You’ve skied around thousands of pretty people in Aspen and waited 20 minutes to jump on a crowded lift at Vail. This year, instead of trying to carve down a mountain while zigzagging around hundreds of skiers, why not head to the Great White North? More specifically, Marmot Basin at Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. It’s just a few more hours on a plane and you’ll spend more time skiing than dodging the masses.
CHILL OUT: Because Jasper’s Marmot Basin is located in the center of the largest national park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, you don’t get all the bells and whistles of the bigger ski resorts. And that’s just fine. Because here your views of the gorgeous landscape aren’t obstructed by commercial development. The slopes are surrounded by wilderness. Animal sightings consist of more than just ski bunnies—expect to spot elk, moose, and wolves. People-watching is mostly limited to hanging with the locals in laid-back cafes and bars.
EVERYONE’S WELCOME: Another plus of Marmot Basin is that it’s perfect for skiers of all levels. There are 86 trails with 30 percent suitable for beginners, 30 percent for intermediates, and 40 percent for experts. No matter which run you choose, there will be an option for the best in the group and the worst. With fewer people on the slopes—the mountain hosts 250,000 visitors a year compared to the more than 500,000 people who go to nearby Sunshine Village—expert skiers can take the jumps faster and tear down the side of the mountain. And they won’t waste much time getting back to the top. It takes about two minutes to get from the bottom of a run to a seat on the ski lift. For those who are just learning, the open slopes allow them to take their time figuring out how to maneuver down a mountain.
APRÈS SKI: After a long day of skiing, head into Jasper to enjoy the small town. With fewer than 5,000 residents, Jasper is a welcoming, insulated community. In order to live in the ski town, you must work there. Therefore, many of the restaurants and businesses are family owned and are much more than just tourist traps. Warm up by tasting the clam chowder at Earls Restaurant and Bar, or sample the pasta at Cassio’s Trattoria, and then stop by Papa George’s Restaurant for live music. Rest your weary legs in your own private rustic cabin tucked between mountains and lakes at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and light the logs in the fireplace while watching a gorgeous Canadian sunset. If you want to be in town (a trip to Jasper Park requires a cab), then check out the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre, where a massive breakfast buffet will prepare you for a day on the slopes.
MAN vs. CANADA: We know you’d never admit it, but one can ski only so many days. Take a break from the slopes, and check out the other activities around Jasper. If you’ve ever wanted to channel Bear Grylls, Jasper’s the place to do it. Grab your boots and a guide, and walk between the massive glaciers in the Columbia Icefield. Or if your noodle legs have had all they can take, rent a car and travel along the Icefields Parkway, which winds through hundreds of glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls. Be prepared to stop often. You will need time to take in the scenery and savor the magnificence of the Canadian Rockies. If you don’t want to drive, you can observe the grandeur of Alberta from the comfy seat of a train as it moves across the wilderness. Hopefully, your cabinmates will be locals headed for a ski weekend. They’ll be sure to give you the real scoop on what to do and where to ski. Canadians are like that, eh?
Don’t spend all your time on the slopes while in Canada. Go visit Jasper’s big brother, Edmonton. It’s the capital city of Alberta. But more important to hockey fans, it is home of the Edmonton Oilers. If you’ve never been to a hockey game in Canada, check for tickets at the Rexall Place box office. The crowd oohs and ahhs with every move of the puck. Edmonton also has a bustling arts district. You’ll feel right at home in the Winspear Centre, which houses the city’s symphony. Or check out the Art Gallery of Alberta. The architecture of the building is art in itself. Need a little retail therapy? Drop the kids off at the amusement park in the world-famous West Edmonton Mall while you peruse the great shops. After enjoying black garlic dishes at Sorrentino’s Bistro-Bar, spend the evening at quaint Union Bank Inn. With only 34 rooms to care for, the staff dotes on you. As you snack on the cookies, cheese, and wine delivered nightly, you’ll believe the Canadians-always-are-polite stereotype.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Fly in to Edmonton, and then take a car, train, or shuttle to Jasper.
WHERE TO STAY:
Union Bank Inn
10053 Jasper Ave.
Rates starting at $194
Sawridge Inn and
82 Connaught Dr., Box 2080
Rates starting at $114
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Old Lodge Rd.
Rates starting at $151