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Amazing views, sweaty palms on Canada's new Glacier Skywalk

By Karla Cripps, CNN
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
Canada's stunning new Glacier Skywalk pops 35 meters out the side of a cliff in Alberta's Jasper National Park. The glass-floored observation walkway hangs 280 meters above Sunwapta Canyon. Canada's stunning new Glacier Skywalk pops 35 meters out the side of a cliff in Alberta's Jasper National Park. The glass-floored observation walkway hangs 280 meters above Sunwapta Canyon.
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Glacier Skywalk
Educational experiences
Fair-weather attraction
Skywalk criticism
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Canada's new Glacier Skywalk hangs 280 meters above Sunwapta Canyon in Jasper National Park
  • Skywalk reached by cliff-edge walkway filled with multi-sensory interactive experiences
  • Alberta Wilderness Association says such developments don't belong in national parks

(CNN) -- The global list of incredible viewing platforms designed to elevate your heart rate continues to grow, with Canada's Glacier Skywalk the latest gravity-defying walkway to welcome tourists.

Jutting 35 meters out the side of a cliff on Jasper National Park's Icefields Parkway, the glass-floored observation walkway hangs 280 meters above Sunwapta Canyon.

It opened to tourists May 1 after five years of design, two years of seasonal construction and a reported cost of CAD$21 million ($19 million).

In addition to the incredible views, owner Brewster Travel Canada says the attraction has an educational side.

A 400-meter-long Discovery Trail cliff-edge walkway leading up to the glass platform includes multi-sensory interactive experiences centered around the glaciology, biology and ecology of Canada's Columbia Icefield region.

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Visitors must take a five-minute bus transfer from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre to access the Skywalk, which is an hour from the town of Jasper in the Canadian Rockies.

The Glacier Skywalk is open daily, May through October.

Price of tickets is CAD$24.95 for adults and CAD$12.50 for children.

Visitors to Dachstein's Stairway to Nothingness must first cross Austria's highest bridge, which is 328 feet (100 meters) long and straddles a drop of 1,300 feet (396 meters). Then they face 14 steps that descend from the cliff face and which are surrounded by glass walls. Visitors to Dachstein's Stairway to Nothingness must first cross Austria's highest bridge, which is 328 feet (100 meters) long and straddles a drop of 1,300 feet (396 meters). Then they face 14 steps that descend from the cliff face and which are surrounded by glass walls.
Dachstein Stairway to Nothingness (Austria)
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 13 scary-but-awesome viewing platforms 13 scary-but-awesome viewing platforms

To see how it stacks up against other global viewpoints, check out the gallery on the left.

Environmentalists oppose commercial development

Not everyone is thrilled with the Glacier Skywalk.

Canada's CBC website quoted Sean Nicholson of the Alberta Wilderness Association as saying this type of development doesn't belong in national parks.

"They represent almost a taking over of the management of the park in a sense by commercial interests, which we don't think is a good thing for the wildlife that live there and the ecosystem in general," Nicholson said.

MORE: 10 things Canada does better than anywhere else

Prior to the build, Brewster Travel Canada says it commissioned a 169-page environmental assessment, including a study on wildlife and vegetation.

"The assessment was reviewed by Parks Canada officials and was deemed acceptable within Parks Canada's policy framework governing the management and protection of our national parks," said the company.

The motivation behind approving the Skywalk was to make the area more attractive to tourists, said Parks Canada in a statement.

"Parks Canada needs to become more relevant to more Canadians by providing services and activities that respond to a broader range of visitor needs and expectations," it said.

That sentiment is perhaps behind the recent news that the government body is planning to bring WiFi hotspots to at least 50 of its parks this year, claiming visitors want to be able to stay connected even in the great outdoors.

Responding to widespread negative reaction to the plan, a Parks Canada official told CTV news that the wireless zones would be restricted to visitor centers and campgrounds -- "not in the wilderness, and not in the back country."

MORE: 13 scary-but-awesome viewing platforms

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