Snow Train

VIA Rail’s train to Jasper offers magical moments and wildlife adventure

By: Sue Frause

As a fervent fan of ridin’ the rails, I was ready to get back onboard.

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 purchase.

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 a.m.

Wildlife Abounds

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 treatments.

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 available.

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
to Jasper
Packages available at

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Maligne Canyon Icewalk
Jasper Adventure Centre