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Parks Canada

10 Tips for Winter Camping in Jasper National Park

 

By Calli Naish

Photo by Ryan Bray courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

They say there are only two seasons in Canada: Winter and July. And while some Canadians curl up indoors only venturing out for their morning Tim Horton’s fix, the crazier Canucks refuse to miss an opportunity to get outside (even if it’s well below 0°). For those of you who need to test your cold temperature tolerance, here’s a list of winter camping tips (because being prepared isn’t just for the Boy Scouts!)

 

1. Location. Location. Location.

 

Photo by Jeff Bartlett courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

Choosing the right place for your winter camping excursion depends on your experience, your equipment, and ultimately, what your plans are while you’re roughing it. Whether you plan on skiing, snowshoeing or just sitting fireside, there are 5 campgrounds in Jasper National Park that can accommodate your winter adventures.

 

Photo by Adam Greenberg courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

For a detailed description of Jasper’s winter campgrounds, see the end of this post.

 

2. Pack Smart

 

Brian Catto, a Senior Parks Canada interpreter who organizes the programming at the Whirlpool Winter Hub (including the Learn to Winter Camp program), gives great advice for winter camping. He stresses that those who venture out need to understand that summer and winter camping gear are not the same. For example, most people who camp in the summer use a 1-season tent, but for winter camping you need a 4-season tent. Understanding these differences and knowing what to pack are essential to having an enjoyable winter camping experience.

If you are new to camping there are resources to help you get your packing started. MEC has put together a great Winter Camping Gear Check List and Parks Canada has a Winter Backcountry Equipment Checklist. Although these lists may include items above and beyond what you need for a short weekend camping excursion, they will help you build a customized list for your own trip. Add your fat bike and head to Pyramid Lake so you can try out the Pyramid Front Trail, or bring your skis so you can spend a day on the slopes at Marmot Basin.

 

If you have some unchecked boxes on your equipment list, you can find camping gear at any of these Jasper stores:

Totem Ski Shop and Everest Outoor Store sell tents, sleeping bags, various camping items, how-to books and even some packable snacks.

Gravity Gear sells camp stoves and fuel, as well as last-minute items like headlamps.

Wild Mountain sells tents and sleeping bags, including a sleeping bag that’s rated for -29°C!

 

3. It’s all in the Set-Up

 

Photo by Ryan Bray courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

This tip is primarily for the tenters out there because if you are camping in an RV, you will have most of your set up already completed. No matter where you sleep, make sure that you have lawn chairs or foam pads for the picnic table so that you aren’t sitting in snow (try Heat-A-Seats for extra warmth).

 

Tent Tips

Dig a small area in the snow for your tent so that you have some shelter from the wind.

Pack down the remaining snow so that you have a flat surface for your tent and to prevent sinking in the snow at night. This will also prevent you from stepping in a soft spot of snow and tearing through your tent floor.

Stake that tent! Don’t be deterred by the hard ground, winter weather is variable and often windy so it is important to make sure your tent is secure. Though it is easier to drive stakes into the soft snow, you can purchase stakes that will push through the frozen ground.

 

4. Dress to Impress Stay Warm!

 

Photo by Jade Wetherell

 

The key to enjoying winter camping is never feeling too cold – this means layering! Brian Catto emphasizes the importance of knowing how to properly layer for winter weather. Lucky for you we have an entire blog (and article in our magazine) dedicated to teaching you how to layer for winter warmth. Make sure that you pack extra layers so that you always have a dry change of clothes. Also, throw an extra set of mitts and a spare toque in your bag because cold fingers and ears will seriously bring down your pro-winter vibes.

 

Facing a drop in temperature you aren’t prepared for? Stop in at Löle, Jasper Source for Sports, Totem Ski Shop, Everest Outdoor Store, Edge Control Ski Shop, Gravity Gear, Wild Mountain, or On-Line Sport for some last-minute layers.

 

5. Sweet dreams are made of heat

 

Photo by Ryan Bray courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

The only thing worse than feeling cold is feeling cold when you are trying to sleep. To prevent a night of tossing, turning and shivering, you will need:

The right tent – the only tent for winter camping is a 4-season tent.

The right sleeping pad – those super comfortable, air-filled camping mattresses create a cold layer of air between you and the ground. For winter camping choose a sleeping pad with an R-value of 4 or more.

The right sleeping bag – you will need a sleeping bag that’s rated for the cold temperatures that you expect while camping. Brian notes to keep in mind that the accuracy of these ratings will vary from person to person. If you are the type of person who gets cold in September and stays that way until May, you’ll want to be prepared with some comfortable layers you can wear to bed.

 

6. Get Active

 

Photo by Ryan Bray courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

If you are going to brave cold nights, make the most of your sunny days! There are tons of great activities in Jasper National Park that will let you explore and get your heart pumping, including cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking.

 

Photo by Jeff Bartlett courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

If you don’t have your own equipment for an activity that you want to try, you can rent!

Edge Control Ski Shop (cross-country skis, skis/snowboards)

Everest Outdoor Store (snowshoes)

FreeWheel (fat bikes, skis/snowboards)

Gravity Gear (skis/snowboards, snowshoes)

Jasper Source for Sports (cross-country skis, fat bikes, skis/snowboards, snowshoes)

Totem Ski Shop (skis/snowboards, snowshoes)

 

7. More than Marshmallows

 

Photo by Chris Hendrickson courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

Sitting around a fire and roasting marshmallows might be the most iconic camping scene of all time, but winter weather takes round-the-fire moments from quintessential to essential. Fires are perfect for drying out your ski socks and warming up before calling it a night. Check out Leave No Trace for campfire guidelines and make sure that you are prepared with fire starters, paper, kindling, and an extra lighter.

 

Once you’ve built a roaring fire, throw on some fire resistant apparel before settling in for campfire stories; you don’t want to find holes in your GORE-TEX ski jacket in the morning. Wool is naturally fire-retardant so it’s a good time to pull out that oversized itchy wool sweater from grandma.

 

8. Don’t be Hangry

 

Cold weather and active days are going to leave you hungry, and making meals in mittens isn’t an easy task. Quick and easy meals will help you avoid hanger-fuelled moments that you might regret later. Single pot entrées, freeze-dried meals and no-cook eats are great options for winter camping meals. Plus there is no better way to wake up on a wintery morning than with a warm bowl of instant oatmeal and a hot cup of coffee.

 

If your campsite does not have water, don’t worry! You are surrounded by an abundance of it and, since you will likely need boiling water for much of your cooking, melting snow won’t even add a step. However, it’s important to remember that melted snow and clean drinking water are not the same thing. Boil snow for at least 10 minutes and consider using water treatment methods before drinking.

 

9. Let there be Light (and Power)!

 

It gets dark early in the winter, which means if you aren’t prepared for nightfall you will be setting up your camp stove, lighting your fire, and making your dinner in the dark. Although accomplishing all this sans light would be highly impressive and would likely earn you a nod from Bear Grylls, it is going to be worth your while to have a few extra flashlights and headlamps kicking around to light up your nights.

 

We all know that nothing kills a cellphone battery faster than cold weather. And while you might pride yourself on your lack of iPhone reliance, it is important to be able to call for help in case of emergency. Plus you will want to take pictures while you are out exploring. A portable power pack is small, packable and will keep your phone functioning long enough to snap a few shots of the winter wildlife and National Park scenery between selfies.

 

10. Turn up the Heat

 

You’ve probably noticed that the general theme of these tips has to do with keeping warm. Really this is the best advice anyone can give you when it comes to spending your days and nights outside in the cold Canadian winter. Here are a few additional notes on keeping your body temp up while you are accessing your rugged winter side:

 

Hand/foot warmers – instant warmth for frigid toes

Hot water bottles – pour a little of that boiled snow into a hot water bottle for added heat when you snuggle into your sleeping bag

Sleep with your boots – there is nothing worse than putting your warm feet into cold boots. Take the liners out of your boots and wear them while you sleep or put your boots in a waterproof bag in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

 

 

 

Camp on Campers!

 

 

Photo by Nicole Gaboury courtesy of Tourism Jasper

 

 

 

Wapiti Campground

Location: 5.6 km South of Jasper just off of Highway 93

 

Camping Style: RV/Tent

 

Suitable For: New campers

 

This frontcountry campground is a great place for those who are new to winter camping as it is close to town and has all the amenities of home including electrical, washrooms (with showers), and potable water. Each site has a fire pit, and firewood is included with your daily fire permit (just grab it from the pile). It’s also great for those looking to get out skiing as it is on the way to Marmot Basin, so you can be first on the road and first on the hill!

 

 

Whirlpool Winter Hub

Location: 21.4 km south of Jasper, just south of Marmot Road on Highway 93A

 

Camping Style: RV/Tent

 

Suitable For: Active families

 

A frontcountry campground great for active families because of the 25 km of groomed cross-country ski trails that begin from this location! The campground is also home to the Whirlpool Winter Hub where Parks Canada hosts a variety of interpretive activities on Family Day weekend. This campground is further from town than Wapiti and does not have electrical, potable water or flush toilets, making the winter camping experience a little more rustic. However, the sites do have fire pits and firewood is provided with your daily fire permit.

 

Note: Sites at Wapiti and Whirlpool Campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it is recommended that you arrive early! These winter campgrounds are self-registration and daily fire permits are required.

 

 

Hidden Cove

Location: 4 km down Maligne Lake, 48 km from Jasper at the end of Maligne Lake Road (cross-country ski or snowshoe access only)

 

Camping Style: Tent

 

Suitable For: Experienced campers with prior cross-country ski/snowshoe experience

 

This is a great backcountry campground for small groups or families with older kids who are able to manage the trek in. The site has 4 tent pads, a fire pit, a grey water pit, a cook shelter, picnic tables and food storage lockers. Access to this site requires travelling over the frozen Maligne Lake so only plan to winter camp here between mid-January and early April. And make sure you read these guidelines on safe ice travel before heading out.

 

 

Big Bend

Location: 7.8 km south of Sunwapta Falls, 55 km south of Jasper on Highway 93 (access by cross-country ski or snowshoe)

 

Camping Style: Tent

 

Suitable For: Experienced campers with prior cross-country ski/snowshoe experience

 

Another great backcountry option for experienced cross-country skiers in small groups. The site has 4 tent pads, a fire pit, food storage cables and picnic tables. The trail follows a wide fire road and the campground is close to the Athabasca River with views of Dragon Peak.

 

Note: A permit is required for backcountry camping. You can obtain a permit online or by calling 1-877-737-3783.

 

 

Wilcox Winter Campground

Location: 107 km south of Jasper just off Highway 93

 

Camping Style: Tent

 

Suitable For: Experienced campers who are comfortable accessing the location by snowshoe (when conditions require)

 

Staying at the Wilcox Winter Campground allows hardy campers to stay in the Columbia Icefields (Parks experience the icefields parkway in winter). Wilcox Creek Campground is a frontcountry campground during the summer months, but is considered backcountry in the winter as camping is only permitted at the Wilcox Pass Trailhead. There are no amenities available at this location.

 

Note: A bivy/camping permit is required to camp at the Wilcox Winter site call 780-852-6176 for more information.

 

 

‘Tis the season

By Trevor J. Adams

Parades, live theatre, concerts galore and more—Halifax is abuzz with Christmas magic.

November and December are lively months in Halifax, with dozens of special events to celebrate the holiday season. Read on for our favourites. With an exciting mix of traditional classics and new events, there’s plenty here for the whole family.

YULE PARTIES

Holiday Parade of Lights. Photo: Will Roberts

Holiday Parade of Lights. Photo: Will Roberts

The Holiday Parade of Lights on November 21 marks the unofficial start of the holiday season in Halifax, as some 100,000 spectators line downtown streets to see dozens of floats and musical acts. Also on November 21,

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site hosts its annual Victorian Christmas, sharing Christmas traditions dating back to colonial days. The event continues on November 22.

Victorian Christmas at Halifax Citadel. Photo: Parks Canada

Victorian Christmas at Halifax Citadel. Photo: Parks Canada

Back downtown on November 28, Grand Parade square in front of Halifax City Hall hosts the city’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting, a family-friendly celebration with live entertainment and a visit from Santa. The party moves across the harbour the next weekend, as the park at Sullivan’s Pond hosts the Dartmouth Christmas Tree Lighting on December 5, where the highlights include the Santa Claus Express Train and fireworks.

CRAFTY CHRISTMAS

Back for its 38th year, Christmas at the Forum is one of Canada’s largest annual indoor markets of its type, with some 450 vendors offering art, gifts, antiques, and food. The Halifax Forum on Windsor Street hosts on November 6 to 8.

THERE’S A SONG IN THE AIR

Alexander Weimann

Alexander Weimann joins Symphony Nova Scotia for Handel’s Messiah

Symphony Nova Scotia offers holiday concerts galore, with Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on November 28 and 29, The Nutcracker (presented with Mermaid Theatre and Halifax Dance) on December 4 to 13, and Handel’s Messiah on December 18 and 19.

A King’s Christmas is back on December 13. A special guest narrator joins the King’s College Chapel Choir at All Saint’s Cathedral on Martello Street for seasonal songs and stories. Paul Halley directs.

The holidays get a Celtic twist on December 20, as the Barra MacNeils perform A Cape Breton Christmas at the Dalhousie Arts Centre.

Barra MacNeils

Barra MacNeils

MAKING MERRY

Beloved humourist and storyteller Stuart McLean brings his Vinyl Café Christmas Show to the Scotiabank Centre on Duke Street on November 20. December sees the return of a popular holiday-themed comedy event on December 11 and 12. The annual Ha Ha Halidays event comes to the World Trade and Convention Centre on December 11 and 12, with a lineup that includes Australian funny guy Jim Dailakis and Newfoundlander John Sheehan.

PLAY ON

Neptune Theatre’s long-awaited holiday production begins on November 28. A Year With Frog and Toad brings Arnold Lobel’s character to the stage in a Tony-nominated musical. The holiday pantomime at Theatre Arts Guild is another seasonal mainstay. It’s always a lively, rollicking show with lots of audience participation. This year, The Emperor’s New Clothes runs from November 26 to December 12.

 

5 Must-See Jasper Sights

By Where Staff

Photo: Courtesy of Brewster Travel Canada

Photo: Courtesy of Brewster Travel Canada

Award-Winning Design

Peer down 280 m (920 ft) through a glass floor to the base of the Sunwapta Valley at the Glacier Skywalk. This interpretive attraction has won awards for its architecture, engineering and sustainable practices (like accommodating mountain goat use of the site); it won Where Canadian Rockies’ Best New Attraction for 2014. The platform is cantilevered (anchored at one end) and suspended in the air for a thrilling view of the peaks, glaciers and waterfalls.

(more…)

How Will Parks Canada Cuts Affect Tourism?

By SHANNON KELLY

Cape Breton Highlands National Park (Photo: killthebird)

In the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park is losing an eighth of its staff, in the North 64 jobs will be lost and across the country more than 1,700 employees will be or have been affected, with their jobs either eliminated or hours reduced. Overall, Parks Canada employees on the chopping block account for almost half of the nearly 4,000 jobs being cut by the federal government this year. (more…)

Parks Canada to Roll Out Beaver-Themed Apparel

Photo by stevehdc

Last week we mentioned a campaign by Ontario Senator Nicole Eaton to depose the beaver as Canada’s national symbol.

Parks Canada seems unfazed by the debate and is committed to the beaver for the long haul. The agency has announced that it is commissioning a line of beaver-themed merchandise to be released in 2013.

Beaver ball caps, T-shirts, coffee mugs and water bottles will be sold at all Parks Canada stores as well as online and—the agency hopes—in brick-and-mortar stores in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Proceeds from the sales will go to the as-yet-undetermined design company, while royalties (or a percentage of wholesale revenue, if greater) will go to Parks Canada to be reinvested in the merchandise line.

The goal seems to be to strengthen the Parks Canada brand and to inspire urban-dwellers to connect with the parks rather than to make a mint off the merchandise.

Sable Island, Nova Scotia, is Canada’s Newest National Park

Silhouette of Sable Island horses at sunset

Photo by sleepyorange

Parks Canada has announced that Nova Scotia’s Sable Island has been designated the newest national park in Canada. The remote island some 300 km offshore is best known for its hundreds of wild horses—believed to have been introduced to the island in the 18th century—who run free on the grassy dunes. The island is also a migratory bird sanctuary and  a breeding ground for grey seals. (more…)

Canada’s National Parks

Photo by ShutterRunner

Canada’s National Parks show the beautiful variety in our country’s topography—from British Columbia’s turquoise-tinged glaciers and Alberta’s jagged mountains to the coasts of Ontario’s lakes and seaside in the Maritimes. Among them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites recognized for their unique natural beauty, and while some are easy to access others are located in remote corners of our untamed nation. A full list of all 42 National Parks of Canada, which was the world’s first national park service, can be found at www.pc.gc.ca. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada, and to celebrate there are special events and celebrations—don’t think just because summer is over the fun is done, many parks are at there most stunning when the snow falls—check out a list of upcoming events here. (more…)

Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet App Lets You Travel Back in Culinary Time

By Annemarie Dooling

Instead of using an app to locate a gourmet restaurant, why not download an iPhone app that will make you a gourmet chef?

Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet is like a trip to dine at the tables of Canadians from the 18th century to today. Browse through more than 70 recipes sorted by ingredient, themed menu, region or period for a list of Canadian traditional and modern delicacies. The app lists both little-known retro plates and old familiar favorites, such as Quebec’s Fort Chambly Pea Soup, an 18th century Halibut and Bacon dish and a recipe for traditional  Sourdough Flapjacks, which were originally cooked over an open flame. The shopping list and bookmarking features make it easy to save meal picks on the go and locate every ingredient you need, and behind-the-scenes videos and cooking tips connect the dots between the past lives of the meals and your current kitchen.

But this isn’t just a standard recipe app, this is a traveling food-lover’s dream. Each recipe comes with a historic biography and timeline, detailing when the dish first made its debut. Plus, a “site” tab lists current travel information on the corresponding national historic site so that you have the most well-rounded and informed Canadian meal possible. Be sure to check the app often, as recipes are improved and added all the time.

The app: Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet (for iPhone)
Cost
: Free
Where to download: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/parks-canada-heritage-gourmet/id451612819

Weekend Roundup, July 15 to 17

Friday: Hear all manner of music as the Beaches International Jazz Festival begins

Friday, July 15
Kick off your weekend at the 23rd annual Beaches International Jazz Festival, which begins tonight at Woodbine Park. With acts ranging from jazz, blues, calypso and more—legendary Toronto rocker Carole Pope is even part of this evening’s bill—the festival offers ear candy for a wide variety of listeners.

The Colombian Colours Il Diaspora Festival also starts this evening an continues all weekend long. Part of Harbourfront Centre’s summer line-up of cultural celebrations, it features performances by Colombian musicians, dancers and other artists proudly representing their distinct heritage.

Do you have tickets to see Grammy-winning sensation Taylor Swift belt out her hits at the Air Canada Centre? The contemporary country singer’s Speak Now Tour brings one of 2011’s hottest concerts to Toronto for one night only.

Saturday: Sarah Harmer and other artists celebrate Parks Canada's 100th anniversary

Saturday, July 16
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada—the world’s first national park service—with a free festival on Centre Island. Starting at noon, the special Parks Day event showcases the country’s diverse natural heritage, and boasts live performances by musicians including Serena Ryder and Sarah Harmer.

Yonge-Dundas Square also offers an event for the environmentally aware—the Live Green Toronto Festival features hundreds of vendors with eco-friendly products, live music and more.

Sit back and relax with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at the Molson Canadian Ampitheatre. The “Margaritaville” singer instills a beachy state of mind as part of his Welcome to Fin Land tour.

Sunday: Slurp up some seafood at the Souther Ontario Oyster Festival

Sunday, July 17
Foodies are invited to take part in a truly succulent tasting at the much-anticipated Southern Ontario Oyster Festival hosted by Toronto’s mollusk mecca Rodney’s Oyster House. Attendees can enjoy live music, cheer on the oyster shucking contest, and, of course, indulge in fresh oysters. Tickets are $30 and help benefit the Environmental Defense organization.

Spend your Sunday night with British indie-rock band Gomez as they fill the Phoenix Concert Theatre with their distinctively rootsy sound.

Experience the rich culture of the Asian subcontinent at the 39th annual Festival of India, taking place on the Toronto Islands. This free event, celebrating Toronto’s large Indian community, includes an arts and culture showcase, a South-Asian bazaar, and much more.

Jasper’s Original Landmark Building

Jasper Info Centre by Brian Catto

Jasper Info Centre by Brian Catto

The newly renovated 1914 Jasper Information Centre is the impossible-to-miss stone and timber national historic site in the centre of town (it now has a brown roof). Originally home and office to Jasper Park’s first superintendent, its arts and craft architecture influenced later buildings such as the 1926 railway station across the street. Drop by to consult with Park Canada and Jasper Tourism counsellors, and to peruse the Friends of Jasper store. Learn about history during free Jasper…A Walk in the Past tours that depart here. —RM