Walking – and Rolling – on a Glacier

Cherrie enjoying the Athabascan Glacier

Travel is all about unique experiences, and yesterday was a red letter day in that respect, as we actually got to walk on a glacier. And believe it or not, it was wheelchair-accessible.

Our adventure started at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center, located a few hours north of Lake Louise on Highway 93 (also known as the Icefield Parkway). I also have to add that the drive there was nothing short of spectacular, as we were surrounded by magnificent snow covered peaks.

Once we arrived at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center, we headed to the ticket counter to snag our glacier tickets. It was a relatively easy process, and even though there were lots of visitors, the line moved fast and tours departed every 20 minutes.

From there folks board a standard coach to get to the transfer station where they then board an Ice Explorer to get out to the glacier. The standard buses cannot accommodate wheelchairs, but they do have wheelchair-accessible vans available. Additionally, many of Ice Explorers are lift-equipped, so everyone can enjoy this experience. The even better news is that you don’t have to make any advance arrangements for this, as the folks at Brewster (who operate the tours) are quite adept at making sure the right equipment is shuffled around to accommodate everyone. It’s a combination of good staffing and accessible equipment.

The short ride out to the glacier in the Ice Explorer is an adventure in itself, as it begins by descending a 32 percent grade hill. No worries though, as the Ice Explorer tires are massive (they cost $5000 each) and it’s all very safe.

Ice cleats work great on the glacier -- and they're easy to put on and take off.

Once you arrive on the Athabascan Glacier, folks are allowed to disembark and explore the glacier. Slow walkers might want to bring along a pair of snow cleats for the experience (just so you’ll be more steady on your feet) but all in all it’s a very safe experience.

And I have to say that it’s a must-do on any Canadian Rockies itinerary. Three cheers to the folks at Brewster for making it accessible to everyone!