Tag Archives: backcountry

Skiing in Jasper

Alpine, Nordic, Backcountry & Snowboarding

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.

Jeff skiing dry slope
Back in the days with­out snow mak­ing at Mar­mot Basin

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.


Waterfalls — Poboktan

Waterfalls — Poboktan: Off-trail fashion.

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.

Gaston Synnott
Gas­ton Syn­nott — Author

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!


Indian Ridge

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.

Climb before the ridge
A ridge break
Back­side view of the ridge
Hik­ing the ridge

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.

The gap on Indi­an Ridge

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.

Peaks galore
Sure there is an exit?


Access: Take the Jasper Tramway to upper access, hike over the peak

Park­ing: Yes

Trail­head: Start from the peak of Whistlers Moun­tain

Activ­i­ties: Hik­ing / Sights


Ski Tour Little Shovel Pass

Access: Maligne Lake Road

Park­ing: Yes

Trail­head: Sky­line route, Maligne access, Sig­nal, Wabas­so

Activ­i­ties: Sights / Hik­ing / Ski­ing

Ski tour Little Shovel Pass

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.