Jasper’s enormous, scenic and almost always crowd-free ski area, Marmot Basin, turns 50 this year. George Andrew—Astoria Hotel owner, former Alberta Ski Team racer and 43 year ski instructor veteran—has skied Marmot Basin since 1962. George recalls riding a surplus Columbia Icefield snowcat to get to the rope tow that was installed in 1961.
Today Marmot’s modern lifts transport 12,060 skiers per hour, a fact that would have amazed cross-country ski guide Joe Weiss who named the area Marmot Basin in the late 1920s. The first trail was ‘cut’ in 1930, and in 1942 the British army trained here; that first rope tow was powered by an army truck engine.
As a boy, George first skied Whistlers Mountain where Jasper Tramway sightseeing lift now operates. But the 1964 Yellow T-Bar installation at the “cooler” (according to George) Marmot Basin secured the location of the current ski area. The late 1960s saw Marmot’s first chairlift while the 1976 Knob Chair afforded skiers higher vertical access. “In spring, you downloaded on the lower chair when the lower reaches were just dirt,” remembers George. Marmot’s first high-speed quad, the 1990 Eagle Express, was “pretty exciting”. The first snowboard park was built in 1993, and in 2009 the Canadian Rockies Express debuted as the region’s longest high-speed quad chairlift.
“The appealing thing is that Marmot is in a basin; you can see every part of the area from every part of the area,” says George. The snow lasts a long time. “If it snows a lot in December, additional snow is just the cream.” Even today fresh tracks are often available a week after a snowfall. George’s favourite stop is Scooter’s Coffee Bar & Bakery in log built mid-mountain Caribou Chalet. “I’m excited to be part of the Jasper community, and to have the privilege of skiing here,” George concludes. “Marmot is a great area with an international reputation that’s growing.”
Editor Note: Join a Ski with George tour. Level III CSIA instructor and CSCF coach George shows guests the mountain while telling tales of Marmot’s past. By Kirsten Varsek