Story by Karen Evenden
JASPER, ALBERTA — If you happened to take a spur of the moment Rocky Mountains winter break in Jasper this month, expect to see more than magnificent snow-capped mountains, copious elk and a few die-hard winter sports enthusiasts. In fact, you may just witness extreme flying snowballs, an intriguing number of chili connoisseurs and infinitely more skiers and snowboarders than some other resorts see in the height of the ski season.
So what is the reason for this fascinating phenomenon? It’s known as “Jasper in January.”
The Jasper in January Festival is an annual winter event that spans 16 days towards the end of the first calendar month. This year, the festival is already in full swing and began on the evening of January 11 with a live band and a kick-off party and will continue until January 27.
Jasper in January started 24 years ago to celebrate the silver anniversary of Marmot Basin, the local ski resort. As part of the festival’s marketing initiative, Marmot Basin offers significant discounts on lift tickets to entice skiers and snowboarders during the traditionally cooler month. During the festival, the resort features activities such as the terrain park jam and a scavenger hunt. There is a Seniors Tea at the Top (tea and cookies at the upper ski lodge) for those less inclined to strap on a pair of skis.
On average the resort receives more than 25,000 skiers and snowboarders and the town site of Jasper hosts a list of family-friendly activities during the 16-day period. More importantly, though, the festival is just great fun.
A Hot Time in the Cold in Jasper
With many businesses and residents getting involved, there are wide a number of activities and events, indoors and outside. For those who want to get moving or would like to try different winter activities, there are opportunities to experience ice skating, tobogganing, dog sledding, wildlife tracking, a polar bear dip and even a family pentathlon.
If staying warm is more your style, take in the “Wine in Winter” evening at the Chateau Jasper and taste wines from around the world, watch the men’s curling bonspiel, enjoy one of the many live performances happening in town or join in the indoor snowball fight.
One of the traditional “old favourite” activities at the festival is the Mountain Park Lodges Chili Cookoff. This 25-year-old contest requires teams to make the best chili from scratch. The chili judges determine that no ingredients can be pre-cooked or chopped prior to the start and — just to make things a little more challenging — no beans are allowed. Competitors often entertain spectators by donning costumes and there have been a variety of creative themes in the past, including space cadets. In 2013, the Mayan Survivors team has been a hit.
Midway through the festival visitors get to experience street performers, Aboriginal drumming, live music and fireworks at the ATCO Family Street Party.
A new activity that is sure to be a highlight at the festival this year is WINTERSTRUCK, which takes place at Pyramid Lake. Families can participate in a number of activities free of charge, including dog sledding, ice skating, fire starting and a bannock bake.
Other new events this year include the Broken Resolutions Comedy Show and the Mill Street Brewery and Cheese Pairing at the Liquor Lodge.
With this much activity happening at Jasper in January, it’s hard to imagine what the organizers will come up with for next year. But 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the event and the 50th anniversary of Marmot Basin, so you know it will be one festival to put on your calendar.
More About Jasper in January
More Vacay.ca Coverage of Jasper
Note: Photos courtesy of Tourism Jasper
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