We all know that Canadian ski resorts are up there – all bucket list destinations with heaps of powder, massive terrain and insane grub. When I was lucky enough to hop on a plane and take my board to Canada recently, I picked the three Albertan resorts of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. While Banff and Lake Louise were an incredible mix of nature, big mountains and hotels that looked like movie sets, Jasper took my heart on that trip. Here’s why.
It’s not often that the journey to your resort is one of the best bits. For example, I love a little getaway to the Cotswolds, but the 1-2 punch of the M40 and the A44 doesn’t exactly get your blood pumping. However, the journey from Banff to Jasper is along Highway 93 – the Icefields Parkway. Undoubtedly one of the top 5 drives on the planet (sorry A44!), you whizz past over 100 glaciers, cascading waterfalls and turquoise lakes. The drive takes about 3 hours, but is totally worth it – although we ended up taking nearly 5 because we had to stop every 10 minutes for panoramas and grizzly spotting opportunities.
Watch this chap drive it:
It’s a remote old mountain town, but without the strange folk that you’re likely to find in remote British villages. Jasper is genuinely the friendliest place I’ve ever been to – and I once spent a whole week at Disneyland.
The first thing you’ll notice about Jasper is how it sits perfectly in its environment. Deer and Elk wander about the town freely, as if they’re just regular people living there. Birds circle overhead, and there are so many trees about, it’s possible you could get oxygen poisoning. As with a lot of mountain towns, Jasper locals are proud of their heritage and are committed to keeping buildings as traditional as possible – you really feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
Another of Jasper’s amazing features is that due to strict light regulation and its location, the town is a genuine Dark Sky area, so at night the starry sky is stunning. It’s thought that 85% of Canadians can only see a couple of stars at night due to light pollution, so it’s no wonder the locals pour into the village in October for the Dark Sky Festival. As a London-based, clueless millennial, I often looked up at the night sky and chuckled, thinking that it couldn’t possibly be real. One night we had a Dark Sky “tour” where a friendly local pointed at various constellations and told us stories of stars and galaxies. Not knowing my Orion from The Plough I sagely nodded while cradling a Hot Chocolate, but just breathing in the fresh, clean air and being surrounded by nature was a decent night out for me.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. An incredible hotel based outside of central Jasper, the Fairmont sits on a lakefront. It’s made up of cabins and little house-like structures, but with all the trimmings you’d expect of a Fairmont – spas, luxury bedding, bathrobes and the like. We spent all of our hours off the slopes jumping between our huge jacuzzi bath, the outdoor pool and the awesome bar – all while avoiding the deer that sauntered around the grounds. And if you’re in a lodge far away from the main complex, they’ll drive you back for free. On her Canadian tour in 1939, the Queen visited Jasper and guess where she stayed? I’m not saying that you’d be a minor royal if you stayed at this place, but I’ve slowly started having paparazzi follow me around.
Oh, the slopes. If the friendly town and incredible hotel weren’t enough, the skiing in Jasper is phenomenal. We went on what was allegedly one of the busiest days of the year, and it was practically empty, everywhere. Here’s me and my mate boarding the “busiest” black run in the resort:
The views from every single run in Jasper are of the national park and surrounding areas. It was difficult at times to concentrate on some of the fluffy off-piste powder and hilariously named chairlifts – Knob Chair was my favourite – because the views were so good. But it wasn’t just the views – the resort has loads of variety, with bowls, cruisey blues, long winding reds and tricky blacks. It was an absolute paradise and I’m angry I only got to ski for 1 full day there. But just like a Creme Egg, not having something whenever you want it makes you cherish it more. I’ll always remember that day, and it will always be one of my top ski days of all time.
Overrall, Jasper is definitely one of the best places I’ve been to. Remote, without feeling lonely. Full of locals, but still welcoming. Amazing skiing, and even more amazing skiing. Go to Jasper. It’s worth the drive.
Words by Nick Smith.