I'm sitting in my wood cabin in the Canadian Rockies, a fire burning in the grate, the heated floor warming my feet, having just returned from a dip in the outdoor hot tub... Canadians certainly know how to combat the cold.
My stay at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge
just outside Banff is perfect for a wintry romantic break for two: the only problem is I'm here on my own. A series of wood cabin-style rooms set among evergreens, the Lodge - part of Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts - offers deluxe but understated accommodation within proximity to the ski resorts of Banff and Lake Louise and the stunning Icefields Parkway mountain road.
Though there are 108 rooms here, it feels like being in your own private hideaway. The rooms - all pinewood, stone and dark furnishings - are so cosy you don't want to leave. Rather, you want to relax for an hour in the bear-claw-footed freestanding bath and then warm yourself in front of the fire that you are free to light at will (wood and kindling are provided). Once suitably toasty, brave the chill outside on your private balcony for two, or wander over to the Sleeping Buffalo Lounge and Restaurant for dinner.
Breakfasts are hearty and - as usual in Canada - bear-sized. A plate of Buttermilk Granola Pancakes with warm cinnamon apples is plenty big enough for two; while the Mixed Grill (eggs, elk sausages, two types of bacon, potatoes and toast) will have you waddling to the ski slopes. For dinner, we're served Rocky Mountain Cuisine, which harks back to Canadian traditions, centring on game and local produce. My duck with braised farro, Swiss chard, parsnip puree and blackberry balsamic glaze was beautifully presented, melt-in-the-mouth and, for once, a manageable portion.
For coffee, relax in the comfy armchairs of the lounge, beneath a chandelier made of antlers, before retiring to your room or the communal hot tub, which curls steam into the sub-zero night air.
It's a very different experience to a stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
, 30 minutes down the road. This imposing, unapologetically grand edifice on the shore of Lake Louise is for those who prefer their romance overblown, rather than understated. With 550 rooms, six restaurants and a spa, this is hardly a hideaway. Ceilings are high, breakfasts are lavish and the carpeted corridors seem to go on forever before you reach your room.
Inside, my room is spacious, deluxe and comfortable but without the cosiness and individuality of the Buffalo. What sets it apart, however, is the view: ask for a lakeside room or you'll be sorely missing out. Visiting in winter, I rarely see it in daylight, but even in the blue glow of dawn or the fading light of dusk this is one view worth making time for, as it's as extravagant as the hotel itself. Pulling back the curtains I see icicles hanging from the window frame. They slice through the monochrome mountains that sit large and imposing around the water, guarding Lake Louise like a protective father. I'm visiting in November, but as winter progresses the lake freezes and a section is turned into an ice skating rink, complete with ice castle - it's a magical scene which warrants its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
With six restaurants at the Fairmont, there's plenty of choice for a warming evening meal after a day of snowshoeing or skiing. The Glacier Saloon serves pub style food with a Wild West theme. Ribs, burgers, wings, pizzas and 'hoagies' (hearty sandwiches) are the order of the day. I plump for the wild game fettuccine bolognaise, which is flavoursome and rich.
Elsewhere in this maze of a building (I get lost several times), the Walliser Stube is an upmarket restaurant which focuses on Swiss specialities in memory of the Swiss guides that helped Canadian mountaineers negotiate the area's peaks in the early 1900s. But I avoid the fondue and raclette for more local fare: pulled elk risotto for starters, followed by a 10oz slab of Alberta Bison which I can't finish, much as I want to. We do honour the Swiss, however, by rounding off our meal with a dark chocolate fondue - rich, tasty and irresistible.
Both the Buffalo Mountain Lodge and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offer wedding packages. With the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the area is a photogenic choice. It's just down to you to choose your wedding style.
By Caroline Bishop
, freelance travel journalist. Follow her
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