ICE DREAM

Jasper Na­tional Park in the spring of­fers su­perb ski­ing, no lift queues and there’s all sorts of wildlife in the woods. Ex­cept for griz­zlies. They’re still sleep­ing

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - MOVIE REVIEWS -

IWAS AT THE GATE to Jasper Na­tional Park in Al­berta, Canada, pay­ing my park en­try fee when I no­ticed the sign: “A fed bear is a dead bear!” The lady be­hind the win­dow no­ticed my per­plexed look and ex­plained that, in­cred­i­bly, some peo­ple are in­deed stupid enough to think a bear would en­joy their “peanut paste and jelly sand­wich” and that it needed to be pointed out, that, no, they must not at­tempt to feed the bears.

I shook my head in dis­be­lief, and tut­tut­ted about a sim­i­lar prob­lem at home with our din­goes, and drove on to the Fair­mont Jasper Park Lodge.

This lux­u­ri­ous re­sort set on 300ha of park­land in­cludes the Queen on its guest list. She, how­ever, lucked out. You see she was there a few years ago, so she didn’t re­ceive the same royal treat­ment I was be­stowed by the ho­tel’s new­est concierge – Jasper.

A shiny black lab, tail-wag­ging, old bone in his mouth, which he was sure I wanted and would trea­sure, made me feel like I was com­ing back home.

It was March, and ski­ing was first on my agenda.

Mar­mot Moun­tain Ski Re­sort, what a find. Su­perb spring ski­ing, fresh pow­der, no ice, not a breath of wind and no lift queues. I was in heaven, I couldn’t be­lieve it, I prac­ti­cally had the moun­tain to my­self and it was Spring Break!

Un­like here in Aus­tralia, I didn’t need to get up and out there at first light. So I in­dulged in long, leisurely break­fasts by the lake at the Fair­mont, then, with­out rush­ing, took the 20-minute drive to the re­sort. I parked within a cou­ple of me­tres of the runs and still got first tracks at 10am.

Ex­hausted after pun­ish­ing my legs for a cou­ple of days, I was keen to take a break and try some­thing dif­fer­ent.

I’d heard about the Ice Walk along the Maligne Canyon. Walk­ing on ice? I’m up for that, I thought.

So, there I was, ap­pro­pri­ately at­tired in spiked gum boots, climb­ing down a steep path on to a frozen river bed.

“Yep, def­i­nitely frozen,” the 12-yearold in front re­as­sur­ingly de­clared. The words “moun­tain goat” and “very cold wa­ter if you fall in” were oddly fore­front in my mind as I made my way up­stream.

Soon though, I be­gan to feel small and in­signif­i­cant, the sides of the canyon were sheer ice in places, gi­ant blobs of solid wa­ter­fall, frozen in time as it cas­caded down from above.

Our guide Mike stopped to point out fos­sils from the time it was part of the ocean floor and unique for­ma­tions, be­fore he came to a sud­den halt and said, “OK, that’s far enough, it’s start­ing to melt from here on”. I was OK with that decision as we slipped and slid our way back.

The next day I was ea­ger to join the Maligne Val­ley Wildlife Dis­cov­ery Tour. Bears, that’s what I wanted to see, Jasper Na­tional Park is full of them, griz­zlies and black bears.

Un­for­tu­nately, I was about a month too early – they start com­ing out of hi­ber­na­tion with their new cubs around April. As a kid our guide would carry rocks in his pocket on the way to school, in case he needed to pelt them at a bear in the way.

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