We were on a different bus than the one we thought we'd booked. It turns out there were two buses running; one travelling straight through to Lake Louise then on to Banff, which is what we booked, and the other which was more a tour bus, stopping at some sights on the way, which is what we ended up on. This was great as we stopped to see the Athabasca Falls which were nearly frozen, only a small amount of water actually flowing. The authorities have recently erected a fence to stop people walking too close to the falls, falling over, and dying. Only one person who has gone over the falls has survived. Apparently some people now walk around the fence and still go too close to the edge! Our tour guide told us about one Italian woman who was able to take a video of her husband going over the falls. She took the correct path; he took the more direct route. He's not the sole survivor - so she was filming his death.
We were fortunately able to check in as soon as we arrived even though the check in is said to be 16:00. Our room is lovely and cosy with a great view of the lake and mountains. Just like all the pictures.
At 13:00, after we signed a waiver, we took a sleigh ride along the lake. This is very popular and there were 4 sleighs in our convoy, each capable of holding about 15 people. Not that each sleigh held the maximum, most of the 5 seats only held 2 people. While out it started to snow, so we rode along in the beautiful scenery with soft snow gently falling. But it was cold by the end of the ride. The sleighs turn around on the lake so we asked how they knew the ice was strong enough to stand the weight. They drill a hole and at the moment the ice is about 2 feet thick. Then there is a coating of snow on top of that.
Part of the lake in front of the hotel is cleared for ice skating which is something else we can see from our window. The room even provides binoculars so you can have a better view of the nature outside.
After our ride we took a tour of the hotel. This ended up being an introduction to the hotel's history followed by a short tour of a small part of the hotel. The original versions of the hotel were timber; and burnt down. Now the structure is concrete but they still don't have any real fires in the fireplaces, or anywhere else if they can help it.
Another early start with the bus scheduled to pick us up between 08:00 and 08:15. The bus turned up at 08:40 so it was a good thing we waited inside near the front door rather than outside. By the time the bus arrived the sun had almost risen - it is close to the longest night and it is obvious here.