Rustic luxury and natural splendour meet at Jasper Matthew Elder September 5, 2014 6700 Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge worth the trek, by rail or car Take your mind to the Canadian Rockies, and immediately you picture majestic gray mountains with snow-capped peaks and a carpet of deep-green forest blanketing the valleys up to tree line, with emerald lakes, bears and elk, the invigorating scent of fir trees, and perhaps even a Mountie on guard. The Outlook Signature cabin is one of 10 (and the most famous) that offer guests a luxurious mountain getaway You might be thinking Banff and its postcard-perfect sister resort, Lake Louise. But the truly authentic RockyMountain experience is probably best found about 250 kilometres to the north, at Jasper, and its premier resort, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Its location in JasperNational Park, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the Edmonton, might seem a little off the beaten tourist track. But in fact Jasper is right on the track – Canadian National Railways’ east-west main line, to be exact – and is a popular stop for travellers on VIA Rail Canada’s The Canadian transcontinental train. By car, Jasper and its premier resort, is at the northern end of the spectacular Icefields Parkway, among the most scenic mountain drives in the world. Jasper is considered by many to be the ultimate, natural RockyMountain experience. The settings may be equally scenic, but Jasper’s small townsite and relatively few resorts set it a world apart from busy Banff and popular Lake Louise. In Jasper, you always feel on the edge of the mountain wilderness, just steps away from all the natural wonders that JasperNational Park have to offer. JPL_Cavell’s Restaurant Jasper is the crown of the northern Rockies, and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is unquestionably the jewel in that crown. The 700-acre, 446-room resort sits across the AthabascaRiver from the town center, on the shore of the aptly named Lac Beauvert. While JasperNational Park has many activities and sights to see, such as the Columbia Glacier and the spectacular new Glacier Skywalk, in fact one can have a thorough RockyMountain experience without leaving the Jasper Park Lodge grounds. The resort offers on-site hiking, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding and mountain biking, as well as ice skating, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. Of particular note is the Jasper Park Lodge golf course, a 6,663-yard 18-hole masterpiece built 90 years ago by Stanley Thompson, Canada’s master golf-course designer. The par-71 layout was designed not just as a challenging test of golfing ability on rugged terrain, but also to offer framed mountain views at each tee. The course was built around the land’s natural contours and features, keeping golfers in constant connection with the environment. That includes wildlife; the course rulebook includes an unusual clause requiring golfers to pick up their balls should a bear be sighted on the fairway, and advance to the next tee. JasperPark Lodge has received rave reviews in various golf publications, including SCOREGolf magazine’s top ranking as the Best Golf Resort in Canada. Director of Golf Gregg Lown is overseeing the completion of the restoration of the layout to its original 1925 design. As testimony to the Jasper course’s quality and reputation, Lown came to Jasper this year after directorships of the courses at Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Fairmont Mayakoba in Mexico. Several golfers’ packages are available, including a golf-for-free arrangement that includes one round of golf per day in your room rate. For golfers on the move, there is a package that includes stays and golf at Fairmont’s three western mountain golf resorts: Jasper Park Lodge, Banff Springs and Chateau Whistler. JPL Junior suite fireplace Accommodations at Jasper Park Lodge are spread among 56 multi-unit cabins, including 10 signature cabins. The latter are designed for special occasions and gatherings, and contain one to 10 bedrooms as well as kitchens and living rooms. The most famous among these is the Outlook Cabin, which has on three occasions hosted royalty – King George VI and the Queen Elizabeth in 1939, Princess Margaret in 1980, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 2005. Among other famous people to have stayed at Jasper Park Lodge was Bing Crosby. While the Signature Cabins represent a special experience, all of the rooms at Jasper Park Lodge are top, Fairmont calibre. On a recent visit, we enjoyed a spacious Lakefront Suite, situated between the lakefront and the golf course. This includes huge living room and king bedroom, separated by louvered doors that, when opened, created an enormous open concept, all warmed by a wood-burning fireplace. The over-size bathroom has a Jacuzzi tub and a glass shower. All of the resort’s cabins are within a short walk of the main lodge, a rebuild of the 1922 original that was destroyed by fire in 1952. This building contains most of the indoor amenities, including the classic vaulted lobby and lounges and six restaurants. The main lounge and restaurant adjacent to the lobby, the Emerald Lounge and Patio, serves everything from light fare to a full-course dinner. We enjoyed a lobster roll sandwich that was among the best we’ve tasted, Atlantic coast included. Menu specialities include braised Alberta short ribs and a creative selection of burgers and flatbreads. The resort’s main dining room is Cavell’s Restaurant & Terrace, on the lower level of the main building, where we enjoyed a breakfast buffet one morning, and a lighter continental fare the next. Cavell’s evening offerings include Crisp Skin Icy Waters Arctic Char, as well as Alberta lamb, chicken and beef. JPL Spacious Lakefront Suite includes a wood-burning fireplace Our main culinary event was at the Moose’s Nook steak and chop house, where I resisted the restaurant’s signature tableside-carved (and very large) beef cuts in favour of a 10-ounce striploin steak, flavoured and grilled as well as at any Chicago steakhouse. The Digby scallops were superb – again, as if it had been caught and prepared by the ocean. We sampled several of the sides for two, including three-cheese potato gratin, B.C. mushrooms and succotash of spring vegetables. The other eateries include Oka Sushi, Tent City Pub and Fitzhugh’s To Go, as well as Thompson’s Terrace in the golf clubhouse. The Main Lodge restaurants are served by an enormous kitchen that is divided into speciality sections, overseen by Executive Chef Christopher Chafe. JasperPark Lodge is able to attract top talent from its Fairmont brethren. As was the case with golf director Lown, the Lodge’s reputation and location motivated chef Chafe to come to Jasper last fall after seven years as executive chef at the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda. Chef Christopher Chafe came to Jasper from Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda The British-born chef previously had worked at fine restaurants in London, St. Petersburg (Russia), Dublin and Torquay, UK. Chafe’s Jasper staff includes more than 60 chefs. The emphasis is on use of top-quality, local ingredients – not what you might expect at a mountain hotel. However, a large organic farm near Valemount, BC, a half-hour drive west, provides the bulk of the resort’s fresh produce. “I enjoy creating innovative and rustic meals that feature fresh, local ingredients,” Chafe told us during an impromptu kitchen tour, which he offered to us, unscheduled, after an inspiring morning conversation over breakfast at Cavell’s. “Having access to some of the world’s best farmers is both exciting and inspiring to me.” How to work off all that marvellous food? We chose to hike and headed for the Old Fort Point Loop, a 3.5-km moderate-level hike – vigilant for wildlife, as it was elk-calving season. Turns out a protective mother elk potentially can be as hazardous to encounter as a black bear. Canoes, kayaks and bicycles are available for rent at the Boathouse, and horseback riding is available at Jasper Park Stables, inside the resort property. Offsite, there are many reasonable day-or-less hikes in near Jasper, MaligneLake being a popular one not far from the Lodge. The Columbia Icefield is accessed by a half-day bus tour, and can include a trip up the glacier on the Ice Explorer ATV and in some cases access to the recently opened Glacier Skywalk. These activities can be arranged through the hotel concierge. The recently remodeled and expanded Fairmont Spa The Fairmont Spa, recently remodelled and expanded, offers a unique selection of treatments and calming experiences. Consistent with Jasper Park Lodge’s overall theme, the emphasis here is on the connection to the surrounding mountain environment. As the spa brochure describes the experience as one that offers “the time and space you need to breathe, dream and reflect on the natural abundance that surrounds you.” This atmosphere prevails in the über-relaxing Resting Lounge, where visitors can spend time before or after spa sessions. Signature treatments include a lavender-infused stone massage, maple-butter body wrap and a mineral wellness soak. Adjacent to the spa in the health club are a well-equipped gym and 20-metre outdoor heated swimming pool, accessible from indoors via a swim-out section, and saunas and steam rooms. Jasper Park Lodge is the embodiment of Fairmont luxury and rustic ambience – with RockyMountain nature never more that a few feet away. A reminder of this was the mother elk found grazing on the lawn of our cabin, apparently oblivious to us and to the whereabouts of her calves. Nature and resort comfort go hand in hand here. Travel Planner For information and reservations at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, please visit: www.fairmont.com/Jasper or call toll free: 1-866-540-4454. For information about VIA Rail’s The Canadian: www.viarail.ca or call: 1-888-842-7245 or 514-989-2626. Related
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