Marmot Basin is one well-kept Canadian Rockies secret. With stunning views of Jasper National Park on a bluebird day, we tromped around the mountain last Friday for a skiing patchwork of glades, bowls, chutes, and groomers. The varied terrain let everyone find their niche, and at the end of the day, the favorite stash list was as numerous as people. Being in a national park, it's one of these rare areas where every run is natural--no bulldozers regrading slopes into a one incessant pitch. The result? A kicky hill that's fun to ski. And you can even get fresh powder turns days after a snowfall.
Marmot has also seen a record snowfall year. Late fall dumps allowed the area to open early, and the new snowmaking system installed on the lower runs will keep it open later in the season.
Highway 16 off the Paradise Chair won the groomer award, pulling us back for another couple laps. While forays off Knob Chair were mixed powder with a little windpacked crunch, trails in Eagle East and Charlie's Bowl still held straight powder. In Eagle's East, we cut in to Drop Zone for pleasant powder turns and worked down through the glades. Lower tree routes became tight and scraped where skier traffic funneled routes back to Slash. Even late in the day, Charlie's Bowl still held a few fresh powder tracks, although we hit wind chop on a few turns.
Lunch in the lodge's restaurant was accompanied by unbeatable southerly views. You could see the Icefields Parkway snaking along the valley floor. Plans for next winter include the addition of a long deck off the restaurant; I can just imagine lounging there with a beer after skiing!
With no on-mountain lodging, skiers stay in Jasper, 19 kilometers from the ski hill. It's an easy drive, or a quick bus ride, if you'd rather sit back to look for elk or bighorn sheep.
Marmot Basin is one place I'd hit again. It may be smaller than the other Canadian Rockies resorts, and it may be a heck of a lot further north, but the terrain is downright fun to ski.