What is it that keeps people returning again and again to Canada? Is it the splendour of the country’s bountiful nature, or the exceptional hospitality of its people?
For those looking to experience both without compromise, a trip to Edmonton, Alberta is the perfect option. With Jasper National Park and ski resort Marmot Basin just a quick drive away, travellers can enjoy a city to summit experience like no other. Explore the sights and tastes of Edmonton, put your feet up and drink in the scenery, and be whisked away to experience the height of Rocky Mountain grandeur, all in one trip.
As the provincial capital of Alberta and one of Canada’s northernmost metropolises, Edmonton is certainly a sight-to-behold destination, with many strings to its bow. World-class festivals like the Flying Canoe and Silver Skate festival offer a glimpse into Canadian culture set in a winter wonderland.
For those who prefer to spend their time outside, Edmonton’s river valley and the nearby Elk Island National Park are spectacular no matter the season – the former is the largest urban parkland in North America and perfect for cross country skiing or ice skating – in case you want to get warmed up for the slopes.
You might expect a city of Edmonton’s calibre to have a world-class dining scene, and you’d be correct. Surrounded by fertile grassland, Alberta boasts some of the best beef and bison in North America, which can be experienced at its many excellent restaurants. One such spot is RGE RD which dishes out prairie cuisine at its very best, partnering with local farmers from the area around Edmonton. For those that are looking for liquid sustenance, Clementine is an elegant cocktail bar inspired by nature and early 20th-century Art Nouveau with an impressive natural wine list featuring small, family-run vineyards.
Of course, ice hockey is part and parcel of Canadian culture, and it would be remiss not to mention the city’s NHL team, the Edmonton Oilers. Canadians have a reputation for being polite, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t rowdy when it comes to hockey. Sports fans will want to stay in the Ice District, in the plush rooms of the JW Marriott – the action unfolds at Rogers Place, just next door.
Rocky Mountain high
Jasper is without a doubt one of the most charming towns in the Rockies, with a laid back, down-to-earth atmosphere alongside access to high-octane adventure. Nestled in the belly of a deep valley, the city is hemmed in by towering mountains and the azure waters of crystalline lakes, with an abundance of wildlife thriving in its stunning landscapes. It boasts great activities including dogsledding, cross-country skiing and ice skating on frozen alpine lakes. There’s even an ice walk in Maligne Canyon. Although that’s not to say it’s all rough and tumble: travellers looking to be pampered after a long day on the slopes will find themselves in luxury’s lap at hotels such as the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
Marmot Basin ski hill is easily one of the finest resorts in Canada, known for its spectacular views, varied runs and relaxed vibe, and boasts the superlative of the highest base elevation of all Canadian ski areas. You can ski or snowboard 1,720 acres, 91 runs and 3,000 vertical feet of diverse terrain, while for those with true grit, it also boasts an incredible amount of backcountry with plenty of steep skiing and deep powder. After a day on the mountain, unwind with an après-ski session in a cosy mountain chalet.
Jasper National Park is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you’d expect, that means that wildlife lovers will be rewarded with an incredible array of mammals: caribou, elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bears and wolves, for a start. However, there’s also a wide variety of birds as well as smaller but no less fascinating creatures such as marmots and pikas, all of which can be seen on a Winter Wildlife Discovery Tour.
The park also offers the largest accessible dark sky preserve in the world, which is perfect for stargazing and also offers a chance to see the northern lights.