There is no doubt that Canada is home to some of the most beautiful natural sights anywhere in the world. Wintertime is an especially beautiful time in Canada and Jasper National Park exemplifies this better than anywhere else. Located on the Albertan side of the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is a short road trip away from Edmonton's International Airport. Below are our 8 top reasons why you simply must visit Jasper in winter.
1. Hiking on frozen rapids
One of the highlights of the winter experience in Jasper has to be hiking atop its famous white water rapids at Maligne Canyon. There is something so surreal knowing only a sheet of ice separates you and rushing freezing cold water below your feet. Maligne's ice walk spoils it's visitors with stunning ice formations every step of the way. Nothing quite compares to watching the brilliant winter sun glimmering on the canyons tall ice walls, topped by cold white cedars.
Be sure to take one of the many guided walks through the canyon and do not attempt the walk on your own. Not only does this make sure you stay safe, but also ensures you see the most beautiful parts of the canyon.
3. Skiing and snowboarding
What winter break would be complete without strapping on your skis or snowboard and racing down a gorgeous snowy piste? Jasper is only a 25 minute drive from the beautiful Marmot Basin, which boasts 91 runs over 4 mountain faces and 7 lifts (and a magic carpet too!). Perhaps my favourite part about skiing at Marmot Basin was how quiet it was in comparison to other ski resorts in western Canada (Whistler...).
If you do decide to go skiing or snowboarding around Jasper in winter, try to have your trip coincide with 'National Ski and Snowboard Day', also known as Never Ever Day. Which is a one-day event across Canada where participating ski resorts offer a lesson, lift pass and equipment rental for only $25 which is a phenomenal saving! You might be thinking to yourself 'But, I know how to ski, this isn't applicable to me'. Let's just say it wouldn't hurt to take a few minutes of the lesson to 'brush up' before finding the courage to enjoy the slopes on your own, with your extremely discounted lift pass and rental equipment...
5. Skating on frozen lakes
Jasper is home to some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers in the world and during the wintertime they are often* transformed into perfect natural ice rinks. Pick up a pair of skates from the rental shop in the town or bring your own and skate outside in some utterly breathtaking scenery. Below you can see Caitlin skating on Pyramid Lake (10 mins away from the town of Jasper) with the gorgeous rocky mountains in the distance.
Another gorgeous place to go skating in Jasper is on Lake Mildred, located next to Fairmont Park Lodge. Although we didn't stay there, we took our rented skates, and a few flasks of hot chocolate, to the lodge and skated their huge figure of 8 lake rink under moonlight.
* Always check with the local tourist information center what lakes are safe to skate on when you visit. Although sometimes a body of water seems iced adequately to skate on, its never worth the risk.
6. Athabasca Falls is still gorgeous
People from all over the world travel to Jasper National Park to see the stunning Athabasca Falls! In Winter the outer layer of the waterfall freezes solid creating an ice cocoon, giving the impression the waterfall is frozen solid. The narrow gorge around the falls is coated with gorgeous ice formations and really amplifies the sound of the powerful gushing currents under the ice.
Be sure when you visit to wear shoes with good treads if not crampons, as the staircases around the falls can be slippery thanks to compacted snow and ice.
8. It's not Banff
Banff is extremely busy, even in the winter, we have been several times and it is always too crowded for us. If you are looking for some true wilderness and not just a quick photo op, Jasper is the place to be. It's also worth mentioning the turquoise water that Banff is so famous for will be covered by ice and snow in the later winter months (see below). While of course Banff is still a beautiful national park to visit we feel strongly that what you can do in Banff, you can do in Jasper also, but with less people and without the expense.