the last day of vacation is always hard. i’m not the person who’s all “i’m looking forward to getting home.” as we sat on the patio of our Jasper hotel, drinking lattes and eating our yogurt and croissants by the fire, i couldn’t help but feel a bit sad to leave this relaxing and calm town.
it helps to plan an exciting adventure in the middle of your drive home to ease the pain.
about halfway between Jasper and Calgary lives the Columbia Icefield. the Icefield – the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies – is one of the reasons why the United Nations declared Canada’s four Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Sites.
Pursuit invited us on a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go on a Glacier Adventure and walk out onto the Athabasca Glacier – one of the glaciers that makes up the Columbia Icefield.
the adventure begins with a ride onto the Athabasca Glacier in an all-terrain Ice Explorer – a massive vehicle specifically designed for glacier travel. on the 15-20 minutes drive up to the glacier, an experienced driver-guide will share a wealth of fascinating information about glaciers and their impact on our environment.
here are some nifty facts: the Icefield covers 215 square kilometres with solid ice estimated up to 1,200 feet deep. meltwater from the Icefield flows to three oceans: the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic via Hudson Bay.
once you stop, you’ll step off the Ice Explorer and straight onto the glacier. no matter how warm a day it is, you’ll probably want to pack a sweater or jacket as the glacial winds are rather chilly. and leave your flip-flops or high heels in the car – you’ll want running shoes with good tread or your hiking boots for this adventure. you are walking on ice after all.
oh! and make sure to bring an empty water bottle, as you can fill it straight from the glacier. talk about cold and fresh!
as you walk around, you’ll instinctively start snapping photos of everything. it’s a sight like no other to be up on the glacier. do yourself a favour and put down the camera for a moment. just absorb the immensity of the Icefields up close. you’ll have 20 minutes to explore the small section of glacier, so there is still plenty of time to get the perfect instagram shot.
how cute is sister being all patriotic? there are a scattering of Canadian flags at the boundary limit of the glacier. great for photo-ops, and a good marker of knowing not to proceed any further.
after leaving the glacier, the guide takes you over to the Glacier Skywalk, which is located a few minutes north of the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre (where you park your car). the coach ride over is scenic and you’ll most likely catch a glimpse of a mountain goat or horned sheep. occasionally, they’ll even be in the middle of the road, licking salt from the pavement and obstructing traffic.
the Glacier Skywalk experience begins along the cliff-edge walkway called the Discovery Trail. extending along the Sunwapta Valley, this entire journey is presented in an interpretive story-telling format recording available in numerous languages. the one-kilometre walk has many learning checkpoints along the way and is capped by stunning mountain and glacial vistas.
it all ends with a walk out onto a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. look down to see the ragged cliffs below. you’ll feel as if you’ve been suspended in the middle of it all.
the last glass floor walk i did was at the calgary tower, where i felt my stomach jump into my throat on my first step out. i’m not usually afraid of heights, but there was something a bit scary about see cars drive past below my feet. thankfully the Glacier Skywalk didn’t cause the same fearful reaction. the wide walkway made for a comfortable and calming way to see everything the Sunwapta Valley had to offer from a very unique vantage point.
the Glacier Skywalk is a self-paced attraction, so you can spend as little or as much time there as you’d like. once you’ve had your fill of stunning views, head back the way you came and grab a bus back to the Discovery Centre.
if you’re short on time, you can do the Glacier Skywalk as a single-attraction excursion, instead of coupling it with the Glacier Adventure.
i was very happy to see that this incredibly unique perspective of nature at its finest is fully accessible to all abilities. i’d love for more companies to champion inclusion – everyone deserves to see our province’s beauty; the national park represents a place of peace and wilderness for everyone. also, one-quarter of Pursuit’s Ice Explorer fleet that tours the Athabasca Glacier are extra-long, with special wheelchair lifts and can comfortably carry up to two wheelchairs at a time in addition to the regular 56 passenger seats.
spread all the love.
have you walked on a glacier or glass floor before?
thank you Pursuit for taking us out on this glacier adventure and letting us experience Jasper at new heights.