AL­BERTA

JASPER NA­TIONAL PARK

Pedal Magazine - - Test Gear - BY ALEX STEIDA

I’ve lived in Al­berta for more than 20 years and dis­cov­ered some pretty cool rides, yet be­ing in the moun­tains and cy­cling in the Rock­ies around Jasper never gets old. Ap­prox­i­mately a three-hour drive from my home in Ed­mon­ton, this jour­ney al­ways im­parts a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion as the peaks come into view when driv­ing over Obed Sum­mit through Hin­ton and into Jasper Na­tional Park.

Jasper it­self is per­fectly sit­u­ated at the con­flu­ence of six paved roads with many op­tions, in­clud­ing Banff to the south, Mi­ette Hot Springs to the east or Pyra­mid Lake to the north. De­pend­ing on how you feel and the con­di­tions, the var­i­ous routes can be com­bined to make an in­ter­est­ing mix of ter­rain and chal­lenges.

I like to climb dif­fi­cult moun­tain roads, but not be­cause I love climb­ing, as I’m a lousy climber and up­hills have never treated me well. I sim­ply love descend­ing fast, and Mount Edith Cavell, south­west of Jasper, fea­tures a fab­u­lous twisty route that re­quires tech­ni­cal descend­ing skills – so I’m all in.

I start with a meet­ing point at Café Mondo in Jasper for an espresso shot and the usual pre-ride chi­canery. Then it’s a short 13-kilo­me­tre ride south on Hwy. 93, turn­ing onto Hwy. 93A. Go past the turn for Mar­mot Basin and reach the base of the Edith Cavell turnoff. The Mar­mot climb is also a good one, and the de­scent is a chal­lenge to com­plete with­out touch­ing your brakes.

The 15-kilo­me­tre Edith Cavell Road is nar­row and as such does not have a painted cen­ter line, hence you won’t see full-sized tour buses or mo­torhomes be­cause both are not al­lowed. Take care, as tourists in rentals may use more road than needed.

A cou­ple of years ago, Parks Canada re-paved the en­tire road, making a play­ground for go-fast de­scen­ders such as my­self. The first few kilo­me­tres are switch­backs in heav­ily treed woods, carved into the moun­tain. The si­lence can feel eerie, as I can only hear my laboured breath­ing while I keep an eye out for signs of bear. It’s a good idea to carry a can of bear spray, es­pe­cially if you’re rid­ing on your own.

Af­ter ap­prox­i­mately five kilo­me­tres, the road turns to false flat and the trees start to thin out as moun­tain peaks be­gin to ap­pear. I truly feel one with the land, sens­ing the road roll un­der my tires, breath­ing air scented by pines. A cou­ple more switch­backs, some more false flat and I ar­rive at the trail­head park­ing lot. A glacier is perched right above me as I pause to pull on my wind vest, gloves and take a well-de­served drink before the de­scent brings an even big­ger smile to my face.

I’m back in Jasper af­ter 60 kilo­me­tres, and head straight to the Jasper Brew­ing Com­pany for a re­fresh­ing “Jasper the Bear Ale.”

Cy­cling in the Rock­ies around Jasper never gets old.

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