10 tips for winter adventure in Jasper
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Jasper, AB - Winter in the mountains is good anywhere in my books. But take it from me: there's something special about winter in Jasper, from the ski hill to winter trails to its laidback community vibe and natural beauty. I've skied and travelled all over Western Canada in the winter, but Jasper is a second home. I've spent literally hundreds of winter days there over 15-plus years, between ski patrolling at Marmot Basin, media visits and personal trips. I even lived there, briefly.
So when it comes to winter vacation in Jasper, I've got the essentials dialled. But rather than keep it to myself, I realized that I should share my hard earned knowledge for good. For many, Jasper is a familiar winter stomping grounds. But for just as many if not more, winter in Jasper is a rare experience.
If you only get to Jasper a couple times each winter, or fewer, it can feel like you're relearning how to do it each time. Here are my ten top tips for making the most of a Jasper visit this winter, to get into the winter flow.
Obviously I'm biased here, but the skiing at Marmot Basin is some of the best you'll find. Uncrowded, with lots of terrain, short lift lines and high elevation make for consistently good riding, and a long season (typically mid-November to May).
So my first four tips focus on the skiing and snowboarding experience at Marmot. (If that's not your thing, that's cool, there are lots of other winter activities which I'll cover further down.)
1. Skiing more than once? Get an Escape Card. It's $89 for the card, then you get 50% off lift tickets, all season long with no blackout dates. Simple math? You start saving with a Marmot Escape Card within two visits. It's a no-brainer. You will definitely want to ski more than once.
2. Buy online & load your RFID card in advance. For both the Escape Card and regular day lift tickets, you can purchase and preload your RFID card online, so you don't need to visit the ticket window.
Introduced in 2020 (a positive change due to COVID!) the system makes it super easy. And with the parking lot expansion completed for the 2022-23 season, you can grab a sweet spot close to Home Run and head straight to the lift.
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3. Consider a lesson. I'm a lifelong skier but in the spring of 2021 I took a snowboard lesson, and had one of my best days ever. No matter if you're looking to shake off the rust, or challenge yourself by switching things up, a lesson can help you put together the right technique and shed any bad habits.
4. Hike 5 - 10 min for a view. The views across the Park are something else. A five-minute hike from the Ridge or Paradise lifts (on Thunder Bowl ridge or the top of Tres, respectively) will get you to some pretty cool spots to get up high and soak in the beauty of the day. Heads up, you can ski intermediate runs back down from Thunder Bowl but Tres is all expert terrain.
T-Bar ridge (shown in the photo below) is another great spot, and a really short hike to gentle sloping terrain that often has good snow to practice your powder turns.
To learn more about skiing at Marmot Basin, check out these Jasper tips from two Marmot Basin instructors on SnowSeekers.ca.
Other Jasper winter activities
5. Take ice cleats or snowshoes to hike the trails
Winter hiking is a great activity for those who aren't into skiing or snowboarding but still want to get into the mountains. Some of my easy access faves are Maligne Canyon, Pyramid Lake and Athabasca Falls.
For a great list of trail recommendations and safety tips, check out this info from Parks. Always be sure to check in with Parks before heading into the backcountry, stick to marked trails and public areas, and watch for signs.
6. Enjoy a guided ice walk in Maligne Canyon, day or night. I've done the ice walk in Maligne several times, day and night, and it's beautiful any time of day. I almost enjoy it more at night, for the uniqueness of it.
A quick word of advice here: go with a guided tour. From unstable ice conditions to icefall from climbers, there are hazards in the canyon which the untrained eye won't spot. Guides are familiar with the hazards and watch conditions to monitor for safety; if they’re not there, you shouldn’t be either. If you do go without a guide, PLEASE keep your distance from climbers.
7. Rent a fat bike and explore the Park. The trails along the Pyramid bench and along Pyramid Lake are beautiful, gentle climbs and dips with amazing views. You can rent in town at Vicious Cycle or right at Pyramid Lake Resort.
8. Skate at Mildred Lake or Pyramid Lake. Gliding along a frozen lake with 360 mountain views is pretty unbeatable. Surfaces are cleared at both Mildred Lake (on the grounds of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge) and up at Pyramid Lake. Skate rentals are available on site or in town, or bring your own.
Après in Jasper
9. Après in town. Jasper is a real community, not a ski village, so it is full of local character. Rub elbows with friendly locals at the Whistle Stop, The De’d Dog or Jasper Brewing Co.
10. Soak in the peace and quiet of Jasper's night skies. You've probably heard about Jasper's Dark Skies, but as a reminder, the best time to view them is when nights get dark earlier, from fall through winter.
WHEN YOU GO
Find more travel inspiration for your visit at Tourism Jasper.
Start planning now to head to Jasper for Jasper in January, a two week festival full of winter deals, community events, concerts, food and spirit tastings.
Head to the Marmot Basin website for the latest hill-specific weather and snow reports.
For more winter travel ideas and inspiration, sign up for our ZenSeekers enews.