A Jasper Hotel with Winter Adventures at Heart
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 you are west of Hazel Street on Connaught, heading for the Mount Robson Inn, you’re 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.
Turns and glides
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 snow dumps that will be hitting the mountain in the early season, providing coverage from top to bottom by the beginning of December. As a general rule, when it sets up solid like this early in the season, good times are ahead. In fact, the whole mountain often skis like it’s been open for months.
If cross-country skiing is more your speed, try the ski trail out at Whistlers campground, a graceful 4.5-kilometre beginner loop just a stone’s throw from the Mount Robson 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.
River of Ice
There are few places more beautiful to hike year round than at Maligne Canyon. One of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies, sheer limestone walls plunge to depths of over 50 meters (165 ft.). The canyon; however, is nothing short of fascinating as canyon walls are adorned with frozen waterfalls and icicles metres in length. During the winter season, try your hand at a guided Canyon Tour across the floor of the frozen canyon. It’s a destination that ranks high on the list for many Western Canadian ice climbers as well.
Unwinding – more than Apres Ski
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 Mount Robson Inn offers ringside seats to one of nature’s greatest nightly showcases: the starry cosmos.
After a day of riding, gliding or canyon crawling, it seems fitting to nod off with visions of the Milky Way in your head, mixing into a euphoric dream cocktail of powder, stars and open roads.