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Winter in Jasper

Winter in Jasper – 20+ Fantastic Things to Do

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Winter in Jasper is divine. Once the snow arrives, the town is transformed into a true Canadian winter wonderland. Not only is it a quiet place to visit in winter compared to the summer, it’s an exceptional base for cold weather-adventures. Anyone who is prepared to bundle up and enjoy the fresh air and outdoors, will love to explore the area.

There’s so much to do in Jasper in winter from skiing and boarding to skating, ice walks, winter walks, fat biking, and dark sky viewing, and almost all of it is within a 10 minute to one hour drive of the town.

There is one downside to winter in Jasper – and that’s getting there. If you’re coming from Edmonton, it’s generally no big deal, but if you’re coming from the south via the Icefields Parkway, you need a dose of Lady Luck on your side. If there isn’t a snow storm in the forecast, the Icefields Parkway is a fantastic – and exceptionally scenic drive to do. But if the weather is bad, you don’t want to be caught on the parkway where plows are few and far between and cell service is non-existent. 

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Winter in Jasper summary

  • The crux of enjoying a winter visit to Jasper is getting there. Consider taking a bus from Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, or Lake Louise if you don’t have experience with driving in snow.
  • Dress for cold weather – though granted it’s a dry cold. 
  • If you’re flying to Calgary or Edmonton, consider renting skis and snowshoes in town to make your travels easier.
  • If you’re not comfortable exploring Jasper in winter on your own, sign up for one of the many tours offered like the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk.
  • Most of the prime sites are open in winter including Athabasca Falls.
  • Check trail conditions in Jasper before you head out.
DRamatic scenery driving the Icefields Parkway on a clear winter day
Dramatic scenery driving the Icefields Parkway on a clear winter day

Planning a Jasper winter getaway?

If you’re going to Jasper in the depths of winter, plan on at least three nights, four if you want a more relaxed pace. You’ll be surprised at just how much there is to do. 

Travel tips for your winter in Jasper visit

You might be shocked at how much winter wildlife there is. You’re almost assured to see elk – but if you’re in the backcountry, there is even the remote possibility of meeting a sleepy bear. Use the same precautions as you would in summer. Never feed or approach wildlife. Give them space to move away. Consider taking bear spray with you.

Dress in layers. If you do something active outdoors, you want to be wicking away any moisture from your skin, so you don’t freeze when you stop. Merino wool is a great base layer. Follow up with a fleece layer, a down coat and perhaps a wind-proof jacket. Be sure to take hand and toe warmers for the really cold days.

Go downhill skiing at Marmot Basin

If you’re a downhill skier or boarder, head for Marmot Basin, just 30 minutes from Jasper. With 91 trails and 7 lifts, you’ll find terrain for everyone you’re skiing with. This ski resort is particularly well suited to groups with mixed abilities. Except for the Knob Chair, there is an easy, moderate or difficult run to the bottom of each lift, so it’s perfect for families and groups to ski the run they want, but then ride up the chair again together. 

You can take a Jasper – Marmot shuttle that runs three times a day from various locations and hotels around the Jasper townsite. There are additional options for guests of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

Uncrowded slopes at Marmot Basin and a beautiful backdrop
Uncrowded slopes at Marmot Basin and a beautiful backdrop – Photo credit: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Visit Athabasca Falls near Jasper in winter

Visit exceptionally beautiful Athabasca Falls in winter and walk the slippery trails – perhaps with icers – admiring the natural ice sculptures while listening for the roar of water behind the falls. Be sure to stay on the trails and never climb over the railings. You’ll need 15 – 45 minutes, depending on how much you linger along the way.

Parts of frozen Athabasca Falls in late winter
Parts of frozen Athabasca Falls in late winter

Go snowshoeing in the Jasper area

There’s lots of choice when it comes to snowshoeing in and around Jasper. You can explore the extensive grounds around the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – with trails leading all the way to the Jasper townsite or you can head off on one of the beautiful trails in Jasper National Park.

Valley of the Five Lakes trail

Drive south 2 km from the toll booth on the Icefields Parkway to reach the trailhead for the Valley of the Five Lake. Head out on a 4.6 km loop that loops around five lakes – passing some beautiful big trees along the way. You can also enjoy a red-chair moment.

It won’t take you more than 90 minutes to do the loop. If there hasn’t been fresh snow, you may even be able to walk it.

Snowshoeing the Valley of Five Lakes Trail
Snowshoeing the Valley of Five Lakes Trail

Pyramid Lake trails

Drive up to Pyramid Lake and park near the resort. You can pick up a trail map at the resort and then head off on a whole network of looping snowshoe and fat bike trails. One day I started at Pyramid Lake and snowshoed over 20 km, ending up back in Jasper. Some of my favourite sections – with scenic Athabasca River views, were off trails 2b and 2j.

The trails are free to use and on a weekday you might not see a soul.

Gorgeous snowshoeing on the ridge overlooking Jasper and the Athabasca River
Gorgeous snowshoeing on the ridge overlooking Jasper and the Athabasca River accessed from Pyramid Lake

Beaver Lake

Start at the Jacques Lake trailhead near Medicine Lake. Head off on a wide trail up an old fire road. It’s ideal for beginners as it’s just 4 km return to Beaver Lake, but you can go on to Summit Lakes, a 10 km return outing. It’s still a gentle trail, gaining just 77 metres.

On the trail to Beaver Lake in Jasper National Park
On the trail to Beaver Lake in Jasper National Park

Medicine Lake and Watchtower Canyon

Drive Maligne Canyon Road to Medicine Lake. From the Medicine Lake North Viewpoint, snowshoe along the lakeshore, enjoying some panoramic mountain views. Look for a narrow opening in the trees about a kilometre along the southwest shore of Medicine Lake. Head up Watchtower Canyon probing the stream with your pole so you don’t get a soaker. Go up about a kilometre to reach a gorgeous frozen waterfall. Retrace your steps allowing 60 – 90 minutes for the return outing.

Looking up out of Watchtower Canyon
Looking up out of Watchtower Canyon in Jasper National Park

Check out the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk

Don’t miss a chance to do the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk. It’s fun and thrilling for the whole family but before you go be sure that everyone has a pair of microspikes so they don’t take a bad fall. A hiking pole comes in handy too – especially for testing water depth because you don’t want to get a soaker. 

I’ve done the ice walk on a couple of occasions now. On one trip, there was no standing water but on the most recent trip, there was lots. If there is, exercise caution. Wear gaiters and waterproof bottoms and be sure to carry an extra pair of warm socks and gloves. Alternatively, sign up for a tour with a local Jasper company and let them outfit you with all the gear.

Allow a couple of hours for the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk. Even though the distances are short, there’s so much of interest both above the canyon and while in it. Access to the canyon is off Maligne Lake Road. There’s lots of signage. From downtown Jasper, it’s about a 15-minute drive.

Looking down into Maligne Canyon
Looking down into Maligne Canyon
Don't forget to look up in Maligne Canyon
Don’t forget to look up in Maligne Canyon
Admiring the beauty of nature in Maligne Canyon
Admiring nature’s artwork in Maligne Canyon

Walk to Pyramid Island

There’s a short, very easy 0.8 km return hike to Pyramid Island that is worth doing at any time of the year. Walk across the bridge and then across the island to enjoy stunning views of Pyramid Mountain. There are also places where you can see Mount Kinross, and Cairngorm across the lake. On a winter weekday I had the island to myself – quite a magical experience – and worth the20 minutes it took to explore.

Walk over to Pyramid Lake Island
Walk over to Pyramid Lake Island

Go fat biking in Jasper

I have done some crazy fat biking over the years including a race across Lac St. Jean in Quebec – which was so hard, it put me off the sport for a few years. But when the snow is packed, and you don’t have to work every minute of the ride, then it’s actually a super fun way to spend time outside in winter. 

You can pick up a fat bike at the activity centre at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and head off from there. We started on snow and ice-covered roads that took us as far as Old Fort Point. From there you can hop on some trails that are absolutely lovely. The really fit who are looking for an epic day can continue to the Pyramid Lake area and enjoy the extensive trail network there. 

You can also rent fat bikes at Jasper Source for Sports.

Fat biking on a network of trails leaving from Jasper Park Lodge
Fat biking on a network of trails leaving from Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
What a fabulous backdrop while fat biking
What a fabulous backdrop while fat biking – Photo credit: Travels With Baggage

Skate on Lake Mildred

There are a couple of excellent skating rinks in Jasper – one on Lake Mildred on the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge grounds – and the other across from the Pyramid Lake Resort on Pyramid Lake. It also offers a dazzling mountain view.

The Lake Mildred loop is one kilometre in length. Bonfires are usually at the lake’s edge to warm you up but even without the bonfires, I loved the skating here. I found there was a real meditative quality to skating loop after loop with the sky changing colour and the mountains providing and awe-inspiring backdrop.

I suggest skating the 1 km loop around Mildred Lake in the late afternoon as the sun goes down
I suggest skating the 1 km loop around Mildred Lake in the late afternoon as the sun goes down

Skate on Pyramid Lake

Ten minutes north of downtown Jasper is the Pyramid Lake skating rink. Enjoy first-class views of Pyramid Mountain as you carve up the ice or perhaps even play a game of curling. Although the rink is maintained by Pyramid Lake Resort, you don’t have to be a guest to use it. The resort also offers skate, fat bike, and snowshoe rentals.

Visit Pyramid Lake on a weekday for solitary skating
Visit Pyramid Lake on a weekday for solitary skating

Drive Maligne Lake Road

The scenic, winding, 46-km long (one way) Maligne Lake Road accessed from the Yellowhead Highway takes you all the way to Maligne Lake by way of Medicine Lake. In the summer it can be unbearably slow, but in winter it’s a delight to drive – though you should be comfortable driving on snow. 

Take your time, keeping an eye out for the plentiful wildlife that frequent the area, particularly elk in winter. When you reach Maligne Lake, you’ll probably have it all to yourself – so enjoy the frozen view of the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Allow two hours to do the return drive as it is slow going in winter. There are several options to enjoy a winter hike or snowshoe from Maligne Lake Road including Beaver Lake, Jacques Lake, and Medicine Lake.

Maligne Lake Road is quiet in winter
Maligne Lake Road is quiet in winter

Try ice climbing in Jasper

Sign up for an ice climbing lesson with Rockaboo. You’ll be safely taken through all the steps – from gearing up, to rappelling down a frozen waterfall to climbing said waterfall. You may start out with the shakes but you’ll end up with a giant grin!

Max demonstrating ice climbing in Alberta
Max of Rockaboo demonstrating ice climbing in Alberta

Take a nature tour

There’s plenty of wildlife to be seen in Jasper in winter if you know where to look. Viator offers a Winter Wildlife Discovery tour. The 3.5 hour tour showcases the beauty and nature you see outside of Jasper, specifically in the Athabasca Valley, Maligne Valley, and Medicine Lake. 

You often see elk near the Maligne Canyon Road
You often see elk near the Maligne Canyon Road

Explore downtown Jasper on foot

I love walking the main street in Jasper. Some of it is touristy but there’s plenty to love. There are excellent sports stores like Gravity Gear Jasper selling winter gear you might need but my favourite shop – where I load up on cards every time I visit is Jasper Mercantile. It’s got a big focus on local and Canadian made gifts and books. Go see for yourself.

The days are short in winter but you can still explore Jasper on foot - just don't walk into an elk like I almost did
The days are short in winter but you can still explore Jasper on foot – just don’t walk into an elk like I almost did

Soak in the hot pool at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Fairmont’s large outdoor heated pool is only for guests of the hotel – but one reason to book in winter. It’s open from 8 AM until 10 PM daily. It’s hard to beat a soak in the hot tub with a panoramic mountain view.

When COVID is gone this gorgeous pool and hot tub will be ready for guests again
This gorgeous pool and hot tub is ready for guests – Photo credit: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Go stargazing and visit the Jasper Planetarium

Jasper National Park is one of 17 Dark Sky Preserves in Canada. The Dark Sky Preserve in Jasper is the second largest in the world and the preserve is accessible as its in town. So to say the stargazing is out of this world is a gross understatement.

There are loads of great places to see the stars at night without threat of light pollution, including Maligne Canyon, Lac Beauvert, Athabasca Falls, and Maligne Lake. There is another option too, and that is to visit the Jasper Planetarium and look at the stars through powerful telescopes.

The bottom line – go outside at night away from the downtown core – look up and be amazed.

Fantastic things to do on the way to Jasper in winter

Abraham Lake Bubbles

If you’re driving up to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway, consider making a 20-minute detour at Saskatchewan River Crossing so you can see the fabulous and famous Abraham Lake bubbles. You can usually see them from early January to late February. Allow a good hour at the lake – as the bubbles and ice formations are more interesting than you might imagine. Then retrace your steps and continue to Jasper.

John checking out the last of the Abraham Lake bubbles of the winter
John checking out the last of the Abraham Lake bubbles of the winter

Stop at the Columbia Icefield

Even though nothing is open in winter at the Columbia Icefield, it’s still a worthwhile stop. Go for a short walk, depending on conditions to the Toe of the Glacier. There’s a map and you can check out the trails – and what makes sense given the conditions, when you visit.

You don't have to walk very far to be impressed by the Columbia Icefield
You don’t have to walk very far to be impressed by the Columbia Icefield
Getting close to a glacier - especially the first time is a thrilling experience
Getting close to a glacier – especially the first time is a thrilling experience

Eat well in Jasper in winter

The Bear’s Paw Bakery (4 Cedar Avenue) – it opens at 6 AM and The Other Paw on Connaught opens at 7 AM. Lots of fresh baked goods.

Famoso’s Neapolitan Pizzeria (607 Patricia Street) Excellent pizza and salad 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.

Terra – located inside the Crimson Hotel on Main Street. It’s the newest restaurant in Jasper, opening in June 2022. Great vibe and a huge focus on local and foraging.

The Emerald Lounge at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is great if you want a cozy atmosphere in an informal setting around a giant fireplace. At the very least order drinks and appetizers and enjoy the mountain view.

The Emerald Lounge
The Emerald Lounge is always cozy and welcoming especially in winter with the fire burning – Photo credit: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Where to stay in Jasper in winter

I’ve stayed in a couple of dodgy hotels in Jasper and I wouldn’t recommend the experience. Plan ahead so you don’t get caught, especially in summer and winter.  The shoulder seasons are less of an issue.

In winter you can’t beat the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for its location with the Lake Mildred skating rink nearby.

Choose the Maligne Canyon Hostel for an affordable option.

The Crimson Jasper is conveniently located and within walking distance of all the downtown restaurants.

For an out of town choice the Pyramid Lake Resort would be an excellent option, especially with so many snowshoeing trails out its front door.

Whistler’s Inn offers a convenient location with nicely renovated rooms – despite the appearance of the somewhat worn lobby.

My cabin at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge with a view of Lac Beauvert
My cabin at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge with a view of Lac Beauvert

Location map of things to do in winter in Jasper 

                                               

Getting to Jasper in winter

Driving can be a real challenge in winter on the roads to Jasper, especially via the Icefields Parkway. Be sure to check road reports before you go. 

Recommended reading: How to Survive a Winter Drive: 15 Tips for Safety 

If you’re planning on  a holiday and would like to take all the worry out of the drive – there is a company AMPM Limo that will get you to your destination on your schedule for a reasonable price. They can pick you up in either Calgary or Edmonton. They also have a range of vehicles so they can accommodate a larger group, even with skis. 

Sundog Transportation and Tours connects Jasper to Lake Louise, Banff and Calgary via a bus. They also offer seven day a week service between Jasper and the West Edmonton Mall and the Edmonton International Airport.

Cross your fingers you have an easy drive to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway
Cross your fingers you have an easy drive to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway

Further reading on winter in the Rockies

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

20 + fantastic things to do in Jasper in winter

 

 

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