Large Scale Central

Another Winter Vacation

So the wife and I took another winter weekend vacation. This time we drove to Jasper, Alberta Canada. This is a 9 hour drive from my home through the heart of the Canadian Rockies. About 500 miles. What an adventure. This will be a long post but it is a fun story for anyone who cares. Anyone who has been to Canada outside of its big cities soon learns that Canada is not the US. I have traveled there lots. But its hard to fathom the vast expanses of wilderness without people, especially in the winter. We got gas in a town called Cranbrook which is about an hour north of the border. I figured that, like in the US, a person can travel a major highway and always have access to gas. Nope. We turned off the preferred route at a town called Radium Hot Springs. Little did I know this would be the last time I saw civilization until we arrived to our destination of Jasper Alberta. Over 5 hours of driving with no gas and not much in the way of people. Its almost entirely within three national parks: Kootenay National Park, Banff national park, and Jasper National Park. And being winter everything was closed for the winter. It was a long lonely highway in a snowstorm most of it in the dark with very spotty cell service. I do have to make a disclaimer here and say we did drive through one town, a famous one, and I was too stupid to realize we were driving through it. Lake Louise is a ski resort town. I knew we drove by the ski resort but I thought we were going to drive through the town of Banff. Nope. So I bypassed lake Louise and that ended up being the only opportunity to get gas. By the time we arrived at Jasper I was down to about an 1/8th of a tank of gas. I was getting very nervous that we might not make it. But we did.

To keep this train related, we came into Jasper using google maps. Not knowing the area I followed it. And it took us to the only level grade crossing in Japser with the CN railroad. It so happens this is a popular place for them to hump cars. So we sat and sat and sat. Finally a local came by and I flagged him down. He gave me directions to get under the RR. Once we finally got gas we headed to our cabin we rented that was just a few minutes out of town. . .um no more like 1/2 an hour north of town. By the time we arrived at the cabin it was 10:30 PM. I had called ahead that morning and asked about their late check in policy as I knew we would be arriving late. I was assured by the manager it was no problem. He put the info in the computer and said there was a after hours phone with someone answering 24hrs a day. Nope. We get there and the place is closed up and dark. I used the phone no answer. used it four more times. . .no answer. Called the office number. . . no answer. Pressed 2 for the manager. . . no answer. So with no other choice we drove the 1/2 hour back to Jasper and rented a motel.

Saturday morning I called the Cabins and the manager answered. I told him what happened and he apologized profusely. Part of my concern was that we booked a tour as a package deal with the room. I was worried they canceled our reservations and that would cancel our tour. He assured me we were still covered and to go have fun on our tour and then come and he would take care of us for our second nights stay.

Well the tour was awesome. I will tell you about that in a minute. After our tour we drove the now 20 minutes to our hotel. We get there, the manager was gracious and made sure we were taken care of and we got the keys to our cabin and dropped our gear. We headed back to Jasper to explore the town and hit up the local brewery. That was fun and the beer was great. We bought groceries because our cabin had a full kitchen and we were going to make our dinner and eat in. We drive back to our cabin only to have no power. We were having a pretty decent wind storm and a tree took out the power. No way to cook dinner, no lights, and no water (they were on a well). We were going to try and ride it out but the wife was getting “hangry” so back to Jasper for dinner. We get back to the Cabin and by this time we just decided that “an adventure is as much about the journey as it is the destination” and we laughed at our day and went to bed. We woke up for the drive home and saw the sites along the way. And Devon somehow took a wrong turn. I ended up coming into this town I didn’t recognize on the way up and was looking at a ski resort. We ended up in Kimberly, BC. it was all good it led back to the highway and only added about 15 to 20 minutes to the drive, another good laugh. So enough about the road less traveled.


The entire purpose of the trip was to see Jasper National Park in the winter. I had been there twice before in the summer. The Canadian Rockies are stunning. but in the winter they are surreal.

Once to Jasper, the tour we booked was to go on what is called the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk. This is a deep narrow slot canyon that freezes over in the winter. The main creek that feeds it freezes but alos there are numerous springs that pour our through the rocks in the canyon walls and they form ice falls. So you walk on ice, through a narrow canyon with all these ice falls around you.

Safety is a must and they provide insulated rubber boots, ice cleats, and helmets. Just a crazy thing to do and see. At one point you could even walk behind a large column of ice.

And once again to keep it train related we came across a museum “fort” town. It was pretty much closed for the winter but we did see this compressed air loco.


As my wife makes them available to me I have several more pictures. But one of the more interesting features of the Banff/Jasper National Parks is it is home to one of the larges remaining ice fields, The Columbia Icefeild. That ice field has 6 main glaciers that it feeds. What is really unique is that Snow Dome, the main mountain in the ice field is a triple watershed divide. The Athabasca River flows north and eventually its water reaches the Arctic Ocean. The North Saskatchewan River flows east and eventually its water ends up in the Atlantic Ocean via Hudson Bay. On the west side of the ice field the water flows to the Pacific via the Columbia river. Within a two day trip I saw rivers that flowed to three different oceans. Not something many people can say they have seen.


On our way home we saw a sign that said “natural bridge” so we pulled in. And another great ice adventure. This is a perspective one would never get without drowning. The waterfall tumbles through a very narrow hole that formed a natural bridge. Normally this would all be full of rushing water. But since its frozen you can scramble down to the rivers edge, walk out on the ice and into the water fall. You could even peek through a hole and see the rushing water behind the ice.

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park BC Canada as seen in winter

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Thanks for sharing. NB has some great area’s to see all year …

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And some of the wildlife

To keep it train related the eagles were eating off a carcass that was either killed by a car or the train.

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That’s great Devon. That was part of my territory. I used to love the view from the bunkhouse. :slight_smile:


Your territory? What did you do up in that neck of the woods?

Engineer out of Edmonton before retiring in 2016. We did what was known as double sub. trips to Jasper. I loved going there at Christmas with all the snow and Christmas lights.

Oh so you were one of those guys who parked across the tracks. . . :crazy_face: So I saw a building that said in big letters CN and I thought is saw something somewhere that said CN Home. Its not headquartered in Jasper is it?

HQ is in Montreal, Quebec. Jasper is just a terminal.

That makes more sense. I couldn’t imagine Jasper being the home of CN. Hey, I am curious. I know that the spiral tunnels are on the CP line but have you ever traveled through them? I was disappointed that they don’t plow out and keep open the viewpoint to watch the trains go through it. I spent about an hour or two one year just watching the trains make their way through it.

I don’t know if it ever happens but I always thought it would be fun to watch the CP Christmas Train go through the spirals at night if that is even a possibility.

No, I’ve never been on CP track, but like you, I have watched the trains there.

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ahhhh yes; the lovely town of Jasper. I had the pleasure of staying in the CN bunkhouse there overnight, and another few nights in a pleasant hotel in town.
Met a fine young lady, who was running a small business doing repairs to furnature for the for the Jasper Springs Hotel…Annie Scott was her name. She gave me a great tour of the whole area…grand memories…all my stay was paid for by ViaRail…due to a wreck in Saskatchewan…way back when…
It is good that you experienced WINTER in Jasper…I was there in the Summer…and have been back there a few times, but Annie Scott has moved on and has remarried, so I’ve been told.
It was great fun to spend a few evenings with off-duty CN crews in several local bars/pubs…oh the tales they told…!!!
Riding the Head End of the Canadian (Via Locomotive 6403/6459) was also a great experience. I have known that locomotive well over the years.
Thank you Devon, for your trip report; It brought back my wonderful memories.

Jasper is not a terminal; it is a Division Point, also crew change point on CN. ViaRail changes head end crews there, if I remember correctly. Via Onboard crews only change in Toronto, “Winterpeg”, and Vancouver.

Devon, I’m forced to have 20 characters to edit. :no_mouth:

Sure looks like CN considers it a terminal.

Devon, did you get a chance to see the 4-8-2 beside the train station? ( CNR 6015 )

Yes I did. I really didn’t do any rail fanning while there as the wife could care less and we were busy doing other things. I would have liked to poke around some more. But I did see the loco but you guys in Canada must celebrate Christmas all year round because it was still covered in Christmas lights.


Great story. Sounds like a fine time. Thanks for your interest in my adventure and sharing yours.

Shane was an engineer for CN and his district included Japser. I would think twice about correcting someone with personal local and professional knowledge. He was polite to me and took down his rebuttal post so as not to hijack my thread. But what he edited out was a picture taken directly from a CN publication defining and listing “terminals” and right there clearly labeled in black and white is listed Jasper as a terminal. Not even sure why someone would think to correct someone when you only have anecdotal knowledge and he has professional knowledge on the subject. He even stated he was an engineer for CN and that was his district. It was pretty bold to correct him on it and it in turn backfired on you.