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Touching Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

The tourist trap of Athabasca glacier in Alberta, Canada.

When I was writing my post about our visit to Santa’s village in Rovaniemi (Read the story here), I was thinking: “This must be the most touristy-thing we have ever done!” But I quickly realised that it wasn’t, for I had just remembered another occasion in which we walked into the tourist trap with our eyes wide open.

“Quickly! This way!” I shouted to Koen who was running behind me. We were late. Earlier that day we booked a glacier visit in a small tourist office in Jasper. The guide behind the desk spoke of bringing us up the Athabasca Glacier with a special car. We would be able to walk around on of the main tongues of the famous Colombia icefield. Of course we were down for that! We would be able to enjoy our ride through the magnificent Icefields Parkway before heading to the visitor’s centre with our ticket.

But not everything went according to expectation. In stead of a regular size visitor centre between the glaciers, we encountered what I can only describe with the following metaphor: A giant whale in a teeny tiny bathtub. The building, squished between the mountains and surrounded by a giant parking lot, was flushing tourist in and out like the pipelines of a school during break time. By the time we found a parking space, it was already 3 o’clock. Leaving us exactly zero seconds to run across the parking lot and crawl our way through the heaps of people to the front of the row where our group was already leaving.

The tourist trap of Athabasca glacier in Alberta, Canada.

Still catching our breath, they herded us into a regular tour bus together with 40 enthusiastic Asian tourists. I hate to be cliche, but they had selfie sticks and everything. After a six minutes drive, they had taken us to another parking lot on the other side of the street. Now it was getting serious, as we were loaded over into another vehicle. The enthusiasm around us flared up a bit, as the all-terrain explorer bus started moving on the ice path towards the glacier. At the wheel, a 20 year old student was making the obligatory joke “this is my first time doing this”, while making his way on the steep slopes.

Once we reached destination, the explorer bus was parked next to three of the same vehicles. We were given the message that we had 20 minutes to explore the small patch of ice between the robe fences. There we stood, on a few square meters of ice, between at least 100, mostly Asian tourists, waving with their camera’s. “Do you want a make a photograph of us?” Koen asked one of them, while making the universal wave with the camera while pointing at himself. They excited made do all sorts of poses before they would give the camera back. It was quite adorable to be honest, and from an environmental point of view, the little patch of ice was quite sufficient for it’s purpose.

The tourist trap of Athabasca glacier in Alberta, Canada.

END NOTE If you ever have the chance to drive the Icefield Parkway in Canada, please do. The scenery is unparalleled stunning and you can do the most amazing hikes. All the information you need is to be found on this website: https://icefieldsparkway.com

If you would want to experience the Colombia Icefield from up-close, by all means, go for the tour. I’m not going to lie, it is quite commercialised. But it is a very good alternative for an actual glacier walk, if you don’t have the budget or the fitness for the latter. You might feel like a bunch of sheep for a while, but hey, all the fun comes from within you! Go to this website for all the information: https://www.banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/glacier-adventure/experience/