Two weeks ago I visited Jasper National Park in Alberta just in time for Jasper Pride Festival. It was also my first time in the Canadian Rockies during the winter. Attending a gay pride fest is always an adventure, especially when youâ€™re straight and you donâ€™t actually know anybody at all. But amid all the drag queen shows and burlesque events and social mixers, I actually managed to fit in some outdoorsy stuff too.
The highlight for many festival-goers was the gay ski at Marmot Basin. I, however, do not ski. I cannot ski. Itâ€™s not a matter of will I ski? But will I die if I ski? Iâ€™ve tried a dozen times, on bunny slopes and cross-country. I am terrible.
Fortunately! If youâ€™re semi-adventurous but not adventurous enough to ski or go ice climbing, Jasper Pride Festival has a whole slew of other activities organized for you. So hereâ€™s what I did instead.
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
Jasper Pride Festival paired with SunDog tours to offer a bunch of organized excursions, and so the first one I signed up for was the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk. You strap some grips onto your boots, and then youâ€™re led deep into the gorge.
At first I was kinda like, meh, this is all right I guess. In the summer, this canyon turns into a roiling, boiling, churning river â€“ in the winter itâ€™s a lot of ice and snow. But for the best views, you really have to get down onto the canyon floor.
And if you donâ€™t want to ice climb, you can at least admire the climbers from below.
Snowshoeing Maligne Lake
Maligne Lake gets a lot of attention in Jasper National Park, which makes a lot of sense considering how bloody beautiful it is. And I say this despite the fact I forgot my sunglasses while on my hike and I nearly went snow blind.
The element of adventure on this SunDog tour is marginally higher than Maligne Canyon, mostly because youâ€™re walking across a frozen lake at least 97-metres deep. You can also cross-country ski the lake, or take a fat bike out there (our guide kept talking about fat bikes and I had no idea what he meantâ€¦itâ€™s basically a mountain bike with fat tires). We traversed about half the length of the lake before looping back around, and then paused to crack open a bottle of bubbly.
It was pretty well the finest day you could ask for in the middle of the Canadian Rockies at minus temperatures.
I suppose this is the least adventurous of the three trips as you mostly sit in a van and get toured around looking for wildlife. BUT seeing as how itâ€™s early spring and the grizzlies are starting to emerge from their dens, thereâ€™s still that unpredictable element of surprise that may involve dashing to the van to escape a rampaging bear.
We didnâ€™t see grizzlies, sadly. But we did see bighorn sheep, tons of elk, some Canadian geese, and even a magpie or two.