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Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

Englewood, Ohio
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Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

I am interested in visiting the Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers. Are these two glaciers close, I am assuming they are? Are there snow coaches that go on each? Will have a rental car, so can we just drive up to the glacier and take a snow coach to each? How much time to allocate? And are they closer to Jasper or Banff? Appreciate any details and logistics on best way to visit and experience.

1. Re: Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

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Removed on: 29 January 2013, 02:22
Edited: 29 January 2013, 02:22
Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

I'll try again!

I think it's the Columbia Icefields of which Athabasca Glacier is but one of half a dozen glaciers on the Icefields and closest to the highway.

Here's the location of the CI about half way along the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper:


The Icefields would cover about 60% of the area of Columbus, Ohio.

Edited: 29 January 2013, 02:26
Calgary, Canada
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3. Re: Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

The terms "Columbia Icefield" and "Athabasca Glacier" are used interchangeably by many visitor-oriented websites. In fact, the Columbia Icefield is the source (for lack of a better word) of a number of glaciers that flow out from it, including the Athabasca Glacier.

There is only one snowcoach excursion in Canada, and that is the one that departs from the Icefield Centre on the Icefields Parkway. (The only other place in the world where snowcoaches - properly known as Terra Buses - are used is in Antarctica: http://www.foremost.ca/products/terra-bus) You will park at the icefield Centre and get your ticket for the snowcoach. They will put you on a conventional bus that will shuttle you to the bottom of the glacier, where you will transfer to the snowcoach. The snowcoach will take you onto the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. The Columbia Icefield itself is much higher; although you can see it from the Icefields Parkway (I think), it would be impossible to get there on a motorized vehicle.

The Icefields Centre is somewhat closer to Jasper than to Banff; in fact, it is located in Jasper National Park.

Jasper National Park has a new 2-page .pdf brochure available online which is all about the Columbia Icefield. It will answer most of your questions in much greater detail. It's the first link in the third row of publications on this page:


If you look at the main map in that brochure, there is a dotted line that starts at the bottom edge of the Athabasca Glacier and goes onto the glacier; it's labelled "restricted access". That is the route used by the snowcoaches.

Edited: 29 January 2013, 02:36
Greater Sydney...
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4. Re: Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

"used by the snowcoaches" .....now called Icefield Explorers. :)

5. Re: Question about Columbia and Athabasca Glaciers

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Removed on: 31 January 2014, 05:17