Northern Rockies/Alberta Marmot Basin Family Long Weekend - Jasper National Park

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by albertanskigirl, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    We decided to go away from Wednesday to Saturday this week to Marmot Basin - the kids have March Break through the long weekend, and SO and I took a couple of days off to have a nice trip with the kids. Most of this winter we've been day tripping to Louise and Sunshine, and we figured it would be nice to take a short ski vacation to one of our favourite mountains, Marmot Basin.

    Most people outside of Alberta don't know about Marmot. It's a pretty big ski area in Jasper National Park, 4 hours north of Banff, or 3 hours west of Edmonton: https://www.skimarmot.com/

    The vertical is very similar to Lake Louise, with below treeline skiing from midmountain down, but also a huge alpine area in the upper mountain. Most people I've spoken about it with in Calgary rarely go, and many of them describe it as a 'beginner mountain.' I would beg to differ. I would say that it has a wonderful variety of runs - for all abilities - from greens to double blacks. For our family's general level - low advanced to high advanced - it's perfect: tons of bump runs, ungroomed steep blacks, amazing black glade runs and beautiful wide open alpine skiing.

    We had a great drive up to Jasper -roads are clear and the weather is gorgeous and spring like:

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    One of the things I love about Marmot is the parking situation - I know, who says they love parking at a ski resort? Marmot has its parking along the lower mountain, and there is a run that is alongside of the parking. So, when you get there, basically you put your boots on at your car and ski down to the main lodge! Here's parking lot 2 at 9 am - we parked a few feet from the run, booted up and started our ski day! Marmot is super busy during March break (sarcasm).

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    Today was our first day skiing and we skied off of every lift. It hasn't snowed in about a week, so the lower mountain was either groomed or bumped up. The bumps have started to get a little bit icy. The upper mountain however was great. We actually had untracked in the trees, and lots of soft dry chop off of the Knob Chair.

    We started off with some lower mountain warm ups. Then we took the Canadian Express Chair up and did Highway 16. It was icy at the top but got soft pretty quickly. The snow on Milk Run and Punchbowl was great and soft. Here's the view from the top of Canadian Express:

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    We did a couple more laps on Paradise, and then went over to the Knob Chair - which was one of our 2 favourite chairs of the day. We lapped Knob Chair in the morning - did everything from McCready's to the chutes. Snow was gorgeous - from soft bumps to soft chop. Upper mountain was skiing wonderfully. On our way to the Knob:

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    Marmot Basin's beautiful upper slopes:

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    For me, the views at Marmot rival those of Lake Louise - the view of the whole valley, Jasper town, the beautiful Athabasca, Mt.Kerkeslin, Pyramid mountain...it never ends. So gorgeous!

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    After we lapped Knob, we skied all the way down and did a couple of great bump runs - Expressway and Dromedary. Here are our happy faces after coming down Knob Hill:

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    We brought our own lunches and left the backpack in one of the cubbies in the main lodge at the very bottom - it was not very crowded when we went in for lunch, and we didn't spend much time down there - 30 mins and then back to skiing.

    The afternoon was spent lapping Eagle Ridge Chair and Knob Chair. Conditions on the blacks off of Eagle Ridge were amazing - lots of soft small bumps. DD and I did Diamond Glades - one of our favourite runs of the day - and found untracked in the trees there. We ended the day on Knob again and skied out to the car.

    Here are a few more pics from the afternoon:




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    The kids and I somewhere on the upper mountain:

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    And of course, we did apres at Jasper Park Lodge:

    SO and I at Lac Beauvert:

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    And the views from our table at the Emerald Lounge:

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    Off to bed and getting ready for an EPIC day tomorrow. It's supposed to snow 30 cm tonight!!

    More tomorrow....
     
  2. surfsnowgirl

    surfsnowgirl Instructor Skier

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    Looks like a fabulous trip. What great pictures.
     
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  3. river-z

    river-z searching for seasons Skier

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    Thanks for the report. I spent a summer working near Edmonton and got over to Jasper a few times. It was wonderful. I also sort of wondered what Marmot Basin was like for skiing and it's great to see these pictures and find out. Have good trip!
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Next time you're up! We should plan on hitting Marmot!

    Jasper is such a special place - in the summer and the winter. It's my favourite of the national parks - and the it is definitely less crowded than other places further south.
     
  5. Jim Kenney

    Jim Kenney Travel Correspondent Industry Insider Team Gathermeister

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    One of my take-aways from my first visit to LL, SSV and Mt. Norquay recently was the vibe of informality and friendliness of the places. Sounds like Marmot is similar. The lodges welcome brown-baggers and have good set-ups for booting up and storing your bags/equipment during the day. It reminded me of the smaller, homey mountains back east, but surrounded by world class mountain scenery.
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Day 2: Powmageddon

    We spent out second day on the slopes yesterday and were happy to wake up to a snow report of 15 cm overnight. We got dressed, grabbed our lunches and made our way up to the hill. We were there just before 9 am, parked in lot 2, popped on our skis and walked over to the run to ski down to the lodge. Except that we realized on the run down to the lodge that it wasn't 15 cm of fresh over night. It was more like 30 cm+ overnight, and it was still snowing like crazy. We skied almost knee-deep untracked fresh snow on a green run from the parking lot all the way down to the lodge! I'm not sure where they took the reading for 15 cm overnight, but I saw way more than 15 cm everywhere on the mountain.

    We skied down to the lodge, and the mountain was pretty deserted - it would get busier later on in the day when, I think, more people heard about the huge amounts of snow. It was still blizzarding when we got there, and a couple of the upper lifts- including Knob and Eagle Ridge were on wind hold. But frankly, it was totally fine with us becuase there were huge amounts of snow everywhere and not many people at all. We spent the morning lapping the lower mountain, and getting first tracks pretty much on every run. We also spend a whole bunch of time in the trees which was so much fun.

    This photo was actually taken in the late afternoon - it took a LONG time to ski off all that powder, and most runs, even by late afternoon were not skied off.

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    SO and the kids on a run on the lower mountain - not sure when or where this is.

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    Me and the kids on the lower mountain in the afternoon - we had a lot of fun with big giant powder bumps in the afternoon. Some of the bumps were so big, you couldn't actually see what was on the other side of the bump while you were skiing around it.

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    This is me doing a very important snow depth test somewhere on Eagle Ridge. Just kidding - I took a hilarious fall and SO was there to catch it. But literally I was up to my neck in snow.

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    My awesome DD coming down a steep huge bump run:

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    We were already pretty pooped by lunch from all the huge bumps and fun falls. Everyone except for DS had at least one wipeout yesterday. Wish I had photos of the trees - they were awesome. In the afternoon, we got to ski a bit off Eagle Ridge, as well as Paradise chair. We did a few laps off both but the retreated back to the lower mountain because of the wind - it was really howling and cold. Despite it being only about -15c, the wind made it feel much much colder, and we found that our feet were getting colder faster because of all the time they spend in the snow.

    We skied pretty much all day - we left around 3.45 because we wanted to go back and enjoy a warm apres in our hotel room, and some quality hot tub time.

    Overall this has been an amazing family ski vacation, and we can't wait to come back to Marmot. This is a wonderful mountain with great terrain. We also loved how uncrowded it was, and what a great local vibe it has. We actually ran into some of the kids' friends and their families there. The skiers are definitely primarily from Alberta. Marmot is definitely a gem, and we'd like to do a trip here at least once a season in the future.

    Other travel details:

    Accommodation: we stayed at the Mount Robson Inn. It was fine, but on the Easter long weekend, it was one of the cheaper places, and I could use a discount I had here to get us 3 nights for just under $400 CAD. The hotel was very basic, but very clean - which is really all we need. We did have a microwave, fridge and coffeemaker in the room which was great for us because we made our breakfasts and lunches every day there. They have 2 hot tubs but they get crowded really fast. It wasn't the world's best hot tub experience, but it was fine for the price we paid. This would not be my first choice for accomoodation - but we were really trying to do a 3 night/3 day trip for all 4 of us that would be about $1000 CAD (not including lift tickets) and I think we succeeded.

    Food: I find food in Jasper to be quite expensive. If you are going out for dinner, you can plan on about $20 per person, not including drinks. We opted to bring our own breakfasts and pack lunches for the mountain. We had oatmeal, cereal and bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, and sandwiches, veggies, hummus, fruit and chocolate for the hill. Kudos to the Mount Robson Inn for having a mini fridge that was a bit bigger than usual. For dinner, we ate out most nights. The first night we were at L&W, a Greek diner basically, and I think the food quality has declined a little bit while the prices have gone up. I think their Greek dishes are still ok (like souvlaki) and pizza is ok, but the salads and pasta were pretty awful. Second night we were at Jasper Brewing Company - food was great and portions were huge, but prices were a little high. None of us finished our meals - not even our 14 year old DS who pretty much eats everything in sight nowadays. Last night was the best meal - we went to Kimchi House, a Korean place just next to the liquor store and it was fantastic. The service was pretty terrible, but the food more than made up for it. It was fantastic!

    Transportation: For a visitor from outside of Alberta, Marmot is a little bit out of the way - 4 hours by car from Edmonton, or 5-5.5 hours by car from Calgary (if the Icefields Parkway is open. If it is not open, it's about 7 hours via Edmonton). But the scenery along the way (Icefields) is stunning and Jasper is really a magical place. Marmot, if it is part of a visitor's ski experience here, should be part of a larger ski safari.

    In short, we loved Marmot Basin! And we can't wait to go back!
     
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  7. David Chaus

    David Chaus If I am skiing the world is a perfect place. Skier

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    Nice trip report! I’ve been in the area once, far too long ago, in the summer. What a beautiful place.

    IIRC there is a hot springs right in Jasper.
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    I definitely agree with this - I love the familiar homey feeling of our local mountains. I love that there are cubbie holes and shelves everywhere, and that most people are bringing their own lunches. One thing I am happy for is that, despite all of the increased visitors, it seems that (so far) the resorts haven't forgotten about catering to locals as well. And I definitely appreciate that. I hope that doesn't change.
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Thhre is a hot springs in Jasper - the Miette hot springs. We love it! But unfortunately, it's not open in the winter. The road is not cleared in winter, so we'll have to wait until May to get our fill of the Miette/Sulphur Mountain area.

    Sounds like it's time to make another trip out @David Chaus !
     
  10. SKI-3PO

    SKI-3PO Out on the slopes Skier

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    Thanks for the report on a place we don’t get to hear about much.
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Last day in Jasper:

    We slept in a little this morning before making the trek out of Jasper. Almost as soon as we got out of bed through we realized that it was colder that expected outside. Indeed, it was -22 c this morning in Jasper - it is definitely still winter in the Canadian Rockies! But it was a beautiful sunny windless day - so skiing at Marmot probably was amazing today.

    We checked out of the hotel and got a traditonal greasy spoon breakfast of omelettes and potatoes at Lou Lou's. We tried to go to Coco's Cafe, but it was way too crowded to wait for food and a seat - unsurprising though considering that it was a Saturday morning on Easter long weekend.

    Before we left, we walked around town a little bit and then drove up to Pyramid Lake to walk around and take in the views. it was really a brilliant morning!


    The view onto Pyramid Lake and Pyramid mountain:

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    Enjoying the frigid late March temperatures ;)

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    I thought I would add one other little update about Jasper National Park. I'm not sure if any of you know, but Jasper is undergoing a terrible pine beetle infestation. Over the past 10 years, Alberta has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to keep out pine and spruce beetles. Our neighbour to the west, British Columbia has been ravaged by beetles - largely due to the mild winters of the past ten decades, but also because of their pro-clearcutting policy in BC forestry. Alberta has largely eschewed clear-cutting and our cold winters have kept beetles out largely while northern BC has been decimated. Well, this is no longer the case - the combination of 2 very mild winters in northern Alberta coupled with a new genetically diverse beetle species has meant that the beetles have completely taken over Jasper in a matter of two seasons. I was shocked to see the beetle damage over this visit. I hadn't been to Jasper this past summer (2017), but was there in 2016. The change in a little more than a year is shocking - the park has gone from having very little beetle kill on the western gate of the park to a full-on park infestation. A large majority of trees in the Athabasca valley are already dead, and there are worries that this is basically it for Alberta forests. This winter has been an especially cold one, so I am hoping that this might have an effect - but apparently at this point, it is so out of control, that we have to keep on hoping for cold winters. Here are a couple of photos of the damage.

    Here is Patricia Lake - completely surrounded by rust-coloured and dead lodgepole pine.

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    Here is the drive up to Pyramid Lake - surrounded on both sides by beetle kill.

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    We saw a whole bunch of 'caution - smoke' signs up around the park and realized quickly that it was all from prescribed burns that Parks Canada is doing to try and control the infestation. For more on this:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/pine-beetle-jasper-national-park-forest-edmonton-1.4569327

    We had an amazing time in Jasper, and can't recommend it enough if you come this way!
     
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  12. Bad Bob

    Bad Bob old n' slow Skier

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    Thanks for sharing this. Like everybody else have always wondered about Marmot but never gone.
     
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  13. AmyPJ

    AmyPJ No longer on the single track. Pugski Ski Tester

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    What a great TR! I have never heard of Marmot--now I'm curious!!
     
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  14. blah

    blah Getting on the lift Skier

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    Uh-oh, Wildfire season this summer may be especially bad after seeing at all those dead trees in the pictures.

    I was smoked out for several days last summer while hiking in banff and yoho. Don't even want to think about how many years i was taking off of my life, sucking in that smoke. Hope we're not in for a repeat this summer.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Guess you should do a visit out to Alberta :)
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Yeah - we actually stayed away from Banff and Yoho last summer because of the fires. We ended up combining a trip to SO's family in Colorado with camping and hiking in the Tetons and Glacier. When we were in Calgary, we stuck to biking in the city. The summer was pretty awfuly between the Kootenay fires and also all the smoke coming in from Montana. I've got my fingers crossed for a better year this summer - but seeing all that beetle kill in Jasper has made me worried for the northern Rockies. All that deadwood + lightning strikes or illegal fires = bad news :(
     
  17. AmyPJ

    AmyPJ No longer on the single track. Pugski Ski Tester

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    Funny, my grandparents used to travel to Alberta for several weeks every summer. They LOVED it there, and coming from WA state, that says a lot, because WA State is beautiful, too. So yes, I'd love to visit one of these days. Another one to add to my list...
     
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  18. Poolskier Vinny

    Poolskier Vinny Red Bull Athlete Wannabe Skier

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    Our club hosted a trip out there on the Easter weekend too...We were all thinking it was going to be a sunshiny...beers out on the deck...slush fest - you know spring skiing! Instead we got a mid-winter like powder weekend. Skiing was excellent...and the hill got way more than forcasted/reported. Well over a foot settled and in some wind drifted areas we were skiing thigh-high pow! Plus no crowds..which was weird...since it was Easter weekend. There were a lot of road closures both 93 and 16 as well as the forecasted colder weather (colder for spring that is) maybe scared people away.

    We spent a bit of time hot lapping the "easy/fast access" powder in the trees off Eagle...did some fun stuff/chutes/Charlies/etc. off of the Knob chair and some of our crew hiked up to the Summit for a lap.

    We hit most of the chutes/drops/trees etc in Eagles East before checking out the new terrain area: Tres Hombres.

    Tres Hombres is a really fantastic addition for Marmot which has in the past been a bit shy on the advanced/expert "long fall-line" type of runs. Eagles East has some good pitches/sections but they tend to be short....you have to do a lot of "linking" to get a good smooth long run in. The terrain in Tres Hombres helps bring some longer fall line runs into Marmot's terrain fold.. You get off the Paradise lift...hike up a very short section to get to the bowl's access. It's a big face/semi-bowl that you drop into from anywhere on the top and pick your line down into a treed funnel/traverse. This is the first year they opened this area so it's still a "work in progress" ...the runout/traverse back to the lift is kinda brutal...think bumpy/blind sections/and a bit narrow. The snowboarders we led in there kinda hated it the first time as they didn't know when to burn speed...it was easier for them the second time. I'm sure this will improve next year with better grading/glading. Think of it as a kind of a scaled down...very much much smaller and less steep...version of Kicking Horse's Stairway/Whitewall/Fuezbowl area and you have the general idea.

    There's a lot to like at Marmot...and Jasper is much nicer than Banff in some ways since since it's quieter and a bit less commercialized - comparatively speaking.

    Accom:
    Low:There are plenty of hotels plus there are 2 hostels (Hostel International Jasper and The Downtown Hostel) in the area. I've stayed at both and they are fine. Both have private rooms available as well.
    Medium:Best Western/Tonquin Inn etc. Lots of choices here.
    High: Recommend the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge....it's a bit different than the other Fairmont's in that they are cabins/chalet type accommodations. They are much better now after much needed renovations. (I would still rate the LL and Banff Fairmont's higher overall...so if you are travelling and want to splurge save it for a Lakeside room at the Chateau LL)

    Food/drink wise...lots of choices. Evil Dave's/Oshea's/Kimchi house/Downstream/AthaB/DedDog/Whistlestop/4peaks/etc.

    Jasper and Marmot is worth a look if you have "done the Banff scene" and want to try something different!
     
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  19. surfsnowgirl

    surfsnowgirl Instructor Skier

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    Sounds like a plan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
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    albertanskigirl

    albertanskigirl aka Sabrina Skier

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    Seems like we missed each other - but it was definitely an amazing few days. I think they have been some of my best days of the season so far. I'm really curious about Tres Hombres. We didn't make it over there the first day because we were lapping Knob, and then we were just too nervous on the puking snow day because visibility was so bad. Looking forward to checking it out next time - not sure if that's going to be this season though.

    I definitely agree that Marmot is great if you're done with Banff :)
     
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