Edmonton

Jasper National Park expands trail network, opens winter campground

Jasper National Park is upping the ante when it comes to winter fun this year in the hopes of enticing city slickers from Edmonton and Calgary to make a trip to the mountains.

Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and fatbikers are welcome to test out the new trails this winter

Four kilometres of new cross-country ski trails have been added to the existing trail network near Marmot Meadows. (Martin Hartley)

Jasper National Park is upping the ante when it comes to winter fun this year in the hopes of enticing city slickers from Edmonton and Calgary to make a trip to the mountains.

"Every year we look at improving our winter offer," said Rogier Gruys, a product development specialist for Parks Canada.

This year, the park upgraded its Marmot Meadows Winter Hub in Whistlers Campground and added a skating rink.

The park also expanded its trail network for skiers, snowshoers and cyclists, Gruys said.

In the past, the park maintained groomed trails and roads for winter use, but never delved into building trails specifically for cross-country skiers.

"It doesn't really offer the same kind of experience that a purpose-built trail for cross-country skiing can offer," he said.

That's changing this year though, with a four-kilometre expansion of the trail system at Marmot Meadows designed by an expert with the specific needs of cross-country skiers in mind.

"It's got some ups, some downs, some hills, some turns that just make it more exciting."

In addition to the new ski trails, the park has also expanded its overall trail network.

For those who prefer to step instead of ski, snowshoeing is permitted pretty much everywhere, Gruys said, but there will be a few new marked trails particularly geared to the sport.

The park will be posting an online map showing the new routes by mid-December.

And then there's fat biking.

"In the past few years, we realized that fat biking is a very fast-growing sport and we're already quite well known as a park that offers a lot of mountain biking in the summer, so it was only natural that we would extend that into the winter."

Several trails in an area known as "the bench" behind Jasper will be flat-packed for intermediate and experienced cyclists, while a couple of easier trails are being prepared just across the river, Gruys said.

"These are in areas where there's traditionally not a lot of snow, which makes it a bit easier for fat bikes."

Rental fat bikes are available in town, he added.

And for those who prefer to sit back and relax, the park has also added weekend storytelling sessions and will also be building a teepee later this season near the hub; and on weekends will be offering aboriginal programming, as well as bannock and hot chocolate.

Plans are also in place for special winter events to take place in January and February 2016.

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