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Inside Haute O2, the mountaintop oxygen bar at 7,000 feet in the Canadian Rockies



There are mountaintop bars, and there are oxygen bars. But there is nothing quite like Haute O2, which takes both concepts to new heights—literally. Perched high in the Canadian Rockies at more than 7,000 feet, Haute O2 is far above any bar and restaurant most of us have ever visited.

A mesmerizing view of the Canadian rockies from the oxygen bar station at Haute O2.

Courtesy of Fairmont

Haute O2 itself is really a pop-up…for now, at least. Most of the year, the space is formally the Cliffhouse Bistro, accessible only by the North American Chairlift on Mt. Norquay, looming large over the popular resort town of Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada. It’s also used as the base for the Via Ferrata climbing and adventure tours.

This year, it was transformed by the historic luxury hotel Fairmont Banff Springs for a special, limited-time winter experience. Up here, guests are treated to unparalleled views of Banff Springs down below, within Banff National Park, surrounded by the glorious Canadian Rockies. And for guests who signed up for the Haute O2 experience, they are treated to this spectacular sight at sunset.

Every element of the private experience featured one of Banff’s greatest natural resources: the unparalleled mountain air.

Courtesy of Fairmont

Yogis (and aspiring yogis) might be especially interested in the experience. As part of the oxygen-themed experience, once guests are off the chairlift and inside the nice and cozy mountaintop bar— made all the more cozy by the fireplace and the puffs of sheep wool (sourced from Canadian farms and will be recycled after the conclusion of the dinner series) decorating the walls and ceiling—the evening begins with a short and very easy session of yoga and breathwork. There might be few places more calming and inspiring to do yoga than with background view of the the sun falling over the snow-capped Canadian Rockies.

There’s only one way to access Haute O2: the North American Chairlift on Mt. Norquay.

Courtesy of Fairmont

The meditation is followed by a trip to the oxygen bar station, which guides said are most effective with a 10 minute session. And there are multiple scents of oxygen to choose from, including ocean mist, piña colada, and sugar cookie.

The main event is worth the journey all the way up the mountain: a five-course gourmet meal made from locally sourced ingredients (from root vegetables—which are more commonly found in Alberta—as well as seafood and Wagyu beef) with wine and cocktail pairings, specially designed for this experience (and the altitude) by the chefs and sommeliers at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Some of the pairings are meant to keep diners in their comfort zones, but as with any dinner that really wants to be considered a “dining experience,” but there are out-of-the-box pairings intended to push the limits of one’s palate.

The opening course is a spin on tea time, with mushroom tea and shortbread-style cookies made with Saskatoon berry jam.

Courtesy of Fairmont

And the chefs will cater the meal to each guest’s individual preferences, dietary restrictions, and allergies. So one person at the dinner could have an entirely vegan meal with dishes such as smoked parsnips with roasted chestnuts as well as zucchini caponata and Hen of the Woods mushrooms, while the person next to them dines on prawns and salmon.

Located on the upper garden terrace, the 360° Dome at the Fairmont Banff Springs is surrounded by panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies and the 132-year-old castle.

Courtesy of Fairmont

The opening of Haute O2 is part of a new initiative at Fairmont and its sister hotels called “Beyond Limits.” Launched late last year by Accor, Fairmont’s parent company, Beyond Limits speaks to the growing number of travelers focused on the concept of new experiences—versus pure relaxation at the pool or shopping or golf, etc.—across Accor properties around the world.

This includes underwater ballet performances (while in the water yourself) at the Fairmont Orchid in Waimea, Hawaii or watching performance artists scale the world’s first 19-story vertical dance floor at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

Guests at the Fairmont can skate right on Lake Louise, safely, when it is frozen in mid-winter.

Courtesy of Fairmont

Less than an hour drive from the Fairmont Banff Springs, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is also hosting a special dining experience in a cozy log cabin (normally the site of the cross-country ski school) right next to the (currently frozen) Lake Louise.

The setting for the Beyond Limits ‘Fire & Ice’ at Fairmont Château Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.

Courtesy of Fairmont

Dubbed “Fire and Ice,” the limited-time experience (available through February) was inspired by the Japanese cooking style of Robatayaki, with meat, seafood, and vegetables cooked over wood embers. Guests are treated to a 15-course meal (seriously) with sake and cocktail pairings along the way.

A ‘Haiboru’ cocktail, made from Cambridge Japanese gin, umeboshi balsamic, shiso bitters, beetroot paint, and soda water.

Courtesy of Fairmont

There are a few key differences to both tasting menu dinners—namely the Fire and Ice dinner at Lake Louise is only a few steps away from the hotel, no ski-lift required. Also, the Fire and Ice dinner seats multiple parties together (i.e. a whole group can book it out, or couples and small parties can be seated together and share the evening as one large group.) But the Haute O2 was billed as an exclusive experience for the booking party, whether it be two or 12 people.

Guests can keep track of the many courses during the Fire and Ice dinner with hand-drawn illustrations of all the natural ingredients.

Courtesy of Fairmont

Access to Haute O2 started at $499 CAD ($365 USD) per person, which included transportation aboard Open Top Touring, a vintage open-top bus that normally only runs during the summer season, but the Fairmont Banff Springs made special arrangements with the company for this experience. Hotel managers didn’t confirm if the Haute O2 would come back again next year, but if it does, chances are it could be at a different dining facility on another ski mountain next year to change up the experience, especially for repeat guests.

Open Top Touring made a limited time winter run to escort guests from the Fairmont Banff Springs to the base of Mt. Norquay.

Courtesy of Fairmont

During the winter season (considered the low season after the holidays), rates at both the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Banff Springs start at $499 CDN ($375 USD). During the summer, starting rates climb to $999 CAD ($750 USD) in Banff Springs and $1,099 CAD ($825 USD) at Lake Louise. Members of Accor’s Live Limitless loyalty program can also use reward points to book Beyond Limits experiences. And Accor is offering select deals on reservations made by March 29, 2023 for stays through April 30, 2023 at participating Fairmont, Sofitel, Swissôtel, MGallery, Pullman, Novotel and Ibis properties across North and Central America.

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