Ski holiday in the Canadian Rocky Mountains © Karl Krause
Skiing in the famous champagne powder of the Rocky Mountains is at the top of the bucket list for many Europeans. Set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the Canadian ski resort of Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park is a dream come true for avid skiers and snowboarders. Our colleague Karl was lucky enough to go on a snowboard holiday last winter in Marmot Basin and he found that skiing in Canada has a unique flavour all to itself. What makes skiing in North America so special? Read his report and find out why a Canadian ski holiday should be at the top of your bucket list too!
It was finally time to take the plane to Canada! I booked a direct flight with KLM from Amsterdam to Edmonton, capital of the western Canadian province of Alberta. The flight was scheduled to take around 9 hours, and thanks to the excellent service, leg room and window view, the trip literally flew by! Once in Canada, I spent 3 nights in Edmonton. I recommend staying a few days in Edmonton (or Calgary) before heading to the Rocky Mountains, as the jet lag gave me a few sleepless nights when I arrived. Flights to North America are getting cheaper every day - incredible as it may seem, Canadian airline WestJet lists return fares for flights from London Gatwick to Edmonton starting at just £365!
Skyline of Edmonton, Alberta © Tourism Edmonton
Edmonton is considered the festival capital of Canada, especially in the winter. The festivities kick off with the Deep Freeze Festival in January. Just a few weeks later, the Ice on Whyte Fesitval attracts thousands of visitors to the city. For me, the highlights were definitely culinary: the famous Alberta beef and local breweries were enough to keep me happily occupied. Hockey fans shouldn't miss the opportunity to watch an Edmonton Oilers match. As much as I enjoyed Edmonton, I was chuffed to be finally setting off to the mountains in our four-wheel jeep.
Freezer races at Edmonton's Deep Freeze Festival
I was lucky: right as I left Edmonton, a cold front moved across the Rocky Mountains over to Jasper National Park, bringing half a metre of fresh snow and temperatures of -25 °C. I started with a guided hike through the frozen Maligne Canyon and a fat bike tour of Jasper National Park, where I saw several “wapitis”, a kind of Canadian elk. In the evening I treated myself to a typical local meal accompanied by a fantastic beer in the nearby pub. What impresses me the most about this country is the unbelievable openness of the Canadians, some of whom I now count among my best friends.
Jasper Town in Jasper National Park © Karl Krause
A herd of elk, known in Canada as "wapitis" © Karl Krause
Ice climbing a frozen waterfall in Maligne Canyon © Karl Krause
Breathtaking views of Jasper National Park in Canada © Karl Krause
The next day we finally headed towards the snow! After a short car ride along the legendary Icefields Parkway and a steep road up into the mountains, we arrived at the entrance to Marmot Basin ski resort. The 4-seater Canadian Rockies Express lift takes you straight to the ski area. The natural beauty of this Canadian ski resort is striking, especially in comparison with the Alps. Here, the slopes are mostly unpisted, and they lead through the trees - just gorgeous! And the champagne powder is so soft that even falling down is fun, which is lucky because the slopes are also quite steep. I took the Knob Chair to the highest point in the ski area, which boasts spectacular views of Jasper, 20km away, and continued down black piste #42, aka McCready’s Choice.
Marmot Basin ski area, Jasper © Karl Krause
Tour guide from Marmot Basin ski resort © Karl Krause
Snowboarder in Canadian powder snow © Marmot Basin
I spend 4 glorious days playing in the powder snow of the Rocky Mountains. If you have a few days to spare, don’t miss the Icefield Parkway heading towards Banff/Lake Louise, where you’ll see wooded valleys, snowy mountains and breathtaking waterfalls. I fell in love with Canada on my very first trip here, so impressive was the beauty of Alberta’s nature. And it turned out to be the first trip of many: I booked another ski holiday here this year! The unbelievable sensation of freedom when snowboarding in the Jasper National Park is well worth the journey.
Road trip along the Icefields parkway in Alberta © Karl Krause
Karl at Peyto Lake, Alberta © Karl Krause
This is a question I’ve often asked myself, and I decided to revisit it after my Canadian ski holiday. One of the obvious answers is the snow: in the dry, cold weather of the Rocky Mountains, the snow becomes softer and fluffier than snow in Europe, and it doesn’t stick to your skis as much. Then there are the pistes, which are ungroomed and lead through the trees. In Marmot Basin they still give out paper lift tickets, controlled by the lifties with a small mobile scanner (aww!). Apres-ski is different, too: people might head to a pub for a few pints, but many people just go home and apart from some mountain huts there wasn’t much on the mountain - no sign of the typical alpine umbrella bars. The biggest drawback to skiing in North America is definitely the lift pass prices, fairly steep compared to Europe.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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