On this day I decided to visit the Columbia Icefield that is located between Banff and Jasper.

I rode on a standard bus to arrive at the boarding area for the Ice Explorer excursion.


This tour takes visitors onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier by Ice Explorer; a massive vehicle specially designed for glacial travel. An experienced driver-guide shares a wealth of fascinating information about glaciers, icefields and their impact on our environment during this one hour and 20 minute journey.

Mid-point in the tour, passengers can safely step out onto the glacier and take in the most stunning alpine and glacial vistas.


The Ice Explorer is a slow, comfortable riding vehicle that travels safely over land and ice.


Glaciers carved grooves out of the mountainous areas.


The tires on the Ice Explorer are bathed in a pool of water to remove the dirt from the wheels as it drives onto the glacier.


Further up the glacier, we were allowed 20 minutes to walk about, explore and take photos.

Yes, that is ice.

The ice on the glacier has many different color components.  Supposedly the black dirt is lifted off the surface of the mountain.  The blue ice is ice that is extremely compacted that all of the oxygen is squeezed out of the ice due to the heavy weight of newer ice lying above.



At a couple places along the shelf of ice, you can collect fresh water from accessible water falls.



The melting ice caused small streams within the glacier.

Getting higher up on the glacier was tricky and slippery.
Looking back at the start of the excursion.  

Those are some big tires.  Tire pressure is set to around 13 psi in order to provide extra traction on the glacier.


This is a view looking out the window of the Ice Explorer on the way back to the bus terminal.


You can schedule ice expeditions with a guide that can be anywhere from 1 to 3 hours in length.

Those small objects in the center of the photo are people.


An Ice Explorer costs 1.2 Million Dollars (US). 

I believe the guide said 28 Ice Explorers were made.  One is currently being used on the station in Antartica.


After disembarking the Ice Explorer, we boarded a bus and headed back to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Center.


Beautiful scenery with parking in the foreground.


The predecessor to the current Ice Explorer.


Red text in photo to the left, reprinted below...

"The Athabasca Glacier is monumental in scale and the view from here seems timeless.  However, the glacier is very dynamic, as you can see when you compare the 1919 photo to the view today.  Since 1844, when the Athabasca Glacier reached its maximum, the edge of the ice has retreated more than 1.5 kilometers (0.932 miles)".


At one time, the glacier reached all the way across the road to about where I was standing when I took this picture.

There are markers posted on the ground to indicate where the glacier was in that year.


Some panoramic views of the area.

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This page was last enhanced on Monday, November 13, 2017