Situated in the largest and most northerly national park in the Canadian Rockies (Jasper National Park), the town of Jasper is your base camp for outdoor adventure. It’s more remote than other mountain towns, which means it’s less crowded, more relaxed and wilder—you have a good chance of spotting wildlife here, including elk, moose, lynx and wolves. And, if the winter weather is ideal, there’s no end to the adventures that await you in and around the town, from downhill skiing and snowshoeing to ice-walking at the bottom of a frozen canyon.
Morning: Order a hearty Coco’s Breakfast Wrap and Phil & Sebastian coffee to go at Coco’s Cafe, then head out to explore the local boutiques in the Jasper townsite. Afterwards, wander along the Discover Trail that runs around the town—this self-guided trail features interpretative panels highlighting Jasper’s history.
Afternoon: Recharge with an Alberta Beef Burger, washed down with a “Jasper the Bear Ale,” at Jasper Brewing Co. Brew Pub & Eatery. Burn it off with some outdoor fun at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, a 12-minute drive from town. At the lodge, you can rent fat bikes (helmets included) and then ride to Lake Annette and back, or, if conditions are favourable, you can lace up your ice skates at nearby Mildred Lake.
Evening: Back in town, relax over dinner at Evil Dave’s Grill. A favourite hangout for locals, this downtown spot has an eclectic menu to satisfy all tastes—try the spicy El Diablo free-range chicken, served with a chipotle cream sauce, guacamole, black beans, corn tortilla sticks and jasmine rice.
Morning: Start your day with a coffee and an Italian sausage burrito at WickedCup café, located inside Maligne Lodge. Then hop aboard the Jasper-Marmot Shuttle to Marmot Basin Ski Area. With the highest base elevation of any major ski area in Canada, Marmot boasts plenty of dry power (the average annual snowfall tops 400 centimetres) as well as a terrain park, a mini-rail park and 86 named runs, almost evenly distributed from novice to expert.
Afternoon: Stop for a well-deserved lunch at the Eagle Dining Room & Lounge in the Eagle Chalet, situated mid-mountain. Try the elk meat-loaf sandwich, served on a toasted pretzel bun. After your meal, continue exploring the mountain’s groomed runs, alpine bowls, chutes and tree runs, then warm up with a hot chocolate in the Caribou Lounge before boarding the shuttle back to town.
Evening: Dig into Italian cuisine, including homemade pasta, at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge’s Orso Trattoria restaurant—and be sure to order a chocolate and morello cherry torte for dessert. After dinner, take in a guided astronomy presentation at The Jasper Planetarium, located inside the hotel. Sign up for a virtual tour of the stars and constellations above Jasper, which is the world’s second largest Dark Sky Preserve.
Morning: Fuel up on eggs Benedict at Papa George’s Restaurant, a local favourite inside the Astoria Hotel. Then head 11 km out of town to Maligne Canyon for a guided ice walk with Maligne Adventures. Equipped with cleats and winter boots (provided), walk along the bottom of the frozen canyon and marvel at the exquisite ice formations and frozen waterfalls lining the sheer canyon walls above you.
Afternoon: Drive about an hour east to Maligne Lake, the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Have a quick lunch (pick up a picnic-to-go in the morning from The Other Paw Bakery Cafe in town) before snowshoeing the easy 3.2-km Mary Schäffer Loop, which hugs the shoreline then continues through a subalpine forest of fir, Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine. Keep an eye out for Canada jays and red squirrels, and the tracks of pine martens or moose.
Evening: Treat yourself to a dinner of slow-braised lamb shank with brown butter and Asiago mashed potatoes at downtown’s Olive Bistro & Lounge. Then, to experience more of Jasper’s dark-sky magic, drive up Pyramid Lake Road to Pyramid Island, a small isle accessible by a wooden footbridge. A pair of binoculars will come in handy to spot the Orion Nebula. With the snow, stars and Pyramid Mountain dominating the skyline, it’s pure magic as you wind down your winter getaway.
Idyllic hotels to stay at in Jasper
Overlooking icy emerald-hued Lac Beauvert, the historic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a luxury, four-star lodge located just eight kilometres from the Jasper townsite. This friendly resort has several on-site restaurants, a spa, a heated outdoor pool and offers splendid views of the nearby peaks.
Newly renovated Chateau Jasper, located downtown, offers guests rooms equipped with fireplaces, heated underground parking, an indoor pool and jacuzzi, and a casual fine-dining restaurant. Guests can soothe tired muscles with a Thai or hot stone massage at the Mountain Wellness Day Spa.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Edmonton 56 times a day from 16 Canadian, six U.S. and five international cities.
The Best Places in Canada to See the Northern Lights
Canada is a prime destination for northern lights viewing, best experienced between October and March. Watch them dance in the night sky above Lake Superior near Thunder Bay, in Whitehorse, on Prince Edward Island, in Yellowknife or near Edmonton.