An unexpected moment during a planned itinerary can make the most indelible memory. So, it was on our journey into northern Alberta to Jasper Park Lodge at the break of dawn. A few minutes after entering the Kootenay National Park, we spotted a family of grizzlies sauntering along the highway. These powerful creatures were oblivious to the giddy passengers in awe of their magnificence. We had previously enjoyed “Breakfast with the Grizzlies” at Grouse Mountain in British Columbia. It was very educational but here we were watching their feast in the wild, snapping photos and videos from a respectful yet pretty close distance until they passed in to the woods.
Onward we traveled, gleeful with the engagement yet still wide eyed on our continuous moose pursuit. We quipped about how cool it would be to see and then, low and behold there one stood. It was a reverent moment as the apparent teen waded majestically in a glacial stream. Our final animal quest was completed. But wait, there was more, wildlife that is – a little black bear munching along the roadside and a bighorn sheep crossing the highway. The early bird indeed gets the worm and we devoured the National Geographic start to another best day ever.
Fairmont Hotels owned by Accors, has three iconic resorts in Alberta and we were thrilled to be checking in to the ones in Jasper and Banff but received a bonus with a short side trip to experience the third, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on our way to Jasper. A mere ten-minute drive off the Icefield Hwy 93, this alpine luxury hotel regally guards the banks of Victoria Glacier Lake with mirror images of surrounding mountains. Even in June, snow was still prevalent, and temperatures hovered around 32 degrees in the morning. The hotel has been serving elite guests for over 100 years in this jaw dropping scene.
The highway into Jasper National Park winds through valleys carved by glaciers with towering firs, pines and cedars. The epic proportion of the Canadian Rockies is captivating. Along the way, The Columbia Glacier can be intimately explored. The Glacier Skywalk spans out over the expanse with a glass floor – not for the faint of heart. The remoteness of this rugged territory invokes curiosity about the men and women who forged through climate and struggles to build up the area. In 1911, the only way to get to Jasper was by rail. As with our US west, the rail workers were the explorers of new territories for the eastern seaboards of North America.
The Jasper Park Lodge was conceived on 2400 acres, borrowing from the trend of the Adirondack region of New York. The concept was to have guests stay in rustic log cabins in a spectacular mountain setting and combine that experience with service and amenities of luxury resort hotels. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge continues that tradition. It has evolved with modern improvements, but the lodge, cabins, and settings have remained true to the origins. The crystal turquoise lake is the centerpiece surrounded by trails and overseen by the restaurants and spa amenities as well as the wildlife. At check in the biggest question is what to do first? We set our bags in the cabin and hopped in a paddle boat around the lake with snow-capped Mount Edith looming above.
Golf is far from secondary at Jasper. Stanley Thompson was the famous golf architect assigned to create each hole with a vista, down through the aisles of firs with mountain peaks in the vast distance. We attest to his success along with the number one course ranking in all of Canada. Stanley was an artist with his layouts and every hole is a postcard setting. Par 3s are tough while the 5s are less demanding. If you have difficulty on the front, there is a wishing well at the turn.
He was so creative that he incorporated figures in the fairway such as on #9 par 3, the shape of a lady with two large mounds, well you get the picture. He had a lot of help carving the course through the rock – 200 men and 50 teams of horses at a cost of arguably 2.5 million. Secret records were burned to hide the actual costs. While playing the course in a gentle rain, our spirits were not dampened. The natural beauty shines through.
Playing with golf pro Tahlon Sweenie made the round even sweeter. This is where he is destined to be. He shared not only course knowledge, history and strategy, but a personal reflection on the par 3 green where he last played with his dad and got a hole in one. Since then he had birdied the hole and on Father’s Day had a plan to share dad’s ashes on their special green.
The Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club’s cabins are lakeside or near fairways for families, groups and corporate golf outings. If you need forest therapy with little mirror lakes, streams and snow -capped mountain peaks, Jasper is the place to go. We loved our cabin above the lake with docks to sit and sip some wine. At bedtime we were lulled by the sound of a loon while hoping to get a wakeup call to see the Northern lights in the middle of the night. Maybe on our next Jasper journey.