Travel Blog

20 Jun

“World’s best train” on a budget: Rocky Mountaineer Rides to Whistler

Photo credit: Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer train is perhaps best known for its epic routes through the Canadian Rockies.  No less an authority than National Geographic declared the journey one of the “world’s greatest trips.”  Seated inside elegantly appointed cars, sipping wine and nibbling on gourmet meals, passengers soak up some of the most impressive alpine scenery anywhere in North America.

Just one little asterisk:  The trip of a lifetime doesn’t come cheap (the two-day Vancouver-Banff trip starts at US$902).  But even if you haven’t saved up, there’s still a way to get a taste of the Rocky Mountaineer experience, without going too far from Vancouver.

It’s not quite a secret, but there are plenty of locals who don’t know about it.  Five days a week during the summer, the Rocky Mountaineer runs one of its luxury trains from North Vancouver to Whistler.  The 3.5-hour Sea to Sky Climb offers passengers a classic rail experience, close to home and at an accessible price (starting at $156, one-way).

Photo credit: Rocky Mountaineer

Trains glide along scenic Howe Sound, offering close-up views of the water and towering Coast Mountains.  The route then climbs into the Cheakamus Canyon and even crosses a trestle bridge before arriving in Whistler Village.  If you splurge for a little extra, you can even sit in the dome-topped cars – roofed in glass for panoramic vistas ($272 one-way).

But the scenery is just part of the experience – which is really about recreating the glamour and mystique of train travel.  Attendants in crisp vests bring breakfast, afternoon appetizers and maybe a glass or two of B.C. wine to your seat.  Meanwhile, hosts offer a running commentary on the region and its history.

New this year, the Sea to Sky Climb is also featuring on-board presentations by the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations groups, through whose traditional territory the train runs.  The history of both Nations, plus legends of the canyons, rivers and mountains, will be shared as the train chugs northward through Squamish and Whistler.

The Whistler Sea to Sky Climb is offered Thursday-Monday until September 26, 2012.  For scheduling and fare information, check out the Rocky Mountaineer website.

Anyone done the Sea to Sky Climb? Is it worth it?  

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