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Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Nelson, New Zealand
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Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

My wife and I are coming over from New Zealand for the month of Feb 2015 - we are planning on Skiing Whistler for the first week then we want to come over to the Banff Lake Louise Jasper side and drive from Calgary to Jasper and back and stop and ski around the Banff area, we haven't booked anything yet so have no fixed plans but we want to see the beautiful scenery between Banff and Jasper and do some skiing while we are there, we were thinking seven to 10 days, we would be flying in from Vancouver to Calgary, what is the driving like at this time of year, where would you stay, what's a good vehicle rental company etc

Our preferred option was to drive across from Vancouver and ski sun peaks and revelstoke on the way across but I posted that on the Whistler forum but most people said don't drive through the centre in winter so we have flagged that plan and will fly to Calgary.

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Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Most Canadians think carefully about long highway drives in winter, and driving from Lake Louise to Jasper in winter is not something that I would recommend to anyone without a lot of winter driving experience. The Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) between Lake Louise and Jasper has only minimal snow removal in winter, is sometimes closed for a day or more due to avalanches, and gets very few vehicles. The highway crews only patrol the road during daylight hours, 7 am to 3:30 pm, and there is no cell (mobile) phone service. No businesses on the Icefields Parkway (hotels or restaurants) operate during the winter.

This brochure from Parks Canada gives the details:

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/visit/~/media/pn-np/ab/banff/visit/brochures/brochures-2014-pdf/icefields-winter-en.ashx

If you're keen on visiting Jasper and perhaps skiing at Marmot basin, Sun Dog Tours runs a winter tour between Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper:

sundogtours.com/package-category/…

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Lake Louise
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Nelson, New Zealand
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2. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Thanks very much for the reply I really appreciate your help, I think we may just come in from Calgary and ski at the 3 fields around Banff and Lake Louise, if that is as far as we get we are still going to see some spectacular sights anyway

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3. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Good choice -- you'll have a great time!

Calgary, Canada
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4. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Absolutely! There are viewpoints that you can access at the ski areas that have views that are fantastic. For example, make sure to take a camera to capture the views off the Great Divide lift at Sunshine.

Calgary, Canada
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5. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

I agree, don't go from vancouver to calgary in the winter. The drive is hard and stressful. I would fly from vancouver to calgary. Then definitely check out sunshine and lake louise ski areas, staying in banff or canmore. If you want to take the journey up to Jasper, there is a highway you can take in between Lake louise and Jasper. Beautiful. But take it easy, and it should take at least 5 hours. The winter drive is tough, but you won't see anything like it anywhere else. There is probably public buses and travel agencies that would do the trip... much safer.

On a side note, Revelstoke and Golden have great ski areas, but they are a few extra hours to get to. If you go from Vancouver, you could stop at Vernon, and do Silverstar on the way. Vernon is about 5 hours from vancouver (half way between Vancouver and Calgary). Then hit Revelstoke, Golden, Lake Louise, and Banff, in that order.

Have fun

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Calgary, Canada
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6. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Sorry, and to answer your question... Stay in Canmore(20km from banff).. cheaper than banff. But Banff is heavier in Tourist traffic, and has great views.. being the center of the mountains. All the rental companies are the same(ish)... During this time of year, plan to buy extra insurance on the rental on picking up the car, guessing I would say 50-100 bucks a day. But you can check out Hertz, Almo, enterprise, Avis, budget. All have stations at the airport.

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7. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

This is an old thread, but the OP hasn't yet made their trip, so perhaps this new information is useful. Just to clarify - Lake Louise to Jasper is only 235 km and normally takes about 2.5 to 3 hours, not 5. (Calgary to Jasper is five hours or a bit less, in good driving conditions.) However, in winter, the Icefields Parkway, as the road is called (and also designated hwy #93N), is often in "poor" driving condition, since it is not maintained and cleared to the same standard as the major highways, #1 through Banff and Yoho National Parks and #16 through Jasper NP. Country_Wife has hit all the key points about the parkway above, so I won't repeat them, other than to note that winter tires (not all season) are required on the parkway, which is usually a special request for rental cars, at an additional per-day charge. (They are also required on all BC Interior highways.)

In winter, there is one shuttle a day in each direction between Banff and Jasper, operated by Sundog Tours.... that's it, no other options.

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Nelson, New Zealand
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8. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Thanks everyone for those new tips, we have booked flights from Vancouver to Calgary then will get a rental at Calgary airport, we are booked to stay at Sunshine village and Lake Louise and have decided we will wait and see what the weather conditions are like before we think about driving the parkway, maybe we will just drive part way up and come back so we can see some of the amazing views bit if it's too dicy we will be skiing, dog sledding and sleigh riding, we are super excited and can't wait for Feb to roll round

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Vancouver
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Calgary, Canada
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9. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

Sounds great!

Just make sure the rental has snow tires if you intend to venture on to the Icefields Parkway - they are required and will not be standard on a rental. And since you are staying in Sunshine Village, I would definitely have snow tires - the road up to Sunshine is long and windy (and crossed by avalanche paths), so requires patient driving and good traction.

If the weather and road conditions are OK, it can be nice to go as far as Bow Lake. Just keep an eye on road conditions reports and weather reports - I've had sunny days turn into snowstorms and even on a sunny day the road can be icy/slippery snow covered. It's about using common sense! Even if you don't get that far, you can always have fun in Lake Louise Banff and Canmore. Lots to do there.

Remember that summer parking lots and many pull overs aren't plowed - make sure to park where you can get back out. I got briefly stuck in the lot at Num Ti Jah last March when we parked there for an overnight ski trip - had good snow tires, but just not enough traction or clearance going uphill back to the highway. Also remember that you may well encounter cars parked right on the side of the highway (not all trailheads for skiing have lots) and people crossing the road. So be cautious going around curves.

Make sure your tank is full before you leave Calgary - gas is always much more expensive up in the mountains and there are no gas stations beyond Lake Louise.

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10. Re: Calgary - Jasper drive in February 2015

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