Getting our kids excited about cross country skiing can be challenging, especially when it is so cold outdoors and so warm indoors. Even I have a hard time convincing myself to go out. But Parks Canada has done a good job helping families make the most of an outdoor adventure by creating – what Parks calls – a winter hub at Marmot Meadows here in Jasper National Park.
We took advantage of their inviting programming this weekend. They offer hot chocolate on the weekends, and just this was enough to motivate our kids to gear up for some outdoor fun.
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The main family ski area at Marmot Meadows is set in a large loop around an open field. There is a side trail which passes through the trees and can be warmer if the field is windy. Then, there are longer trails which wind up over some hills and through the campground.
When we first arrived the older kids were eager to ski and set off, breaking their own trail through the snow while we continued to get ourselves and the baby ready. The layout of the Marmot Meadows loop makes it very easy to ski at your own pace while being able to see your kids wherever they happen to be skiing or playing (as long as they haven’t ventured into the woods).
For our ski today, the dads towed the littlest kids. One dad used a chariot with ski attachments, the other dad pulled a pulk. With the babies cozy, warm, and occupied with snacks and soothers, we started off on the trail in the trees. Really, cross country skiing for young kids is much like walking but with skis on. Our kids are beginning to glide, but the pace was slower than my cold toes would like and I was soon calling it quits and heading into the warming hut.
While the warmer adults and now-sleeping babies continued on for more skiing, my kids and I headed over to the warming hut and campfire area.
We were greeted by a friendly Parks Canada staff and offered hot chocolate or tea. He had a fire going outside to boil water and a fire going in the hut as well. We all spent some time inside the traditional tipi, then talking around the campfire while he whittled and we waited.
When our group arrived, we headed into the hut, enjoyed some complementary hot beverages and warmed our hands by the stove. The kids quickly drank their hot chocolates, then got bundled up again to play on the hillside behind the cabin.
Marmot Meadows Winter Hub
Location: Marmot Meadows is situated at Whistler’s Campground 4 km south of Jasper townsite (off Hwy 93) which means it is relatively the same temperature as in town. The access to Marmot Meadows is on Hwy 93 opposite the turn off for Wapiti campground and is usually marked with banners.
Amenities: Warming hut, outdoor campfire pit with benches, picnic tables, outhouses, traditional tipi, groomed cross country, snowshoe, and hiking trails, and interpretive programming Saturday and Sundays from 10am-3pm. This link may give information on the Parks Canada Programming, or you may want to inquire at the Information Center in Jasper townsite.
Wildlife: Elk frequent the area and you might spot their tracks or beds in the snow. We also saw some wolf, deer, mouse, and marten tracks… so, lots of animals in the area. The book below is a great reference guide for animal tracks.
Ski trails: Marmot Meadows has 9 km of beginner and intermediate ski trails – here is the link to a trail map. Make sure to check out the trail report for up-to-date information on trail conditions. Dogs are allowed on the meadow loop, but not on the other trails.