Alberta Winter Redux

Two national parks, four ski resorts, and one score to settle
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view of rockies from train
All aboard for the Rocky Mountains scenery fest (Photo © Alistair Wearmouth)

The Rockies, rising like a granite monolith from the sheared belly of North America, did not disappoint as our train confronted a majestic landscape in the full stranglehold of winter. Nor did the two coyotes, nonchalantly flirting on the mantle of a frozen river, one arching his neck to let loose a hormonal howl. The splendid scenic tableaux set the passengers in the panoramic viewing car aflutter; cameras gorged on the sheer scale and magnificence of the striated hulks of rock, ponderosa-covered hillsides, and those two oblivious tawny coyotes.

I was back in the Canadian Rockies to ski, as well as to set the record straight. But first, getting there. Whether you approach the ski resorts in Alberta's Banff and Jasper national parks from Calgary or Edmonton, your first full eyeful of the towering Rockies is preceded by flat-as-plywood plains, which merely serve to intensify your anticipation. So when those massive slabs of rock do rear into view, an eyeful is exactly what you get.

I was taking the less trafficked, northeasterly approach from Edmonton, a cold and unremarkable place about 250 miles from Banff where I boarded Rail Canada's self-styled Snow Train bound for Jasper.

A stately, comfortable way to travel, the train lets you absorb the breathtaking appearance of the mountains as you enter the enormous folds of 4,200-square-mile Jasper National Park. Indeed, one English couple in the viewing car excitedly proclaimed that they had been training it across Canada for almost four days. No wonder they sounded elated as we absorbed our first glimpse of the Rockies, I thought. They should've skipped the boring stuff and made for the mountains.

And these mountains are not just for shutterbugs and agoraphobic trainspotters. They're heavenly outdoor playgrounds where you can hike, bike, ski, fish, and lose yourself until whatever angels that make the rules tell you it's time to get back to work. We snaked our way into a landscape set under a shroud of wintery white, each meter that we chugged along turning my thoughts to just one thing—skiing, skiing, skiing. Oh, and Jimmy Cho.

Published: 9 Aug 2004 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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