LONELY PLANET GUIDE TO CANADA says “Take Banff, half the annual visitor count, increase the total land area by 40%, and multiply the number of bears, elk, moose and caribou by the power of three. The result: Jasper.”
It’s true – the feel was totally different from Banff. While Banff has that “resort” ambiance with streets lined with souvenir shops and restaurants – there were two major streets in Jasper. There were tourists, but it didn’t seem as crowded or hurried. Definitely a more laid back atmosphere in Jasper. There are just around 5,000 permanent residents living in Jasper.
Jasper is the largest wilderness park in the Canadian Rockies. It encompasses more than 10,000 square kms. Over 2 million people visit the park each year, but those who come do so to experience the natural surroundings and the easy to spot wildlife. There are over 1,000 km in trails for hikers, bikers, climbers and equestrians. Apparently tourism slows down some in the winter, but Jasper offers outstanding skiing and snowboarding at Marmot Basin – 20 minutes from town. Spread over 1,675 acres, Marmot offers 86 runs.
What amazed us was the spectacular scenery – everywhere. The drive to Jasper from the South through the Columbia Icefield is one that everyone should make. It took us about 5 hours (with stops) and it ranked up there as one of the most scenic drives we have made so far. Mountains, forests and lakes as far as the eye can see. Wildlife around every turn. I only hope that my photos give an accurate indication of the area’s real beauty.