It’s been six or seven years since I made the trip to Jasper National Park in winter. I used to come here with my dad and best friend every year or two. This is where I learned to carve, where I first saw grizzly bears. I haven’t been back since I fractured my spine snowboarding five years ago. I’m here to find out how much has changed.
One of my favourite things about Marmot Basin is that you can start skiing right from the parking lot. My boyfriend, Tom, parks his truck in P3. I strap on my snowboard, trying my best to ignore the fear that surges through my veins. Five years after nearly becoming paralyzed, and I still get flashbacks every time I board.
I push myself up and carve onto my toes. The slope is wide and groomed; not too flat, but certainly not steep. It’s exactly as I remembered. Tom is used to waiting for me, but this time, he has to play catch-up. “I’ve never seen you snowboard this confidently,” he says. I grin.
Coming back to Marmot feels like coming home. Tom and I get our lift tickets and head up the Canadian Rockies Express and then onto the Eagle Ridge Chair.
I ride down fresh powder on green and blue runs, daring to carve in places I’d usually feel uncomfortable. The thick snow and open terrain soothe my fears.
We stop for a bite at Caribou Lounge. Carling Breuning, Marmot’s Sales Centre Supervisor, joins us. She recommends the King of the Hill salad, and I do not regret it. I pair it with the French Onion soup. Tom opts for the daily poutine. Our server explains that in honour of the Olympics, the kitchen is producing specials based on participating countries.
Over lunch, Carling tells us about the newest area of Marmot Basin: Tres Hombres. Opened in December, this epic double-black diamond area is steep and challenging. “I skied it for the first time last week and it blew me away,” Carling says.
I’m more of an intermediate snowboarder, but that’s why I like this hill. It has runs where I can progress, and areas I feel completely comfortable. “There’s really something for everyone,” Carling agrees.
Marmot has 91 runs: 30% novice, 30% intermediate, 20% advanced and 20% expert. The hill caters to families with different levels of riders because even if you get separated from your crew, every run leads to the bottom. It’s pretty much impossible to get lost.
Tom and I head back up to tackle the snow. I fall, laugh, and bounce back up. After a few more runs, I stop for a Baileys and hot chocolate at the roaring fire in front of the mid-mountain chalet. Tom heads up the Paradise chair to try out Tres Hombres.
While I wait for him, I meet skiers from across Canada and the States sharing a beer and their life stories. The sky is clear, the fire is warm, and everyone is friendly.
Marmot has one of the longest seasons of any ski resort in Western Canada, stretching from early November to the first weekend of May. Every year, new festivals pop up and events take place across the mountain and in town.
But the atmosphere, terrain and good vibes are the same as always. It’s no wonder why I love this hill.
Just like I remembered.