Winter is certainly a quiet time in the park, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of things to do. Marmot Basin offers world-class alpine skiing; many snow-covered hiking trails are groomed for cross-country skiing; portions of Lac Beauvert and Pyramid Lake are cleared for ice-skating; horse-drawn sleighs travel around town; and Maligne Canyon is transformed into a magical, frozen world. Hotels reduce rates by 40–70 percent through winter and many offer lodging and lift tickets for less than $100 per person.
The terrain at Marmot Basin (780/852-3816 or 800/363-3078, www.skimarmot.com) is highly underrated, with the most adventurous skiers and boarders spending their day in Charlie’s Basin, a massive powder-filled bowl. Marmot Basin has seven lifts servicing 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of terrain and a vertical rise of 900 meters (2,940 feet). The longest run is 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles).
Marmot doesn’t get the crowds of the three resorts in Banff National Park, so lift lines are uncommon. The season runs early December–late April. Lift tickets are adult $72, senior and child $58. Rentals are available at the resort or in town at Totem Ski Shop (408 Connaught Dr., 780/852-3078).
For many, traveling Jasper’s hiking trails on skis is just as exhilarating as on foot. An extensive network of 300 kilometers (185 miles) of summer hiking trails is designated for skiers, with around 100 kilometers (62 miles) groomed. The four main areas of trails are along Pyramid Lake Road, around Maligne Lake, in the Athabasca Falls area, and at Whistlers Campground. A booklet available at the park information center details each trail and its difficulty. Weather forecasts and avalanche-hazard reports are posted here also.
Rental packages are available from Source for Sports (406 Patricia St., 780/852-3654), the rental shop at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (780/852-3433), and Totem Ski Shop (408 Connaught Dr., 780/852-3078), offering rentals, repairs, and sales.
By late December, the torrent that is the Maligne River has frozen solid. Where it cascades down through Maligne Canyon the river is temporarily stalled for the winter, creating remarkable formations through the deep limestone canyon. Jasper Adventure Centre (306 Connaught Dr., 780/852-5595) offers exciting three-hour guided tours into the depths of the canyon throughout winter daily at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. (adult $55, child $25).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition