SEASON START & END: Mid November to early May (depending on snow)
SKI ALTITUDE: 1,698m – 2,612m / Vertical Drop- 914m
PISTES: 30% Beginner / 40% Intermediate / 20% Expert
LIFTS: 7 (Chairs-6 / Carpets-1)
SLOPES: 1,720 acres / 91 named Pistes (51.7km)
SNOW: Very snow sure. 10% of pistes have snow making capabilities.
LIFT TICKET: 2017/18 Adult: $95 – 1 day / $424.50 – 5 days (Canadian $)
LANGUAGE: Canadian (Very similar to English)
AIRPORT: Nearest are Calgary 413km (4:45 hrs) / Edmonton 365km (3:50 hrs)
TRAIN: Nearest station is Jasper. Trains also from Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto.
SKI FACTS: Marmot has the highest base elevation of all major Canadian Ski resorts.
The nearest town to Marmot Basin is Jasper located in Canada’s oldest and largest park. Jasper National Park along with several other Canadian parks received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1984, and if you know anything about UNESCO sites, you know that the views are going to blow your mind. The town of Jasper was initially established as a fur trade post called ‘Jasper House’ in 1813; it was start of the route that had been used for many years by the fur traders, explorers, railroaders and mountaineers and has come to be known as the ‘Icefields Parkway’ a 232km long road between Jasper and Lake Louise that is classed as one of the top ten drives in the world. Jasper is a laid back town with very friendly locals, but then “friendly” seems to be the general setting for most Canadians. The only grumpy ones you will find are the head butting Elk that we saw hanging around the rail tracks like badly behaved teenagers. As a centre it is in a great location for the Skiing at Marmot basin but also for a plethora of other Winter activities. When it comes to dining, go check out Evil Dave’s Grill for some fantastic dishes such as Cowboy Sushi, Malevolent Meatloaf and the delectable gluten free Decadent Brownie.
I stayed at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge just on the outskirts of Jasper. This is a hotel in classic Rockies style, with cosy log cabins dotted around the grounds. The central building is the heart of the hotel, with roaring log fires, grand high ceilings and echoes back to the early days of tourism in the park. The hotel is also the setting of the Jasper Planetarium where one can, stargaze through giant telescopes, learn about the night sky whilst eating s’mores around the log fire. This is the perfect place to stargaze due to the fact that you are in the world’s largest dark sky reserve, where all lights point downwards so the dark night sky remains uninterrupted. Once finished stargazing, one can get creative with the DIY ‘Old Fashioned’ menu, where one can choose the ingredients to concoct your very own cocktail. Make sure you visit the Mountain Galleries downstairs for some stunning mountain and wildlife art.
The Skiing area of Marmot Basin is just a 20 minute drive south of the town of Jasper. However, because it is some distance from Edmonton and Calgary there are very few people skiing on the mountain even at weekends, for when I visited there seemed to be more people working on the mountain that actually skiing it! It seems that the mountain area is covered with a good spread of easy to difficult pistes satisfying a variety of abilities. The snow here was phenomenal; when the snow travels from the west over the coastal range towards the Rockies it tends to dry out and by the time the snow hits Marmot Basin it creates the most fabulous grippy snow that one can trust with holding your edges tight as you push to get a little further over.
The whole area is quite a playground for snow sports aficionados, with above and below the tree line pistes giving very different vibes. I loved the higher altitude areas for their open and free quality, such as ‘Knob Hill’ and ‘Highway 16’, but then the trees offered fun trails that snake their way down the mountain, with options to jump into the trees following crazy little ‘Whoop-de-doos’ tracks that whizz through the forest. New for 2017/18 is the area known as ‘Tres Hombres’ 18 hectares (45 acres) of expert lever steep un-pisted skiing. For lunch check out the recently refurbed ‘Caribou Cafe’ at the base of the mountain. Classic Canadian dishes done well, as well as Pizza and stir fry.
Marmot Basin is well set up for beginners, with a short nursery slope setup for newbies right at the very base of the resort. Progressing from here, most of the lifts have green runs that wind their way back down to the base, so beginners can start to explore the mountain from quite early on. The ‘School House’ Chair is a good place to start one’s early explorations with a great set of options like #2 ‘School House’, #1 ‘Home Run’ and #3 ‘Slow Poke’
70% of the mountain is up for grabs to the intermediate skiers, with the open expanses of the upper mountain to the lower forest runs back down to the base. All lifts lead to pistes that intermediate skiers can enjoy. For the longest run take knob chair to the top and follow the pistes #39, #33, #14, #3, #7 all the way down for a 5.6km in a giant ‘S’ shape to the base.
There is plenty of choice when it comes to the more advanced skier. There is plenty of cruising to be had on the likes of #29 ‘Paradise’ and #39 Knob Traverse. Whilst if the clouds come in the trees will give plenty of cover and visibility on the lower section of the mountain.
– OFF PISTE –
Marmot Basin does have some amazing dry snow conditions, so the off-piste was pretty good when I visited. There are some great routes to be found through the trees especially on a powder day. However, the newly opened for 2017/18 ‘Tres Hombres’ offers a fantastic large north face that descends 367 vertical metres (length of 700 metres) and covers 45 acres with five various routes with the steepest sections being 45 degrees angle. This can be accessed with a very short walk from the top of the ‘Paradise’ quad chair. Apparently, when the powder comes to town, it does not get tracked out as in many resorts. To locate other areas of outstanding off-piste grab yourself a guide.
Jasper has a range of alternate activities which are definitely worth checking out, from the ‘Maligne Canyon Ice Walk’ by Sun Dog Tours which takes one on a mesmerising journey up the frozen river, past frozen waterfalls and into ice caves. Sundog Tours also run snowshoeing, dog sledding and the ‘Winter Wildlife Discovery Tour’ to see some of the 69 species of wildlife from Mountain Lion, Grey Wolf, Elk, Moose, Bighorn sheep and Mountain Goat, though do not expect to see Bears, they should be a sleep at this time of year.
For more information on the ski resort visit www.skimarmot.com
For information about the nearest town visit www.jasper.travel
To discover more of the local area visit www.travelalberta.co.uk
For more information on Canada visit www.explore-canada.co.uk