Ever walk on a frozen river at the bottom of a narrow 50 foot canyon? It seemed like a good idea to us when we decided to take a day off from skiing.
A number of different outfitters run this 3 hour tour (sorry, but I can't type that without the hearing voices in my head sing "A three hour tour!"). We went with Jasper Adventure Center on Connaught Drive but it seems that everyone takes the same route, supplies the same equipment and charges the same price.
First step was to check in at the Adventure Center where we got felt lined rubber boots to keep our feet warm and dry during the walk. Next came steel grippers, sort of low grade crampons that attached over the boots like Teva sport sandals and we were ready to go.
Our guide loaded us into a van for the 10 minute ride to the canyon parking lot. We unloaded, crossed a small swaying suspension bridge over the unfrozen river and started to hike. We quickly gained elevation walking single track along the beaten snow path and our guide, sensitive to the possibility that we might not be up to moving rapidly at elevation, stopped regularly to point out something we'd otherwise have missed. None of us would have missed the big horn sheep, though - three of them, grazing among the trees forty feet off the trail.
Soon we were at the edge of the canyon looking down. Unlike most, the Maligne Canyon is narrower at the top than at the bottom so it's a bit of a surprise to come upon it. From here there was a clear view of frozen waterfalls into the canyon and lines set by ice climbers below.
Next step was to get down into the canyon itself. A short downhill and we were walking on the ice of the frozen river twisting deeper and deeper into the canyon. Now we looked up at the waterfalls. The grippers came in handy as we maneuvered up and over ice-covered obstacles while gawking at the canyon walls; the boots came in handy as we splashed through puddles our guide assured us were simply unfrozen surface pools atop foot-thick ice. After a few stops for photos we turned around. The walk back to the van was along the river bank. A mule deer looked at us unconcerned as we passed within 20 feet.
All in all, the icewalk was a good outdoors alternative when we needed a change from skiing.
Open roughly November through April. Walk covers 4 km of uneven snow covered terrain.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy a little outdoor adventure. More adventurous types should look into ice climbing the canyon, not just walking it.