Last updated: Feb 15, 2024
Visiting Jasper in the winter? This guide is for you!
Without a doubt, Jasper is one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Canada. Located within Jasper National Park and at the northern end of the world-famous Icefields Parkway, it’s a magical outdoor destination with towering mountains, clear rivers, beautiful lakes, and lush pine forests. Anyone interested in outdoor adventure or simply admiring some of Earth’s grand vistas will love Jasper, and in the winter, it’s all covered in white sparkly snow.
Like most of Canada, Jasper is visited mostly in the summer months. This is when tourists arrive in droves and when Canadians are eager to hit the road, causing campgrounds to fill up months in advance and hotels to throw up a “no vacancy” sign. After all, the weather is generally pleasant and there are more attractions, such as the Jasper Skytram and the Columbia Icefields Explorer.
But you know what season we love? The winter!
The winter is a magical time to visit the Canadian Rockies. Not only are the landscapes incredibly beautiful with all the fluffy snow, but there are also loads of awesome winter activities that anyone can enjoy. As long as you know what to wear during the winter in Canada, you’ll have a wonderful time.
While some attractions close in the winter, others open! There are also lots of summer activities that can be done in the winter, with the only difference being the snow and ice beneath your feet. Just like visiting Banff in the winter, there are all sorts of incredible things to do in Jasper at all times during the year.
So without further ado, here are the best things to do in Jasper in the winter!
Jasper in January Winter Festival
Another great thing about the winter months is the winter festivals, and when it comes to Jasper, we’re talking about the Jasper in January winter festival. Held over three weekends in January, this festival offers so many fun events, such as photography tours, ice skating and horse sleigh rides on Pyramid Lake, pond hockey tournaments, concerts, and street parties, just to name a few. There are also special curated menus at many of the restaurants as well as unique cocktails and special offers. We especially loved the retro street party that occurred at the 2024 festival, as it was a great excuse to get dressed up and see the town come alive. Another bonus about visiting Jasper in January is that in addition to the festival, you can still enjoy everything else that makes Jasper in the winter such a great time.
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
Perhaps one of the most iconic winter attractions in Jasper is the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk. Maligne Canyon is a popular hiking spot in the summer as well, but in the winter, it’s full of frozen waterfalls and ice caves. It’s also the only time you can walk on the bottom of the canyon because the river actually drains out and then freezes over. So, rather than look down into the canyon in the summer, you can now look up. This is such a beautiful experience and a fairytale for photographers. It’s also free to enter, but we certainly recommend talking to people to make sure it’s safe. We also recommend wearing ice cleats to help with traction at the bottom. If you’d rather go on a tour with a local guide who will show you the way, provide facts on the area, and get you fitted with warm boots, ice cleats, and a helmet, then there are options for that as well. We went with Sundog Tours, a company that also provides transportation throughout the mountains.
Tip: Pop into Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen for a bite to eat or a hot drink.
Skiing at Marmot Basin
One of the most popular winter activities in Jasper is skiing and snowboarding at Marmot Basin, which offers 3,000 vertical feet (914m) of superb skiing and snowboarding on 1,720 acres of varied terrain. Due to its relative isolation in comparison to Skiing in Banff, the mountain is quiet, especially on weekdays. It’s located roughly 20 minutes from the town of Jasper and has ski runs for all experience levels, including the ability to ski right out to your car. There’s also a bunny hill, ski lessons, rentals, and a few different restaurants. Oh, and the views are unreal!
If you’re up for a real thrill, try ice climbing! With so many frozen waterfalls throughout the region, there are endless options for ice climbing. Now, if you’re not an avid ice climber, this is one sport where you need to hire a guide. During our visit, we went with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures and they provided us with all the necessary gear, including boots, crampons, a harness, and a helmet. They’ll then choose the most ideal frozen waterfall to climb, depending on ability, weather, and any other factors that might come into play. When we went, we went about an hour outside of Jasper on the highway from Jasper to Banff and visited Tangle Creek Falls, a beautiful frozen waterfall right off the highway. Our guide chose this area because it was a chillier day and due to the time of the season, the sun would be shining on us for most of the day. It was a great choice because the sun kept us warm and it really helped us take some amazing photos.
Either way, ice climbing is a fun workout and a really cool (pun intended) and unique way to experience the Canadian Rockies.
If you like biking, fat tire biking is the thing to do in the winter. Equipped with fat tires, these bikes make it easier to push yourself through the snow. There are a variety of places that rent fat tire biking and trails are free to use. However, we found it easy to just go to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, rent our bikes there, and hit up the many trails they have throughout their property, including many different frozen lakes. If you opt for this location, they can give you a map and guide you in the right direction.
Ice skating is another very popular Canadian winter activity and Jasper has a variety of frozen lakes that are cleared for you to enjoy. Just like fat biking, we went to the Fairmont to enjoy the really big and awesome skating rink track they’ve created on one of their lakes. They also rent skates, which just makes it easy and you don’t have to stay there to enjoy these outdoor attractions.
Another beautiful and secluded lake to go ice skating on is Pyramid Lake, which is right in front of Pyramid Lake Lodge. Whether you opt to spend a few nights there or just visit for an afternoon skate, they also rent skates if you don’t have your own.
Like many places across Canada in the winter, cross-country skiing is very popular. This is because it’s a great way to get exercise and enjoy winter landscapes without having to ski down the face of a mountain. It’s also far cheaper than downhill skiing because you don’t have to pay for a lift ticket. It certainly helps to take a lesson or ask someone for tips on how to do it, but once you have the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. It’s also a great way to burn mega calories, which just makes that hot chocolate with marshmallows taste so much better at the end of the day.
Just like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing is also very popular in Jasper and the Canadian Rockies. However, the extra benefit of snowshoeing is that it’s just as easy as hiking and it’s one of the cheapest winter activities you can do. All you need is snowshoes, which can usually be rented for $25 per day or less, or bought for $150 or so. All you do is strap them to your winter boots and find a trail. Unlike cross-country skis, which require a groomed trail, snowshoes can take you anywhere, and they do particularly well in deep snow. So, find yourself a trail, strap on your snowshoes, and go for a hike through Jasper’s winter wilderness.
Often when people think of the winter in Canada, they think of dog sledding. What can be more magical than being pulled by a team of powerful dogs through a snow-covered forest in the middle of the Rocky Mountains? Luckily for you, this is a popular thing to do in Jasper! It’s not located right in the town but is only about an hour’s drive into British Columbia. There are different tours ranging from a couple of hours to a full day, but either one will give you memories that will last a lifetime. It’s like walking the dog, except there’s a half dozen of them, and they’re taking you for a walk!
Explore Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
While we can certainly recommend staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge if the budget allows, it’s also a great place to explore for the day. As mentioned above, they have beautiful frozen lakes to go skating on, many trails for fat tire biking, and they even have great walking trails around the property that offer stunning views and the chance to encounter wildlife. You could also enjoy one of their restaurants while you’re there or even try out their all-new state-of-the-art luxury golfing simulator that features over 30 unique virtual courses in unparalleled realism.
Restaurants in Jasper
Another thing we love about Jasper is the array of incredible award-winning restaurants. Whether you’re looking for the best pizza you’ve ever had or a small fine-dining experience, Jasper has it all. Some of our favourite Jasper restaurants include:
Located in The Crimson Hotel, Terra is currently our favourite restaurant in Jasper. Inspired by the rawness of Jasper, this restaurant utilized locally farmed and foraged fare, creating menus that change with the seasons. From breakfast to dinner, we always pay a visit to Terra. Some of our favourite dishes include the Roasted Squash (Ras El Hanout Rub, Toasted Pepitas, Crème Fraîche, and Timut), the Roasted Kuterra Salmon (Fingerlings, Preserved Tomatoes, Sumac Butter, and the Duck Duo (Confit Duck Leg, Crispy Duck Wing, White Bean Cassoulet, and Sour Cherry Jus). The atmosphere is inviting, open, and simple. Highly recommended!
Harvest Food & Drink
During our visit to the Jasper in January event in 2024, we paid our first visit to Harvest and fell in love with the food. Giving Terra a run for its money, Harvest is equally our favourite restaurant in Jasper now. This small family-owned and operated restaurant offers delicious meals and cocktails offering great value at the same time. If you want to follow in our footsteps, the Goat Cheese Bruschetta is mouth-watering, made with fresh tomato, onion chutney, basil oil, balsamic, goat cheese, and toasted baguette. We also loved their Arctic Char (Roasted vegetables, kale, chorizo sausage, coconut rice, lemon caper butter) and Lamb Osso Buco (red wine and tomato braised lamb shank, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, chimichurri).
Jasper Pizza Place
If you’re simply looking for a delicious pizza, Jasper Pizza Place is the spot. Whether you order takeout or sit in their lively bar-style restaurant, Jasper Pizza Place knows how to make a pizza thanks to both a wood-burning and traditional oven. I wish I could say we’ve tried them all, but with only one visit so far, we sunk our teeth into their King of New York (capocollo, genoa, pancetta, fior di latte, basil & tomato sauce) and their Salumi (genoa, fior di latte, chillies, honey, Parmigiano & tomato sauce base.)
How to Get to Jasper
Jasper is east of Edmonton and at the northern tip of the world-famous Icefields Parkway. Some of the most popular ways to get to Jasper are below:
Banff to Jasper: From Banff to Lake Louise is the Trans-Canada Highway and then from Lake Louise to Jasper is via the spectacular Icefields Parkway, an incredibly popular Canada road trip. We highly recommend you read our travel guide if you do this trip as there are so many things to see along the way.
Edmonton to Jasper: Jasper is the closest mountain town to Edmonton and so it’s popular with Edmontonians. The drive is fairly straightforward and is almost entirely west. It’s mostly flat and foresty until you pass Hinton and the mountains start to rise.
Jasper in Winter
As you can see, a Jasper winter is a special time of year. While the weather can get very cold, there are also many semi-mild days with the sun shining bright and the snow sparkling like glitter. While some attractions are closed during the winter, others are open. The streets are much quieter, hotels are much cheaper, and the beauty is unlike anywhere else. We highly recommend visiting Jasper during the winter months.
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