We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

DMB
Southern CA
Level Contributor
110 posts
7 reviews
Save Topic
Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

I am planning to fly to Calgary (arrive late PM & stay overnight). Next morning, rent a car (traveling solo and I am mid-60's) & drive to Jasper. Is the road pretty accessible &safe in winter?

Should I stay 2 nights or 3 in Jasper? I arrive on the 1st night and Ski day 2. Should I spend an additional day to 'check it out'? or will 2 evenings be enough to see the town & winter sights?

On the way south, I will visit Lake Louise for an afternoon & head to Banff. How many nights in Banff? which is determined by how much is there to see and do in winter?

I will ski 1 day in Jasper, 1 in Lake Louise area, 1 in Banff. But I cannot figure out how many nights to see & experience the towns & sights.

I am on a 'check it out' mission to bring a large group next winter, so I want to see everything I might recommend in planning for my group. A week more or less in total. And flying back out of Calgary.

THANKS

8 replies to this topic
Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,107 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

Not a good plan - either for you or the group.

The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise is one that people don't generally drive in the winter without good reason. It's not maintained like other roads - i.e. scraped or packed & gritted, not plowed. So normal winter condition is generally at least partially snow covered, often completely snow covered, sometimes heavily snow covered. There are no stores, hotels or gas stations open during the winter and no cell service. It's only maintained and patrolled between about 8:30 and 4pm. So if something happens, it can be a long, cold wait for help. Plus, conditions can change quickly and vary widely along the parkway - so if you set out and road/weather changes, you have no way of knowing. Full snow tires are required -- these are not standard in rentals, so must be requested and are additional cost.

Closures are not uncommon in the winter - we've had two already this season as well as a number of other days when travel was not recommended. I've been on the parkway twice (necessity - to get to ice climbing locations), and both times we've encountered heavy snow and pretty nasty road conditions. The first time it snowed so heavily I couldn't see the truck ahead of me which didn't have lights on. The last time we saw a car off the road - US plates and we guessed no snow tires. Not a bad section, but they'd slid completely into a ditch. Road surface ranged from partially covered, to plowed on one side to plowed/gritted at some point, but fresh snow starting to cover up the grit.

As such, travel on the parkway is only suggested in the winter if you have plenty of winter driving experience - in AND on snow. Plus a car with full snow tires, full emergency kit and plenty of flexibility. If the parkway is closed, it's a LONG way to Jasper via Edmonton. So you need at least a day or two extra in case you can't get to Jasper or can't get back from Jasper. We generally suggest people take the once daily SunDogs shuttle if they want to go to Jasper.

To be honest, if you are doing a 'recon' mission for a large group, I would not be considering skiing in Jasper and in Banff/Lake Louise.

1) Getting a big group from one location to the other in the winter is likely to be extremely tricky. It's one thing switching up accommodation plans for a one or a few people if the parkway is shut, but if you have to find places for a big group, it could be a huge headache.

2) I don't know how easy it would be to find transport -- no bus company will run buses on the parkway in the winter - SunDogs uses a small shuttle and even they will not go if conditions are too bad.

3) A week is not enough. In the winter, with short days, it's basically a day to and a day from Jasper. Then you have to count the day arriving and the day leaving. Doesn't leave much time to ski. Let alone see any of the sights

If your group is flying into Calgary, I would strongly suggest skiing around Banff. Between Lake Louise and Sunshine you could spend a week skiing and not get bored. There's along Norquay and Nakiska. And plenty of things to do beyond skiing - ice skating on Lake Louise, dog sled rides, sleigh rides, walks along Lake Louise or in Banff, icewalks at Johnston Canyon or Grotto Canyon, snowshoeing, xc skiing, shopping, good food and winter nature walks. Plus various events and festivals.

So I would spend your week in Lake Louise and Banff. You could also spend a night or two in Canmore if you wanted some variety. Give yourself a day or two to ski at each of Sunshine and Lake Louise. Use the other days to explore. If weather and road are in good condition, you could drive as far as Bow Lake on the parkway. Spend a day in Lake Louise - see the lake and partake in activities there. A day around Banff - wildlife tour, hot springs, museums, shopping etc. Around Canmore, you could do a winter walk at Grassi Lakes. If weather is good and you have a car with at least M+S tires, head over to Emerald Lake - snowshoeing or xc ski and enjoy a meal at the Emerald Lake Lodge. Take a quick jaunt through tiny Field and see if you can spot ice climbers on any of the climbs overlooking the hamlet.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
27,161 posts
94 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

+1 to Ksneds' post, which covers every single point I was going to make, and then some!

Ksneds, would you happen to be from the UK originally? Just wondering, as Canadians usually say "sanded" or "gravelled", not "gritted". But I'm also guilty of picking up some UK expressions when I like them.

Edited: 21 November 2017, 02:07
Oshawa, Canada
Level Contributor
6,506 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

I agree just limit yourself to Banff. It’s foolhardy to drive the Icefields Parkway without extensive winter driving experience and a well stocked survival kit.

Those of us who live here seldom attempt it.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,107 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

Nope - not from the UK, though I did live there for a while. Maybe I picked up the term over there?

But I do here it used here sometimes - certainly no-one's ever commented on my usage. And, LOL, judging from the average Albertan windshield, it's not sand they're using on the roads!! Gravel yes, but it isn't proper Alberta gravel unless it's big enough to put a hole in your windshield!

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
27,161 posts
94 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

I like "gritted", it's very descriptive of the function of the sand / gravel / small rocks! that are used to to add traction on snowy surfaces. And yes, in a lifetime of driving in Alberta, you will have to replace a few windshields - but everyone knows to wait until spring to deal with windshield cracks and chips and divots.Those windshield repair kiosks in parking lots tend to see a brisk trade in the warmer months, I pop in myself every couple of years.

Edited: 21 November 2017, 05:47
Calgary. Alberta
Level Contributor
261 posts
41 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

Well now that everyone has told you not to go, I will chime in and say that lots of people do ski in Jasper in the winter! And plenty even get there via the 93 from Lake Louise. As has been mentioned, the highway can be really, really bad but it also can be just fine. You certainly would not want to attempt it without snow tires at any time during the fall/ winter/spring though. Do you have any flexibility with your tickets? The route to Jasper from Edmonton is the more common one in the winter but that's not to say it's the must-do. Marmot is a great hill and worth checking out but if you do contemplate making the drive make sure you are highly prepared and know what you're getting into. Full tank of gas, snacks and water in case you get stuck, etc. And definitely snow tires. And a backup plan in case there's a huge storm and either the highway closes (which it does a couple times a winter at least!) or you decide it's not a drive you want to be making. Bear in mind there is no cell service.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,107 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

Marmot certainly gets a lot of skiers, especially on weekends. But their demographics tend to be heavily Canadian, with the majority coming from Jasper, Edmonton and places in between. Folks from the Calgary area tend to stick with the Banff/Lake Louise area resorts unless they are doing a longer trip north. Those who come from abroad tend to be doing either very long trips, or flying into Edmonton and sticking with Jasper.

Certainly the parkway can be driven in the winter, and many locals do it for work, climbing and skiing. However, it's one thing to make the drive when you're experienced with Canadian winters, are in your own winter-equipped car and have the flexibility to turn around if the conditions go south. And know the parkway, so can anticipate where issues might arise.

It's a very different situation for someone coming from a warmer clime (the OP lists southern CA, so likely has little to no experience driving in it), are in a rental vehicle and have a limited time/flights to make. The OP also indicating that he is scouting for a future trip by a large group -- for the reasons listed above, doing a ski trip split between Jasper/Banff is just not realistic for a large group unless you have a fairly long time frame - i.e. time to go via Calgary and Edmonton.

For the purposes of the OPs trip, and given the timeframe, I think sticking to the Canmore/Banff/LL area makes much more sense. There will be plenty of skiing there, plus plenty of other things to do, and the possibility to see a bit of the parkway if conditions are good.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
21,720 posts
130 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.

If you are scouting for a large group, you might want to consider flying in to Edmonton, driving or shuttle to Jasper, then taking the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise or Banff. The parkway is a beautiful drive but for all the reasons mentioned in posts above, winter driving is problematic. Driving it only once instead of twice cuts your risk of changes to your plans in half.

The usual recommendations are to ensure you drive it in daylight hours only (which makes sense not only to not miss any of the scenery but because it is very lightly travelled after dark, and not patrolled at all after 4 pm) and you need to request snow tires for your rental car. These are usually an extra $10 to $12 per day. The parkway is usually rated as “poor” or “fair” driving conditions through most of the winter; unless you are unlucky enough to drive it in poor weather, most of it will be fine, but the higher elevation portions are always dicier hence the reason for the overall “fair” or “poor” rating.

Reply to: Skiing Jasper Mid Dec.
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted
Get answers to your questions about Jasper