NB: This is a review of Jasper in the summer time, i.e. out of ski season. Will be cross posted elsewhere (igougo.com)
Jasper is a small town in Jasper National Park, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is located on the very Western edge of the province of Alberta. There is a railway running through town and main roads out East to Edmonton and South to Banff. Tourism is the major industry here these days and much of the town is converted to hotels, camp sites, shops and tour operators to support this industry. We came here early in the summer and experienced its summer incarnation as a centre for summer outdoor pursuits.
Although small in people, you will find that motorised transport is a necessary evil around here - there are many places to go visit, but unless you are being collected by a tour bus (which we frequently managed to do), you will need to get a cab everywhere if you haven't rented a car.
We stayed in Jasper House bungalows when we visited. These were small self catering chalet style log cabins. At about £30 per person per night, these were extremely reasonably priced. The cabin contained one bedroom with twin beds, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room with a sofa bed in it. Our cabin had a superb view straight down to the river, which was a two minute walk down a steep bank. Trails lead from our bungalow all the way to Jasper itself, which was about 3 miles away. However, several of these were closed when we were there because it was elk calving season. Elk (which are related to deer but much, much larger than anything we get in the UK) are even more dangerous than bears at that time of year, so if you see some, steer clear!
The town is a gateway to the nearby Jasper National Park. Within a half hour drive, you can reach the stunning Athabasca falls - spectacular foaming waterfalls that have excellent viewing platforms fair access to wheelchairs and reasonable parking.
Other activities that I would recommend are taking the Jasper tramway (about £12 per person) - a cable car that takes you up nearby Whistler Mountain. This gives stunning views of the town itself and the nearby valleys, but it isn't suitable for anyone with a fear of heights! There is a cafe and shop at the station at the top, which provided reasonably priced tasty meals. The summit itself is a twenty minute steep climb from the upper station - do remember to take some walking poles with you if you want to attempt this. If you travel in early June like we did, beware that it will still be snowy at this altitude, so make sure you are warmly wrapped up and have good footwear.
There are many trails to the lakes around the area and it is particularly well liked by hikers and mountain bikers alike. Rafting is a main summer activity around here and you will find several operators that provide this - just make sure that you pick a grade that you like: we prefer the level 3/4 and find the level 2 a bit too tame (this cost us about £37 per person). If you fancy something a bit more sedate, try a scenic train ride through the Rocky Mountains instead.
If you lack transport then you will find that nightlife in this area can be a focussed around the campsite or hotel that you stay in - so make sure you choose one that is suitable for your needs. Our site had an excellent restaurant, but was very quiet later on, which suited us. We were there for a quiet and relaxing holiday but our guide assured us that the town does have a fair range of wilder options, places offering live music.
In summary, this is an excellent place to visit for a summer holiday. There are plenty of outdoor pursuits to take part in, for all levels of ability. Or you could just sit back and relax and admire the stunning scenery.
I visited Jasper back in March 96. The journey there was certainly a very long one! I took a flight form Manchester to Heathrow with BA then on Canadian to Calgary and a connection to Edmonton. After arriving in Edmonton we had the prospect of a 360Km or (225 miles) drive to the town of Jasper. Needless to say the whole journey, from getting up at home to arriving in Jasper took over 20 hours (a very long and tiring day!). I stayed at the Astoria Hotel (www.astoriahotel.com) which is a great place to stay conveniently located in the entre of town it's one of Jasper' odest Hotels and has its own pub complete with pool table. At the time of my visit ('96) it was doing a winter special on single rooms, which is great if you are a single traveller. Jasper is a fairly quiet town in the winter with a few restaurants, so we really spent much of out time in the Astoria pub which had a great mix of locals and Skiers. The advantage of the comparatively remote location meant that Jasper's ski slopes were deserted during the week, one of my most enduring memories of the visit was skiing down to the bottom of a lift station and the operator actually having to come out of his little hut to let us on the chair lift! The Marmot Basin ski area (www.skimarmot.com) is only a short 20 mins bus ride away form the town of Jasper, the bus conveniently stops outside the Astoria Hotel, and it is great for different levels of skiing. The lower slopes are wide and well groomed, perfect for beginners, whereas there are some great black diamond and off-piste runs for the more adventurous. The snow conditions at the Marmot Basin were excellent during my whole stay, infact it had some of the best snow conditions I have ever come across, dry powder and clear blue skies, absolutely perfect. It is no surprise to me that Marmot it is reputed to have the driest natural powder in the Rockies, apparently because of its location on the eastern
slopes of the Rockies. Other useful websites: www.explorejasper.com www.visit-jasper.com www.discoveralberta.com www.brewster.ca (bus company)