Why Visit Jasper In The Winter?

Jasper National Park is the epitome of Canadian natural beauty. Vast landscapes of mountains, flowing rivers and evergreen forest blanket the region and the wildlife here is king. Larger and filled with more untouched, rugged wilderness than Banff, I think I just found my favourite place in Canada.

Many people however, avoid Jasper in the winter months and not without reason. Even getting there proves difficult, as the main route to Jasper through the Icefields Parkway becomes a treacherous, icy, avalanche-prone zone. Then even once you are there won’t be as much wildlife out and about as there is in the summer and of course many of the rivers and lakes are frozen over, so activities such as kayaking are a no go.

BUT the winter months can also be some of the most magical. Here’s how and why a wintery trip to Jasper shouldn’t be dismissed:

The Trip From Banff to Jasper is INSANELY beautiful

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Without a car it can prove difficult to get to Jasper from Banff as it’s a good few hours away and there’s no public transport. I know some people who have hitchiked but I chose the safer route and booked myself a seat on the SunDog Tours Mountain Connector. Pro with it being the quite winter months? I had plenty of room to stretch out!!

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During the warmer months the same tour company offers trips to the Colombian Icefields and the Glacier Skywalk, unfortunately this doesn’t happen in the winter but you do still get an amazing view of them as you pass by!

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TIP 1: If you’re driving make sure you fill up with fuel, there are no gas stations open in the winter between Lake Louise and Jasper

TIP 2: If like me you take the SunDog bus then shotgun a seat on the left handside for the best views!

Jasper Town is a Home away from Home

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With all the touristy attractions of the mountains, forests and wildlife it’s amazing how Jasper has retained its homely feel, but it has. Friendly smiling locals take pride in their closeness with the nature and wildlife that surrounds them and they are fearcly protective of preserving the unspoiled beauty of this land.

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If you’re camping in the wrong spots, feeding the wild animals when you’re not supposed to, badgering animals just to get a photo or speeding through wildlife crossings, then expect to be yelled at and rightly so. Respect the nature here as the locals do and they’ll welcome you with open arms.

There are fewer places to stay here in regards to hostels with it being such a small town. The main HI-Jasper one is a bit far out so mainly good for those with a car, but they are in the works of proposing a new one closer in. I stayed at a place called World Travellers Fraternity and it was more like a guesthouse than a stereotypical hostel, located in the converted basement area of a house. It is however roomy, homely and run by a lovely couple who are more than helpful with tips and places to go whilst in Jasper.

The Wildlife Is Still Out and About

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Walking around the town you can spot deer and elk wandering down the rail tracks, or even crossing the roads. As I said wildlife is king here and they have learnt to live alongside the community and people here who respect them.

Other ways to spot the wildlife is to just simply drive around and see what you can spot or go for hikes. I came across some deer munching away close to the road:

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Then on a hike up Old Fort Point was greeted by some curious mountain sheep!

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Another way if you don’t have a car is to jump on a wildlife tour. I went on one with SunDog and again because of the quieter tourist season, I was the only one on the bus!! This means I got to sit up front and chat and learn so much about Jasper’s wildlife from my knowledgeable guide Dave.

We came across a huge herd of Elk!

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Then had a close encounter with some cheeky looking sheep!

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We also visited the beautiful Medicine Lake:

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Dave explained how at this time of year the lake is known as the ‘disappearing lake’ because it literally drains away. This is due to an underground river system that empties in the winter, thus leaving gaps for the lake water to vanish into. The result is this magnificent landscape of shimmering white.

You Get To Go On Ice Canyon Walks

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In the winter the Malign Canyon opens up as the rivers waters dissappear and freeze over. What was once a vast deeper river in the summer becomes an icey Canyon wonderland you can explore (with caution).

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Frozen waterfalls and huge icycles make for a spectacular walk.

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I went with SunDog Tours and was once again the only visitor, another private tour for me yay! 😄 It was useful to go with them as they pick the safest times to go, paths to take and provide you with the appropriate footwear.

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Canada has had an especially warm winter this year and this is evident by the melting ice and snow around Jasper. It also meant that the evening Ice Canyon walks were not running due to the thawing and that they would most likely be closing off the Canyon in another week or so, so I got there just in time!

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The Rivers

You might think that in the winter the trees in the park will be bare, everything covered in snow and all of the rivers would be frozen over. Wrong! The evergreen forests remain vibrant and green, the weather is still good for walking and many of the rivers are fed by underground warmth waters, so remain flowing.

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I did drink a bit of the water here too.. not as cold as Lake Louise water but still fresh and crisp!

The Athabasca River is the main river that runs through Jasper and according to the locals has been thawing rapidly fast in parts for this time of year:

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It’s vivid emerald green waters are truly an incredible if not worrying sight.

Less Crowds

The last point I wanted to make for coming to Jasper in the winter is of course there will be hugely less footfall. The bears are hibernating and many of the park grounds are closed, so the millions of crowds that usually traverse the park in the summer aren’t there. I loved this. Less annoying throngs of people trying to get a selfie with a bear (don’t do that it’s dumb), peaceful hikes and cheaper rates. Brilliant!

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Whatever time of year you do go, you’re still going to have an amazing time in Jasper. It’s impossible not too. To be that close with nature and to see such beautiful landscapes really does wonders at soothing the soul and I’d recommend anyone to visit the secret gem that is Jasper in the winter. I’ll be back for sure 😊🌲💙

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J x

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Falling In Love With Quebec City

Quebec City, what a wanderful place, Quebec City, ain’t no empty space. It means..  ok I’ll stop the terrible Disney reference! Oh you didn’t get that? Awkward.

Let’s start again, Salut! I’ve just spent a wonderful 3 nights in the city of Quebec and what can I say. I fell in love.

I stayed in the Old Quebec section, within its iconic walls and characterful old buildings. To be honest apart from going to the airport and the riverside I didn’t really venture outside those walls at all. I was having to much fun inside them! I love the fact that you feel like you’re in a small, French town though whilst still having the big city just a stones throw away.

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I stayed at HI Quebec, one of the hostel international places. It was a big old building close to the main road through town and the rooms on the top floor had some wicked views! The hostel also organises tour trips and group activities, so the first day I spent in Quebec I jumped aboard a walking tour around the old quarter followed by a trip to the ice hotel!

Old City Tour

The tour was taken by a local volunteer guide called Claude, he was really informative about the history of the city and it was a great way to get a feel of the place and of course take a bazillion photographs!! Here are a handful:

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The Fairmont Château Frontenac was especially spectacular!!

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Ice Hotel Trip

Next up was the ice hotel which I didn’t even know existed if it wasn’t for the hostel, so that was a cool (ha…cool) surprise. It’s literally a hotel, made of ice. People sleep there!!!!

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Apparently you get given this crazy warm duvet and you’re meant to wear minimal clothes so that you don’t sweat as that makes you more cold! So what I took from that was that you’re basically meant to sleep naked… in a fricking ice room!! Just don’t go sitting on the polar bear I guess!

Aside from the bedrooms there’s also a bar:

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So of course I had to try a drink from an ice goblet:

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Then there was stuff like ice penguin sculptures, a chapel where people can hold weddings and conferences, an ice slide and a few sugar shacks! Worth a quick trip for sure, but I’m not braving staying there just yet!

Cafés

The rest of my time spent in Quebec was pretty much alot of eating and drinking coffee. There was this mad snow storm one of the days, so I spent some time walking around taking photographs and diving into coffee shops every 20 minutes.

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I’d  heard about this place La Maison Smith from another travel blog and managed to stumble across it on my wandering. It’s famous for its macarons so I went inside to buy a couple and ended up staying for hours and eating 6 macarons… 😂

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It was so ridiculously hipster inside, students on their macbooks, groovy lights and maps all over the walls. A great place to chill and watch the snow float by.

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Rue du Petit-Champlain

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Once the snow had eased off slightly I got ridiculously snap happy walking around in this winter wonderland. My favourite area was the Petit Champlain neighborhood, an old section by the port that looked like something from a Christmas movie.

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To get to the street you can either take the stairs or this fun glass lift called the funicular. It’s only $2.50 and although it only takes two seconds to transfer you, you can grab some pretty great fleeting views of the port around you.

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Here are a few more photos of this picturesque area:

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I had to nip into a souvenir shop at one point to get out of the way of a snow plough  (as you do) and came away from it with this awesome compass!!

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There’s no excuse for me getting lost now!

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I spent a while here just taking in the lovely surroundings, I think it’s the most peaceful I’ve felt so far this trip. What a friendly, homely place 😊 loved it.

I’ll finish off with a few more photos from my snow day, currently rinsing some WiFi at a Starbucks in Banff as the Internet has been eluding me for a few days! 😂 More on that in my next post!

Much love from cosy Canada

J x

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