Alberta’s new Glacier Skywalk gets its grand opening May 10 and 11

Glacier SkywalkThis Mother’s Day weekend, May 10 and 11, the grand opening celebrations for the Glacier Skywalk, Canada’s coolest new summer attraction, will be held at the nearby Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre.

Brewster Travel Canada, owner of the $21-million fully accessible attraction, invites everyone for fun, free family events from noon to 3 p.m.

The Skywalk, which opened May 1 on the Icefields Parkway near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, is a surefire – and, for some, scary – hit. Stepping onto the glass floor suspended from a sheer, rocky cliff 280 metres above the Sunwapta Valley will certainly test the mettle of those with fear of heights or vertigo. For others, the semi-circular observation platform is no different from a “cool”, adrenaline-inducing stroll on terra firma.

Glacier SkywalkFor all, the reward is a panoramic mountain goat’s view of the Rockies’ peaks and glaciers and a fun time taking photos peering through the floor to the river winding along the steep-sided valley far below.

Built atop two footings bored 16 metres into the ground, rest assured it is structurally sound, says Rusty Noble, Columbia Icefields general manager. “We could hang two 747s from it. That’s how strong it is.”

Designed in collaboration with Parks Canada and constructed of weathered steel, rock, wood and three layers of structural glass – the top layer will be replaced when scratched so viewing is not impeded – the Skywalk has won a World Architecture Festival and five other awards. “It’s a real feat, what we have built here,” Noble adds.

As there is no parking at the Skywalk, buses shuttle visitors from the Discovery Centre, five minutes away. On route to the observation platform, a cliff-edge walkway features six interpretive stations about the region’s glaciology, biology and ecology, intended to connect folks with the wilderness. An educational audio tour in five languages is included in the fee. Visitors may also see mountain goats and big horn sheep perched on the cliff above the walkway.

Glacier SkywalkBrewster estimates Skywalk will attract 230,000 to 250,000 guests this season.

The Glacier Skywalk is open daily, May to October. Prices are: adults (16+), $24.95; kids ages six to 15, $12.50 and kids under six are free.

The Glacier Explorer combo (Skywalk and Glacier Adventure, an 80-minute journey onto the Athabasca Glacier aboard massive Ice Explorers) saves 15% and costs $64.95 and $32.95. Products are commissionable; sign up as an affiliate at http://www.explorerockies.com/affiliates/affiliates.aspx

More information is at glacierskywalk.ca and brewster.ca.