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Age-Old Adventures: Night Sky Magic

Before hotels and ski hills, the Canadian Rockies were known, loved and lived in by First Nations. Frozen lakes were their hunting ground, snowy foothills their home. Connect with the mountains like the first inhabitants with unique experiences that resonate Aboriginal heritage.

Be star-struck by the clear skies in Jasper. Photo: Paul Zizka

Be star-struck by the clear skies in Jasper. Photo: Paul Zizka

Night Sky Magic

First Nations culture is connected to earth, water and also sky. For Inuit tribes, the northern lights signified spirits of the dead playing ball with a walrus skull; Cree nations held beliefs about the circle of life and closeness with deceased loved ones.

Similarly, star constellations played a part in storytelling, among them narratives about beaver, canoe, caribou and grizzly bear formations. Hear these ancient tales at the nightly Jasper Planetarium dome shows that feature a 360° simulated tour of the skies.

The Jasper Planetarium boasts a colourful nighttime view, often improved by a natural light show!

The Jasper Planetarium boasts a colourful nighttime view, often improved by a natural light show!

After, go outside for a real time view of the night sky. Above majestic peaks is an expanse of dark sky barely touched by light pollution. It’s why Jasper is designated the world’s second largest Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society, and why stargazing and aurora hunting in the mountains is so magical. You can search for planets and galaxies through the largest telescope in the Rockies.

If you plan to admire the night skies on your own, download an app like My Aurora Forecast (iTunes) or Aurora Alerts Northern Lights (Google Play) for notifications of high activity. Wait until peak viewing time (usually from midnight) and head to a favourite viewing spot. In Banff, drive to Lake Minnewanka. Spray Lakes is a prime spot near Canmore, and in Jasper, Pyramid Island is recommended.

Pyramid Mountain is just as majestic by night.

Pyramid Mountain is just as majestic by night.

Even if you don’t see the aurora, you’ll still get sensational views of the stars that inspired First Nations’ tales and connect with part of the beautiful native history of the Canadian Rockies.

See more Age-Old Adventures

>> For more Canadian Rockies activities, shops, restaurants and entertainment, read our digital magazine.

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