The Ptarmigan Valley near Lake Louise village in c. 1905 (Vaux family photograph, WMCR-V653-NA-0080-1482) and 2017 (CW-2017-07-20-3754). The north face of Mt. Temple is in the left background. Much of the Ptarmigan valley likely burned in the mid-1700s, then was swept over by a large fire originating near Kicking Horse Pass about 1881. In 1889 another fire spread eastwards from the village area up the valley. During the 1930s the open forests created by these burns attracted ski tourers for winter visits. The Ski Club of the Canadian Rockies built Halfway Cabin and Skoki Lodge upvalley and further east.
In 1939, the club, by then financed by eccentric British millionaire Sir Norman Watson, built the original Temple Lodge (located upslope to the left of the photograph historical photograph). The lodge was part of Watson’s dream to create a Swiss Alps type resort, cows and all, in the Ptarmigan Valley. In the 1940s skiers arrived by train at the Lake Louise station and were carried by a sleigh towed with a small tractor up to Temple. During multi-day stays they toured to the nearby slopes of Whitehorn and Purple Bowl. Lake Louise’s first ski lift was built near Temple Lodge in 1952, a “Model C Sweden Ski Tow” costing only US$292.50, running two hundred metres from Corral Creek up to an anchor-tree above the lodge. In 1954 a Poma lift was built to the top of Larch Hill, and with the construction of additional lifts on Mount Whitehorn, Temple was linked into the larger Lake Louise ski area. The original Temple Lodge burned down in the summer of 1976 and was replaced by a post and beam structure adjacent to Corral Creek, now obscured by trees just to the left of the photograph.
Today, two modern chairlifts, with lower terminals visible in the mid-ground take skiers to the top of slopes on both sides of the valley. A century of modern fire control and prevention has allowed a mature dense forest to grow in the Ptarmigan Valley. Most the remaining forest openings are maintained by tree cutting to create ski runs and glades.