The notion of “traffic” in Jasper has always amused me. Sure, in the summer you can get stuck behind two lanes of rubbernecking RVs going 30 kilometres an hour down Connaught Drive, but it lasts all of a few blocks.
In winter, the roads are pretty much wide open. There’s one traffic light in town and once I’m west of Hazel Street on Connaught, heading for the Mount Robson Inn, I’m past it.
With the exception of the elk who regularly forage on the hillside overlooking the train bridge on the town’s western fringes, it’s so long, grazers.
Life in the fast lane
From the main driveway of Mount Robson Inn, your sole option is to turn right, towards Highway 93 and Marmot Basin. It’s only natural.
Even more natural is the wicked dumps that hit the mountain early this season, providing coverage from top to bottom by the beginning of December. The significance isn’t lost as I ride the Eagle Ridge chair for early stashes on a crisp December morning.
|Mount Robson Inn makes for an ideal base-camp for a weekend of adventures such as skiing at Marmot Basin or star-gazing.
Photo courtesy of Mount Robson Inn
As a general rule, when it sets up solid like this early in the season (currently a 68-centimetre base and counting), good times are ahead. I test out this hypothesis by dropping ET Cliffs – notorious for its rocky landings early season – five consecutive times, not once scraping a thing.
In fact, the whole mountain skis like it’s been open for months now. That could be owing to the earliest opening in Marmot’s 49-year history, on Nov. 9, 2012, but really, does it matter why?
Tracking new trails
As the day winds to a close, the Mount Robson Inn’s in-room Jacuzzi tub suite is definitely calling.
But to a family of five, like mine, the three-room suite with bunk bed is more our speed – kind of like the cross-country ski trail out at Whistlers campground, a graceful 4.5-kilometre beginner loop just a stone’s throw from the Inn. The trail is a bit of an open secret around Jasper, being that it is always one of the first to be groomed.
For a shorter but slightly more challenging glide, there’s the Wabasso campground just a few kilometres further down the 93A past the ski hill turnoff. Or for the ambitious, the Pyramid Fire Road, 15 kilometres long with switchback climbs up the shoulder of Pyramid Mountain – something to aspire to, perhaps, if I can drag myself away from Marmot Basin long enough.
Though Jasper isn’t that well known as a nordic skiing destination, Jasper National Park recently introduced new cross-country ski trail maps to help people discover the trail system.
A different nightcap
Set off from the bustle of downtown – though never far from it – the Mount Robson Inn is also a great spot from which to engage in another new pastime in Jasper, dark sky viewing.
As the world’s largest dark sky preserve, there are places within the park that rival the darkest in the world. Perched on the verge of the Icefield Parkway, the Robson offers ringside seats to one of nature’s greatest nightly showcases: the starry cosmos.
After a day of riding through sheer white bliss, it seems fitting to nod off with visions of the Milky Way in my head, mixing into a euphoric dream cocktail of powder, stars and open roads.