Latest: SNOW SCENE: New quad chair a game-changer at Marmot Basin

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Sometimes, you just need to admit when you’re wrong.

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For most of my 14 years skiing in Alberta, I’d been under the impression that Marmot Basin’s reputation for being a family-friendly resort meant it didn’t have the type of high-alpine terrain that I gravitate towards.

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And while I’ve made a point to visit Jasper repeatedly in the summer, I’d never packed up my skis and made the trip while there was snow on the mountains.

Well, I’m here to put both hands in the air and admit I was wrong. I’ve been missing out.

This past weekend, a friend and I packed our bags and drove up the Icefields Parkway for a little getaway that included a day at Marmot Basin.

And while the resort certainly lives up to its reputation for small crowds, laidback vibes and family-friendly runs, there have also been massive investments made to provide easy access to expert terrain over the past decade.

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And man, that terrain is massive. Easily accessible, too, now that the Knob Quad Chair has opened and makes it easy-as-pie to ski or ride right into Marmot Cirque.

We’ll get to that in a second, but it’s worth noting that the opening of the Knob Quad Chair only adds to an already-expansive resort layout that saw its black and double-black terrain grow substantially a few years ago with the opening of Tres Hombres.

Sitting on the north face of the mountain and easily accessible from Paradise Chair, the wide-open runs on Tres Hombres are big, steep and a challenge for any skier or rider.

Marmot Basin
Skiers enjoy the conditions at Marmot Basin ski resort in Jasper National Park. Photo by Marmot Basin /Supplied

The addition of that section alone should have been enough to convince people like me that it was worth driving the extra couple of hours to Jasper to check out Marmot Basin. We did the drive in just under five hours, for what it’s worth.

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But the new Knob Quad Chair changes the game. While much of the terrain in the Marmot Cirque area was skiable prior to this season, it was mostly only accessible by a hike after getting off the old Knob Chair.

The new quad takes skiers and riders considerably higher up the mountain, making it much easier to unload and pretty much instantly start taking on authentically extreme terrain. There are chutes, steeps, cliffs and just about everything else you’d expect to find in the high alpine.

Again, this is big mountain skiing we’re talking about and while it doesn’t diminish Marmot’s reputation for being a family-friendly resort, it definitely adds to the type of experience that can be provided.

And there are still lots of long, winding blues and greens, too, as well as a massive learning area. Just because I’m focused on the expert terrain here, that doesn’t mean any beginner or intermediate skier will have trouble finding runs that suit their skill set. There’s a tonne of variety when it comes to terrain at Marmot Basin.

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And there’s lots of snow, too.

Like every resort in the Rockies, Marmot has a bit of a slow start to the season. I just happened to arrive in the middle of a storm that brought 31 cm of fresh snow in four days and with a storm forecast for the end of this week, too, the Jasper area is being transformed into the winter wonderland you’d expect it to be at this time of year.

And that’s exactly what any guest to Jasper National Park would hope for, right? Especially in March, when the mountains of Western Canada seem to get more snow than at any other time of the year.

Jasper is well-equipped for winter, too. After my day at Marmot Basin, we popped by the Jasper Park Lodge, where Jasper Tourism had set us up with day passes to enjoy the heated pool and hot tub. That’s an experience I strongly recommend — the view alone is out of this world.

And after spending the night drinking non-alcoholic wine by the first in our little cottage at the Bear Hill Lodge, we spent our Sunday morning on a delightful Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour operated by Sundog Tours, which is a great way to get outside for anybody who might not love skiing or snowboarding.

From there, we hit the road and were back in Calgary in time for dinner. It was an easy, stress-free weekend, with the only regret being how long it took me to finally do a winter weekend at Marmot Basin and in Jasper.

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