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