Spring getaway by rail on the iconic Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer's First Passage to the West route. Image credit: Rocky Mountaineer

I’m a sucker for the romance of train travel, and spring is the ideal time to get back on track. The iconic, BC-based Rocky Mountaineer rail service launches its seasonal First Passage to the West route from Vancouver to Banff starting April 23.

Trains are the historic connectors of western identity, and Rocky Mountaineer trains single handedly elevated western train travel from necessity to scenic luxury. The family-owned rail service has won 7 World Travel Awards since its start in 1990, including the recently announced “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” at the 2011 WTAs.

April travel into the Canadian Rockies – a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site – promises snow-capped mountains, flowers in bloom, bursting waterfalls and plenty of bears, eagles and the occasional lanky moose. Find out more about the spring getaways from Vancouver to Banff after the jump.

Morant's Curve near Lake Louise, Alberta. First Passage to the West route. Image credit: Rocky Mountaineer

First Passage to the West logistics

Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West route is a 4-day, 3-night trip with stays in Kamloops and Banff. The trip is available eastbound or westbound.

SilverLeaf Service, First Passage to the West. Image credit: Rocky Mountaineer.

Although you get to retrace the steps of 19th century explorers, there’s no roughing it with the Rocky Mountaineer. The service comes in 3 levels, ranging from GoldLeaf (super fancy coach with panoramic views from a 2-level, glass-domed coach + 5-star dining) to the standard RedLeaf (classic, roomy coach with meals and snacks).

Oversized domed windows, SilverLeaf Service. Image credit: Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer launched their Silverleaf Service in 2012, which falls between luxe Gold and basic Red, with panoramic views from oversized windows in a single-level dome coach – 167% larger viewing area than RedLeaf service.

Castle Mountain outside Banff, Alberta. First Passage to the West route. Image credit: Rocky Mountaineer

What you’ll see on the way

  • Wildlife including bears, mountain goats, elk, big horn sheep, moose, osprey and eagles.
  • Spring flowers in bloom, new leaves on the trees, a surprise morning dusting of snow in Banff and Lake Louise, waterfalls bursting at the seams, and a fresh batch of “rock flour” silt in the lakes, causing the water to reflect an emerald green.
  • The rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon.
  • The steep slopes and rock sheds along the Thompson River.
  • The majestic, snow-capped Canadian Rockies and the province of Alberta.
  • Craigellachie, where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven.
  • Lake Louise: An 2.5-km-long, 90-metre deep alpine lake, known for its sparkling blue waters, is situated at the base of impressive glacier-clad peaks.
  • Rogers Pass, the Kicking Horse Canyon, the Spiral Tunnels and the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

Black bear seen from Rocky Mountaineer train. Image credit: Rocky Mountaineer

Waterfall seen from Rocky Mountaineer train. Image: Rocky Mountaineer

Find out more about Rocky Mountaineer‘s spring itineraries and booking here.

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4 Responses to Spring getaway by rail on the iconic Rocky Mountaineer

  1. ChArlene

    Regardless of your experience on Rocky Mountaineer you should be aware that on June 22, 2011 Rocky Mountaineer locked out over 100 dedicated onboard attendants.
    RMR has boasted that they are a 200 million dollar company but refused to give employees a reasonable wage increase after 3 years at the same pay rate.

    The attendant’s years of talent and experience have been substituted for replacement workers – scabs – who have little to no training and little to no practical knowledge. The use of scab labour undermines the right to fair bargaining by the employees.

    Rocky Mountaineer does not want its guests to know about the lock out; if information is provided it is often partial and misleading. Guests are left to face a difficult choice: violate their ethics and cross a union picket line or forfeit the cost of their holiday.

    Complaints regarding substandard service have often been ignored, disregarded, or responses met with great delay before being addressed.

    On two separate occasions Rocky Mountaineer’s actions have been denounced in the Canadian Parliament. Many provincial and municipal politicians have written the Company urging them to return to the bargaining table and end the lock out.

    The company has not returned to the bargaining table since July 7th where they sat for exactly 11 minutes and offered a 2% wage DECREASE. Further, it has begun recruiting for the 2012 train season with no effort made to renew talks.

    I have taken the train and quite enjoyed myself, but part of what made the trip so exceptional was the amazing staff on board. Knowing the difference of how the service should be and what it is now, I would never take the train again, and I would not cross a picket line.

    You can do your part by voicing your displeasure to the company, write to the company, or postpone your trip until the dispute is over.
    For more information go to http://rockymountainlockout.wordpress.com/.

  2. Bryan

    Very true Charlene! I attempted to post many of the points you have brought up but my comment was not published by Inside Vancouver. Perhaps because the truth is “offensive and mean spirited”?

    I am a former tourism worker and heard MANY complaints from colleagues still in the industry about the poor service guests received from the scabs. Common complaints are: slow service, lack of knowledge about the Rockies and tourist sights, poor on-board commentary. Furthermore complaints have been ignored or dismissed.

    The former on-board staff were the people whose service earned Rocky Mountaineer many international accolades. I am personally disgusted by the way management has treated them. I have urged my friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers to boycott this unethical company.

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