The Post Hotel first opened its doors in the spring of 1942. Built by the noted guide and packer, Jim Boyce of Banff, it was constructed of logs brought from Revelstoke and from the headwaters of the Bow River, and was completed in a remarkably short time by a crew of ten men working mainly with hand tools.
Known then as the Lake Louise Ski Lodge, its first season of business was a short one. The war, amongst other reasons, made the Lodge close its doors until it was re-opened in the summer of 1948.
Sir Norman Watson, a British aircraft manufacturer, purchased the Ski Lodge with its adjacent cabins in 1947. Sir Norman was an avid sportsman who had travelled extensively in the Swiss Alps and its ski resorts. Drawing on these experiences, he developed a firm belief and vision for the future of skiing in the Canadian Rockies. When Sir Norman purchased the Ski Lodge, he had already built Temple Chalet in the Ptarmigan Valley and Skoki Lodge by the Little Pipestone River. For those planning to ski or hike in the backcountry or visiting the chain of lodges, it seemed convenient to stay at the Lake Louise Ski Lodge close to the railway station.
In 1951, the name Lake Louise Ski Lodge was changed to Lake Louise Lodge, probably due to the increasing number of summer guests. This name change brought on a problem. People started to confuse the Lake Louise Lodge with the Chateau Lake Louise and therefore the name Post Hotel was finally chosen in 1957.
“Post Hotel” was chosen for two reasons:
1. To recall the many Post Hotels in the Alps
2. An additional building on the property was leased to the Post Office.
The Post Hotel had become the heart of the village of Lake Louise and also the centre of operations of the ski area in Lake Louise. Alpha and Ray Legace, and Jack and Hillary McDowell were some of the long time operators who over the years minded Sir Norman’s interest in Canada. Sir Norman himself just came for short visits and never actually ran his operations.
In 1965, a 25 room motel was built adjacent to the Hotel, known as the Pipestone Motel; Pipestone
being the picturesque mountain stream bordering the property to the east and south.
With Sir Norman getting on in age, he sold the Post Hotel to André, Barb and George Schwarz in 1978. The Hotel had been the last asset Sir Norman had kept in Canada. With turning it over to the Schwarz family, he knew that they, being of Swiss origin, would understand his dreams and continue to carry them on.
Over the next few years, the old Post Hotel was upgraded slowly and a considerable effort went into the restaurant operation. In 1986 the property was mature for a major redevelopment. At the same time, Husky Oil Ltd. from Calgary was looking for an association with tourism in the National Park. They found a liking to the style of operation and management the Schwarz family entertained and joined forces to pursue their common goal: to build one of the finest, full service hotel properties in the Canadian Rockies. In July 1987 the newly expanded and upgraded Post Hotel opened. The new Hotel featured 93 luxurious guest rooms and suites and was linked to the original Post lodge where an expanded dining room had taken over much of the main level.
With the new Hotel, and as a testament to the Schwarz family’s efforts, the Post Hotel was admitted to the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group in November 1990. Relais & Chateaux is an internationally renowned organization representing some of the most beautiful hotels and restaurants in the world; its brand is considered a quality guarantee. Relais & Chateaux was the perfect fit for the Post Hotel as it represents small, independently owned hotels that excel in the areas of service, cuisine, comfort and special character.
By the fall of 1992 the original Post Hotel lodge, long a familiar landmark in Lake Louise and Banff National Park, was ready for restoration and renovation. The project included the re-development of the second level, where seven luxurious suites were completed as well as the addition of two new spectacular public areas – a post and beam constructed “Library” and a beautiful new special function dining room.
Since taking over in 1978, the Schwarz family had established the dining room as the heart of the Post Hotel operation and guests travelled many miles to enjoy the outstanding culinary fare. With fine food comes fine wine and, as North America was seeing a surge in the popularity of wine, it only made sense to expand the wine program at the Hotel. In 2004, with a collection exceeding 27,000 bottles the Hotel received the ultimate honor – the “Grand Award” from Wine Spectator Magazine. In 2005, a beautiful new wine cellar was completed to house all the treasures, which had grown to 29,000 bottles.
During this same time period the Hotel introduced the Winemaker’s Dinner Series, special evenings that feature famous winemakers and wineries from around the world. Wine had become such an integral part of the Post Hotel experience that an annual event was established in 2004 – Wine Summit Lake Louise. The Summit – a celebration of wine, food and friendship – is a three day event that was designed to bring together wine loving guests with some of the world’s most renowned winemakers, winery owners and their wines. A few of the notables that have participated in Wine Summit are: Château Latour, Château Margaux, Sassicaia, Shafer Vineyards, Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Marchese Antinori Estates and Château Mouton Rothschild. It’s not all about the wine though. Over the years hundreds of thousands of dollars have been generously donated to the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta through Wine Summit Lake Louise.
Operating within the National Park presents many challenges not the least of which is the acute shortage of housing. The Post Hotel, like other business operators in Lake Louise, has always been responsible for accommodating its staff. In the early years, staff lived in and around the property, but that all changed with the expansion and upgrade program the Schwarz family began in 1986. Over the ensuing years, and at a cost that numbers in the millions of dollars, the Post Hotel built a total of seven staff buildings that can accommodate up to 150 staff. The accommodations range from dormitory style to deluxe family apartments and are considered some of the nicest in the Bow Valley.
The final phase of staff housing was completed in 2004. With all of the staff relocated, the Hotel suddenly had some extra space available and with it, the next enhancement to guest experience was created - the Temple Mountain Spa. The 3200 square foot Lake Louise day spa, complete with eight treatment rooms, steam rooms, plunge pools, swimming pool and Jacuzzi opened in June 2005. A blend of luxury and wellness in the serenity of this special alpine setting has impressed spa lovers the world over. Following the spa opening the property was officially renamed Post Hotel & Spa.
In addition to the Relais & Chateaux designation and the Wine Spectator “Grand Award”, brothers André and George Schwarz, and their team of dedicated staff, have brought the Hotel much notoriety and recognition over the years. Not surprisingly, the brothers Schwarz have been heralded as leaders in their industry. In 2004, André and George received the prestigious “Pinnacle Award” as “individuals within the Alberta business community who through their determination, drive and optimism have shown the ability to adapt and survive in a difficult and changing environment, inspiring and uplifting our community by their example”. Amongst the many accolades the Post Hotel & Spa has received over the years are:
• Condé Nast Traveler Magazine – Best Ski Hotel in North America
• Condé Nast Traveler Magazine – Best Food in the Americas
• Travel and Leisure Magazine – Number One Hotel in Canada
• Condé Nast Traveler Magazine – Number One Hotel for Service in the Americas
André and George Schwarz continue to follow their passion, offering Post Hotel & Spa guests the best of service, comfort and cuisine in the special tradition of European hospitality; and all within the magnificent setting of the spectacular Rocky Mountains and Lake Louise.