Driving from Whistler to Jasper

Old Aug 25th, 2005, 04:09 AM
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Driving from Whistler to Jasper

We are coming skiing to Canada in December.
Flying into Vancouver we need to get to Whistler (with all our gear) - what's the best way?
Then after a week we are going to go to Japer (Jasper Park Lodge) if we hire a car what is the drive like at that time of year? How long will it take? Do we need a four wheel drive?
After a week in Jasper we plan to drive the Icefield Parkway to see friends in Calgary before flying Home.
All help and comments gratefully received.
JohnF is offline  
Old Aug 26th, 2005, 09:20 AM
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The best route for winter driving from Vancouver to Jasper is to drive the Coquihalla from Hope to Kamloops and then highway #5 north to Jasper.

The Coquihalla is a four lane (in some spots six lane) divided highway.

Highway #5 north of Kamloops is two lane undivided with passing lanes in some sections.

Unless you are driving in the middle of a blizzard (which I wouldn't recommend, especially if you aren't used to driving in winter conditions), the road conditions should be fairly good, meaning there might be snow and some ice on the highway at the summits of the Coquihalla (there are two between Hope and Kamloops), but overall the roads should be fairly clear. The worst condition on the Coquihalla isn't snow but fog. Your best bet is to slow down, and not to drive the speed limit, even if the roads seem to be clear and dry. Black ice is not very visible but can make your vehicle skid.

The drive from Kamloops to Jasper (5 hours under good driving conditions)will be fairly straightforward, not much traffic except for large trucks, and I have found that it is generally a drier area so the road is clear, with the exception of the Blue River area (where they have lots of snow most years), and again in the Rocky Mountains starting at Mount Robson Provincial Park.

Having driven Edmonton-Jasper-Kamloops-Vancouver several times during the winter months, we have found that the worst road conditions were actually on the prairies (Edmonton to Jasper) and not in the mountains!!! That being said, avoid driving at all if the weather prediction is for snow, or evn worse than snow, freezing rain.

Note that in December, the further north you go, the shorter the days are, so by the time you are in Jasper you'll see that daylight hours are from about 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. (roughly). Plan your driving for the daylight hours - visibility is much better, it'll be less stressful.

Driving times:
Vancouver to Hope - depends on traffic around Vancouver, could take up to 2 hours.
Hope to Kamloops - less than two hours in summer, could take a lot longer depending on road conditions. I would recommend spending the night in Kamloops before continuing on your journey.
Kamloops to Jasper - takes about 5 hours in the summer with a couple of short stops. As with the Coquihalla, could take longer depending on the road conditions.

Do you need a four wheel drive? We don't have a four wheel drive and have made the journey safely. My son has actually make the trip during one February in the smallest least powerful GMC compact car (although the Coquihalla has such long inclines that a more powerful motor makes the drive easier).

If you were planning to drive from Whister to Jasper, I wouldn't recommend it. Go back to Vancouver and start your journey there. I don't know the condition of the road between Whister and Kamloops in winter, but I imagine it would be more treacherous (more snow) than the Coquihalla (which is a major route, the other isn't).

Well. I've rambled on a bit, but hope this helps.
Borealis is offline  
Old Aug 28th, 2005, 03:11 PM
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Borealis did a pretty good job of describing the driving; the one thing missed was the info from Vancouver to Whistler. Take a bus OR give yourself at least two hours from the airport. Seriously. You have to drive THROUGH downtown Vancouver and then past the main ferryboat terminal before you head up into the mountains. The drive has some great scenery that is to be enjoyed (if it isn't snowing, raining, fogging or dark) and you can't do that if you are white-knuckling a rental up that highway. Don't try to "rent" at Whistler... bus back to Van and rent there; it'll save you a lot of money. Check with your Whistler hotel for their bus sched/recommendation.

The scenery is pretty good from Van to Kamloops where you'll be cutting across the TransCanada as the Coquihalla ends there. The drive on up the Yellowhead highway from Kamloops to Jasper gets really nice the closer you get to Jasper (although I suppose if you aren't used to the Rockies as some of us who live "close to there" are, you might think the whole drive is pretty special).

The one drive that is probably the most exciting and scenic is the Icefields Parkway which is the highway connecting Banff to Jasper through the mountains. Now that IS wild in the winter but so beautiful when the weather is good. If you have an off day or two at the slopes and the forecast is good I'd recommend making a return run just to go past the glacier and over the summit. We've even spotted pairs of wolves trotting along the frozen river parallel to the highway on a couple of our spring ski trips to Marmot.

And, most important... enjoy yourself. It's a great trip.
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Old Aug 30th, 2005, 02:42 AM
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Be carefull with car rentals in Canada during winter season.

Some car rental companies do not allow chains on their wheels and also winter tires are not available. Check with your rental company before booking!

The Duffey Lake road between Whistler and Lilooet is a high mountain road and you have to be prepared for winter hazards. The road is sometimes closed during winter season (depending on the weather). Check the highway status before your trip.

Icefield highway is also driveable but dependent on winter hazards (daily situation can change quickly).
tom22 is offline  
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