Sea to Sky Climb // © 2011 Rocky Mountaineer
When I went on the train to Whistler, it was called the Whistler Mountaineer. Now, the train ride is called the Sea to Sky Climb — a much more befitting name, in my opinion. The ride does indeed begin at the sea and follows a path similar to that of British Columbia’s recently redone Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler. While visitors to Vancouver can most certainly reach Whistler quicker by car, the experience of the train, with its spectacular vistas only visible from this hidden passageway, is a much more memorable way to travel.
My family and I had the opportunity to ride these rails last summer. On our annual family vacation, we visited Vancouver and booked the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb with an overnight at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Everything about the train ride is luxurious, from the hotel pick up and drop off to the first-class service onboard. We were met by a representative from the Rocky Mountaineer at our hotel, the Fairmont Pacific Rim
, in downtown Vancouver. Rocky Mountaineer makes stops at several downtown hotels and offers direct service to the railway station.
At the station, we were welcomed onboard and seated in a Whistler Dome Service cabin. I highly recommend this class of service as the scenery along the way is stunning with some views that are only attainable from these tracks. In the dome car, you aren’t going to miss a thing.
The morning journey to Whistler includes breakfast and, for me, my husband and our two young girls, we couldn’t have been more pleased with the prompt, attentive service. The girls each received a kid-friendly meal of pancakes and juice, and my husband and I enjoyed a hot breakfast of eggs, Canadian bacon, sausage as well as tea and coffee service. Breakfast is served shortly after the train leaves and during the least exciting portion of the journey so that guests won’t miss any of the most important sights.
As clients pass through old-growth forests and see rushing rivers, cascading waterfalls and secret sounds, the conductor gives a running commentary of the history of the train and the area. The dialogue is important to pay attention to if your clients want to get excellent photos from the open-air cars that are located in the center of the train. For those who are just into the scenery, an advantage of Whistler Dome Service is that you don’t have to head to the open-air car to get a good view. The windows, which are about waist high and curve up, making an almost-complete arc in the cabin, allow riders to get some of the best views without leaving their seats – still, there is something to be said for hearing the rushing of the water, feeling the wind in your hair and hearing the train on the tracks that is worth at least one venture back. For us, it was also a good opportunity to give our daughters some time to run around.
During the 3½-hour train trip guests travel from Vancouver, through scenic Howe Sound and the spectacular Cheakamus Canyon, across a trestle bridge, past the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Tantalus Mountains and by an old extinct volcano, before finally arriving in the mountain landscape of Whistler Village. The southbound route covers the same scenery and, instead of breakfast, an afternoon tea is served onboard.
The roundtrip Sea to Sky Climb can be done in one day, heading northbound in the morning and then returning on the southbound afternoon route. This leaves a couple of hours for clients to explore the town of Whistler, but the day is mostly about the train ride. Through Rocky Mountaineer, clients can also book multiday packages that include extra excursions such as the Peak 2 Peak gondola, ziplining and glacier walking. Two-day, one-night packages start at $353, including the rail journey. A rail-only journey starts at $143.