ice hiking in jasper

Adventures in Jasper for people who are slightly scared of adventure

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 you’re straight and you don’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. It’s not a matter of will I ski? But will I die if I ski? I’ve tried a dozen times, on bunny slopes and cross-country. I am terrible.


Fortunately! If you’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 here’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 you’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 – in the winter it’s a lot of ice and snow. But for the best views, you really have to get down onto the canyon floor.

inside maligne canyon

You SHOULD NOT do this without a guide. Falling ice is a real threat, so the SunDog guides always take a trip into the canyon in the early morning to check for soft spots or problematic areas. You definitely do not want to fall knee-deep into a freezing river, or get hit over the head with a chunk of ice. Plus your guides will show you where you can actually climb into the canyon – otherwise you’d probably miss it.

And if you don’t want to ice climb, you can at least admire the climbers from below.

ice climber in jasper

This canyon is over 50 metres deep and 365-million years old. But she doesn’t look a day over 40.

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.

snowshoeing on maligne lake


The element of adventure on this SunDog tour is marginally higher than Maligne Canyon, mostly because you’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 meant…it’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.


drinking champagne on maligne lake


It was pretty well the finest day you could ask for in the middle of the Canadian Rockies at minus temperatures.


jasper pride rainbow on the lake

We unintentionally formed a pride rainbow. “Are you going to write a blog post titled ‘Candice and the lesbians?’” asked my new friend Kathy. I thought about it. I’m still thinking about it.

Wildlife Viewing

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 it’s early spring and the grizzlies are starting to emerge from their dens, there’s still that unpredictable element of surprise that may involve dashing to the van to escape a rampaging bear.


wildlife in jasper

(I’m kidding – that rarely happens.)

We didn’t see grizzlies, sadly. But we did see bighorn sheep, tons of elk, some Canadian geese, and even a magpie or two.


baby sheep in jasper

There’s a lot more adventure to be had too, from ice-skating to curling on Lac Beauvert in front of the Fairmont Park Lodges. And dog sledding, when there’s actually enough snow. And contrary to popular belief, it surprisingly wasn’t THAT cold. It’s way colder over here on the east coast, folks. I only needed to wear one parka.

  • April 03 2015

    I hate the cold, but I think those mountain views would tempt me enough to actually leave the house during winter. I would love to try the Canyon Ice Walk- it looks awesome!

    • April 09 2015

      I loooved it! I’m a total wimp when it comes to cold temperatures, but I actually found Jasper quite okay

  • April 03 2015

    Ha! You know my friend Kathy!!!! Small world.

    • April 09 2015

      Haha no way! How do you know her? She was my partner in crime for the whole trip

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