Whistler is definitely the
place for making tracks and though we don’t plan on cruising from
heavenly peaks during this spring visit, we do manage this task in another
way – by getting there and back on The Whistler Mountaineer.
It’s just after eight in
the morning when three attendants, decked out in classic pin stripes,
proudly call out the command, “All Aboard!” This signature welcome
has been around all of our lives, and it’s one that immediately conjures
up images of another era – when train travel was classic and people
had more time.
The familiar whistle blows, we gently rumble along the shoreline of North Vancouver, slink beneath
Lion’s Gate Bridge and rim Ambleside’s strip of greenery. The city’s
cosmopolitan skyline is an energized backdrop to the still waters of
English Bay. While chugging by multi-million dollar homes, we’re
privy to the scenic panorama and a glimpse into a few prosperous lifestyles.
Howe Sound is next on our roving
picture show. While skirting this majestic fjord, the train feels
like a land cruise. Today, just a few wispy clouds drape this islet-laced
setting. Backed by glacial peaks and topped by a sky blue dome, the
Tony Onley-like landscape is nothing short of spectacular.
We carve our way through older
growth forest, snake past campers at Porteau Cove and parallel the Sea
to Sky Highway. Sections along this thoroughfare are being re-constructed
to ease the drive to Whistler’s world-class wonderland. For us, this
trip is a breeze. It couldn’t be improved. It’s already a memorable
part of our destination.
While some choose to view the
moving picture show on the traditional Coast Classic option, we’ve
upgraded to the Glacier Dome Experience. Accompanying the scenic landscapes
are cushy interiors and impeccable service. Jessica and Valerie, our
faultless attendants, not only deliver an ongoing commentary on the
passing geography, but dish up classic cuisine that would appease any
palate: cheesy omelets, roasted tomatoes and rosemary potatoes are topped
off with OJ champagne and an open bar service, after which, in spite
of the incredibly smooth ride, we have to work a little harder at steadying
our gait. The about face excursion features a quartet of finger sandwiches,
scones with Devonshire cream, lemon tarts, chocolate strawberries and
éclairs – have one, or have all – your choice – it’s high tea
while riding low on the rails.
While dining in decadence,
the views continue to roll on by: historical Britannia and its once-thriving
copper mine, cascading torrents of Shannon Falls and the snowy 2,678
meter summit of Mount Garibaldi. With every scenic “wow” we jockey
with other passengers for that prime photo op. Regardless of whether
it’s in the comfort of our domed interior or the breezy Heritage Observation
Car, it’s an impossible task to capture.
“Get your cameras ready once
again,” Jessica announces, as we enter Cheakamus Canyon. The screeching
sound from metal on metal echoes within the steep cavernous gorge, and
as we creep over the trestle bridge that spans the chasm, a collection
of oohs can be heard. For a few moments it feels like we’re hanging
in the air – not a simple task for several tons of cargo. While
white water roils 60 meters below, our shutters go non-stop. No sooner
do we bridge this amazing gap when other photo moments come into view:
the volcanic monolith of Black Tusk, steep precipice of Brandywine Falls
and shimmering Alpha Lake.
After our three-hour expedition,
we reach the resort town of Whistler and are quickly transported to
our temporary refuge, the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside. From the
balcony of our suite retreat the panorama is stunning, spanning both
mountains from ground surface to summit. Although these dusty trails
currently host bikers, hikers and the occasional black bear, when the
snow flies, they’ll transform into powder pathways. With over two hundred
glorious runs, 8,171 acres of ski-able terrain, and thirty-eight lifts,
including the revolutionary PEAK 2 PEAK, an unforgettable 2010 Olympic
winter experience is assured. Though it’s a destination where
tracks will always be created, we’ll make ours in a different way,
when taking the Whistler Mountaineer back home.
Jane is co-owner of Travel
Writers’ Tales, an independent travel article syndicate that offers
professionally written travel articles to editors and publishers.