The moment we enter the our cozy, conifer-hugged cottage our toddler goes crazy. He inspects every cranny of the one room cabin, climbs on every chair and touches every button. As we settle into our weekend abode, kiddo can’t believe his luck: there’s a window at the kitchen table with a view of some well-lit Christmas trees (current obsession), a super bouncy queen bed and cable TV. We’re staying at Bear Hill Lodge, a collection of petite duplex cabins and cottages in a Rocky Mountain valley. We’re in our new favourite family getaway spot and Canada’s second-most visited national park: Jasper.
When life gives you crazy work schedules, mediocre city snow and a wee spell of no travel, Jasper is the ideal place to escape the craziness of city living, inhale deep and calm the eff down. Though we packed a load of family fun into our Jasper weekend – snowy athletics, scrumptious eats and homey cabin times, we still returned home relaxed and happy. Here are some snippets of our quintessential winter weekend in Jasper.
As we glided off the Eagle Ridge quad chair, our guide Paul, exclaimed in his slight Quebecois accent, “Look at this view, this mountain. Ha! I love it. I get paid to be here.” For a glorious hour and a half our ski guide Paul acted as Marmot Basin animateur. I was nervous going up to Marmot for a number of reasons: it was our first fully scheduled mountain day with our toddler, my second time on a snowboard since before I was pregnant (read: two seasons spent sitting it out) and to be honest, Marmot Basin looked big, really big.
All in all our day at Marmot Basin was peachy because the mountain is made for families like us (or at least it felt like it). Nearly all of Marmot’s chairlifts have a green run running off them and there are plenty of gentle slopes for little learners like our son. We spent the morning doing green runs off the School House chair and magic carpet rides down the bunny hill. The afternoon was an adult-only experience. We dropped our bambino off at the nursery and joined Paul for a wee tour of the hill. Paul’s infectious love of Jasper and his stoke for skiing Marmot really made my day. It was like hanging with your fun uncle, the one with easy conversation and cheesy jokes, big laugh and helpful answers to every question.
Little Rascals nursery costs: $10.50 hourly for drop in, $37.50 per half day if you pre-book online or $61.50 if you pre-book online. The nursery’s hours are: 8:30 – 4:00 p.m. Packed, peanut free lunches are encouraged.
Adult day passes are $89 while littles under five are free. More rates on youth/students/seniors can be found here. The Jasper-Marmot Family Card is the way to go. For $72.95 your family card gets you 20% off lift tickets all family members each day they go up. On the sixth day whole family skis for free. So if you’re a family of three who goes for a two day weekend of skiing that’s actually six ski days (three people x 2 days). The next time you return to Marmot, it’s free for all of you to ski that day. Such. A. Good. Deal. Period.
Cross Country Sweat
Jasper has a huge range of cross country skiing and back country trails. You just have to drop into the Jasper Information Centre National Historic Site in the centre for trail intelligence. On Sunday, we decided to try Jasper’s newest cross country trail, Marmot Meadows, which is just south of the Whistler’s campground loop. We were were warned by the ranger that there were some ups and downs and then again by a local gal. We decided to glide on and try the new trail anyway.
In retrospect, though I can laugh about our folly now, I wouldn’t recommend this trail to either: 1) a beginner cross country skier or 2) to a parent with a toddler in a back pack. Luckily my partner is a wicked downhill skier and he is also the baby backpacker. The four kilometre trail was fun, but filled with with an unruly amount of ups and downs. The temperature was just above zero so the conditions were not ideal as the hills were icy and slick going up and coming down was even worse. My mantra: ‘it’s okay to take skis off and walk’. And I did. It was nice to get out for a morning of cross-country cardio, be surrounded by forests and mountains and sweat off some of our rich Jasper meals. So, yay.
All visitors to Jasper must buy a park pass. A family pass is $19.60.
Since we scheduled such an activity-packed weekend, we decided to forgo self-catering and go out for our meals even though our Bear Hill Lodge cottage had a well-equipped kitchenette. Here are some of the best places we stopped to fuel up.
The Inn Grill, a restaurant nestled in the courtyard of the adjacent Best Western Inn & Suites is to the Bear Hill Lodge. The breakfast buffet includes french toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, bagels, cereal, fruit, etc for $9.95 per person.
Marmot Basin recently partnered with Dana Hospitality for their food & beverage service. Try the Asian fusion Salmon burger at the Caribou Chalet (main lodge). Service is fast so you can get out and crush more Rocky Mountain powder.
Jasper Brew Pub and Eatery is a must-stop with their locally brewed craft beers and accessible, yet innovative menu. I can’t stress how easy it is to eat at Jasper Brewing with a toddler. It’s loud, casual and comfortable with long, sharing tables or highly wipeable booths. Order a craft beer sampler, the kale spaghetti with perfectly moist, grilled chicken or the bison curry. Indulge in a pumpkin creme brûlée and try not to lick the bowl clean.
The Athabasca Hotel serves up breakfast with a side of history. Hundreds of antiques adorn high shelves in the dining room. The Eggs Athabasca and Eggs Jasper, local twists on eggs benedict will stick to your ribs and carry you through snow (mis)advenures.
Order a light lunch and the best coffee in town from the Wicked Cup. A funky cafe meets hotel resto meets gift shop (see: ceramics, candles and scarves), Wicked serves up organic coffee and filling flatbreads to last the drive home.
For the last few months a weekend in the mountains beckoned us. We craved a small cozy place with a fire, un-interrupted family time and a weekend full of snowy activities. Our time in Jasper provided 42 hours for us to reconnect after a busy fall, play on a proper ski hill and indulge in rich, delicious food. Bonus: we slept like the logs our cottage was built of on Saturday night after our full day of downhill adventures, bellies full of tasty food and fresh Rocky Mountain air.
Jasper is a four hour drive west from Edmonton, east from Kamloops, B.C., southeast from Prince George, B.C and about a five hour haul from Calgary. If you want to skip the drive, take the train. Via Rail goes through town from Vancouver, Prince George and Edmonton. Pro-tip: grab your train tickets on a Tuesday nights, when there’s a weekly seats sale.
Travel Alberta and Tourism Jasper graciously helped with some of our trip logistics and cost. All opinions expressed above are my own.