The glass-bottom bridge deck at the new Glacier Skywalk experience suspended 918 ft over the Sunwapta Valley in Alberta’s Jasper National Park will answer any lingering questions you had on your fear of heights.
With substantial construction scheduled to wrap up this month and an opening in the picturesque setting scheduled for May 2014, the glass-floored Discovery Vista observation platform will send visitors on this steel bridge jutting from the glacier cliffs of the park, giving them a bird-only-type view of the valley floor, the side of the cliff they have left the comfort of, the Columbia Ice Fields and the peaks that protrude around them.
The 1,300-ft walkway curves nearly 100 ft away from the cliff, the latest in a line of thrill-seeking bridges that use the natural environment and modern engineering to offer visitors new perspectives through cantilevered bridges, such as the Capilano Cliffwalk in North Vancouver, B.C.
Brewster Travel Canada, the company behind the experience, says the project located on a 1940-built Icefields Parkway scenic road was designed as an extension of the surrounding landscape, entwining the weathered steel, glass and wood with the native bedrock.
“The vision behind the Glacier Skywalk’s design was simple: depend on the natural environment, draw inspiration from it and integrate with it,” the company says. “These materials mirror, rather than district from, the natural environment.”
Garner Steel & Glass and Bova Steel constructed the Glacier Skywalk, using a Mammoet crane to position the irregular pieces of steel bridge. Project coordinator PCL Construction used Sturgess Architecture of Calgary, RJC Consulting Engineers and PCL Builders Inc. to conjure up just how the cantilevered system would interact with the cliff it moves away from.
When done with a trip around the walkway, not only will you know exactly how you feel about heights, but you’ll also have a newfound opinion of engineering.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for TIME, Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.