The Athabasca Glacier is one of several glaciers that originates from the massive Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies. Located along the Icefield Parkway between Jasper and Banff, the Athabasca Glacier is a popular attraction due to its accessibility. Visitors can opt for an icewalk across the 6km long glacier or along one of the many mountain trails in the area. For a spot of fun and thrills, I recommend the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure.
The ride to the Athabasca Glacier
From the Icefield Centre, visitors can hop on the Brewster Ice Explorer – an imposing $2 million bus that takes visitors on a thrilling ride atop the glacier. The tour lasts about 80 minutes and provides spectacular views of the surrounding glaciers. Visitors also have the opportunity to hop off the bus onto the glacier for a walk on the ice. Check out the Brewster’s predecessors while you’re at the Icefield Centre.
The ride in the Brewster Ice Explorer down to the glacier is a sure highlight as the bus negotiates the steep slope – the commentary from the driver certainly adds to the suspense!
Walking on the Athabasca Glacier
After several kilometers, the bus reached a clearing and we were allowed to hop off. The icy wind was the first thing I noticed before I lost my footing on the ice. The cold, hard ice under my behind was the second thing I felt! The experience of standing on a glacier and being able to view the countless cracks, streams and icy formations up close was simply phenomenal. I walked around and marvelled at the colours and patterns of the ice. Visitors are advised to watch where they step as it’s slippery and your foot could easily sink through a thin patch of ice. I guess I’m a lousy listener: I slipped several times and my foot broke through the ice on two occasions. It’s hard to keep your eyes glued to the ground when the surrounding view is so incredible! In any case, I took comfort in the fact that I had a comprehensive travel insurance plan should I break anything!
The Icefield Centre is located along the Icefield Parkway – one of the most stunning drives in the world – a short distance from Banff or Jasper. If you’re in the neighbourhood, check out the Columbia Icefield Glacier Tour. It’s a unique opportunity to drive onto and walk on a glacier!
Oh yes, dress warm and watch your step!
Note: a big thank you goes to Travel Alberta for hosting me in the Canadian Rockies.