VANCOUVER - Towering over the plains of Alberta and British Columbia in western Canada are the peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
The vast expanse of land includes large tracts of wilderness, glaciers and ice fields and a diverse selection of wildlife, wildflowers and unique mountain formations.
From the eye of a humble Korean traveler, no words could be found to describe the Rockies. In an attempt to describe the vastness of the Canadian Rockies, travelers have called it a ``frozen ocean’’ or a ``sea of peaks.’’ Others have referred to it as a ``vertical world’’ or a place where ``the world stands on end.’’
But no amount of description can adequately convey the beauty of Canada’s most-prized geographical asset. Only a tour through the Canadian Rockies and their world-famous resorts will confirm what the guidebooks say.
Canadians’ strenuous efforts to protect the natural beauty have made the mountains one of the world’s cleanest areas. Despite warnings from Canadian tour guides, South Korean tourists are often seen making ``patbingsu,’’ a mix of sweet beans and ice, with the powder snow and eating it as a way of enjoying the vista. I’d recommend you don’t do that! Experts say, although it looks very clean, the snow also contains a lot of dust.
Each season in the Rockies has its own special beauty and selection of activities. Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise are alpine towns sprinkled throughout the Canadian Rockies and are ideal starting points for mountain adventures.
The Canadian Rockies run from Glacier National Park in Montana, the United States, to the Liard River basin in northern British Columbia in Canada. This mountain range is almost 1,500 km long and 150 km wide covering an area of over 180,000 square kilometers.
One of the dreams of A. O. Wheeler, founder of the Alpine Club of Canada, was to build a road connecting Banff and Jasper, which lies at the southern and northern ends of the Rockies. After traveling the route in 1911, he prophesized that the route will be world-renowned. His prophecy came true in 1940 when the Icefield Parkway was completed, allowing thousands of travelers access to the grandeur and the beauty that has made it famous.
From Banff, a base camp for a Rockies trip, travel west to Lake Louise for a view of famous Lake Louise from the steps of the Chateau. During the summer, visitors can take a gondola to the top of the Lake Louise ski area for an outstanding view of the valley and mountains.
The most famous landmark along the Icefield Parkway is the Athabasca Glacier. Athabasca Glacier is just one of the few places in the world where motorists can park just yards away from an active glacier. Visitors can travel across the ice inside all-terrain vehicles called ``ice explorers.’’
The Icefields mark the beginning of Jasper National Park. Visitors can travel along Highway 93 to the town of Jasper and stop to view the park’s many natural attractions along the way.
There is another famous park in the Rockies. Founded in 1885 after the discovery of the Cave and Basin hot springs, Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest and most famous national park. Each year, millions of visitors come to Banff to marvel at the emerald waters of Lake Louise, walk amongst the flower-filled heaven of Sunshine Meadows and drive beneath the towering jagged peaks.
The relationship between people and the town of Banff is an old one. Recent archaeological investigations suggest that early Indians traveled through, and camped there since the end of the last Ice Age. The first Europeans to visit what is now Banff National Park arrived in the 1840s.
Lake Louise is called Canada’s ``Diamond in the Wilderness,’’ and the ``Hiking Capital of Canada.’’ This area offers a tremendous diversity of recreational and sightseeing opportunities. Lake Louise is home to one of North America’s finest downhill ski areas, and has numerous hiking and walking trails. The region abounds with spectacular scenery, from glaciers to waterfalls.
A tour guide says the emerald green color of the lake is due to the fine particles of glacial silt suspended in the water and they reflect the green rays of the spectrum. A hiking trail leads along the north shore of the lake, through the gap and up to a magnificent overview of Mount Victoria. A teahouse is located near the end of the trail and is open during the summer season for refreshments.
Snow-capped peaks, glistening glaciers and sweeping vistas are just one part of the allure of Banff National Park. Anyone can enjoy all the comforts of home in the town of Banff and the village of Lake Louise, or step out into the wilderness and the home of some of North America’s wildest creatures, including grizzly bears, caribou and wolves.
Lying in the broad valley of the Athabasca River at the junction of the Icefield Parkway and the Yellowhead Highway, the town of Jasper is the northern focal point of the Rocky Mountains.
Jasper is the wildest of the mountain parks and contains a superb backcountry trail system. It is internationally renowned for wildlife viewing, and is home to some of North America’s most rare animals.
``The opportunities for recreation and adventure in the Canadian Rockies are virtually endless,’’ says Joanna Day, a group and vacation tour specialist of the Brewster, one of the top tour operators in Canada. ``Visitors can select from many activities including superb golfing, hiking, climbing, helicopter tours, nature-watching and trail riding.’’
Seeing Western Canada on the Canadian VIA Rail is a special experience. It is like looking through a kaleidoscope, each view enhanced by the movement of the train. The landscape slides by, punctuated now and then by many villages and communities.
Passengers can enjoy sleeping cars that have a shower in each car, panoramic views from the domed observatory. Superb service and gourmet meals are provided in the dining car.
Any kind of trips to the Canadian Rockies can be adjusted to travelers’ tastes in terms of price and the travel period, after consultations with Korean tour operators with fluent English skills. Brewster and Jonview Canada, Canada’s top tour operators, will provide service for the summer-special travel to Canada as part of the renowned Air Canada holiday programs.