Sometimes you’ve got to pay if you want to play.
If someone handed us a survey that said, “check what category of traveler best describes you”, we’d be most likely to check the box labeled, ” Sees tour busses, runs the other direction”. And while generally speaking that’s true.
We don’t believe in limits. Plain and simple. The world is a big beautiful place, filled with new experiences just waiting to be discovered, and if we just stuck to one style of travel or one mindset, well, we really feel like we’d be cheating ourselves, and you.
Our goal has always been to discover, experience, and share what we learn so that others can also benefit. When we signed up for the ultra-touristy, “Icefields Glacier Adventure” we weren’t too sure what we were getting into. Would we like it? Would it be worth the cost?
Let’s go on an adventure.
The Columbia Icefields Adventure
The Glacier Adventure Tour is a 2-part tour that includes the Glacier Experience combined with a visit to the Columbia Icefields Skywalk. We chose this tour mainly because we wanted to experience the glacier first hand but there is a huge variety of mix and match tour options available, you can check them all out in one spot, here.
Cost: $87 (Adult) / $44 ( Child)
Where To Buy Tickets: https://www.banffjaspercollection.com/attractions/columbia-icefield/hours-rates/
*Pro Tip- Tickets are significantly cheaper if you purchase them in advance. Save yourself a couple of dollars and book ahead!
Our Columbia Icefields Adventure Experience
We had a lot of hesitation about handing over the $90 per person for this tour. We’re not the type of travelers who seek out the “touristy” type of experiences, but after experiencing the Toe Of The Athabasca Glacier trail, and looking up at all that incredible blue ice, it was hard to resist the opportunity to feel it under our own two feet. So, we bit the bullet and coughed up the cash.
The big question on our minds was, “Is It Worth The Cost?”
Ice Explorer Glacier Tour
We purchased tickets for the earliest tour of the day- one thing we’ve learned over all these years of travel is that the first trip or the last trip of the day are usually the best! A short bus ride across the street took us to the star of the show, the “snow coaches” or as they’re better known here the “Ice Explorers”.
We won’t go into too many agonizing details here, the looks on our faces in the video probably already said it all, but it’s definitely safe to say that the ride to and from the glacier was without a doubt our favorite part of the day. Who wouldn’t want to learn a little about geologic history while riding on a 6 wheeled monster truck driving over glacial ice.
The tour itself is very structured (we’ll go into that in more detail below), after a short 20 minutes on the glacier itself, we were ushered back on to the snow coach for our ride back to the bus terminal. Where we hopped on our next bus and headed off to part 2 of our adventure, the Columbia Icefields Skywalk.
Columbia Icefields Skywalk
We talk a lot about not setting expectations but after what we felt was a bit of an anticlimatic adventure on the glacier we weren’t really beaming with excitement over the Skywalk, and we could not have been more wrong.
We’ve discussed it a length and neither one of us can quite figure out what it was in particular about the Skywalk that made it so much fun but it was. It was good old fashioned, nothing fancy, take in the amazing views fun.
The best part about the Skywalk is you’re free to roam- once the shuttle drops you off, there’s no limit on how long you can stay and explore. Take as many pictures as you want. Zoom around like an airplane, and soak in those sights. When you’re all done with your adventure any of the waiting shuttle busses will take you right back to the Icefields Center where your day began!
Is The Columbia Icefields Adventure Worth The Cost?
That was the question at the forefront of our minds as we set out on this “adventure” and unfortunately, it was a question we never really found an answer to.
On one hand, there are a lot of really great things about this experience…
Firstly, this is a tour designed or everyone to enjoy! We loved the idea that someone who may not normally have the opportunity to experience the surface of a glacier would be able to in this setting! Accessibility for all is a big win in our book!
*Pro Tip- There are 2 Glacier Busses that have wheelchair lifts available for guests, if you need access to one of these busses, they request that you notify them 72 hours in advance, to reserve your space).
Then there are the Ice Explorers; These are some seriously cool machines and getting the opportunity to ride in one is truly and unique experience. There are only 23 of these particular “snow coaches” in existence in the world. 1 of them transports passengers to the McMurdo research station in the Arctic while the other 22 can be found at the Icefields Center.
On the other hand, there were a lot of things about this experience that just wasn’t up our alley…
Aside from the very exciting ride in the snow coach, there isn’t a whole lot of adventure happening on this “glacier adventure tour”. Once arriving on the glacier, you are basically allowed out on a very small, level area to explore. In truth, it felt a lot like an icy parking lot, and not a whole lot like a glacier.
This is a structured tour. Very, very structured. They check you in, put you in line and keep you on a tight schedule. There’s not a whole lot of exploring going on here. The drivers keep a close eye on you -for safety, understandably- when you’re out on the ice, and when they say it’s time to go, they mean it! By the end of the whole thing, we felt a little like herded cats.
If you were to ask us personally if we would do this tour again the answer is no. If you are more into the do-it-yourself style of adventure, or if you prefer a more free-spirited form of travel then it probably won’t be for you either. If you’re headed North to Alaska, like us, know this, there are a lot of glacier experiences to be had in the 49th state!
Have you ever taken a chance on a spendy adventure, not sure if it would be worth the money or not? What was your experience?