Ski resorts are busy during the holidays, but if you are willing to drive a little further, Jasper has all the beauty of its neighbour, Banff, with less of the hustle and bustle.
Four hours from anywhere and right in the gut of Jasper National Park lays Marmot Basin ski resort. For decades, it has been the skier’s choice for a Rocky Mountain experience with all the scenery and snow, but none of the crowds. An old railway town like Banff, Jasper has managed to keep its small-town appeal and avoid being overrun by bus tours and rental cars.
From Lake Louise, the most scenic drive in the world (the Icefields Parkway) takes you north, past dramatic peaks and stunning glaciers. The ski touring possibilities are endless. But, if you are a skier and a mere mortal, at some point, you will probably find yourself wishing there were a couple of chairlifts to the top of something. Anything. So keep driving until you reach Marmot Basin ski resort, 238 km north of Lake Louise.
Like most ski hills in the Rockies, Marmot is dominated by its alpine. There is a fair amount of expert terrain below treeline, but most hardcore skiers will find themselves staring up at the bowls and cirques above the lifts. Peak Run is the 20-30 minute hike from the top of The Knob chair (don’t laugh, it really is called The Knob). It has an established boot pack that leads you to various high alpine options and is always worth the effort.
The lowest reaches of the mountain are mellow, but once you reach the Paradise lift, you ski good fall line from the top of the chair to the bottom. Paradise is where you need to head first on a powder day. From here, you can do laps on the 330 vertical metres of Exhibition, Kiefer’s and Show-Off while keeping an eye on The Knob. It’s better not to line up and wait for the alpine terrain off The Knob as it can take Snow Safety a while to get it open, and you’ll miss a lot of good pow in the meantime. When you finally see skiers loading, traverse your butt over to The Knob and ski the shelved alpine terrain until you are ready to start hiking.
The Northern Rockies climate, the 1,675 acres of terrain, and the lack of anyone skiing it, mean that you can almost always find untouched snow somewhere, even weeks after a storm. The expert’s best bet is to look in the trees of Eagle East for long fall lines and hidden pow stashes, or Tres Hombres for more of the same.
But, if you are looking for the true right of passage at Marmot, you need to do a quick hike off the top of The Knob (still funny) and session the painfully obvious Molly’s Rock. Neither of Molly’s two rock bands is enormous, but they are fun, and the crowd will be watching you from the chairlift, so don’t mess it up!
Once you’ve skied yourself out, hit the sundeck at the base lodge for a drink while you check out the expansive view. Afterward, a 20-minute drive down to Jasper sets you up for real après skiing. You’ll want to grab a bite at the Downstream (try the fried pickles) or sample pints at the Jasper Brewing Company.
When you wake the next morning, hit the Bear Paw Bakery for a coffee and breakfast. Then do it all again!
Live music: The Legion on open mic night
Dinner: The Downstream
Value Lodging: Jasper International Hostel
Nightlife: The Jasper Planetarium *did you know Jasper is the world’s largest accessible “dark sky preserve”?
Party Weekend: Jasper Pride festivities are usually held late April; just as spring skiing is at its finest!
Powder Morning: Anything off the Paradise triple chair while you wait for The Knob.
Days after a storm: Eagle East’s hidden stashes
FRESH setup for Marmot Basin:
Skis: ARMADA ARV 106
Boots: K2 Revolver Pro W