THE 4TH OF THE BIG 3
JASPER NATIONAL PARK may not be as old as its southern neighbor, but the 4,335-square-mile wilderness is bigger. Jasper is home to Marmot Basin ski resort, which features 1,675 skiable acres and a 3,000-foot vertical that will have you catching your breath. Located 180 miles north of Banff along the scenic Icefields Parkway, the town of Jasper retains its western roots and presents a more mellow après-ski experience more akin to Crested Butte, Colo., than Banff.
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge offers historic cabins with vistas on Lac Beauvert, a natural ice surface in winter. Refueling inside the lodge’s Moose’s Nook Northern Grill or in town at the Jasper Brewing Company Brew Pub & Eatery is highly recommended.
Based in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, Doc Pow spends the winter on his snowboard mount traversing the Trans-Canada Highway 1 with an enthusiasm that makes Dudley Do-Right appear stoic and stern. Though I’ve never skied with Doc down a mountain that he didn’t love, Sunshine Village definitely giddies up his gait. “The perspective is so different here,” Doc gushes. “I love how removed you are from it all.”
Legend has it that the Canadian Rockies provide habitat for a panoply of hermits; mountain men who’ve decided they’d rather build shelters than websites and for whom a well-maintained operating system equals survival. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge invites the less-ambitious mountain people among us to isolate ourselves, too, albeit within a four-star lodge surrounded by more than 3,300 skiable acres.
Sunshine Mountain Lodge perches at the top of the gondola lift, the only ski-in/ski-out accommodation in Banff National Park. The newly constructed West Wing features “loft rooms,” ideal for families or a gathering of friends. I can’t help but think I’m playing out my “Jack and the Beanstalk” fantasy here, having ascended to 7,200 feet above sea level without a road in sight. Fortunately, the five restaurants, pool and spa relieve any anxiety over developing cabin fever.
I set my own traps the next morning, determined to exploit back-to-back evening snowfall in “Delirium Dive,” one of several “inside the ropes” backcountry experiences that set Sunshine Village apart from almost every other North American ski area. The “Dive” requires an avalanche beacon, shovel and probes, all available to rent at the Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard School. I also recommend taking a mountain guide or ski-school instructor along the first time.