Rosy cheeks under pompom toques, hot chocolate by the crackling fire, nuthatches clouding the sky, skis gliding through a white forest, and the soft slow fall of big fat snowflakes… these are just a few of my favourite winter things.
Come wintertime, Jasper is ready to slow down and get cozy (or at least I am!). If you are planning a trip to Jasper during the winter months, you won’t find yourself alone in the woods. There are tonnes of people out and about exploring and taking advantage of Jasper’s winter. Yes, it can be cold. But as long as you’re bundled up, there’s a lot to see and do on any Jasper winter day.
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Jasper winter activities:
Skiing and snowboarding:
Yep, there’s a lot of that going on around here: downhill, cross country, or touring out in the back country. If skiing is new to your family, I strongly suggest looking into some lessons to start. Marmot Basin, the local ski hill, can hook you up with instructors and gear. You can also rent ski and snowboard equipment at a handful of local shops in town.
If cross country skiing is more your style, there are a number of groomed trails throughout Jasper National Park. Check out the trail report page for all the current maintained cross country ski trails.
Parks Canada has recently been promoting a winter hub at Marmot Meadows, just outside of town. Here, you’ll find easy and intermediate trails, a warming hut, and outhouses. This area is very family friendly. It is the perfect place for some family members to ski while the littler ones get pulled around in a toboggan, play in the snow, or have some hot chocolate by the fire.
The first time you see a fat bike, you’ll know you’re looking at something unique to wintertime. These bikes are made with extra wide tires to ride smoothly through the snow. Biking as a winter sport has been gaining in popularity the past few years. I’ll admit that my family hasn’t tried fat-biking, but I think this could be a lot of fun for older kids.
You can rent these bikes at a few shops in town. In fact, you can rent fat bikes year round and check out what they’re like even if you come in the summertime. Once you’ve got your fat bike, try it out on any of the hiking trails around town. The bike shop should be able to give you current bike trail recommendations and conditions report.
Snowshoeing and Hiking:
Pretty much anywhere you can hike in the summer, you can strap on snowshoes (or not) and check it out in the wintertime. There are, however, trail closures in the Maligne Lake area and Tonquin Valley due to caribou conservation. Always check the trail reports before heading out.
Here’s a list of some easy winter family walks:
- From 6th bridge along the Maligne River
- Various trails starting at the Old Fort Point Parking lot
- Around Mildred Lake at Jasper Park Lodge
Winter in Jasper is great for star gazing and if you’re lucky you might even catch the Northern Lights dancing in the sky. Because it gets dark so early in the wintertime, kids can enjoy the night sky and still be in bed early. On our shortest day of the year, December 21st, the sun rises around 8:30 am and sets around 4:30pm. Pyramid Lake Island is a good place to check out the stars: close to town, away from lights, and out on the open lake.
Make this night time excursion extra fun for the little ones and bring along some glow sticks to wear as bracelets, tie onto boots, or fashion into hats.
Sight Seeing and Wildlife Watching:
It might be snowy and cold, but the mountains are always there. And they are even more beautiful covered in snow, if you ask my opinion. When the roads are clear, a drive down the Icefields Parkway is a scenic trip. But, do know that the Icefields Center is closed during the winter months so there are no options for snacks and heated toilets until you reach Lake Louise (about 2.5 hour drive south of Jasper Townsite).
Other great sights to check out are Athabasca Falls, Maligne Lake, the top of Maligne Canyon, and Pyramid Island.
Winter is a good time of year to spot Mountain sheep along the highway between Jasper Townsite and the Eastern Gate. You may also spot elk along the highway and even in town. Bears are in hibernation for the winter months, but you could be lucky enough to see a wolf, or even a lynx. This lynx was seen on the Marmot road by a friend of mine, just the other day.
If gliding over a frozen lake is your ideal adventure, you can do that here too! Jasper Park Lodge and Pyramid Lake Resort both maintain a skating area when the lakes are frozen. Both have skates on site for rent. You’ll find a cleared skating loop as well as open rink areas with hockey nets. Hockey is Canada’s winter sport so be sure to try out shooting a few pucks if the opportunity arises.
If you have decided to try skating, helmets are a must for the kids. You might find an old chair on the ice or a weird triangular metal brace, these are intended to provide support for the amateur skater. I love to push my kids in our awesome chariot on the ice – it keeps the baby warm and gives me balance and support while skating.
Maligne Canyon is a truly fascinating place to explore. In the warmer months you can watch massive amounts of water rush through and over the carved rock. But in the colder months most of the water travelling through the canyon freezes covering the canyon with cascading curtains of ice. While you can still walk the trail alongside the canyon, it can be quite slippery in the winter. Instead, sign up for an ice walk tour and go right into the canyon itself. Kids will love this!
The tour will provide you with waterproof footwear and clamp-ons, both very handy when trying to walk on wet ice. You may spot un-guided explorers on the ice, but I strongly recommend taking a tour to insure your safety. You will be walking on a frozen river and conditions in ice quality, stability, and water depths change day to day. Click here for info on the ice walk tour.
Jasper in January Festivities:
If you plan on visiting Jasper during the month of January make sure to check out all the fun activities going on this month: dogsled demonstrations, ski events, music concerts, interpretive programs, and even a street party with fireworks! You’ll find information in our local newspaper, on posters around town, and at the Jasper Tourism site.
Where will you sleep? And what should you bring?
Unless you’ve got a winterized camper or you’re a die hard tenter (like below), hotels, hostels, and rentals are your accommodation options for a winter visit to Jasper.
And, well, it’s winter, make sure you are prepared to stay warm in the cold and snow. And bring your ski gear and your skates and your swimsuits too! You’ll have a packed car, but it will be worth it, I promise!
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