I first came to Alberta a couple of years ago, in summer, when I compared Jasper and Banff in the Alberta National Park showdown. I’ve wanted to come back in winter ever since, after hearing so many amazing stories. I wasn’t disappointed. First things first, Jasper and Banff National Parks are stunning, winter or summer, and the Alberta Rockies offer some of the most impressive scenery I’ve ever seen.
Similarly to my last visit, I flew in to Edmonton and will fly out of Calgary. I recommend flying in of one and out of another (it can be in reverse) as it will allow you to see both national parks in their full glory, and drive the epic Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff. You can fly to either with KLM from their hub at Amsterdam Schiphol. I flew in to Edmonton, a vibrant city which I recommend spending a couple of days in. The drive to Jasper is around 4 hours. The last hour or so is spectacular (take a look for yourself, I took hundreds of photos!), so make sure you allow plenty of time to stop.
My first stop was Marmot Basin, a short drive from Jasper. Here I was snowboarding, on a personal note, I haven’t snowboarded for years! But I wanted to give it another try. The first thing you’ll notice about Jasper is the low key local vibe about it, in the winter it’s like a cosy sleepy village in the mountains. There’s a shuttle bus that will take you to Marmot, and if you’re driving, the car parks are cleverly positioned next to the slopes, so you can ski to and from your car which I loved.
The first thing I noticed about Marmot was the size! It was early season so not all the runs were open, but I could see the potential from the piste map (86 runs in total). There’s a mixture of runs for all abilities, and being the highest base elevation of any ski resort in Canada, it’s almost guaranteed natural fresh snow from November to May. The first thing I noticed here was the queues, or lack of them. I didn’t wait in line at all. I also felt like most of the skiers/boarders were locals, like Marmot is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Après Ski: it’s definitely a little quiet in Jasper but if you find the right place on the right night, you can certainly find a vibrant atmosphere. I’m a BIG fan of the food and craft beer at Jasper Brewing, and on a Friday night try the happy hour at D’ed Dog (which actually has a photo shrine of dogs who have passed away!)
Sleep: I stayed at The Crimson, which is right on the main road and walking distance from everything you need, I had a suite which overlooked the mountains. Perfect. You might prefer a hostel, in which case check out Jasper Downtown Hostel, or you can even stay at the D’ed Dog, featured above. Finally if you want to go big, try the unique Jasper Fairmont, there you can stay in stunning lodges or signature cabins. Not feeling a hotel? Why not check out Air Bnb?
Benefits: Feel like a local, ski to and from the car, spot wildlife in Jasper National Park.
Lake Louise and Banff are a stunning 4 hour drive away from Jasper, a drive I’ve done in summer and winter, and both are spectacular. Please be sure to check the road conditions before driving and make sure you have the correct tyres or a 4×4 vehicle if possible. Once you arrive in Lake Louise, the first thing you notice is it’s a lot busier than Jasper and Marmot. Situated just a short drive from Lake Louise itself, the base is very accessible and has lots of parking (although free parking is limited to the street so get here early!).
Lake Louise boasts 145 runs for all levels, and a green run from every chair lift, meaning you can’t make the mistake of getting ‘in too deep’. For me, I was a little unlucky with the weather, so I didn’t get to scratch the surface in terms of discovering all the resort has to offer. And the cloud meant I couldn’t get the stunning views over Lake Louise itself. However, after switching back to skis I really enjoyed what I did see, with plenty of variety for a days skiing. One way Lake Louise really impressed me was the variety of restaurants. I ate at Kuma Yama Sushi, a new sushi restaurant with great views over the mountains.
Après Ski: Lake Louise itself feels like it’s a small village of hotels, so it’s important to chose the right one. So if you want a more vibrant atmosphere you’re probably better off staying in Banff. Having said that the Fairmont Hotel seems to always have a lot going on, and it’s right by Lake Louise itself, however it’s obviously not in everyone’s budget. So for more places to stay in Banff check out the options next to Norquay below.
Sleep: I stayed at the Mountaineer Lodge, which was good but family orientated and a little quiet. So it might be worth considering staying in Banff or at the Lake Louise Fairmont.
Benefits: Vast amount of runs available, quality cuisine, stunning views.
Banff Sunshine Village
Just up the road from Lake Louise, I made my way to the Banff Sunshine Gondola. I was staying at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, only accessible by the Gondola, it’s the only ski in/ski out hotel in Alberta! Banff Sunshine is served by only one gondola, so once you’re up the mountain you can get the other lifts from there. However you don’t have to stay overnight on the mountain, most stay in Banff and arrive each day for the opening of the gondola (although I really recommend at least one night here).
I found the runs here the most enjoyable on my trip, there was a nice variety with 3 mountains to choose from, and it wasn’t too busy. They boast the first heated chair lift in Canada, and you can actually ski between two provinces (Alberta and British Columbia)! It’s also really nice that once you’ve had your pass checked on the Gondola, that’s it, you don’t need to check it every time.
Après Ski: If you stay at the Mountain Lodge then you are a little restricted to the hotel bar and Trappers Bar opposite (where you can still charge drinks to your room). There is of course plenty of Après Ski in Banff, so check out the section below under Mount Norquay.
Sleep: The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a great experience, there’s a variety of rooms available to suit your budget, and amazing food in one of the two restaurants. There’s even an open air hot tub that overlooks the slopes, what a great way to unwind after a long day skiing! Check out the photos below.
Benefits: No checking pass, hard to get lost, ski in/out lodge.
Mount Norquay is the only mountain I didn’t manage to ski or snowboard, due to time restrictions. I did manage to go up and have a look (and check out the viewpoint on the way below!). If there’s one thing here I’m disappointed to miss, it was the tube park, apparently the longest, fastest lanes in Canada! And the slopes look very nice too, with gentle green runs, blue groomers and more challenging slopes including the Lone Pine which overlooks Banff on a clear day.
Après Ski: Being the closest to Banff has its advantages, as this is where any nightlife is going to happen. It will be much busier at the weekend, but ask around for what bar is busy on what night. For example Tuesday is Wild Bill’s karaoke and bull-riding night, which was awesome! Other recommendations are the Rose and Crown for live music, High rollers for Canadian craft beer and bowling, and Park Distillery for food and more craft beer!
Sleep: I stayed at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge, a short walk out of town (but with an amazing log fire in the room, and shared hot tub!). If you want to be closer to the action stay anywhere near Banff Avenue (Banff is very small), you’ll find a list of hotels and hostels below.
KLM UK flies to Alberta, to Edmonton or Calgary using Amsterdam as a hub. You can fly into one and out of the other, travelling over land via Jasper and Banff at your leisure. Going via Amsterdam allows you to fly from 17 UK based airports, rather than only travelling from Manchester or London. The changeover is smooth, KLM will inform you which gate (sometimes from the plane), and you won’t need to collect and check in your luggage again.
And then it comes to the seat… Business, Economy or Economy Comfort? Not everyone can afford business, so I’d suggest looking into Economy Comfort for the extra leg room, which makes a big difference on any flight over 3 hours.
I flew to Alberta in partnership with KLM UK and Travel Alberta. My flights to Edmonton were complementary, but return flights from the UK start at £460, including taxes. All of the content, opinions and photography are my own. Please take time to visit KLM UK and Travel Alberta‘s websites to support me on more adventures like this one!
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