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When it comes to winter playgrounds, it’s hard to find anywhere that compares to Jasper, Alberta. Surrounded by thick forests and the snow capped peaks that make up the Rocky Mountains, the laid-back alpine town is a perfect base for exploring the great outdoors all year round.
Offering everything from backcountry adventures to five star lodges and spas, there’s no shortage of ways to explore the area, even during colder months. Here are just some of the fun winter activities in Jasper.
Jasper is famous for its outdoor excursions, and no matter your skill or comfort level there are plenty of them to keep travellers entertained. Numerous trails can be accessed right from town, which are perfect for cross-country skiing, fat biking or snowshoeing.
In areas like Marmot Meadows, visitors can navigate through the snowdrifts and aspen trees in search of animal tracks, from the likes of rabbit, deer and wolves. Who knows, you might even come across a herd of elk serving as a welcoming committee!
For a quintessentially Canadian experience, book a dog sledding tour through a company like Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding. Their Alaskan huskies do all the work during an hour long or half-day tour, while visitors get to sit back and enjoy the exhilarating ride.
Visit frozen waterfalls
Jasper National Park is famous for its scenic spots, including gorgeous waterfalls that tumble out of jagged rock faces. Viewing them in the winter is a completely different experience than any other time of year, as most of them are frozen over, creating a dazzling display.
Athabasca Falls is always a crowd-pleaser, located about half an hour south of Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. While ice crystals form over most of it during the winter, there’s still a churning pool of emerald water that spills out the bottom. Simply stunning! Best of all, very few people go to the falls in winter which means you’ll have them all to yourself.
Another place to explore icy landscapes is Maligne Canyon, where visitors can enjoy an ice walk through its 160 million-year-old cave system. Frozen waterfalls are on display along with fossils and ice pillars, making for a spectacular scene. Maligne Canyon is about 10 minutes north of town, and guided tours last about three-hours. Ice cleats are also provided.
Soak up the scenery
Jasper is surrounded by glacier fed lakes, and while you won’t actually be able to see the water during winter you can still enjoy them. Lac Beauvert and Lake Mildred at the famed Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge turn into massive skating rinks, which have been known to host spirited games of shinny and are also lit up at night.
Over at Pyramid Lake, it’s common to see families skating near the shore, or warming up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate from the nearby Pyramid Lake Resort. Horse-drawn sleigh rides are also available, which is a fun and cozy way to explore the area.
Alternatively, continue a couple minutes down the road past the resort, and you’ll arrive at Pyramid Island. A beautiful wooden bridge leads to the serene, forested island, which is also a fantastic spot for stargazing as it’s classified as a Dark Sky Preserve.
Explore the townsite
Jasper is a compact town, which makes it simple to explore. The main streets are Patricia and Connaught, which is where you’ll find most of the restaurants, rental shops, stores and cafes.
Tried and true spots for grabbing a meal include Famoso and Earls which both have locations around the province, as well as the Jasper Brewing Company. All of their beer is brewed in-house (you can even do a tour), so if it’s your first time there be sure to order a 6 x 6oz sampler so you can try the different kinds.
Don’t even think about leaving Jasper without visiting Wicked Cup. The adorable cafe has a mouth-watering menu along with specialty organic coffee and tea, and their talented baristas will even turn your breakfast latte into artwork!
While winter weather means those exploring the town will likely want to stay indoors, there’s one good reason to get outside: Jasper in January. The annual event takes place over three weekends, with a focus on different themes including adventures, appetites and the arts. Free activities include learning outdoor skills like fire starting and building teepees, dog sledding, snowshoeing and art lessons. There’s even a street party to wrap up the event, with an amazing fireworks show in the park serving as the grand finale.
Hit the slopes
Most of Alberta’s ski resorts are located around Banff, which is why Marmot Basin is a popular spot for skiers and snowboarders north of Calgary who make the trip from Edmonton to Jasper. The mountain has more than 1600 acres of slopes, seven lifts including three high-speed quads, and a terrain park with jumps, rails and boxes. For those who enjoy apres ski, there are also a number of hillside restaurants.
Parking is available on site, and a shuttle goes between Jasper and Marmot Basin three times per day.
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Globe Guide explored Jasper in partnership with Tourism Jasper. As always, hosts have no editorial influence over articles