Fun and thrills on the Athabasca Glacier

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The Athabasca Glacier

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.


One of the earliest icefield mobiles


Another vintage snow mobile


Today's Brewster Ice Explorer

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!


The thrilling ride down to the Athabasca Glacier


Driving on the glacier


Hikers on the Athabasca Glacier

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!


Running stream in the glacier


The Athabasca Glacier


Having a fun time on the Athabasca Glacier! 🙂 (image courtesy of Nikki Bayley)

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.



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16 Responses to “Fun and thrills on the Athabasca Glacier”

  1. velvet 03/04/2012 10:01 am

    Hi Fiona,
    Thank you for your kind comment. Enjoy the glacier! Oh, and if you’re visiting Jasper, don’t miss the Jasper tramway. Fab views from up there.

  2. Fiona Seow 03/04/2012 7:27 am

    Love your blog and your courage to embark on a journey that your heart leads you 🙂
    Will be visiting the Canadian Rockies, and will definitely visit the Athabasca Glacier!!!

  3. Wftristan 13/03/2012 9:12 am

    That looks like an amazing place – thats going on my list


  4. Jessica Festa 13/03/2012 5:13 am

    Beautiful photos! Glad to know I wasn’t the only one who wondered if you slipped when doing that jump 😉 haha. Great post!

  5. Magpie11 26/02/2012 8:05 pm

    My God daughter used to drive one of those busses…she now works for Canadian Pacific organising very high class trips…. her father took us to Athabasca Glacier…. Two things excited me. Seeing a hanging glacier looking just like the one my geography teacher dew on the chalboard using coloured chalks back in about 1960.
    And..the treese stunted in their growth by the cold ice wind off the glacier. I couldn’t help but speculate what wonderful tone wood for violins thwere would be in those trees…. slow grown timber is essential.

  6. rob hermans 04/12/2011 1:22 pm

    brrrrrr, …

  7. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures 01/12/2011 11:35 pm

    Oh wow, how gorgeous!

  8. Jon 01/12/2011 6:20 pm

    Great post, I got to do the glacier trek on the Athabasca glacier this summer with Austin-Lehman Adventures. What a trek it was, probably the highlight of my trip to Canada. Its not everyday you get to walk on a glacier, especially when your from Los Angeles!!!

    Keep up the great post!

  9. Thanks Keith. Sounds like a great excursion.

    Nancy & Shawn

  10. velvet 01/12/2011 11:49 am

    Hehe, thanks Monica! Funny enough, I didn’t slip & fall when I landed. 🙂

  11. monica 01/12/2011 10:48 am

    Looks amazing. I would love to go here. And I’d definitely take your advice and watch my step, don’t think I’d fancy having a cold, soggy foot in those temperatures. Love that last pic – very brave!

  12. Tobias 30/11/2011 11:32 pm

    Those vehicles are serious business. Looks like an adventure for sure! 🙂

  13. velvet 30/11/2011 3:18 pm

    The Icefield parkway is indeed gorgeous! 🙂 I would definitely do it again… for sure!
    Thanks for your comment Donna.


  14. Donna Hull 30/11/2011 3:16 pm

    My husband and I took the excursion to Athabasca Glacier with Brewster while on a Tauck tour. It’s a fun stop along the gorgeous Icefields Parkway. We’d do it again.


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