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Glass-bottom Glacier Skywalk provides new views of Columbia Icefield

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May 14, 2014

Hovering above the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies, the recently opened 'Glacier...

Hovering above the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies, the recently opened 'Glacier Skywalk' offers visitors a breathtaking experience (Photo: Brewster Travel Canada)

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Back in 2011, the original designs for the Glacier Skywalk received attention after winning the Future Projects Category Award at the World Architecture Festival. Three years on the project is finally complete and the cliff-edge walkway and awe-inspiring observation deck are now open to the public, providing spectacular views of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies.

The Glacier Skywalk incorporates a meeting area, free viewing area, cliff-edge walkway and observation deck. The award winning design features an impressive curved glass-floored walkway, which is suspended 280 m (918 ft) above the Sunwapta Valley. The ambitious project was completed by the design build team PCL Construction Management, engineering firm Read Jones Christofferson and Sturgess Architecture for Brewster Travel Canada.

Glacier Skywalk offers visitors a breathtaking experience, as they venture along the cliff...

"In developing our design, we carefully considered what would maximize the impact of the site for visitors while respecting the environment," says engineering firm, Read Jones Christofferson. "We wanted to push the limits of the sense of exposure offered and quickly decided that the best way to approach this would be to construct a glass floored walk area. We want people to feel as if they are suspended in the air over the Sunwapta Valley floor."

Similar to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the engineering firm decided to curve the glass walkway in an effort to offer additional views and a thrilling experience seemingly beyond the structural supports. The design features an intricate cable suspension system that reduces the appearance of the supports and thus gives users the sense of danger as they walk above the dramatic landscape.

"When contemplating material choices and construction methods, we took into consideration the local site restrictions, the importance of blending the structure into the natural surroundings, long term durability and ongoing maintenance requirements, budgetary considerations, as well as the expressed desire for a rapid construction time," says Read Jones Christofferson. "Weathering steel was selected because the bulk of the structure can be substantially fabricated off-site; it is very durable, has limited maintenance requirements and will naturally blend in with the surrounding geology."

The total cost to complete the Glacier Skywalk was approximately CA$21 million (Photo: Rea...

The total cost to complete the Glacier Skywalk, including consultation, environmental monitoring and assessment, planning, design and construction, was approximately CA$21 million (approx. US19 million).

Apart from the Glacier Skywalk, visitors to the Jasper National Park can also jump on board a huge Ice Explorer and go out onto the surface of an ancient glacier, They can also take in the Northern Lights, which are best viewed in the winter months, with stargazers benefiting from the fact that the Park is the second largest dark sky reserve in the world.

The Glacier Skywalk is open daily from May to October, with tickets prices set at CA$24.50 for an adult and CA$12.50 for a child (under 16).

Sources: Brewster Travel Canada, Read Jones Christofferson, Sturgess Architecture via Designboom

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema.   All articles by Bridget Borgobello
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7 Comments

I'll bet they lose more business than they gain by makingit scarier.

Slowburn
14th May, 2014 @ 02:15 am PDT

I think people will go there not just for the view but to see if they can walk out to the end without being afraid. I think it will appeal to thrill seekers as well as those wanting to see the view.

It is nice but I think the one at the Grand Canyon is nicer looking, IMO.

BigGoofyGuy
14th May, 2014 @ 05:31 am PDT

Environmentalists tried to block this project saying it would ruin the environment, destroy the eco-system, and cause extintion of numerous plants and animals.

Well it's built and operating and the environment is still the same. No impact on anything except a company is providing a unique experience to visitors and making a (gasp!) profit.

And that's the real problem the enviro-nuts have - a free enterprise company is going to make a profit.

robo
14th May, 2014 @ 08:42 am PDT

I hope they recoup their investment before the glacier and ice fields lose their appeal. The glacier currently recedes 2–3 metres (6.6–9.8 ft) per year and has receded more than 1.5 km in the past 125 years and lost over half of its volume.

NASA has some data on that: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=7679

moreover
14th May, 2014 @ 08:45 am PDT

Watch out for this one. I considered the glass deck view at the Grand Canyon to be a total ripoff. This likely is the same company.

Not only is $25 bucks too high for a 10-15 minute view, the staff will not allow you to take photos. They want to have their photographer make any pictures and then charge additional outrageous amounts for prints or emailed copies.

pjshane
14th May, 2014 @ 01:06 pm PDT

I think it's a stunning design not to mention the incredible view experience. I hope it's operated far better than the Grand Canyon Skywalk which is run by an Indian tribe. All you need to do is check out the hundreds of terrible reviews on TripAdvisor to see how they have ruined the experience for most. It should be completely turned over to the National Park Service.

Wishing the best to Canada on the Glacier Skywalk!

mvp
15th May, 2014 @ 08:35 am PDT

moreover - You say glaciers are receding?

Yes, and they have been receding since the last ice age and will continue to recede. Mankind has no impact on that.

In the meantime, both polar ice caps have been growing. North pole ice has increased thickness by 50% in the last year and 20% in size (see the recent European Space Agency study).

robo
15th May, 2014 @ 08:54 am PDT
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