A winter playground for all ages. Ski the seemingly unending slopes of Marmot Basin Ski Area, just 20 minutes away from the town of Jasper. Marmot is a great place for all skill levels and because of its location on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, the alpine bowls have the driest natural powder in the Rockies.
Discover Jasper’s Winter Wonderland
Jasper’s elevation is around 1100 metres (3300 feet), and the peak of Marmot Basin is around 2600 metres (8500 feet). Marmot’s base is around 1700 metre (5600 feet).
Jasper is treasured for its unpretentious and uncrowded atmosphere. Over 300 kilometres of trails make Jasper, one of the largest cross-country ski area in Canada. Right from your doorstep, groomed trails take you through scores of beautiful valleys. Backcountry enthusiasts will revel in day-trips and multi-day trips to the Bald Hills or spend a week in the Tonquin Valley as well as many other hut-hopping opportunities all over the park.
There I was, at the horse gate just before Waterfalls campground. My plan was to ascend a steep slope along the creek (left side climber view). The pine forest was quite open with few deadfalls on the ground, I quickly got to the top.
Once there, travelling was easy. Keeping within earshot of the creek I navigated effortlessly in the mixed forest. The moss cushion was a little thicker yet progress was fast as there were open lines all along. In time I came to a bottleneck and got back to the creek, soon I was crossing in search of newly colonized ground where the vegetation made walking thru the lower meadows much easier. The mission: escape the willows if I could.
My goal was to get to the top of the valley. From there on I could ascend a shoulder towards a sister of Mt-Poboktan, and while I never rushed anything I got there early, setting camp with plenty of time to spare. There was a great golden hour in the making and the light was perfect.
The next day I went up a ramp, it took me about two and a half hours to get to the top. There where great views on the Waterfall Peaks and even better ones down towards the Swan Lakes (unofficial name). It would take me another day and a half to get to the lakes.
An easy traverse below the peak got me smack in front of Poboktan’s North face; and while I made my way down on a moderately steep rib it seemed to grow taller and taller. I took a break by a tarn; and those who know the mountains won’t be surprised to learn that everything was stillness.
Down the steep meadows and following the creek, I waited until the bank got steeper. I then cut into another easy pine forest. No point to stay high up as I knew I would soon face a nasty rock slide several km long. So, once again I followed the colonization line and made my way near the Brazeau. Not being fond of silty water I preferred staying on the rock side where I found a creek emerging from the underground. It’s water was perfect. Camping in the shadow of an erratic, I could hear the song of a river less than a hundred meters away.
The next day came a long challenging angling up valley. Following the rock slide and hugging the forest I crossed numerous erratic fields, most of them filled with debris. Wise people would have followed the river instead, but since I am not one of them I went up the hard way. I gained elevation laboriously and the views got spectacular. Grey limestone walls across the valley, silty blue waters, the deep green of the pines in between; and a couple of tiny azure lakes dotting the landscape. Once the rock slide subsided, the forest took over once again. Not wanting to get cliffed out I stayed on a bench, then there was this amazing waterfall. I was making progress, slowly.
I knew exactly the way to the lakes, the familiar sight of a gigantic erratic marked the way, but before I went up the drainage (left side climber view) I caught glimpses of the majestic NW Brazeau gorge. That’s a trip I did earlier in the summer, coming in the other way.
A glacial flat, and not so far in the distance the lower of the lakes. Nearing the end of August the meadows where ripe, you could almost smell the fast approaching fall. A magic golden hour later I was more than likely snoring in my tent.
Up just before the sunrise, guess what I did for the first hour? I had lots of time to spare so I packed up and went to one of the middle lakes from where I tackled a drainage up to about 2800 m. I wanted to be on the other side before the end of the day and at about four pm I strapped my pack on and crossed over the col. Another campsite, with such a late start I nearly missed perfect light time.
Everything from there on is casual. It took me about two hours to pick my way down in a somewhat nasty Engelmann spruce forest (down the creek right side climber view), and then the river flat to the faint Swan pass trail, and fresh grizzly droppings. Once back on the Poboktan trail there was only eight km to go. I got back to the car on the early side of a beautiful August day. I had been away for six days.
My boots never got wet.
This story is brought you by Gaston Synnott, thank you for sharing your experience with us and hope it will motivate some others to get out and enjoy the back country of #myjasper #jaspernp #explorejasper. We welcome more of these stories, so feel free to contact us and submit your adventures!
Another fine hike in the Rockies, easy access via the Jasper Tramway. Give yourself a good afternoon for this hike. There are some scrambling involved here, sometimes the snow is still around, be cautious here.
When you arrive at the ridge, you have another option to decent by walking along the ridge over to the north west area to drop down to the meadows and back to the Tramway.
You will be able to see the Tonquin Valley from the ridge, couple of the recognizable peaks that stand out are: Ramparts, Peveral, Edith Cavell and Geikie.
Access: Take the Jasper Tramway to upper access, hike over the peak
Trailhead: Start from the peak of Whistlers Mountain
Part of the Skyline Trail, this pass can be reached on a day tour either hiking or skiing. Along the way there is a hut operated by a local club. The hut is called Shangri-la. One of the locals favorite ski tour back country cabin. Seasonal closures are in effect, so check with Park Canada information centre prior to heading out on this journey.