There are only a few national parks in Canada with towns in them (Banff and Jasper are the main two towns, Waterton, Field and Waskesiu are much smaller) and by dint of both being in the Canadian Rockies, comparisons are inevitable, especially because Banff and Jasper have very similar development histories and functions (both towns and parks created as tourism centres & wilderness preserves upon the development of the railways through their valley).

Jasper has remained smaller, mainly because they are more remote and it is harder for visitors to get there - they are four hours from the nearest airport vs. 1.5 hours for Banff, or a drive up the Icefields Parkway, which is great in summer, often not so great in winter. Jasper NP gets close to 2 million visitors per year, and Banff NP about double that, so it has obviously had more pressure for the town to grow and develop and add more accommodations and services. Jasper is quite quiet during the winter months - most of the tourism is weekend skiers, whereas Banff is a bit steadier in tourists through the year. Because it is bigger and more heavily visited, Banff is the better known of the two, and many visitors only learn about Jasper after they start researching the Banff area.

One difference between the two that makes a difference to the "flavour" of the community is that Jasper is still a railway town (it is a divisional point for CN, and there are a few hundred railway employees working here). So there is a segment of the community, socially and economically, that is not tied to tourism. However tourism is the main industry for both towns.

Both towns face many similar issues, many in common with other resort communities in Canada and elsewhere:

  • the current downturn in tourism,
  • the dependence on mainly one industry,
  • the seasonality of the tourism industry;
  • housing affordability and shortages have been long-term problems for both, especially rental housing availability and short-term housing availability for seasonal staff;
  • infrastructure issues as in providing (and how to afford to provide) the infrastructure and services needed for the huge influx of visitors during a few short months each year. (An example is Jasper's new water treatment plant, which cost over $12 million dollars earlier in the decade - it had to be built with capacity for any foreseeable number of visitors, not for a town of less than 5,000).

Another issue in common between the two is being in a national park, and the challenges (and rewards!) that come with that in regards to governance/issues with Parks Canada, development, ecological integrity etc.

This page had its origin in an excellent post by krp329 (the Destination Expert for Jasper).  You can see the original post here: