Winter in Jasper
Winter is a time of beauty. Snow and ice transform the mountains, forests, meadows, riverbanks and lakeshores of Jasper National Park. It’s a quiet time. The summer crowds have gone, the leaves have fallen, migratory birds have headed south and the bears have retired to their dens. The pulse of nature does indeed beat slower at this time of year but the park is still very much alive.
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Top 10 Winter Activities in Jasper
1. Tour the Park
No traffic, beautiful, Alberta-blue skies and a top-notch highway maintenance crew make winter in Jasper National Park a great time for sightseeing. Most scenic pull-offs are plowed. Look for sheep, wolves and moose along the Maligne Road, caribou along the Icefields Parkway, and elk on the Pyramid Lake Road. Road condition information is updated daily. Winter tires are recommended. Road Conditions Report
Snow is what winter in Jasper is all about, and what better way to enjoy it than an exhilarating descent on one of Marmot Basin’s alpine ski runs or a tranquil tour on one of Jasper National Park’s many groomed cross-country ski trails. Rentals and lessons are available. Check these sites for trail information and conditions.
Trail Conditions Report Cross-country ski trails Marmot Basin ski area
Snowshoeing on a winter trail © C. Roy
Snowshoeing is the traditional way to explore Jasper in the winter - and it is easier to learn than skiing! Follow one of Jasper’s many designated trails or, if you are a skilled route-finder, make your own trail. Rentals and guided trips are available. Trail information and conditions can be found here. Trail Conditions Report Winter Trail Brochure Maps and guidebook are sold at the information centre and local outdoor shops.
4. Take a hike
Hikers enjoying one of many winter trails © J. Nadeau
Jasper is famous for its extensive trail network, and you can hike many of the valley bottom trails year-round. The trail report will tell you which ones are in the best shape. Trail Conditions Report If conditions are slippery, you can buy or rent inexpensive ice cleats at many local shops.
5. Check out the ice at Maligne Canyon
With its frozen waterfalls, surreal ice formations and frosted limestone walls, Maligne Canyon is a magical place in the winter. Several local tour companies lead guided walks down into the canyon. www.jasper.travel The adventurous can ice climb with a certified mountain guide, www.acmg.ca or go on your own, if you have the skills. Maps and guidebook are sold at the information centre and local outdoor shops.
What could be more Canadian than pond skating? The ice is monitored and cleared for skating at Mildred and Pyramid lakes. Both locations offer free-skating ovals and rinks for shinny hockey. Once in a while, temperatures drop before the snow falls, leaving many ponds and lakes covered in a thick layer of transparent ice. Skating in these conditions is as close as a person can get to flying. Make sure you arm yourself with safety information before heading out, Parks Canada does not monitor the ice.
Backcountry skiing in Jasper © Parks Canada / L. Habib
For those seeking adventure, Jasper’s vast backcountry awaits. Backcountry Map. On skis or snowshoes, hardy travellers can visit the remote corners of Jasper National Park. Not sure winter camping is up your alley? Several local companies and the Alpine Club of Canada offer backcountry lodges with varying services. Tonquin Valley Adventures Tonquin Valley Backcountry Lodge Winter backcountry travel requires training, knowledge and self-reliance. Ski Touring in Jasper. If you are inexperienced, hire a guide www.acmg.ca or join the Alpine Club of Canada on one of their mountain adventures. www.alpineclubofcanada.ca
Winter fishing in Jasper © C. Roy
Fishing in winter? Why not! Believe it or not, winter fishing is a popular sport in cold climates. Fishing is about more than just catching dinner, it's about enjoying the serenity of wild places in winter. The information centre and local shops sell fishing permits and provide information and advice. Mountain Parks Fishing Regulations
9. Soak up some of our history
Aboriginal travellers, fur-traders, explorers, early tourists, many people from the past have left their mark on Jasper National Park. Find out more about these early inhabitants by visiting the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives or visiting one of Jasper’s National Historic Sites.
Whether wild or tame, creatures instinctively slow down when the temperature falls. Take advantage of this quiet time in Jasper by slowing yourself down. Enjoy the many restaurants, clubs, shops and spas the town of Jasper has to offer. www.jasper.travel Quit fighting those longer winter nights, rejuvenate yourself by getting up and turning in with the sun.
Wildlife Viewing, Nature Watching and Photography
Elk © Mark Bradley
Though the bears may be asleep, there is still pleanty of wildlife activity in the park in the winter. Around the Jasper townsite area, elk, mule deer and coyote are common. The Maligne Lake Road is a good place to look for moose, mountain sheep and caribou. Wolves are sometimes seen near Pyramid and Patricia Lakes and along the Icefields Parkway. Herds of elk can be seen along Highway 16 East. Remember, though, these are wild animals. If you should see them, keep your distance for your own safety and do not feed them for your sake and theirs. Winter can be an especially difficult time for animals. Your respect for their need to feed and rest undisturbed will help them survive. Though they seldom show themselves to humans, snowshoe hares, martens, weasels, lynx, foxes, cougars and wolverines are also active in the park in winter. If you don't actually see these animals you are certain to see signs of their presence. The winter snow is a page on which the comings and goings of the park's inhabitants are recorded for anyone who wants to take the time to interpret the tracks left behind.
Hardy campers who wish to stay in the Columbia Icefields area are permitted to tent at the Wilcox Pass Trailhead. Note that this site is unmaintained during the winter. No water, garbage collection or maintenance services are offered. Please pack-out what you pack in and be aware that snowfall may impact access to privies. Fires are not permitted. After a snowfall, parking areas are ploughed only after all roads are cleared. Campers should be prepared with shovels.
The Wilcox Trailhead site requires a bivy permit. Call 780-852-6176 for information
Wapiti is a great campsite for family outings at any time of year. It’s close to town for supply runs and in the winter campers often get first crack at the slopes and cross country trails (because to really appreciate a campfire, you have to use it to thaw your ski boots!)
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