Riding the rails to Whistler - a great way to travel
VANCOUVER/WHISTLER – After something like 16 days straight of Olympics assigning and reporting, I was paroled from the main press centre for the day.
I got an invite to ride the Tourism Alberta train to Whistler for a few hours of sightsteeing and/or skiing, and even I’m not stupid enough to turn that down. The 5 a.m. wakeup call wasn’t quite welcome, but the train ride from North Vancouver to Squamish and on up to Whistler was tremendous.
Mimosas to start things off, followed by an omelette with cheese and Italian sausage and plenty of coffee. Good stuff, but you could do that in town. What you likely can’t do unless you take the Rocky Mountaineer Alberta Train is bask in the sunrise glow that lights up the mountains in and around the Sea-to-Sky highway and not worry about traffic.
I’ve driven the road from Vancouver to Whistler a few times, but I’m usually driving (I have issues with other folks taking the wheel) and don’t have much time for looking out the window. On the train, it was awesome. I was on the upper deck, on the left side with gorgeous views of the sunlit bays and inlets on the way up to Squamish. The train snaked along the edge of the water and sliced through rock canyons filled with tumbling, rushing creeks and towering pines, with no traffic or speedometers to worry about.
There also are a couple of outdoor areas where you can stand and shoot photos if you want to avoid the glare of the giant panes of glass on the train.
Travel Alberta folks have been ferrying folks to and from Whistler the past couple weeks, showing the glories of the Rocky Mountaineer’s comfortable seats and dining cars. You can do the three-hour trip from Vancity to Whistler but they also have routes through Kamloops or Quesnel, B.C., and we can only imagine how nice it is to ride the train through the interior of B.C. and on to Banff or Lake Louise.
“Flying over the Rockies is fine, but riding in the comfort and luxury of a train is something special,” said Jon Mamela, vice-president of marketing for Travel Alberta. “You really get close to nature, and it forces you to slow down a little."
Alberta tourism folks got a pretty good pre-Games boost from all the world cup sports events held in their province. They’re hoping that a British Columbia tourism boom after the Olympics have wrapped up also will lead folks to trek over the rockies to Alberta.
“People from other countries don’t really distinguish between B.C. and Alberta,” Mamela said. “They just want to see the Rockies.”
There’s Banff and Lake Louise, of course, not to mention Kananaskis and Dinosaur Park and other attractions. But Calgary has become much more cosmopolitan and Edmonton continues to attract folks with festivals celebrating everything from dance to poetry to jazz music.
Of course, Alberta also has the Big Valley Jamboree and the Calgary Stampede.There’s city sophistication, for sure, but when folks got on board the train they were given the opportunity to grab a white cowboy hat to wear around Whistler for the day.
Hey, if you’ve got a tourism hook you use it. You’ll attract folks to Calgary and Edmonton for the arts, yes, but most folks around the world want mountains and rivers and rocks and hiking and fishing and golf (Alberta golf is coming in your April version of the Star's golf magazine, by the way). And cowboys. Not to mention cowgirls.
The Alberta tourism folks are smart enough to realize that. And a trip to Whistler during the Olympics to drive home the point isn’t a bad idea.