If you think the Oscars are a starry night, then you clearly haven’t been to the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. The annual festival, which takes place in the charming Canadian Alpine village of Jasper, Alta., Certainly surpasses all other land-based events in terms of star power.
Jasper sits in the heart of Jasper National Park, which was designated a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2011. As if it wasn’t enough to be one of the most dark sky preserves. largest and most accessible in the world to be acclaimed, Jasper also has the added attraction of being surrounded by the magnificent Rocky Mountains of Canada. Far from the light pollution of big cities and surrounded by the Rockies, there are few places on the planet better placed to host a festival dedicated to the magic of stargazing.
Whether you’re an amateur astronomer looking to explore Canada’s best place to stargaze or a space scientist wanting to learn more about the cosmos, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival has something for everyone.
One of the most popular events is the Jasper SkyTram Star Sessions. The evening begins with a stargazing experience with experts from the Jasper Planetarium. You then make your way to the Skytram Top Station, where you’ll get even closer to the starry sky on Canada’s tallest aerial tramway to Whistlers Mountain. At the top, you’ll have a meal, learn how to take epic star photos from an expert, and then have the opportunity to gaze through the region’s most powerful telescopes into the darkest sky in the Canadian Rockies. This is a unique guided tour of the galaxy (with a chance to see a meteor or the Northern Lights).
If heights aren’t your thing, don’t worry. You can spend one-on-one time with the solar system with a variety of planetarium events located on the grounds of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. You can choose to take a guided tour with public participation of the local constellations and more in the 40-seat domed theater. Plus, you can then go outside and explore the sky on your own with powerful telescopes. You will even have the chance to touch rocks from Mars and the Moon.
For an incomparable heavenly experience for your eyes and ears, book a ticket to the Festival’s Symphony under the Stars. Hosted by the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, you can make yourself comfortable outside under the night sky with the heavenly sounds of the strings of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. You’ve never really experienced a symphony until you’ve heard one amplified by the Rocky Mountains, while sitting under a blanket of stars that you swear twinkle to the beat of the music.
A very unique and incredibly moving way to connect with both the earth and the stars is provided by the festival’s Fireside Chat events. Warrior Women shares Indigenous stories from the land and sky near a common fire, allowing guests an interactive and unforgettable personal experience with a local Indigenous Knowledge Keeper.
The events of the Jasper Dark Sky Festival are scattered with an incredible array of speakers and artists who deliver compelling and engaging talks on a variety of star-centric topics. The 2021 festival included headliners Rob Meyerson, CEO of Delalune Space, and Adam Steltzner, chief engineer of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission. They discussed such lofty topics as whether or not humans could colonize the Moon or Mars, what we might learn from the latest Mars Rover Perseverance mission, and what the future holds for space exploration.
Other speakers included TUSEN science columnist Torah Kachur, who explained what color means to an astronomer and how color helps us understand the cosmos. Professor Hilding Neilson spoke about Indigenous scientific methods and how stories about the sky reflect the observations and knowledge of different peoples. Astro photographers Jack Fusco and Jeff Bartlett have shared their favorite images of the dark skies of Jasper National Park and other dark sky preserves.
With its extraordinary experiences, fascinating speakers and breathtaking starry landscapes, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival is a must-see event for anyone who aspires to connect deeply with the cosmos.
What to know before you go
Where to stay
There is a great choice of accommodation for all skill levels in the town of Jasper and surrounding areas. If you really want to experience otherworldly experiences and take your accommodation during the festival to the next level, you should splurge with a stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Nestled in breathtaking Jasper National Park, the scenic property is located along pristine Beauvert Lake and features heritage log cabins connected by inviting trails surrounded by nature. Treat yourself to the world-class spa that offers exclusive treatments like the Rockies Ritual and a Jasper Wrap. Don’t forget to swim in the heated outdoor swimming pool with views of the lake and the mountains.
Where to eat
Despite its size, the town of Jasper is rich in epicurean options. The best way to take in the city’s food scene is to take a Downtown Food Tour with Jasper Food Tours. You can enjoy delicious restaurants with a local expert and each dish comes with an alcoholic side. The tour offers insider tips and treats you wouldn’t get otherwise. The Orso Trattoria & Terrace at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge offers Italian Alpine cuisine at its best. Try the mushroom ravioli with a truffle cream sauce. Also don’t miss Jasper Brewing Co for its wonderfully crafted beers and Raven Bistro for its innovative Mediterranean dishes and superb wine list.
What to do
Try to find time between festival events to explore some of the exceptional activities offered by the area. Wild Current Outfitters offers canoe and kayak trips on Jasper’s most scenic waterways with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities. Hike along beautiful Maligne Canyon with one of SunDog Tours’ expert guides. The hike is great for all skill levels and offers spectacular views on one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park. Take your Jasper adventure to new heights with a helicopter tour from Remote Helicopters. Take a flight to the Columbia Icefield or enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.