A SKIING WEEKEND IN JASPER, ALBERTA

Although winter is slowly coming to an end, ski and snowboard enthusiasts still head to Western Canada’s ski resorts, to enjoy awesome spring skiing/boarding, with warmer weather and longer days. One of my favourites is Marmot Basin Ski Resort near Jasper, Alberta.

The small town of Jasper is inside Jasper National Park, which, at 11,228 sq km (4,335 sq miles), is the largest national park inside the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This place sits on traditional lands of the Beaver, Cree, Ojibway, Shuswap, Stoney, and Métis Nations, and is one of the 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada. 5,000 people live here year-round, but up to 12,000 workers live here seasonally each year. This year, Jasper was placed #7 in Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards for the “Top Destination for Skiers”!

Marmot Basin Ski Resort

This ski resort is a 25-minute drive south of Jasper, and according to its website, has the “highest base elevation of any major Canadian ski area”, at 1,698 meters (5,570 ft), and the summit is at 2,612 meters (8,570 ft)! That’s why it’s open longer than other ski resorts, from mid-November until early May, and on average, more than 440 cm (14.4 ft) of fresh snow falls every year. This area covers 1,720 acres, and skiers/snowboarders have seven lifts, and 91 runs for beginners, intermediate, advanced and experts to choose from. The terrain consists of groomed runs, tree runs, moguls, powder runs, alpine bowls and chutes, and if you’re into even more excitement, check out their two terrain parks, with jumps, rails, boxes, and jibs! I’m a beginner, so I prefer to ski the green (novice) runs, which have helped me improve my skills a lot! Most of the time, I take the Canadian Rockies Express Lift all the way to the top, then ski back down until the base (bottom), ready to do it all over again!

Finally arrived at the top of the Canadian Rockies Express Lift 😁

View from the Canadian Rockies Express Lift, and a map of ski runs at Marmot Basin.

If your legs need some rest, stop at one of the food and beverage facilities. You can just leave your skis or board at one of the racks outside next to these spots, which is very convenient! We had lunch or a snack at the Cariboo Chalet at the base of the mountain, which has a bar and grill, and café area, and the Paradise Chalet at mid-mountain, and the latter has a nice outdoor sitting area, so you can watch these magnificent mountains during your break! But as in many places popular with tourists, the prices can be quite high, so if you’re on a budget, I’d recommend to bring your own food and drinks instead.

But of course, Marmot Basin Ski Resort offers more than just skiing/boarding and eating, lol! You can also buy tons of gear at the Outdoor Limits Retail Store and rent equipment at the rental shop, which are both at the base of the mountain. Besides, this is a great spot for families, as there’s the School House Chair and Learning Area, and Marmot Kids’ Camps, and lessons can be booked for both kids and adults. The Kids’ Spring Camp (5 days of ski/board lessons) is happening from March 28 to April 1, 2022. Normally, the Little Rascals Nursery is available as well (for kids from 19 months to 6 years), but because of the pandemic, it is closed until further notice.

On April 2 and 3, 2022, Marmot Basin hosts its Demo Days. You’re welcome to test as much of the newest gear as you like, and have a chat with knowledgeable local retailers, to find out which gear works best for you.

Marmot Basin also participates in the Jasper Pride & Ski Festival from April 1 to 10, 2022, and if you have a Jasper Pride Pass, you’ll get a 20% discount off lift tickets on weekends, and 25% off on weekdays! Many cool things are happening during this timeframe, like the Annual Pride Flag Fun Run, Pride Fun Race, a drag performance, BBQ, and music by DJ Riki Rocket. You can find more details here.

Pride festivities at Marmot Basin Ski Resort. Photo courtesy of Marmot Basin Ski Resort.

Here are the full day lift ticket prices during the 2021/22 season:

Adult (18-64 years): C$ 115.00

Senior (65-79 years): C$ 94.00

Youth (13-17 years) and students from 18-24 years (with ID): C$ 94.00

Adaptive ski pass: C$ 94.00

Junior (6-12 years): C$ 40.00

Children under 6 years and “Super Seniors” (80+) ski/board for free!

Visitors have been encouraged to buy lift tickets online, to minimize contact with staff, and keep everyone safe. And guess what, if you do this, you’ll get a 15% discount during weekdays, and 10% off during weekends! Marmot Basin can get very busy on weekends, especially if there’s a special event going on, so if you’d like to escape the crowds, it’s recommended to visit on a weekday. I skied on a Sunday afternoon in early February, and it wasn’t busy, but maybe that’s because many people, who skied in the morning, had just left. Who knows! Another great deal is that you get to ski/board for free on your birthday!

If you’re a local, who comes to Marmot Basin a lot during the season, I’d recommend looking into buying the Marmot Escape Card, which enables you to ski for half price, all season long! More details on current deals and promotions at Marmot Basin Ski Resort can be found here.

One of the green runs going down to the base of the mountain.

At this time, the only options to get from Jasper to Marmot Basin and back is by car or a local taxi company (Cariboo Cabs or Mountain Express Taxi & Limousine). If you’re driving, you can just park at one of the four parking lots inside the resort, which are right next to some runs! So all you need to do is put on your skis/board, and get crackin’! In the past, Marmot Basin offered a free shuttle from various locations in Jasper to/from the resort, but because of COVID-19, this service isn’t provided this season. Hopefully it can happen again next season!

Since February 9, 2022, it’s not mandatory to wear a face mask anymore while visiting Marmot Basin, but social distancing is still highly encouraged. All ski passes and tickets are RFID, which means that visitors get a card during their first visit of the season. You’re supposed to put it into the left sleeve pocket of your jacket, and it will be scanned automatically before entering the lift, without any human contact. This card can be used all season long, and just needs to be reloaded online before your next visit. You can also purchase lift tickets at the Marmot Sales Centre in downtown Jasper (611 Patricia Street), or at the Guest Services Office at the base of mountain.

Marmot Basin is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, and the resort facilities close at 5 pm (both MST). The last day of the 2021/22 season will be May 1, 2022. If you’re interested in current snow and weather conditions at the resort, please find their Weather Forecast and Snow Report here.

Sunrise by Mt. Kerkeslin and Mt. Hardisty inside Marmot Basin Ski Resort. Photo courtesy of Marmot Basin Ski Resort.

Where to Stay in Jasper

If you have the time, I highly recommend staying in Jasper for a night or two (or more!). This small town has a great selection of accommodations, including hotels, hostels, and Bed & Breakfasts. Here are my two favourite places to stay in Jasper:

The Astoria Hotel. This is the place to stay in town, if you like historic accommodations (404 Connaught Drive), that are also close to shops and restaurants. First opened in 1925, it’s been family-owned ever since, and in general, is hard to miss from the outside, because of its unique building style. But don’t worry, while this boutique hotel has an antique vibe (especially the telephone in our room), it’s not outdated at all. Guests can book queen, twin, king, or mountain view rooms. We stayed in a king room, which was smaller than other rooms we’d stayed at before, but it had everything we needed (fridge, smart TV, en-suite bathroom, and free wifi), and it was very clean. You can even borrow books from their library shelf, and there are two restaurants next door, Papa George’s for breakfast, and the De’d Dog Bar & Grill for lunch, dinner, and drinks!

The Astoria Hotel from the outside.

Partial King bed room, and the antique room phone (it still works!) 😆

Jasper Downtown Hostel. This hostel is perfect for budget-minded travelers of all ages, but also families, who like a great value accommodation that’s clean and cozy (400 Patricia Street). This place has both dorm (mixed and female only) for 7-8 guests, and private rooms, with private or shared bathrooms. I stayed in a dorm and private room before, and I loved that the dorm beds are made of wood, and the private rooms can accommodate 2-5 guests, and they have bunks, queen, twins, and queen/bunk bed combinations). Like other hostels, the Jasper Downtown Hostel has a full kitchen, lounge, lockers, and laundry facilities for guests to use. You can even buy their Marmot Package if you’re staying for at least one night (10% off skiing on weekends, and a serious 30% off on weekdays) until the end of the season!

Here’s a great overview of what this hostel offers, video courtesy of Jasper Downtown Hostel:

Where to Eat & Drink

Same as other touristy places, Jasper has a large variety of cafés and restaurants to offer. Here are some places we checked out during our visit:

Lou Lou’s Breakfast & Pizzeria (407 Patricia Street). While this restaurant is smaller and a bit more budget-friendly than others in Jasper, the food is very tasty! Although we didn’t try their breakfast, we had a nice dinner at this place, and the pizza was perfect! There’s a great selection on the menu, the pizza wasn’t too doughy, just as it should be! Sean has the Meatlovers’ Pizza, and I order a 2-topping pizza (pineapple and mushrooms), and it came to about C$ 50.00 for both pizzas, which is very reasonable! Gluten-free pizza is available as well, but unfortunately, I didn’t see any vegan pizza options. They also have salads, poutine, pasta dishes, burgers, and wings on their menu.

Bear’s Paw Bakery (4 Pyramid Road and 610 Connaught Drive). If you’re looking for awesome breakfast at a cozy café, don’t miss this local’s and visitor’s favourite. You can choose from sweet and savory foods, like croissants, scones, sandwiches, cookies, sticky buns, pies, soups, cheese sticks, and ice cream! Of course, like many other cafés, they also have many hot and cold drinks on their menu. I’m having a Chai Tea Latte, Raspberry & White Chocolate scone, and Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie to start my ski day. This place can get quite busy in the mornings (especially on weekends), so you might want to either go early or a bit later, to miss the rush.

One Sushi Japanese Restaurant (622 Patricia Street). This restaurant opened in January 2021, and is a perfect spot if you love sushi and other Japanese and Korean food! The latter were just added a few months ago, so you can now order Yangnyeom Crispy Chicken, Chibab, Dak-Gangjeong, and more! But we feel like Japanese food tonight, so we try the Crazy Girl Special Roll (avocado, tuna, cream cheese with unagi sauce, and mayo), Veggie Teriyaki with tofu and rice, and Avocado Roll. Everything is to die for, and the calm vibe of the restaurant, and super friendly staff are just another bonus!

Coco’s Café (608 Patricia Street). If you’re vegan, gluten-free, or have other dietary preferences or allergies, this is the place to go in Jasper! Of course, they also have food for “carnivores”, lol! This cute café is currently open seven days a week for all day breakfast and lunch. I love the unique design and vibe, such as the “backwards” moving clock above the cozy seating area, and cool drawings in the bathroom. It’s clear that plenty of love and effort has been put in to bring this café to life! Everything is made in-house, and their menu consists of wraps, sourdough sandwiches, bagels, overnight oats, soups, salads, smoothies, and of course, hot and cold drinks to get the day started! They offer catering for larger and smaller groups as well. I’m having their Vegan BLT Sourdough sandwich for breakfast, but unfortunately, it’s a bit oily for my taste 😔 Still, I’d give Coco’s Café another chance, not just because of the unique vibe, but also because they support trans rights, and do a lot of charity work within the local community. For example, you can buy food for people in need, or if you’re affected by hunger, they’ll be happy to look into helping you out, and can even deliver food, if necessary.

Poster advertising Coco’s Cafe, cozy sitting area, and awesome drawings in the bathroom!

Directions to Jasper

If you’re driving, there are three different ways to get to Jasper:

From Calgary, take Highway #1 towards Banff, then travel north, until you reach the Icefields Parkway (Highway #93), and just keep going. It’s about a 5-hour drive.

From Edmonton, keep following Highway #16 westbound, and it’s about a 4-hour drive.

From Kamloops, take Highway #5 North, then turn right at Highway #16 (eastbound) at Tête Jaune Cache. It’s about a 5-hour drive to Jasper.

If you don’t have a car, you can book a bus ticket with Thompson Valley Charters from Kamloops (Mondays and Thursdays) or Edmonton (Tuesdays and Fridays), which stops at the Via Rail Station in downtown Jasper. SunDog Tours also offers daily bus service from Edmonton to Jasper and back. They also provide transportation from/to Calgary on Mondays, Thursday, and Saturdays until April 30, 2022.

Lastly, Via Rail Canada also goes to Jasper, so if you have the time, hop on “The Canadian” from Vancouver to Toronto (or vice-versa). It goes either way once a week at this time, and there’s also a train from/to Prince George and Prince Rupert once a week.

A quiet morning in Jasper.

So hopefully, I’ve inspired you to ski/board at Marmot Basin Ski Resort while it’s still open, and hang out in Jasper for a few days 🙂 Cheers and until next time 😀

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