Did you know that Jasper National Park is the more rugged of the two famous Rocky Mountain towns in Alberta, Canada. Yes, Banff’s mountains are impressive (The drive into Banff amongst towering mountains will keep a car-fill of tourists camera-ready at each turn), but Jasper… Jasper is where you go to really escape into the wilderness. And, you can enjoy it in Winter too! In fact, Jasper Tourism makes a whole month of winter events and activities for you to enjoy. It’s called Jasper in January, and the festival celebrates the beauty and spirit of winter with three weeks of fat biking, dog sledding, skating, skiing and more!
Jasper in January
Don’t get me wrong. We love Banff, and we’ve been often (like here). But during January’s festivities, we would probably choose Jasper between the two. It’s the largest National Park in the Canadian Rockies – an 11,000 square kilometre swatch of untamed wilderness — that even has a designated Dark Sky Preserve. There is loads to do, in both Winter and Summer, and it’s a foodie’s delight.
If you’re planning a trip to Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, you should read our popular Jasper Travel Guide too for extra tips! We’re constantly updating it every time we visit, and after our trip, it has a few extra Winter activities added to it.
Getting to Jasper:
Where is Jasper National Park? Jasper is a four hour drive from either Edmonton or Banff. It’s best to hire a car rental or take a shuttle with Sundog Tours to get into Jasper. On our drive from Edmonton, we usually stop off halfway in Edson for a coffee and a pitstop. If you would prefer not to drive on the wintery roads (as an unseasoned Winter driver, I wouldn’t blame you!), you can take the Sundog Tours shuttle from the Airport or the West Edmonton Mall.
Remember, if you’re driving, you’ll have to purchase a park pass at the entrance to the National Park. You can find the fees listed here.
Jasper in Winter
So, you’re probably asking why you should visit Jasper National Park in Winter when you could enjoy it in the Summer instead. Well, believe it or not, Jasper in Winter is just as fun as the Summer. The Jasper in January Festival usually offers discounted deals as well as free live shows featuring acclaimed musicians and comedians every weekend of the festival — there’s no shortage of nighttime entertainment.
Here’s our ideal Jasper in January Itinerary, if you’re like us and can’t ski. If you are a skiing pro and you did want to extend your stay to spend some time on the slopes at Marmot Basin, we would get behind that too! The views from the top of the slopes are out of this world.
2:30pm: Jasper Food Tour
If you’re a foodie, you will LOVE this tour! The 1.5km downtown guided walk, starts at 2:30pm departing daily from the Visitors Centre lawn in town and visits four local favourites. Estelle, owner and local tour guide, has carefully handpicked dishes paired with four drinks at each restaurant. and listening to Jasper’s top tails along the way.
What’s on the menu? Well, I’m not going to spoil all the fun, but I’ll tell you we’d return to every single spot on the tour. The price is all inclusive and includes fair pay for participating restaurant partners and tips for the staff.
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4pm: Checking into the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
The best hotel in Jasper, in our opinion, is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. We’ve been dying to stay at the property since we first went to Jasper in 2016, just before winter hit, and now we can can finally tick it off our bucket-list. The lodge in itself is a winter experience!
The 700 acre year-round luxury mountain resort wraps around the shores of pristine Lac Beauvert. It’s also host to Canada’s #1 Golf Resort Course. The resort’s charming village of cedar chalets and Luxury Signature Cabins, all connected by picturesque paths, offer guests unique access to explore the natural environment surrounding the resort.
If you don’t manage to book a room at the Jasper Park Lodge (it does get busy), you can find another spot in town here. It would be inconvenient to stay out of town, as it is a 30 minute drive from the nearest town of Hinton, so be sure to book in advance.
6pm: Wine in Winter
You could say Jasper Tourism invited us to the right weekend in January: TWO WINE EVENTS IN ONE WEEKEND! Count us in! It felt much like a mini food and wine festival at The Chateau Jasper and we certainly indulged in a vast array of wine and hors d’oeuvres from around the world.
8:30am: Breakfast at Orso at the Fairmont JPL
Located in the basement of the Jasper Park Lodge main building, breakfast is served from 7:00am to 11:00am and includes both a buffet and a la cart items. Almost everyone in our group opted for the buffet but I was tempted by their gluten-free french toast on the menu.
10am: Maligne Canyon Icewalk with Sundog Tours
We’ve done the Maligne Canyon walk twice before in Fall, so we were so excited that we had the Icewalk on our Jasper itinerary. You’ve probably seen the epic iced-over waterfalls on Instagram before, since it’s one of Jasper’s most popular and impressive winter activities. It’s also the perfect activity for anyone that cannot ski or snowboard (like us).
Our tour guide, Lutz from SunDog Tours, picked us up in front of the Jasper Park Lodge at 10am. Warned to wear warm clothing, we all arrived layered with thermals, puffers, mittens and toques. We were given boots and anti-slip cleats that made made it much easier to walk downhill to the bottom of the frozen canyon. In total, the Icewalk is about 3.5km.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to wander too far into the canyon as the weather hadn’t been consistently cold enough. That said, we still learned about Jasper’s Maligne Valley, Karst topography, and the mystery of the “disappearing” Medicine Lake.
1pm: Lunch at Jasper Brewing Co
The local watering hole, Jasper Brewing Co, is where you’ll get your ‘Albeerta’ fix. They were the first brew pub in a National Park and they serve six signature beers brewed on-site. Our final ingredient is the pure, natural mountain water sourced from the great Canadian Rockies.
Top Tip: You should definitely try the Elk Meatloaf.
3pm: Sleigh Rides at Pyramid Lake
A sleigh ride along the sunny shore of Pyramid Lake is a Winter wonderland dream! The horses, tuned bells, and warm throw blankets made for a classic Winter experience — and yet another Winter first for Craig and I! You would have noticed on our Insta Stories that we had the best crew for the weekend: Linda (@Lindork) & her #InstaHusband, Mike. Plus, Alex (@tovogueorbust) & Matt, from Vancouver!
Another Winter bucket-list item that we’re dying to tick off is dogsledding — and you can do it at Pyramid Lake too! Although we didn’t have time to do it on the weekend, we’re definitely scheduling it in our itinerary for next time.
6pm: Whiskey, Wine and Hops
Yet another alcohol-filled evening, we arrived at the very busy (and sold-out) event ready to dig in! There were a few more food dishes at this event and so many separate tasting rooms that I’m sure we missed a few. Guess we will have to return next year to complete them all.
8:30am: Breakfast at Coco’s Cafe in Town
We’ve mentioned this cosy breakfast spot before because we’re usually early birds and they’re the only ones open at the crack of dawn. Locals though, have been frequenting Coco’s Cafe for breakfast and lunch in Jasper since 1991. Specialising in fresh, lovingly made food with gluten-free options and Phil & Sebastian coffee, it’s now our go-to when we visit.
10am: Skating on Mildred Pond
Although skating was on the itinerary, I was nervous to brave the outdoor rink and opted to go tobogganing instead. If you aren’t keen on those two activities, you have so many Winter activities available at the Jasper Park Lodge to chose from, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and fat biking. Rentals are available through the Outdoor Activity Centre located at the Golf Clubhouse.
11am: Check-out of Jasper Park Lodge
Do really have to say goodbye? Guess till next time, JPL! Hopefully, we will be back for Summer next. We always love visiting the Jasper Park Lodge and have recommended it so many times like here.
If you’re visiting in November, think about Christmas in November, a Food & Wine Festival, held at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, which will give you a heavy dose of Christmas cheer before December even begins.
12pm: Lunch & Coffee for the Road
Our Jasper favourite for quick lunches or food-on-the-go is the Patricia Street Deli that serves the best sandwiches and wraps. On our last day, it’s our tradition to stop off on the way out of town to grab some food for the road. That, plus a Snowdome takeaway coffee, and we are ready to hit the road!
Thank you to Jasper Tourism for inviting us to experience Jasper in January — it’s a weekend we will never forget!
Disclaimer: Although we were invited to experience Jasper in January on a hosted media weekend with Tourism Jasper, this has no impact on opinions stated in this post. We love visiting Jasper National Park, Alberta, and think you would love it too!