Do you ever have just the most wonderful weekend getaway and wish it wouldn’t end? That’s how I’m feeling after coming home from Jasper in January – the national park town’s winter festival that features both free and ticketed events themed around adventure, food, and arts.
Mike and I had a whirlwind trip just last weekend for the “Appetites” (food-themed, of course!) weekend of Jasper in January. As you might’ve guessed, we ate a lot, but we also took part in some fun outdoor, winter adventures too. Food, wine, snowshoeing, snowboarding, exploring the town and more –
Read on for my recap of our Jasper in January adventure, check out my list of 10 Tips to Get The Most Out of Jasper in January blog post here, and scroll down to enter my giveaway for a chance to win 1-Day lift passes for 2 to Jasper’s Marmot Basin Ski Resort!
We kicked off our Jasper in January experience at the Wine in Winter Festival on Friday night. For $30/ticket, you get to sample countless wines from around the world, while nibbling on same small plate/appetizer dishes.
I’m not much of a wine drinker but Mike loves it (at home, he’ll do Wine Mondays, Wine Wednesdays, Wine Thursdays, Wine Saturdays…) so you can imagine how much bang for your buck a wine lover can get at this type of event.
Admittedly the food offerings at Wine in Winter were kind of disappointing, but the wine was fantastic. You’re really going for the wine at this event. Mike quickly got into a pattern that was very effective, returning to his favourite booths (the Black Sage Vineyard was a winner) and booths with generous pours.
I still enjoyed some of the food selection – including the meat and cheese, and chips and dips, but when we return next year (because we would – because unlimited wine for $30, really is a no-brainer), I’m hoping the food is taken up a notch.
Our Saturday schedule was jam-packed and I really think that’s how you should ‘do’ Jasper in January – just soak up as many of the events and activities as you can. I’m always amazed at how much you can do when you’re in “vacation mode” compared to how many episodes of That 70’s Show I can get through in one evening at home, lol. Huge contrast but that’s one of the things I love about getting away – doing, seeing and taking in as much as I can!
So to start off our busy Jasper in January Saturday, we had breakfast at Wicked Cup, just the cutest and most interesting little breakfast/cafe/art and gift store a couple of minutes past town.
At Wicked Cup, there’s no shortage of interesting things to look at – many of them reclaimed or from another part of the world. We were immediately struck by all the cool art on the walls, and the cool furniture and decor.
Our server told us the owners really like to travel, so will often bring back really interesting pieces of art and items to furnish or sell at the store – and for really affordable prices. We couldn’t believe how affordable some of this hand-made, art from Asia was.
I couldn’t leave without purchasing this beautiful Buddha piece for my parents – the hand painted work of art uses leaves from Indonesia, and Buddha’s face is meant to show a perfect state of calm and awareness. Biggest bonus: it was just $80!
What we originally came there for – breakfast – was also really tasty. I got the egg sandwich, hash browns, sausage, with extra bacon (you need to have both bacon and sausage if you get the option of having both).
I also thought it was awesome that they offered a matcha (green tea) latte and was delighted when it came to the table with an amazing dragon latte art foam design!
There’s actually a lot of Asian influences in Wicked Cup, which is really cool (you see a lot of Asian items for sale in their little gift shop too).
I really, really loved our visit to Wicked Cup and would absolutely recommend anyone stopping by or passing through Jasper to head inside (and try not to leave with a ton of art! lol)
Next on the agenda was a stop at Marmot Meadows for a free snowshoeing and tracking lesson!
Mike and I snowshoed in the Edmonton river valley a few years ago and for that event we used the more classic beaver tail wooden snowshoes. I found trying to snowshoe in those a lot more challenging than snowshoeing in the more modern shoes we were given for this Parks Canada-hosted event.
There was quite a big turnout for the free event (20-30 of us) as we went around Marmot Meadows’ field and into the forest.
If you’ve never snowshoed before, it’s a pretty casual outdoor activity (winter sport?) where the snowshoes enable you to walk with ease through snow without sinking in. Historically, snowshoes allowed hunters, traders, etc. whose lives depended on getting around areas with tons of snow. Today it’s a pretty leisurely recreational activity (I think).
Mike was so funny – always running ahead in his snowshoes – working up a sweat. You can certainly make it more of an intense exercise if you want, but I just enjoyed sort of gliding through the snow, taking in the fresh air, mountains and trees.
We’d stop every so often in the forest to learn some information about how hunters in the past (on snowshoes) might’ve tracked different kinds of animals.
It was a pretty relaxing adventure, and we couldn’t have gotten better weather. There was still enough snow that made the snowshoeing worthwhile, but the sun was shining, sky was blue, and at times you wanted to get out of your jacket it got so warm!
After our snowshoeing adventure, we sat down by a cozy fire and learned more about the different animal tracks and the importance of understanding and respecting nature.
This was followed by a welcome beer and lunch break!
For lunch we stopped at the Jasper Brewing Company BrewPub & Eatery (or the “BrewPub” as the locals call it!)
We were still pretty stuffed from breakfast at Wicked Cup to be honest, but somehow managed to eat our way through wings, nachos, and calamari. (It was all very good!)
Mike, our friend Mack, and a few others in our group, also tried the 6-beer sampler, which comes in a cute little wooden crate, and really lets you sample six of the BrewPub’s popular concoctions, brewed right there on site. (P.S. Mike’s favourite is Jasper The Bear honey ale)
After lunch we got a tour of the brewery in the basement from Jasper Brewing Company’s Head Brewer John.
We learned that the Jasper Brewing Company actually has a few sister companies across Alberta – including breweries in Banff, Calgary, and Fort McMurray.
In Jasper, they brewed about 115,000 litres last year, which is a lot for a small brewery, but in context, for example a big beer business like Labatt brews around that many per day.
Perhaps the coolest tidbit? That head brewer John Palko actually has a Masters in Chemistry!
After lunch our shuttle bus took us back out to Marmot Meadows to learn a bit about backcountry cooking!
This event was free, and also drew a pretty good crowd (you have to take advantage of all the free activities!).
There were a few different stations set up, with each station focusing on a different type of food or outdoor cooking technology. The stations were run by Parks Canada and Wild Current Outfitters, an adventure travel company based in Jasper.
The intent of this activity was to get people more interested and confident in cooking in the backcountry. You can whip up good meals, and it doesn’t need to be difficult. The idea is if people feel confident and excited about bringing along their own equipment and cooking better food out in the national parks, they’re more likely to stay longer to take in more that the park has to offer.
Mike even learned how to start a fire with this modern-ish stove (and in the process singed off a bit of the hair on his hands, lol).
— Linda Hoang (@lindork) January 23, 2016
After Mike started the fire, he was able to boil water, which you then pour into these food packets that can give you things like potato vegetable stews and pastas. It was pretty interesting!
We didn’t spend too much time at the backcountry cooking (all of the day’s activities were starting to catch up to us and we were feeling pretty tired!) but it was neat to see the different ways you could cook in the backcountry and it was nice to try some of the food samples.
If I were to critique (the totally free event), I think it would’ve been cool to have more of a step-by-step how-to for the food/cooking. Most of the dishes were already created when we arrived, and the organizers sort of talked us through how they got to the final result but I think it wouldn’t been nice if there had been more of a structured lesson.
After the backcountry cooking, we had a couple hours break before a dinner at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
This was a ticketed event, though if you weren’t going to it and still in town for Jasper in January, you had your pick of evening entertainment – from a free dark sky snowshoe lesson (also at Marmot Meadows), to Food-a-Palooza, where you can stop at more than a dozen Jasper restaurants and try their special Jasper in January food & drink menu pairing for just $15.
Our fancy Winemaker’s dinner was lovely, with the most incredible service (as you’d come to expect from a Fairmont spot).
The menu for the night included: preserved blood orange salad, housemade tagliatelle with lobster and pancetta, our choice of braised veal, rabbit, arctic chair, or ravioli entrees, and a pistachio ice cream, chocolate tarte with biscotti crumble.
For me, the stand-out dishes were the from-scratch pastas! Just incredible.
Everyone at our table also raved about the dessert, with some saying it was the very best dessert they had ever had in their life – but as I don’t have much of a chocolate tooth, I couldn’t share the same excitement for the dessert.
Give me five more plates of the tagliatelle and ravioli pastas though and I would die a happy woman.
I was stuffed and exhausted after our jam-packed Saturday so I was excited to get to bed after the Fairmont dinner, but Mike wanted to take in some of the Jasper in January entertainment! Each week of Jasper in January, there’s a really affordable ($5 at the door) live music / show. For our weekend, Edmonton’s own rock band Tupelo Honey hit the stage both Friday and Saturday nights to perform at the packed Atha-B night club. Mike and Mack hit the club and had a blast.
One of the beauties of Jasper is everything is so close you could likely walk to where you want to be and that was the case with their Tupelo Honey excursion – it was a quick walk to and from the hotel we were staying at – Mountain Park Lodge’s The Crimson, which I would definitely recommend.
We had a really nice room, great service, and I loved the different Canadian decor around the hotel.
Sunday was a pick-your-own-adventure day for Jasper in January.
Throughout the three-week long festival, Marmot Basin Ski Resort offers a discounted lift pass rate so a lot of people end up hitting the slopes (which is what Mike and I chose to do). But there are also activities at the nearby Pyramid Lake (horse-drawn sleigh rides in the snow, dogsledding, and other free events depending on the weekend you choose to go).
Mike and I started the Sunday with a visit to the Bear’s Paw Bakery, easily the most popular and well-known bakeries in town.
Then we went snowboarding on the mountain!
I’ve only snowboarded on a mountain a few times, but it’s infinitely better than on a regular hill (I’ve done a lot of Snow Valley and Rabbit Hill trips growing up with my brother). The views are incredible and it takes forever to get back down to the base (which is awesome – longer runs, longer snowboard time!)
The nice thing about Marmot too – even on that busy, sunny day, was that there never seemed to be any line-ups to get on the lifts!
Mike is an experienced snowboarder and although I’ve gone a number of times, I’ve always been a board on my heels / pendulum kind of girl. Mike tried to teach me how to carve once and I just ended up getting frustrated with him, so we actually took advantage of Marmot’s Snow School private lesson options!
Our Marmot Snow School instructor was named Drew, originally from Australia, and he was fantastic!
I am proud to say that after just a morning with Drew, I have learned how to properly snowboard / carve!
— Linda Hoang (@lindork) January 29, 2016
I think I need to return very soon to make sure I lock the skill down though, because I do worry if I don’t snowboard again for awhile I may lose what I’ve so proudly learned but there’s some great tips Drew shared with me that I think I’ll be able to keep in mind the next time I go!
The last thing we did in Jasper before heading back home (sadfaces) was dine at the Marmot Basin base chalet.
Erin, with Marmot Basin, joined us for lunch and talked about the new chalet menu.
For the first time this season, Marmot has partnered with Dana Hospitality and is offering a brand new menu, with all dishes cooked in-house, fresh daily. You can imagine how challenging that can be (especially for the mid-mountain chalet!)
Erin says for a ski resort to be abel to say that everything is cooked fresh, in-house daily is remarkable, and pretty uncommon. They’ve noticed it’s already making a big difference (lots of happy, satisfied ski/snowboarders!) and are really excited about the new food and partnership!
We certainly tasted the difference too. My fish and chips were amazing, Mike cleaned off his steak sandwich, and we also tried the Jasper in January trio of game sliders (duck, bison, and elk) – special just for the festival.
Needless to say, as we packed up to head home, we were feeling so full, so satisfied, and so thrilled with what a wonderful weekend adventure we had at Jasper in January.
If you want to be spontaneous, you could head down to Jasper this weekend for their final few days of Jasper in January (it’s the ‘Arts’-themed weekend!) Since it’s also the closing weekend there’s going to be a big outdoor block party too, which should be so much fun!
Otherwise, please plan to attend this annual festival next year.
Thank you so much to Tourism Jasper for inviting Mike and I to come down to experience this special festival.
And more photos here:
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And as a reward for sticking with me to the end of this post (or I’m sure some of you just skipped the whole page to get right down to the free stuff), Marmot Basin has generously offered my readers a chance to win a single-day lift pass for 2 people!
Details on how to enter below:
** GIVEAWAY **
ENTER TO WIN 1-DAY LIFT PASSES FOR 2 PEOPLE TO MARMOT BASIN
(valued at $178)
Here are the different ways you can enter this contest (make sure you check off what you’ve done through the Rafflecopter widget below in order to qualify!)
- Leave a comment on this blog post telling me if you prefer to ski or snowboard (and your experience level!)
Note: You MUST leave a comment in order to be eligible for the prize! All other ways to enter will get you additional/bonus entries and improve your chances of winning, but you won’t be eligible unless you leave a blog comment first.
Additional (optional entries):
- Tweet this message: I want to hit the slopes at @MarmotBasin in beautiful #MyJasper! Hope I win @lindork’s #MyMarmot lift pass giveaway: http://bit.ly/1Pme2GR
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I’ll randomly select a winner after the contest closes on February 4, 2016.
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Thanks to Marmot Basin for arranging this giveaway with me and Tourism Jasper for the awesome weekend!
Disclaimer: I will always provide my 100% honest opinion on this blog. Tourism Jasper invited me to experience the Appetites Week of Jasper in January. This has no impact on opinions stated in this post.