The scenic route north to Jasper
Thursday, April 26, 2012
JASPER, Alberta – Icefields Parkway is a 144-mile road that parallels the Continental Divide, connecting the Canadian national parks in Banff and Jasper. The road’s evocative name – its pedestrian moniker is Highway 93 – is fitting, but only hints at the sights in store on one of Canada’s most scenic drives.
Driving northwest out of Banff, drivers pick up the parkway near Lake Louise. Even on a drizzly July day, hundreds of visitors are drawn to the serene emerald lake, which is situated in a mountainous cove and set against the Mount Victoria Glacier. Tourists hike, they canoe, they shop or dine in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – anything to be near the lake.
The parkway draws its name from the Columbia Icefield, and some visitors like to pile into giant snowcoaches for a 90-minute ride across the Athabasca Glacier, the tongue of which hangs off the mountain within walking distance of the road.
Jasper, upon finally arriving, is best viewed from the Tramway, which sits on the southern edge of town and rises 3,200 feet up Whistlers Mountain, to 7,472 at the upper station. From there, ambitious souls can scramble another 400 feet or so up to the peak. To the north, on Beauvert Lake, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge can be seen.
The lodge, with its wood cabins lining the lake, has the feel of a campground, if such a thing can be said about a place comfortable enough to host Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 2005.
With the resort situated within Jasper National Park, the largest park in the Canadian Rockies, guests can find adventures here any time of year, whether they be on the water or in the mountains.
For golfers, the payoff for making the drive from Banff is the Stanley Thompson design that opened in 1925 and still is generally regarded as Canada’s top resort course. It is ranked No. 2 among Golfweek’s Best Classic Courses (pre-1960) in Canada.
The course was renovated in 1994 using Thompson’s blueprints, and the architecture suggests he had a playful side. Rock formations such as “Old Man” behind No. 2 and Pyramid Mountain beyond No. 11 frame the sightlines, and the ninth, Cleopatra, gets its name from a bunker shaped like a woman. The landing areas are generous, the par 5s generally shortish and gettable. The finish is particularly memorable, with the final five holes playing on and around Beauvert Lake.