The Lake Louise Ski Area on Google

A few years ago, I wrote an article about Google Earth ( , and how imagery of the Lake Louise area was steadily improving. What had started out as a high-resolution section around Mt. Hector (north of Lake Louise and next to Highway 93N) grew to the south to eventually include the village of Lake Louise and parts west, but not the ski area itself. Then, a little further down the road, new high-res imagery appeared for the north side of the Trans Canada Highway, and included the Larch section of the ski area. The images were taken in summer, and I was so impressed with the clarity and detail that I swore one could count the needles on the namesake larch trees if one wanted.

In the time since that article appeared, how Google displays the Lake Louise Ski Area has moved forward by leaps and bounds, and in a number of different ways. On Google Earth, all imagery has been updated so that the entire ski area, and much of the surrounding area, is now shown much more clearly. As I mentioned in the previous article, I find that the greatest power of Google Earth for checking out mountainous terrain lies in the pan and tilt functions, which allows complete control over perspective.

This is important because looking straight down at mountains can make it difficult to get a good sense of topography, and tilting the perspective provides that oblique view that really gives a sense of the change in elevation over the terrain. Panning allows the viewer to swing around and look at features from any compass direction, which is particularly helpful if there’s a pesky mountain blocking your view. A few years ago I made the happy discovery that panning and tilting in Google Earth was of great help in planning helicopter photography missions. When you’re being charged in six-minute blocks for fly time, the better you can plan and communicate that plan to the pilot, the faster and more efficiently you can accomplish your goals. (There are two ways to pan and tilt: if your mouse has a scroll wheel, hold it down and move the mouse up and down to tilt, side-to-side to pan. Or, hold ‘Shift’ and left mouse button and move the mouse in the same way).


Despite these changes in Google Earth, it’s the changes in Google Maps that have us most excited, especially for those new to and unfamiliar with the terrain at Lake Louise. Starting today, on desktop and mobile devices, you can zoom in and see runs and lifts right on the map. Run lines are coloured to indicate difficulty, as seen in window below.

Another great feature will be familiar to those who have used Google’s Street View function, and adds a whole new level to exploring the terrain. In the summer of 2011, one of our IT staff contacted Google after seeing what they had done with their ‘Snow Edition’ at Whistler-Blackcomb for the 2010 Olympics, and found out that they were planning a visit to this area in early 2012 to map the area’s ski resorts.

This gave us lots of time to plan, and the Mountain Operations team met to determine who would drive the snowmobile (with camera mounted on the back), where it would go, and in what order. Informed by Google that we’d need to get all photography done between 10:00am and 2:00pm (when the sun was highest in the sky), a route was devised that would both cover the wide variety of terrain at Lake Louise and make best use of the sun as it moved across the sky.

With the day in January 2012 now confirmed, on-mountain preparations began, particularly in the days leading up to the camera’s arrival. The Trail Crew made sure all of their kilometers of snow fence was looking nice and neat, Ski Patrol straightened every sign and bamboo, the Terrain Park Crew painted nice crisp blue lines on the park features, and the groomers made sure the entire route was ready to allow the snowmobile to get everywhere it needed to go.

As luck would have it, the big day turned out to be beautiful and sunny, and we were excited that the spectacular beauty of Lake Louise would be captured in all its glory. The fruits of everyone’s efforts are now available for all to see, and there’s no question we couldn’t have picked a better day. We’re excited not only about where we are now, but also where this will lead down the road. Try your hand at exploring in the window below, starting at the top of Summit!


Lake Louise on Google Earth

I’ve always thought that Google Earth would be a great tool for seeing the terrain at Lake Louise in detail and at any angle or altitude. The only thing preventing that was the fact that the Lake Louise area showed up too blurry to be of any use. Until now…

A few years ago, there was a square of amazingly fine detail located just to the north of Lake Louise, around Mt. Hector and Hector Lake. You could zoom in close enough to see the colours of cars on the Icefields Parkway and the small waves on the surface of the lake. As detailed as this section was, it didn’t extend south far enough to include Lake Louise. Then, a year or two ago, this section grew two more times until it included Kicking Horse Pass, Lake O’Hara, and the Lake Louise area west of the Trans Canada highway. The ski area is tantalizingly just outside the box.

However, more recently a new area of detail was added, and you can now see all of the Larch area up close, including Elevator Shaft and Purple Bowl. The view from above really helps getting the lay of the land, even more so than aerial photos since you can adjust your perspective. A screen shot of one view of Larch is posted below, now all we have to do is wait for the rest of the ski area to be included…

A Google Earth view of the Larch area at Lake Louise.

A Google Earth view of the Larch area at Lake Louise.