Jasper in January: Winter Fun at Winterstruck
One of the reasons we visited Jasper during the winter was to experience its Jasper in January winter festival. For two weeks, the Rocky Mountain town and it’s residents host a series of activities and events that celebrate winter, including Arts on Ice, Wine in Winter, ATCO Street Party, Chili Cook Off and Winterstruck.
We timed our visit to attend Winterstruck, a fun-filled day at Pyramid Lake where the whole family can enjoy dogsledding, sleigh rides, outdoor ice skating, snowshoeing, curling and campfires. Now that our travels must include activities for toddlers, this annual winter event offered the perfect balance for our family.
Winterstuck begins at 11:00 AM on the first Saturday of the Jasper in January winter festival. Due to limited parking at Pyramid Lake, we boarded a free shuttle service at the Jasper Activity Centre, located in the centre of town.
We lucked out with the weather that day. It was sunny and 3 degrees Celsius, unseasonably warm for Jasper in January, which can get ridiculously cold in the winter. While a dusting of fresh snow would have created a fun wintery atmosphere, we weren’t complaining.
The most popular activity at Winterstruck is dog sledding with Cold Fire Creek Dog sledding. We were informed that dog sled rides fill up quickly, so we made sure to get in line and register as soon as we arrived at the lake.
We weren’t sure if Baby Connor would be able to go on the dog sled, because he’s so young, but I was reassured by Cold Fire Creek that all ages can ride. The company brought about 30 dogs for the day, swapping them in and out so they could have a break between rides. Those dogs sure love to run!
Baby Connor typically naps around noon every day, so it was no surprise that he fell asleep while we were waiting for our turn. Nevertheless, he still ‘technically’ went dogsledding for the first time, he just won’t have any recollection of the experience.
Braydon, on the other hand, couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. As the enthusiastic Alaskan Huskies jumped, barked and howled, he giggled and smiled with toddler curiousity. Once the sled began to glide across the frozen lake he clutched the sides of the sled and looked back at us with a comical look of excitement, fear and confusion. It was priceless.
The dog sled tour takes guests around Pyramid Lake. It’s not a long tour, about 10 minutes per ride, but it’s enough to give you a proper taste of Canada’s oldest form of winter transportation.
After dogsledding it was time to grab a BBQ hot dog for lunch. Serious business.
We then made our way to the curling rink and tossed a few stones, a first for both of us.
This was Braydon’s first time walking on ice. He loved walking around and “skating” in his winter boots. It was fun to watch him gain confidence on the ice. He yelled, “Daddy, I’m skating! I’m skating Daddy. Look at me!” Then, without warning, he slipped and landed on his butt.
He gets his awkward skating coordination from his dad.
Now, it wouldn’t be a Canadian winter festival without Maple taffy.
For those unfortunate folks that have never tried this Canadian treat, basically it’s a sugar candy made by boiling maple sap past the point where it would form maple syrup, but not so long that it becomes maple butter or maple sugar.
The sweet liquid is poured on clean white snow to cool down and create the soft maple candy. Then, you take a wooden stick and roll the maple taffy off the snow. The end product looks like a lollipop.
The process starts by boiling maple sap in a large pot…
The sweet liquid is then poured on clean white snow to cool down…
Then, it’s lifted off the snow by rolling with a stick.
For the bigger kids (including parents), there’s a number of winter sports on hand. Ice skating and playing pick-up hockey on a frozen lake surrounded by snow-capped rocky mountains is arguably the most Canadian winter experience one can have.
Or, you can simply play in the snow.
Another big draw at Winterstruck is the sleigh rides from Jasper Park Riding Stables. The tours run twice per hour but seating on each ride is limited so it’s best to secure your seat as soon as you arrive.
As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. Before we knew it, Braydon’s nap time was fast approaching and he was loosing steam. Because of this, we didn’t have enough time for a winter sleigh ride. We were a little disappointed to miss such an epic sleigh ride in the Canadian Rockies, but, alas, traveling with little ones can be unpredictable at times.
We really enjoyed watching the town of Jasper come together to celebrate winter. Our experience at Winterstruck reminded us how fun winter can be, when you embrace it. We felt like kids again, playing in the snow on a snow day. It also doesn’t hurt that the event takes place on once of the most spectacular frozen lakes in the Canadian Rockies.
If you plan to visit Winterstruck, here are a few things to note:
- Dogsleddding and Sleigh rides are very popular, so it’s best to make reservations as soon as you arrive. Prepare to wait in line for the dogsledding.
- There is no parking at the lake, so you need to take a free shuttle from the Jasper Activity Centre to Pyramid Lake. The shuttle takes about 15 minutes.
- Food and warm beverages are available for sale in the boathouse by Mountain Park Lodges. There are no ATM’s, so bring enough cash.
- The Pines Restaurant at Pyramid Lake Resort is open for dining but space is limited.
- You can rent ice skates and snowshoes at the boathouse.
- We lucked out with the warm weather. It’s typically very cold on the frozen lake in the middle of January. Dress accordingly and bring hats, gloves, scarves and thick, warm socks.
To learn more about Winterstruck, visit the Tourism Jasper website here.
Read more from our travels to the Canadian Rockies:
- Jasper might just be the most Canadian town in Canada
- Our favourite photos from our Alberta road trip
- Winter in Banff: Our best anniversary to date
- 22 stunning landscapes from Alberta we can’t stop looking at