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

  1. Dana

    $156, one-way, is “budget”?!

  2. Jane

    The scenery is pretty amazing, but I’d steer clear for the time being. The company is in a labour dispute with their long serving onboard attendant staff. The company has locked them out since June 22, 2011. They’re running the trains with replacement workers, which is actually illegal in BC, but since the company is Federally regulated they’ve got a loop-hole. And don’t count on the company to tell you any of this information when you buy your tickets, they’ll keep it quiet until you arrive and either lose your money or cross the picket line. Let’s support company’s that support BC workers rights, not ones that break them down.

  3. Chris

    Inside Vancouver keeps deleting my comments, yet I wrote everything Jane did above. Acquaintances working in the tourism industry have told me they hear numerous complaints about sub-par service from scab labour working the Vancouver-Whistler train, and that the visitors say they would have just taken the train to/from Whistler if they had known about the labour dispute.

    Avoid Rocky Mountaineer until (or if) this company starts treating their long-time staff fairly.

  4. Sultan

    The record of both Countries, plus stars of the canyons, waterways and hills, will be distributed as the practice chugs northward through Squamish and Whistler. coupon

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