined tub and showers. Service was excellent and friendly. Parking: $ 38 (complimentary street parking from 6 pm - 9 am across from hotel).
Banff Springs: We stayed at the Fairmont Chateau, a destination on its own and the best place to stay. This iconic hotel is located 5 miles from city center on the Bow River, with a beautiful golf course in a valley surrounded by the Canadian Rockies. Amazing views. It feels like Disneyland in the Rockies.
The hotel is enormous, with 800 rooms, shopping arcades, beautiful cathedral ceiling lobby, several dining options. Fitness center and Internet are complimentary for Fairmont President Club members. (Enroll in President's Club, you get special perks and it is free!) To get away from the crowds, book Gold floor, which is a small 5-Star hotel within a huge 4-Star hotel. As rooms tend to be small, I recommend deluxe and higher room categories. Service throughout the hotel is excellent. No gratuities are accepted as it is included in the rates, except in the restaurants where tips are accepted.
Beautiful Willow Spring Spa: There's a $49 per day fee to use the facilities unless a spa treatment is booked. There's a large indoor lap pool, jacuzzi, and sauna, and an outdoor mineral pool on the deck with a beautiful view.
My favorite restaurant was the "Waldhaus," a former Golf Clubhouse built in Swiss chalet style -- an excellent Swiss restaurant with a variety of fondues, veal, and game dishes. There is a Pub below with casual dining options and more relaxed atmosphere. In Banff my other restaurant recommendations are Giorgio's (Italian) and Bison (Canadian).
For skiers, there is a shuttle service ($15 round trip)to Sunshine (Intermediate and Beginner course) and to Nordge (Expert course). Cross country ski and hiking trails start outside the hotel. The hotel has a ski concierge, where you can purchase lift and shuttle tickets. Ski equipment rental is available at the sporting good store in the hotel.
Self Parking: $25, Valet:$35
Lake Louise: Without a doubt, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has the best location on the beautiful lake, surrounded by six glaciers. Make sure to book a lake view room on the Gold Floor, deluxe and above! Gold floor rooms includes breakfast, refreshments and beverage throughout the day aid cocktail hors d'oeuvres in evenings.
As breakfast is included when we book our guests at this hotel, you can enjoy the lovely buffet breakfast in "Poppy Restaurant" with lake view included (with better food selection than at the Banff Springs).
During winter, the lake is frozen, and there are several ice skating rinks on the lake in front of the hotel. A variety of cross-country skiing and hiking trails start from the hotel. You can ski or walk across the lake. It is winter wonderland! There are also horse carriages that take you along one side of the lake. The ski area offers long, advanced and intermediate runs. Great Back Bowles was not crowded. Some of the best Helicopter Skiing in the world!
Equipment rental, a ski concierge and storage available in the hotel next to the lobby. Complimentary shuttle to the Alpine ski area operates every 20 minutes.
The dislikes here were the small and unpleasant hot tub and pool area, which was invaded by small yelling kids! The gym was small and had an unpleasant odor.
I also checked out the Post Hotel, a privately owned Relais and Chateau (80 rooms). Located in the village next to the Bow river and across from former railway station. (Avoid the noisy rooms on that side of the hotel)! They have four log cabins on the river that are very private and charming, similarly priced as hotel rooms. There is the Watson house, a luxury residence with kitchen, living room and four bedrooms that accommodates 10 persons.
All rooms here have balconies, with king beds or two doubles, most have jacuzzi tubs. The loft suites, excellent for families, have two bathrooms. There's a Spa with pool and jacuzzi, fitness center, and an ice skating rink during winter.
The Post has the best gourmet restaurant in Alberta (per Condé Nast), and an amazing wine list (25,500 bottles). We had the gnocchi and lobster cannelloni as an appetizer, Zuericher Veal with Roesti potatoes and Duck breast, plum tarte for dessert. It was delicious (heavy)!
The owners, Andre and George Schwarz (ski instructors from Zurich), greet every guest, keep guest profiles, go over every detail of special requests. Attention to detail in every way! Hans Sauter is the Swiss chef. Rustic Swiss chalet style at its best, a home away from home, very comfortable, fits into the environment. Absolutely the opposite of the Chateau!
Where should you consider staying? Large families with small kids would be comfortable in Chateau Lake Louise or Banff Springs. Couples, honeymooners, foodies may prefer the Post Hotel.
Beginning skiers will do fine in Banff. Advanced skiers should head to Lake Louise. Both ski areas are in the National Park. If you rent a car you have to pay the Park fees, depending on number of persons, age, and length of stay. We paid $157 for 7 days.
More economic option is to travel by coach service from Calgary airport to both resorts for $150 round trip, though a 44-passenger bus, even with WIFI, may not be for everybody.