As a fervent fan of ridin’ the rails, I was ready to get back
Along with dozens of passengers, I eagerly awaited the 5:30 p.m.
departure of VIA Rail Canada’s Snow Train to Jasper, Alberta, from
Vancouver, British Columbia’s, Pacific Central Station.
The Snow Train to Jasper features VIA Rail’s Silver & Blue
Class aboard its legendary transcontinental train, “The Canadian.”
The overnight trip takes a little more than 17 hours.
The train’s stainless-steel, 1950s-style passenger cars have
vintage appeal, but the amenities are also there. My cozy single
bedroom sleeping car featured a washroom, sink, down duvet, plump
pillows, thick towels and even a toiletries kit. A shower was just
down the hall.
After settling into my quarters, I requested the second seating
at dinner (meals are included in the Silver & Blue Class). Then
it was off to the Park car in the back of the train, where clients
will find the Bullet Lounge and the Mural Lounge. There is also an
upstairs dome section.
I chatted with fellow travelers from Australia and England over
complimentary hors d’oeuvres and sparkling wine.
That evening I dined with a young Brit and a retiree from
Winnipeg, Manitoba. All meals are prepared onboard, and the dinner
menu includes regional cuisine such as Manitoba pork loin and
pan-seared Arctic char. Canadian wines are available for
So what’s it like sleeping on a train? During the night there
was plenty of rocking and squeaking and curving and whistling. But
I only woke up once when the train stopped in Kamloops around 2
In the morning we detrained in Jasper and I was glad I had
purchased a long, down coat the day before in Vancouver it was
really cold (minus 4 degrees to be exact). I said farewell to my
train mates, who were continuing east, and hopped on the
complimentary shuttle to The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
Things got off to a wildlife start when we spotted an elk in the
road. Our driver told us the elk were originally brought in to
Jasper National Park from Yellowstone National Park in the 1920s
and today they number more than 600.
Over the next two days, I’d see another herd of elk, a coyote, a
white-tailed deer and a red squirrel scrambling across the road.
One evening, I heard coyotes howling at the moon as I stepped
outside my cabin.
In downtown Jasper, tell clients to stop by the quirky Den
Wildlife Museum, located in the basement of Whistlers Inn across
from the VIA Rail Canada station. Here you can see all the
(stuffed) wildlife you missed for only $3 (buy a token for the
self-guided tour at the hotel’s reception desk). More than 100
animals have been mounted and presented in dioramas resembling
their native habitats. There’s even a huge caribou.
A Luxurious Lodge
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge started out as a couple of tents
scattered on the shores of Lac Beauvert in 1915. The Canadian
National Railway took it over and built a lodge in 1923, which
burned down 29 years later.
Today the lodge is composed of 446 rooms in cedar chalets and
log cabins spread out over 903 acres. It’s rustic and elegant with
high ceilings and polished slate floors a blend of Frank Lloyd
Wright and Canadiana.
Clients can relax in The Emerald lounge with its views of the
mountains or enjoy “The Great Canadian Martini” in the Palisade
Lounge. The Edith Cavell dining room features gourmet dining with
classy service. For more casual fare, Tent City Sports Lounge has
billiards, darts and a pub menu.
The lodge has an outdoor heated swimming pool open year-round
and the Insignia Salon & Spa offers a wide variety of
If your clients are non-skiers, no worries. There are plenty of
winter activities in Jasper. The Maligne Canyon Icewalk is not to
be missed. Our guide met us at the lodge and outfitted us with
insulated rubber boots and ice cleats. Walking sticks are also
The cloudy skies cleared and revealed Mount Pyramid in the
distance. As we made our way into Maligne Canyon, the deepest
canyon in Jasper National Park, our guide eased our fears as we
first touched down on the floor of ice.
Wending our way along the blue-green river, we stopped to take
pictures of the frozen Queen of Maligne and Angel Icefalls. Their
towering beauty was pure magic.
Winter in Jasper won me over.
VIA Rail Canada’s Snow Train
Packages available at
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Maligne Canyon Icewalk
Jasper Adventure Centre