Most people know Jasper National Park for its beautiful scenery and summer hiking trails. Not as many people know the other side of Jasper: the glorious Canadian winter with its myriad of fun cold-weather activities. From skiing to wildlife tracking to cozying up indoors with a warm bowl of poutine, there are so many ways to enjoy winter in Jasper. Here are a few suggestions:
Jasper in winter is heaven for downhill skiers. Activity centers on Marmot Basin, an enormous ski area just 20-miles outside of the town of Jasper. It boasts 86 ski runs of varying difficulty, 3 lodes, and the longest high-speed chair lift in the Canadian Rockies. Despite often having better conditions than neighboring resorts, Marmot generally attracts fewer crowds, particularly during the week.
Cross-country skiing is also popular in Jasper National Park. There are literally hundreds of kilometers of tracks in different parts of the park.
If flirting with gravity on slippery skis isn't your thing, consider taking a snowshoeing lesson and exploring Jasper on foot. Snowshoeing is low-risk, low-barrier to entry, and low cost. You can rent snowshoes in Jasper by the hour or day. The thin plastic shoes that slip over your boots allow you amazing freedom to travel over thick snow and ice, even when the trail is hidden. This is a great way to get out into the park's natural beauty and maybe even spot some wildlife.
There are also many hiking trails open during the winter which allow intrepid hikers to experience the riches of the park whether there is snow on the ground or not. It's easy to hike or snowshoe independently on one of many designated trails, but check the Parks Canada trail report to see what trails are open and safe at any given time.
Dogsledding is possibly the most fun you can have in winter weather - picture whipping through a frozen landscape pulled by six or eight enthusiastic Alaskan Huskies. Or you can take a chance at driving the sled yourself- it's really not as hard as it looks. Most tours last a couple of hours and stop for lunch along the way - the perfect time to cuddle up to your new furry best friends.
While there aren't any dog sled runs IN Jasper National Park, you can head to nearby Cold Fire Creek to enjoy this unique experience. The dogs are bred for their pulling ability and genuinely enjoy the chance to run in the snow.
One of the unique natural phenomenons that comes with winter in Jasper is the glittery ice that coats Maligne Canyon, forming spectacular ice formations and caves. The area can easily be explored with some ice cleats, and an experienced guide and makes for some unique photo opportunities. If you're lucky you might even spot some experienced ice climbers scrambling up the canyon walls.
If you're feeling truly adventurous, take the night tour, where the twinkling ice is only illuminated by your headlamps and the light of the moon.
If your idea of winter fun involves being indoors, Jasper has you covered with that as well. The Jasper in January festival is an annual festival featuring events all around Jasper. There is a weekend food festival, live music performances, and more.
What's your favorite wintertime activity?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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