Terra Bus, Athabasca Glacier






Located in the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, the gigantic Athabasca Glacier covers 325 kilometers and is the largest accumulation of snow and ice south of the Arctic Circle.  Its inaccessibility led to the development of the Terra Bus, a snow coach built to carry passengers over the glacier without paved roads.  There are only 23 of these custom-built vehicles in the world, 22 in Alberta and one in the McMurdo base in the Antarctic.


The buses, called Ice Explorers, carry 56 passengers at a time over the magnificent scenery of icefields and mountains.  These 15-meter-long vehicles are constructed to handle almost any kind of condition, and can navigate through shale, sand, mud bogs, ice and snow.  Each of the six tires on the bus is over one and half meters in diameter, and is kept soft and balloon-like so as not to damage the fragile terrain.  Terra buses move at the slow speed of only 10 to 25 miles per hour, and rarely get stuck.  They can descend a 30% side gradient or go up a 60% grade, and can ford streams of over a meter in depth.  The Athabasca is North America’s most visited glacier, with its popularity directly related to its accessibility.  Visiting the glacier is so popular that the buses are in near constant use.


As the announcer on the bus declares when it starts its journey onto the icefields, “You’ll pay for the whole seat, but you’ll only use the eeedggge!”.



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