If you are a traveler with an adventurous spirit then you’ll love Jasper in winter.
Before my recent winter trip, I’d spent all of three nights on three different occasions in Jasper. But it was always a quick visit – and really just a place to lay my head before dashing off on the next adventure. And I’d never visited in winter. For a diverse selection of winter outdoor adventures, you’ll be thrilled at what’s available in and around Jasper.
For starters there’s Marmot Basin, a ski and snowboard resort. This year has been a standout for snow – and while most of the other Alberta ski resorts are operating, their snow cover is thin. Not so at Marmot. I lucked out with seven centimetres of fresh powder a few weeks ago. Not only was the skiing superb, I was pleasantly surprised by the mountain, the layout and the diversity of terrain. It’s a particularly good place to ski if you’re with a group of varying abilities. Every lift apart from the Knob Chair, offers an easy, moderate or difficult run to the bottom, so families and groups can ski the run of their choice and meet again at the bottom.
If you’re an intermediate or better skier don’t miss Highway 16 – a run that Milt Gilmour, my mountain host for the morning, says is groomed to perfection. Other musts include McCready’s Choice with a nice, soft long pitch, Solace and Charlie’s Bowl.
There is a shuttle service from the town of Jasper for $14 return trip per person.
Snowshoeing in Jasper is another fantastic winter activity.
In a typical year the trails near the town of Jasper like those in the Patricia Lake and Pyramid Basin area are excellent for short duration outings. But this year, snow cover is low in the valley so heading up Maligne Road into an area with lots of snow is a great idea. Medicine Lake is very popular – but for a less well known trail leave Medicine Lake after approximately a kilometre and head up Watchtower Canyon to the frozen falls.
Other options for snowshoeing include Wabasso Lake, Valley of the Five Lakes, Bald Hills and the trails in the vicinity of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
Ice climbing in Maligne Canyon.
It might not be the first thing you think of – it certainly wasn’t for me but it turned out to be a huge thrill and a whole lot of fun. Most people explore Maligne Canyon on foot, wearing a pair of crampons. While I highly recommend that activity, for those who want a real adventure, sign on with Max Darrah, founder and guide of Rockaboo. For people new to the sport, he’ll safely take you through all the steps – from gearing up, to rappelling down a frozen waterfall to climbing said waterfall. By the end of a half day outing, you’ll probably feel a little cocky having tested your limits. Trust me on this one – it’s absolutely worth trying even if you have a fear of heights.
Skate on Mildred Lake
If I lived in Jasper, I would take advantage of the one kilometre skating loop on Mildred Lake on close to a daily basis. Located near the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, the rink is open to the public with skates available for rent at the Golf Clubhouse. To me nothing beats skating outside – and warming up after by the fire.
There are normally loads of fun winter activities to try at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – but the lack of snow and warm temperatures put an early end to them this year. Next year you can look forward to curling on Lac Beauvert, fat tire biking and cross-country skiing on a network of trails in the area. I did walk one of the trails to Edith Lake – and walking was definitely the way to explore.
Where to Eat in Jasper
Before or after your adventures you need some fuel. Here are a few restaurants/cafes I can personally recommend.
- The Bear’s Paw Bakery (4 Cedar Avenue) – it opens at 6 AM and The Other Paw on Connaught opens at 7 AM
- Famoso’s Neapolitan Pizzaria (607 Patricia Street) Exceptional pizza in an unpretentious setting.
- Jasper Brewing Company – 624 Connaught Drive for on-site brewed beer in a sports bar setting.
- Evil Dave’s Grill – 622 Patricia Street for delicious Asian inspired food. Make a reservation.
- The Emerald Lounge at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – Cozy up in a chair with a view and enjoy the casual atmosphere. Food is pricier but the setting is fabulous.
I now understand why people who go to Jasper to work for a season end up staying for years. If you truly love the outdoors, it’s hard to beat this mountain town.
Have you visited Jasper in winter?