May 03 - Jasper, Alberta

My first stop in the morning was the Jasper National Park information centre right opposite the train station. I was given plenty of information and maps. I was directed to a tours place just a few doors down so I headed over there right away.

The guy at the small tour office told me of a tour that was leaving shortly to the Columbia Icefields so I jumped at the opportunity.

When I got on the tour bus couple from England, a couple from Denmark, a guy from Korea, and two women from southern Ontario joined me. They were all seeing a bit of Canada while on a break from University. I think most of the other people I had seen wandering around the town were in the same boat.

The bus headed down highway 93 which is known as the Icefields Parkway. The clouds started to lift quickly and the views of the mountains as the bus travelled south through the Athabasca River Valley were spectacular.

The first stop was at Athabasca Falls. The snow covered and slightly flooded area around the falls was quite treacherous to navigate as we all climbed over rocks and used fallen trees to cross flooded areas. The view of the falls was quite impressive but this was to be beaten by the view of the Sunwapta Falls, which is where we stopped next.

Travelling further south down the parkway the minibus had to pull onto the hard shoulder due to a long horned sheep taking a leisurely walk down the highway. The Rocky Mountain native sheep was not bothered by the traffic trying to pass at all.

100km south of Jasper we arrived at the Columbia Icefield Center in dense clouds and driving snow. When we left Jasper there were clear skies and the ground was dry. Here there was 35cm of snow on the ground. Perhaps being 2000m above sea level had something to do with it. We decided not to go out on to either of the 3 glaciers or the icefield due to the poor visibility, so after a stop at the visitor centre we headed another 30km south to the point of a massive avalanche from the day before.

It had taken National Park staff 24 hours to clear the avalanche and the double-decker bus sized lumps of frozen snow that lined the highway were evidence as to why. The avalanche had buried a total of about 250m of highway.

We headed back along the parkway to Jasper where a few elk were the only Canadian wildlife that we spotted on the return.

Related Pages

Travel Guide - Alberta
Travel Guide - Jasper
Photographs of Jasper

Travel Diary

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