Follow the Water
The Glacier Skywalk experience is designed to draw inspiration from and integrate with the wilderness we invite visitors to discover. Along with our longtime partners at Parks Canada, we have developed this interpretive experience offered through interactive stations and a multi-language audio tour.
From afar, it’s easy to forget that the impressive crown of ice and snow that makes up the Columbia Icefield is created entirely of simple water molecules. Recognizing this ecological phenomenon, the Glacier Skywalk’s interpretive experience is designed to “follow the water”. Six interpretive stations spaced along the 400 metre cliff-edge walkway highlight the unique environmental aspects of a glacial valley. Chat with knowledgeable guides located at each station, and customize the educational level of your visit with a personal audio tour (included in admission price). Take your time to tune into 60 different audio points to hear about the incredible peaks and glaciers that surround you - available in English, French, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese.
1. Introduction to the Valley
Beginning with an introduction to the power and place of glaciers in our world, learn about the magic of the Sunwapta Valley. In both frozen and liquid states, and with considerable forces, water has shaped this landscape, sustained hardy subalpine plants and animals, and attracted diverse generations of people for millennia.
Journey back in time as you retrace the passage of time through the epic force of the glacier and the tangible evidence it has left behind: rock striations, ancient sea creatures and the deep valley itself.
3. Biology and Ecology
The biology and ecology station highlights the diverse life forms and the unique species that are found where glacial waters flow. Feast or famine, flood or drought, heat or cold: to adapt to a subalpine environment, indigenous plants and animals tolerate extremes—in the food supply, water levels, and temperatures—that most of us can’t imagine.
Making an award-winning design come to life high in a remote alpine location is no easy feat! Discover the design and construction of the Glacier Skywalk structure and how it balances access to and protection of important natural resources.
5. Phytology and Anthropology
A hanging garden built into the rock wall holds numerous plant species. Learn about the life of these plants in this distinctive environment. Chat with roaming interpretive guides on hand to help you trace human history in the area and see the vital importance of water as a natural resource to early explorers. Learn about historic use of the surrounding area and how the waterways created by glaciers became natural byways to discover and map these newfound lands.
From the nearby hydrological apex—triple continental divide—water from the Columbia Icefield flows to the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans and consequently, all around the world. Wherever in the world you are from, follow the water to connect this place to your home.
Visitors use these interpretive stations to explore and discover the unique details behind the incredible landscapes that surround them. The Glacier Skywalk is more than an accessible walkway – it is a link that provides a powerful connection to the natural environment. A link to continuous learning, to the power of the National Parks to teach visitors about the Canadian Rockies. When guests leave the Glacier Skywalk, they leave with knowledge of the ecology, geology, glaciology and evolutionary history of the mountains they stand on. Not to mention incredible memories and great photos!
Design & Engineering
The vision behind the Glacier Skywalk’s design was simple: depend on the natural environment, draw inspiration from it, and integrate with it. With a non-negotiable commitment to an environmentally sound design, Pursuit (formerly known as Brewster Travel Canada) enlisted the help of Sturgess Architecture and Read Jones Christofferson Engineering (RJC). Having worked with Sturgess and RJC for two years, Pursuit unveiled the Glacier Skywalk’s design in 2011. It was immediately recognized with a World Architecture Festival Award in 2011, where judges said, “The jury was unanimous. This is a simple, elegant yet highly emotional project.
Wildlife Impact Study
As part of the environmental assessment process, in 2011 Pursuit began commissioning an annual wildlife impact study for the Glacier Skywalk that focused heavily on collecting mountain goat and bighorn sheep data. In particular, the study provides clarification about how and when mountain goats and bighorn sheep use trails and cliffs in and around the Sunwapta Canyon Viewpoint, providing experts with a systematic look on how these precious wildlife use front-country sites that already have a high human use and, thus, human interaction. This study was officially completed in 2017, and confirmed that the Glacier Skywalk has positively impacted wildlife with a reduction of up-close human interactions at the site.
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