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Making Tracks to the Coast

Making tracks at Whistler Mountain is what it’s all about, and although we don’t plan on cruising the slopes from heaven-bound peaks this trip, we do manage to accomplish this feat by travelling via rail to our destination, The Coast Whistler Hotel.

“All aboard!” Decked out in brass-adorned formal attire, our conductor calls out the command with pride. It’s a signature welcome that has always been part of our lives; a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era when train travel was classic and time didn’t matter.

Fond childhood memories stir as the familiar whistle blows and, with a rumbling gait, we plod through North Vancouver’s industrial area, rising slightly above city streets to view Vancouver’s scenic skyline that glitters across English Bay. The track soon hugs properties of palatial cliff-hanging homes and, as we chug on through, they have no choice but to share the spectacular seascape and permit brief glimpses into their affluent lifestyles. Wisps of low-lying mist embrace the speckled islets within Howe Sound, effectively creating a Tony Onley landscape. Bordered by glacial peaks, the scene is mystical as well as breathtaking. With every curve of the coastline we are treated to sensational vistas on one side and sightings of thick mossy undergrowth and ancient red cedars on the other; true blue West Coast trademarks all along the way.

The Cariboo Prospector is a title that evokes images of old-world charm and times when rugged pioneers were drawn to these hills for the purpose of staking their claimsinstead of skiing or hiking them. Today, with its provision of year-round service, train lovers and romantics, like us, can ride these rails, as far as seven hundred and forty five kilometres north, to Prince George and back. And while discovering historical tid-bits about this Gold Rush trail, Whistler enthusiasts, spa denizens and wanna-be cowboys may take a railway reprieve in order to enjoy time out at a getaway of their dreams.

From May to October, rail riders can also travel in utmost luxury aboard BC Rail’s newest carrier, The Whistler Northwind, where spacious custom built dome cars provide exceptional vantage points along this same scenic route. White linen table service compliments gastronomical fare that is served on English fine china, and menu items featuring BC’s rich harvest are prepared by a creative team of culinary experts. Offering two and three day excursions, this top of the line service is the crème de la crème in rail travel.

As we parallel the Sea to Sky highway, where frenzied ski hounds drive hurriedly in their pursuit of fresh powder tracks, we feel grateful that we can sit back, relax, and enjoy each other’s company in the presence of the natural beauty around us.

“You may want to get your cameras out,” the conductor announces, as we enter the Cheakamus Canyon. Little does he know, our camera has been perpetually focused the entire trip. And the shutter continues to click while we “ooh and ahh” at the white water torrents that boil and froth 200 feet below. While creeping across the trestle that spans the steep canyon gorge we avoid pondering how much history there is to this part of the railway and how old the bridge may be.

Snow is falling by the time we reach Whistler station, and a light powder dusting is a reminder of why most people frequent these parts. And it’s no wonder. More than 900 centimetres of flakes blanket this favourite North American playground annually, and high speed lifts whisk gravity-defying enthusiasts to snowboard parks, a dozen alpine bowls and 2,874 hectares of terrain. And although a couple of million visitors are drawn to these incredible slopes every winter, we are not among them. At least not this trip. We have come from the coast to ironically relax at the Coast and enjoy a bit of down time from our hectic pace.

Arched windows boast unobstructed views of neighbouring Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains from our spacious suite and we are pampered with snowy white robes, beverage selections, and other lifestyle necessities that one of us forgot to pack. The covered pool, sauna and hot tub offer some guests a reprieve from overused muscles. For us, they are opportunities for together time. And although The Coast Whistler conveniently borders the village shops, restaurants, golf courses and walking trails where we meander the next day, it is far enough away from this busy hub so that we can enjoy the peaceful stay that we have come here to find.

The two days pass quickly and it seems unjust when it is time to leave. As we pack up at the end of our stay, we overhear skiers chatting in the lobby.

“Great fresh tracks this morning, eh?” one comments to the other. And as we board the shuttle that will deliver us back to the train station, we think about the tracks that we are about to make as we depart this world-acclaimed whistler resort – tracks via BC Rail.

How To Get There: BC Rail Passenger Services P.O. Box 8770, Vancouver BC V6B 4X6 Phone 1-800-663-8238 or 604-984-5246 Fax: 604-984-5505 [1]

Where To stay: The Coast Whistler Hotel 4005 Whistler Way, Whistler BC Canada V0N 1B4 Tel: 1-800-663-5644 or 604-932-2522 Fax: 604-932-6711 xx

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