My first Alberta winter has been an interesting adjustment. I’ll take Newfoundland’s moderate temperatures over Alberta’s extreme cold any day of the year. However, Alberta has an exceptional number of bluebird days, so I’d take that over the rain, drizzle, and fog. What I was anticipating most about my first Alberta winter, though, was the skiing– I remember packing our skiing and snowboarding gear into the cars during the move and daydreaming about the mountains. This past weekend, I finally got to have that experience for the first time. It was so worth it.
I started researching ski hills in Alberta months ago. We decided on Marmot Basin in Jasper for our first trip as Jasper is the nearest to where we live and we are already pretty familiar with the town. I opted to purchase their Escape Card as it allowed us to save the most money on our trip and has no blackout dates. Here’s the breakdown:
Without the Escape Card:
Regular Lift Passes x 2 people x 2 days = $400
With the Escape Card:
Marmot Escape Card x 2 people = $180
Escape Card offers 50% off lift passes x 2 people x 2 days = $200
Our total = $380 (Okay, so you’re thinking, only $20 savings? Is it worth it?)
The Escape Card was also able to offer us a total savings of 15% on our hotel which saved us approximately $60.
If you ski for longer than 2 days, the savings continue to build (3 days for 2 people at regular price = $600, with the Escape Card the total is $480).
30% off Jasper SkyTram, which we hope to avail of at a later date.
There are discounts on rentals, lessons, and repairs as well as many other perks.
My favourite reason for purchasing the Escape Card:
Once you arrive at the hill, trade in your Escape Card for a Direct-To-Lift Pass. This will serve as your ski pass and fastens to your coat. It has a small barcode at the bottom which gets scanned at the chairlifts and is linked to your credit card. When you start your day, you can skip the ticket line and head straight to the slopes. Your card will be charged on the first run of the day and it’s that simple! When we return later in the season, for example, we will bring the same pass and head straight to the chairlift on our first morning there. No need to check-in, purchase tickets or swipe the credit card. It’s already set up. So simple and so much more time for skiing!
We’re not sponsored by Marmot Basin, I swear. I was just so impressed by the Escape Card offer I had to share the tips! I want your experience to be as good as ours was.
Now that I’m finished raving about the Escape Card– let’s talk about the hill itself. I’ve only ever skied on Newfoundland’s two ski hills before, so I was bound to be impressed by the sheer size of the mountain alone, but I had so much more to be excited about.
We drove to Jasper from Hinton on Saturday morning and we already knew it would be a great day when we could clearly see the mountains in the distance. Marmot Basin is a few kilometers past the Town of Jasper to the west and within the boundaries of Jasper National Park, so you may be stopped to purchase a Parks Canada pass like we were. After a winding drive up the mountain, you’ll reach the main building of Marmot Basin. Keep driving and you’ll hit the parking lots. You can’t miss it.
If you’re like me, you’ve already built up a sweat by the time you’ve lugged your skis, boots, and heavy clothes from the car to the lodge to get geared up and then you dread carrying it all back to the car at the end of the day because you’re so exhausted. This was not something we had to worry about at Marmot Basin. The parking lots line the edge of the eastern-most slope, so you can ski directly from your car down to the main building and chairlifts; then ski back to your car from the top of the hill for breaks throughout the day or when you’re ready to leave. It’s genius. This small feature made our weekend so much more relaxing and enjoyable.
There are six chairlifts. One for the beginner area, two from the base of the mountain, two at mid-mountain, and one near the top that carries you to what’s basically the peak. We made most of our trips on the Canadian Rockies Express on the first day and I recommend this for people who are new to the hill like we were. This lift is also great for folks who are not completely confident in their skiing/snowboarding skills yet or people who are looking for more leisurely runs.
On our second day, we ventured onto the Eagle Express and Eagle Ridge Chairs, which offer some steeper but still really easygoing runs. We had a lot of fun mixing and matching and found that we almost never did the same run twice. This was one of my favourite things about skiing on such a large hill.
We also tried out the Knob Chair twice. This chair is a bit more rickety and the slopes are a lot steeper, but it’s worth it as the elevation and the views are simply phenomenal.
Marmot Basin has a great variety of green, blue, and black runs. We’re amateur skiers/snowboarders and mostly do it for leisure and fun rather than sport, so we definitely stick to the greens and blues, but with an occasional black if we feel comfortable. I’ve never touched a double black diamond, and definitely don’t plan on it!
There are so many trails to choose from– we didn’t even hit them all in two full days. I’ll name a few favourites: Basin Run, Paradise, Punch Bowl, Knob Traverse, Power Line, Tranquilizer, Easy Street, Fresh Tracks, Dromedary, and Spillway. That’s ten, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s available.
The resort has implemented some solid rules around Covid-19 safety and because of the sheer size of the slopes, has not had to limit capacity. Skiers and snowboarders are expected to wear masks at all times and practice safe physical distancing.
I’m not sure if the following point is the result of the pandemic or not, but there did not appear to be massive amounts of people on the hills. There were hardly any lineups for the chairlifts, no wait times at the chalets and lodges, and it was very easy to steer clear of other skiers. The trails didn’t feel crowded whatsoever, which we loved. One of my biggest fears when skiing is running into someone else or getting run into, but that was not a concern at all at Marmot Basin. Efficient operating or Covid-19– you tell me.
Lucky for us, restaurants re-opened to in-person dining the week before our trip was planned so we were able to access both of the chalets at Marmot Basin. As amateur skiers and snowboarders, one of our favourite things about a ski trip is the beer breaks– it’s part of the experience! There are cafeteria-style facilities within the chalets and super cool outdoor beer tents with fireplaces, however, we opted for the indoor lounges.
Eagle Lounge is located mid-mountain, best accessed by the Basin Run trail, and this is where we warmed up on day one. With a cozy atmosphere and super friendly staff, it was hard to convince ourselves to bundle back up and venture outdoors. Mack had a mouthwatering mac and cheese and I had a yummy chicken caesar salad. We both enjoyed Mount Crushmore beers from Banded Peaks Brewing. No complaints here!
On day two, we popped into Eagle Lounge again for a morning warm-up where I enjoyed an amazing spicy caesar and we shared a plate of fries. Then in the afternoon, we wanted to try out Caribou Bar & Grill at the base of the mountain for lunch. We shared fish tacos and a breakfast poutine, which, accompanied by another Mount Crushmore, hit the spot. While the food and service were totally comparable and equally awesome, it’s worth mentioning that Eagle Lounge offers a quieter, cozier environment than Caribou Bar & Grill.
Our weekend at Marmot Basin couldn’t have gone any better. To top off great weather, great snow conditions, and awesome chalet time, we had no injuries or major wipeouts, so that’s always a win. Just super sore muscles and happy exhaustion all around.
Pro-tip: even though the weather was good, it was still super chilly, especially if your mittens get wet or you work up a sweat. I bought a 40-pack of Hot Hands and Toe Warmers on Amazon for a great price and I was so pleased with myself because they came in handy!
Have you been to Marmot Basin? What’s your favourite run? What did we miss out on? What’s your favourite ski resort in Alberta? We can’t wait to see more of what the province has to offer and revisit Marmot Basin as well– hopefully in our camper!