Without doubt, the most spectacular landscape and stunning scenery I’ve ever experienced surrounds western Canada’s Icefields Parkway, high up in the Canadian Rockies close to the peak at 3750m.
The parkway is a ribbon section of more than 200km of Canada’s Highway One that carves for the greater part of the year through craggy snow-clad mountains, glaciers, fir forests cloaked in white and shimmering frozen lakes.
On my way to ski Jasper late in the season, I wrote in my travel diary: “A guide accompanied me on what easily lives up to its reputation as the world’s most scenic drive, the Icefields Parkway. The road branches off from the Trans-Canada Highway near Lake Louise, following the Saskatchewan River and traversing the high country parallel to the Continental Divide, tracking lofty wide glaciers and crossing mountain passes and countless avalanche paths, all visible as we travelled along. We not only marvelled at the unbroken vista of soaring snow-clad mountains, sheets of sheer shimmering ice suspended from jagged rocky outcrops and vast frozen lakes, but at elk, moose, caribou, goats, bighorn sheep and smaller mammals. Wolves and grizzly bears roam the region, too”.
Since then I’ve read a better description: it said, simply: “God’s postcard”. Words seem superfluous anyway: I was stunned into silence, awestruck by the beauty of travelling by road high up in the Rocky Mountains bridging the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.
One of the thrills to be had en route is a trip across the frozen alpine meadows and glaciers – surrounded by a snow and ice palace – riding in the all-terrain Ice Explorer, a purpose-built enviro-friendly tour vehicle that runs on six “terra” tyres measuring more than a metre by a metre and a half … placing less weight proportionately on the ice than a woman in high-heeled shoes, say Brewster Tours, the operators.
The pressure is just 14psi and the tyres provide the necessary traction to mount gradients of 1 in 3. The voyage, “through the remnants of the last Ice Age, as it meets the Space Age” takes passengers across the surface of the magnificent Athabasca Glacier next to Athabasca Falls: the experience of a lifetime. Prices are just C$38 adults and C$19 children, possibly the world’s best value tour. Other tours are available, picking up from Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.
And then there are the dogsled rides – a terrific once-ever thrill (and bumpy!). In fact, there are many ways to get around this frosty territory: snowshoeing is vigorous fun, and then there’s ice skating, sleigh rides, snowmobile scenic tours, guided walks through steep, glistening icy canyons past frozen waterfalls, ice-climbing for the brave, and ice fishing trips. Afterwards, one of my favourite indulgences: bathing in open-air natural hot springs while snowflakes float all around.