If you catch the hour-long flight to Edmonton from Vancouver and take the five-hour Sundog shuttle en route to Jasper, you’ll spot the first glimpses of the jagged Rocky Mountain ranges just after passing the town of Hinton, Alberta. And within this epic setting are no shortage of activities for nature-lovers, adventure-seekers and culture buffs. Here are five must-dos to add to your Jasper itinerary. —Lise Boullard
See: A three-hour guided and narrated Jasper Wildlife Discovery Tour with Sundog Tours takes you through the Athabasca Valley, along winding roads through evergreen forests, over bridges crossing sparkling streams, and next to mountains reflected in turquoise lakes. Here you’ll have the chance to see elk, moose, mountain goats, sheep, wolf, grizzly and black bear, deer, bald eagles and more wildlife. When you do spot an animal, like the herd of elk we saw chewing grass in a clearing, your Sundog guide will stop and provide lots of time to snap photos. Even if you don’t see all of the creatures on your list, you’re sure to see fabulous fairytale scenes of towering mountain ranges with Crayola-coloured freight train cars winding their way along the mountainside. Sundogtours.com
Do: On a clear day, from the beach at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, you can spot the tiny tram dock at the top of Whistlers Mountain. A quick—and hair-raising—seven-minute trip on theJasper SkyTram will whisk you 2,263 meters up to the alpine area while you take in the sweeping views of the Athabasca Valley. After disembarking, spend some time exploring the alpine, whether it’s snowshoeing, or hiking the steep terrain to the Summit. Up top, on a clear day you’ll be treated to 360-degree panoramic views of six mountain ranges, including the highest peak in the Rockies, Mount Robson. In the fall, there are stargazing events, too. No matter when you go, don’t miss the opportunity to sit down at the Summit Café for some truly staggering vistas. You’ll see firsthand why it’s a popular proposal spot. Jasperskytram.com
Devour: Since its inception 2009, the Devour! Food Film Festival, held annually in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, has grown to attract around 15,000 attendees each year, as well as top culinary and film talent the likes of Gordon Pinsent, Jason Priestley and Anthony Bourdain. At Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival, one of Devour!’s satellite events which took place March 31 to April 2, 2023 at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, I joined almost 250 attendees to indulge in three days of food, beer, wine and film. On Day One we set off for a Cabin Crawl, where we partied in four different themed chalets—Vietnamese, Californian Coast Street Party, Speakeasy and West Coast vs East Coast Seafood—and tasted fare prepared by the event’s featured chefs. Day Two had us sampling and voting on an array of different types of Devour! chef-prepared chile in the Chile Smackdown (a twist on Wolfville’s Chowder Smackdown), followed by a wine tasting and a guided beer and charcuterie pairing. That evening, we sat down in the grand Beauvert Dining Room to watch five short food-related films projected onto a large screen, each followed by a dish created as an ode to the particular movie. It was an immersive and unique culinary adventure, and I overheard some attendees saying they were planning on returning to Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge’s Devour! event next year, and were considering the flagship Devour! event in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, October 23 to 29, 2023. Devour.com
Wonder: Expanding 10,878 square kilometres, Jasper Park National Park has very little light pollution, making it one of the world’s biggest dark-sky preserves where Aurora Borealis viewings are common. September and October are the best months to see the dancing rays of green, purple and red lights in Jasper, but you can catch them at other times of year, too. Actually, hotel staff spotted them while I was asleep in my lakeside cabin room at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in early April. Locals recommend using the My Aurora app to get forecasts and notifications about imminent Northern Lights viewing opportunities. You can also join the Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook Group for updates. Good luck!
Spa: The rustic-luxurious Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, built in 1922 and frequented by royalty and glitterati (Marylin Monroe was a guest), has an award-winning spa that is open to the public. And while massages are good, Therapeutic Treatment massages using Kerstin Florian Deep Relax Oil, Neroli Water and Fub Balm in the middle of the Rocky Mountains are…better. Pre- or post-treatment, wrap yourself in one of the ultra-soft spa robes, grab a book and head to the spa’s dedicated lounge featuring sink-into-me armchairs, a cracking fireplace, views of Lac Beauvert and Whistlers Mountain, and a seriously serene ambiance. Fairmont.com