Alberta's Glacier Skywalk a rush
"It really makes you feel small," says pilot Blake Emsland as he points out frozen waterfalls and glaciers clinging to some of the highest peaks. I couldn't agree more.
The $21 million Glacier Skywalk officially opened May 1. It's an effort to get more people out of their cars and engaged with the natural environment around them.
I'm in the Canadian Rockies near the Columbia Icefield, about to take my first step onto the Glacier Skywalk a U shaped glass floor observation platform hovering high above the steep Sunwapta Valley in Adidas Allstars Jasper National Park.
The skywalk was designed by Calgary's Sturgess Architecture and Edmonton's Read Adidas Boost Solebox
I can hear the sound of rushing water far below, and take a minute to soak in the towering mountain peaks drenched in snow, sparkling against the clear blue sky. It's some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth.
Are you afraid of heights?
The first 400 metres of the walk are along a cliff lined with six interpretive stations and an audio tour providing education about the area. By the time I reach the observation platform that extends 35 metres from the cliff, I'm well informed about what I'm looking at, which is exactly what a Brewster Travel Canada bus driver wanted when he came up with the idea for the skywalk seven years ago.
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With that thought, I step onto the 3.81 cm thick glass and peer down at the craggy, unwelcoming rocks below. It feels like I'm going to fall as the platform bounces ever so slightly a strange sensation that takes some getting used to before I can relax.
Within minutes I'm travelling at speeds of 178 km/h, soaring 2,896 metres over the Cline Pass. Instead of looking up, I'm now mingling with the rugged, gnarly mountain tops drowning in snow. The sea of trees coating the valley along the Cline River looks like a carpet. The beauty of the Rockies from the sky is intoxicating."
much public consultation and environmental monitoring, however, the project passed a federal environmental assessment in 2012 and was fully endorsed by Parks Canada.
jumps on the platform, a smile plastered across his face. Another couple does the same with much enthusiasm. Other visitors aren't so sure.
From that idea, the company formed a committee with Parks Canada to talk about how to revitalize the Icefields Parkway, which sees more than a million people drive through each year.
But the project wasn't met without opposition.
Jones Christofferson Engineering to be an extension of the surrounding landscape. PCL Construction Management built the skywalk. Many of the pieces were made off site and brought in for installation to limit the impact on the environment.
"The wildlife habits haven't changed, which is great because it means that anybody out there can see them in their natural habitat," said Brewster spokesperson Juliette Recompsat. "We want you to connect, learn about the glaciology, learn the biology and the ecology of the area. The Sunwapta Valley was formed over three million years. If you just look at it you never realize that."
"It's creepy," says my boyfriend Chris as he Adidas Boost Basketball 2018
Glacier Skywalk is just minutes from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre on the Icefields Parkway; one hour from Jasper and 2.5 hours from Banff.
Knees shaking, heart racing, I inch closer to the glass platform overlooking the rugged valley 300 metres below.
Some Jasper residents and environmentalists voiced concerns about commercialization in the national park and the impact on wildlife. After Adidas Allstars Pink
The Glacier Skywalk truly offers a unique perspective of the Canadia"n Rockies, but for the ultimate bird's eye view I hop on a helicopter operated by Icefield Helicopter Tours near Nordegg.
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