MAKING TRACKS TO WHISTLER
By Jane Cassie 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 and 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, and 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 and 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: cheese 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. And 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 to 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. And 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.
IF YOU GO:Whistler Mountaineer Toll Free: 1-888-687-7245
www.whistlermountaineer.com/ Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside
Toll Free: 1-888-905-9995
Tourism Whistler www.tourismwhistler.com/Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.travelwriterstales.com PHOTOS by Brent Cassie 1. Preparing to board the Whistler Mountaineer (1277)
2. Dining in style (1299)
3. Once-thriving copper mine of Britannia (1358)
4. Chilling Cheakamus Canyon (1386)
5. View from our suite retreat at Pan Pacific Mountainside (1433)
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