Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hibernating for the Winter? Get to the Mountains and Enjoy Jasper in January

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hibernating for the Winter? Get to the Mountains and Enjoy Jasper in January

Article excerpt

Jasper in January festival celebrates winter

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JASPER, Alta. - It's like a big small-town party in the mountains.

Jasper in January is an annual festival scheduled smack-dab in the middle of winter for those brave enough to celebrate the cold instead of running off to the beaches of Mexico.

"We don't all have to hibernate throughout the winter," says Mary Darling, a spokeswoman with Tourism Jasper. "There's still things you can do."

Family fun, evening entertainment and outdoor adventures -- many of them free -- take place daily over two weeks, bringing the town of 5,000 to nearly double its size.

Picture it: making gooey smores over an outdoor fire, strapping on snowshoes surrounded by majestic mountains, throwing snowballs inside a pub while sipping a pint of beer, even sporting a Speedo while leaping into an icy lake.

"It's rejuvenating," says Peter Scott, a local electrician who plans to participate in his fourth Polar Bear Dip this Sunday.

Scott, who has Type 1 diabetes, says the charity swim raises thousands of dollars each year for diabetes research. And it's also just plain fun. Some of the 40 people who do the dip each year at Patricia Lake even show up in costume. Scott admits that one time he pulled on a ballet tutu and rabbit ears before diving in.

Once your body hits the water, he says, all you can think about is climbing out and making the dash to the warm-up tent.

Scott moved from the Ottawa area nine years ago and describes Jasper as one of his favourite places on Earth, "rustic and beautiful."

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Jasper is about a 3 1/2-hour drive west of Edmonton. To many, it's considered Banff's little sister. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. While Banff is crowded and commercial, Jasper is more quiet and laid-back.

History shows Jasper was a place where people lived before it became a travel destination. …

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