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Journey to Jasper in January.

The park's original resort is welcoming winter visitors again

ALBERTA'S JASPER NATIONAL Park encompasses a chunk of the Canadian Rockies larger than any other national park in Canada or the United States outside of Alaska. Yet, unlike Banff, its smaller but better-known neighbor to the south, Jasper seems to clear out in winter, except for the elk, bighorn sheep, and other conspicuous wildlife that make the 4,200-square-mile park their year-round home.

Until a few years ago, the lack of crowds was matched (and perhaps explained) by a lack of distinctive accommodations. That changed in 1988, when, after a $25-million renovation, the Jasper Park Lodge hosted winter guests for the first time since 1974. The lodge makes a comfortable and convenient base for skiers, wildlife watchers, or anyone simply drawn to the sheer grandeur of the lodge's lofty setting.

SKATE ON A LAKE, SKI ON A FAIRWAY

Over the past 70 years, kings and queens, Kennedys and Rockefellers have all sojourned at the lodge's cabins on the shore of Lac Beauvert. While only the elite can afford to stay at the lodge in summer, winter rates are relatively affordable; rooms (a few are in the lodge proper, but most in separate cabins) cost $87 to $201 Canadian ($70 to $160 U.S.).

Active guests will find plenty to do right outside their door. Skaters can carve turns on the frozen lake; cross-country skiers can glide across a nearby golf course on groomed trails, past herds of elk pawing for grasses. Nordic skiers willing to venture farther afield should take the 45-minute drive to Maligne Lake, one of the park's prettiest spots, where groomed trails climb above the lake for spectacular views. Hiking through fantastic ice formations in Maligne Canyon is another option (ask at the lodge about guided tours).

Downhill skiers head 12 1/2 miles south to Marmot Basin. The medium-size ski area boasts a respectable 2,300-foot vertical drop, good intermediate slopes, and no lift lines. Tree-lined runs on the lower mountain give way to large open bowls near the summit, which is quickly reached by a new high-speed quad-chair lift.

Back at the lodge after a day on the slopes, you can indulge your sore muscles with a soak in the spa, a steam in the sauna, or a massage. For dinner, choose between the formal but comfortable Edith Cavell Dining Room and the more casual Meadows Cafe. Or try one of the handful of restaurants in the small town of Jasper, 5 miles away.

GETTING THERE

From the United States, several major airlines fly into Edmonton, where you can rent a car for the 4-hour drive west on Provincial Highway 16 to Jasper.

Another option is to fly or drive to Vancouver, B.C., and take an overnight trip to the park on Via Rail. The train leaves Vancouver around 8 P.M. and arrives in Jasper the following day around 2. For fares and other information, call (800) 561-3949.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada
Author:Hunter, Cynthia
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:494
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