11 Reasons to Drive to Jasper for the Dark Sky Festival
Spend the weekend powering down, getting out into the fresh mountain air and admiring the stars in a dark sky preserve.
Photograph courtesy of Jasper Tourism
If you’re looking for a quick mountain getaway this month, the place to go is Jasper. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is back, running from Friday, October 16 until Sunday, October 25.
Here are just 11 reasons to make the drive north.
Chances are, you usually admire the Rockies while it’s still light outside. During the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, you’ll admire the Rockies when it’s dark. Like, really dark. There’s very limited light pollution in Jasper National Park and it was designated a dark sky preserve in 2011. Now it’s one of the world’s biggest accessible dark sky preserves.
Embrace it all by stargazing with professional astronomers from the Royal Society of Canada. Admire the stars from the Brewster Glacier Skywalk and the Athabasca Glacier. Or join astronomy author Peter McMahon to learn about planets, constellations and galaxies while on the Jasper SkyTram.
Glacier Skywalk Stargazing: Oct. 17; Adults $176; kids 6 to 15 $88.45
Stargazing at the Jasper SkyTram: Oct 17; $75
Stargazing in Jasper: Oct. 24; Free
He’s Canada’s most famous astronaut: Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space, the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station and he spent 146 days steering the biggest spaceship that was ever built through space. (And on top of that, he’s a YouTube sensation.) He’s the festival’s keynote speaker and the event, The Sky is Not the Limit, will include Hadfield sharing stories from his career.
Oct 23. The 2-Day Star Pass costs $125; tickets to The Sky is Not the Limit only are sold out.
The former hosts of the show Mythbusters are in Jasper for the festival. Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci are hosting a panel discussion and will bust (or prove) popular myths using science.
Oct 23. The 2-Day Star Pass costs $125; tickets to just Mythbusters cost $65.
Taking great photos with minimal light is no easy feat. But you can learn how it’s done with the help of Canadian Photo Adventures. There’s classroom instruction and instruction in the field when participants will head out onto the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge property to capture the dark skies.
Oct 16 and 17. $349.
Enjoy a four-course dinner inside the Jasper Planetarium, prepared by the chefs from the Mountain Park Lodges, and journey through the sky while you eat. You’ll be dining on the main course while touring the solar system under the guidance of Peter McMahon, and during dessert there’s a trip from the Milky Way to the edge of the universe.
Oct 17 and 24. $199.
See the Orionid Meteor Shower from the Jasper SkyTram. You’ll see anywhere from 10 to 20 meteors each hour and learn about the origin of the constellation Orion the Hunter from Peter McMahon, an astronomy hunter.
Oct 20. Tickets from $75.
Build a flyable model rocket on Friday, October 23 with help from staff from Edmonton’s Telus World of Science. Then on Saturday, launch the rocket on Centennial Field and see how well it does. There’s also a bunch of science-related activities (like making liquid nitrogen ice cream and seeing what your infrared image looks like) that are part of the Big Bang Expo.
Oct. 23 and 24. Rocket launch $20; Big Bang Expo free.
Hear a presentation all about aliens
There are space and science seminars taking place on the Centennial Field on Saturday, October 24 and they’re completely free. Hear Alan Dyer talk about the Northern Lights, Ivan Semeniuk discusses black holes and Dr. Brian Ventrudo is going to try to answer the question, where are all the aliens anyway?
Oct 24. Free.
Taste a signature beer
The Jasper Brewing Co opened in 2005. It was Canada’s first brewery in a national park. Even though the chance to tour the brewery is sold out — there were only 10 spots, you had to act fast — you can still taste the signature beer. It’s called the Dark Sky Festival beer.
Oct 16 to 25.
There are all kinds of hotel deals and promotions on offer right now and you’ve got the Dark Sky Festival to thank.
It’s not even that far
Sure, Jasper isn’t as close as Banff. And definitely not as easy to get to as Canmore. But it’s only a little over five hours to get there by car, which really isn’t all that far (especially when you’re thinking about space and light years), making it the perfect weekend (or short mid-week) getaway.
For more information on the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, visit jasperdarksky.travel.