Ice Field Parkway/Jasper

Dec 1st, 2018, 02:40 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 15
Ice Field Parkway/Jasper

We took this trip in May 2018. I am wondering what the Parkway is like in January/February. I would love to drive up to Jasper and see it in the winter. Would fly into Calgary. I imagine there are times that the road is closed. In case of a heavy snowfall, is the road only closed for a day or two? Are there requirements for having chains to be used if needed? Thanks.
Ekellydds is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2018, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 10,022
Consider flying to Vancouver and taking the ViaRail Canadian from Vancouver to Jasper. The part of the train trip from Kamloops to Jasper is beautiful and you don't have to do any white knuckle driving.
There are several car rental agencies within walking distance from the train station in Jasper. Also in the train station is a counter for the Brewster tour bus company which does drive between Jasper and Calgary with stops in Lake Louise and Banff. I'm thinking that chains are not allowed on rental cars in Canada either.
The other place you could get on the Canadian would be Edmonton. The train only runs 3 days per week in each direction (possibly only twice a week in winter).
It has been decades since I was in Calgary and Banff but I've been in Jasper arriving by train several times in the past 17 years.
Welcome to Fodors. Many people on Fodors do not share my love for trains, but I think that to avoid winter driving it makes sense.
tomfuller is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 05:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Winter tires (M+S - Mountain & Snow) are mandatory, and not just on the parkway. All facilities will be closed.

Here are some links that may be helpful regarding winter travel tips on the Icefields Parkway:
sludick is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2018, 01:38 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 581
M+S tires are mandatory for most highways in inland BC. Full snow tires are mandatory on the Icefields Parkway and 93S (Castle Mountain Junction to Radium Hot Springs). Chains are not permitted on rental cars, and are rarely used on cars here - only big transport trucks. Other than for off-roading, which you would not go.

Train would be a good way to get to Jasper, but it's the parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise which requires extra care and solid winter driving skills to manage in the winter. So taking the train won't solve that problem. Even for the train, you'd need to have flex time as weather/freight trains can cause short to long delays (within 2-3 hrs is considered on time). Also, one way rentals can be expensive and you'd have to ensure that the car had winter tires. Pursuit (formerly Brewsters) does not run the winter shuttle - it's run by SunDogs and goes once per day, no stops.

I would not attempt the Icefields Parkway unless you are very comfortable driving in our winter conditions. As mentioned all facilities will be closed - no hotels, no stores, no gas stations. There is no cell service, and at night, it can be a long while before someone passes by. Also, it's not maintained like other roads in that it's scraped, not plowed and only during daylight hours. Pullovers may or may not be plowed, depending on how recently/how much it's been snowed. So it's more likely to be snow covered than not. You need to be prepared to wait for help, and even then, they may not be able to tow a car right away, weather and road conditions. You need a proper emergency kit and only drive during daylight hours.

Closures can be from hours to days. It really depends on the reason and how easily they can mitigate the issue. Most common reason is for avy control, and the road remains closed until the danger is cleared. Sometimes they can get a heli up right away and bomb the problem slope & clear the parkway. Other times, they may be socked in by weather and take a day or more until they can do control. In recent winters, I think the longest closure was about 4 days? Two winters ago in May, the highway was blocked near Mosquito Creek for a couple of days when a control bombing released about 10m of snow onto the highway. The most common spot for closures is between Rampart Creek and the Columbia Icefields. Sometimes we have a lot of closures, other times very few.

Problem is that with no cell service, you have no way of knowing what's happening once you leave Lake Louise. And the stretch that's most likely to be closed (see above) or have the worst winter conditions is past Sask River Crossing. Weather changes quickly. So you need to have confidence in the forecast and road conditions.

If you aren't confident in winter driving, it's probably best to stick with Banff/Lake Louise or take the shuttle to and from Jasper. From Banff or Lake Louise you can do short trips on the parkway if the weather and road conditions are good.
kgsneds is offline  
Dec 8th, 2018, 01:15 AM
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Thank you folks!
Ekellydds is offline  
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