Glacier Skywalk nearing completion
The quartet of adjacent national parks set along the backbone of the magnificent Canadian Rockies (Banff and Jasper in Alberta, and Yoho and Kootenay in British Columbia) include s handful of commercial islands: two real towns (Banff and Jasper) and three major ski areas (Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Banff National Park and Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park). Jasper and Banff National Parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and this United Nations cultural agency sees no disconnect between natural and careful man-made wonders.
A prime example of an attraction that most likely would never be approved in a US national park but works so well in Canada is Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park. It was developed years ago with walkways to enable winter visitors to safely view the magical landscape of frozen waterfalls, surreal ice formations and frosted limestone walls. Several Jasper tour companies lead guided walks down into the canyon. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I loved it.
Now comes the Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park scheduled to open to the public in May. The immense powers of glaciology are on breathtaking display from a fully accessible, cliff-edge walkway that leads to a glass-floored observation platform suspended 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. With the new awareness of climate change, more people are interested in glaciers and their impact on the land, and this Skywalk provides an easy and again safe way to gain some insights. Brewster Travel, the concessionaire that, among many other services, operates park transport as well as the Ice Explorer vehicles that travel over the surface of the astounding Athabasca Glacier. This popular summer excursion directly off the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff also includes information about the glacier’s history and surrounding area.
In the US, the Grand Canyon Skywalk opened several years ago, providing a comparable experience but over a deep desert canyon. A major operational difference is that unlike the Glacier Skywalk in a national park, the older Arizona version is on Hualapai Nation land.