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 a close-to-town Cross Country Ski spot at Marmot Meadows here in Jasper National Park.
Years ago, prior to the big Whistlers Campground renovations, we enjoyed heading out on the weekends to partake in their parks programming on the weekends. They offered hot chocolate on the weekends, and just this was enough to motivate our kids to gear up for some outdoor fun!
I look forward to a return to normal and perhaps Parks Canada will offer programming and hot chocolate again in the future… but, not this year.
Marmot Meadows Cross Country Skiing
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. You’ll continue driving on Hwy 93 past the main campground turnoff and see that you are passing the campground itself before finding the entrance to the meadows area.
Amenities: Outhouses in the parking lot, groomed cross country ski trails – for both skate skiing and parallel track. There is also a shelter hut with a wood stove that can be lit for warmth.
Wildlife: Elk frequent the area and you might spot them, their tracks, or beds in the snow. You may also see evidence of wolf, deer, squirrel, and marten… so, lots of animals in the area.
Ski trails: Marmot Meadows has a variety of ski trails at all challenge levels. Here is the link to a trail map and trail details. If you’d like a longer ski, just combine various trails and loops. Make sure to check out the trail report for up-to-date information on trail conditions. Dogs are allowed on the Sparkle Loop (the open kid-friendly easy meadow loop) but not on the other trails.
A family afternoon ski at Marmot Meadows
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 Whistlers 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.
While there might not be the afternoon programming any longer, and perhaps you’ll have to make your own fire instead of having one made for you… either way, if you’re heading to Jasper and looking for a good cross country ski spot close to town, you’ll want to check out Marmot Meadows.