Unwind, dine, and connect onboard Canada’s decadent Rocky Mountaineer.
BY AMIEE WHITE BEAZLEY
I ARRIVED BEFORE DAYBREAK AT THE ROCKY MOUNTAINEER TRAIN STATION IN BANFF, ALBERTA, CANADA. During an early fall morning in the mountains, guests gathered inside the train station until a light approached in the distance. With its bells ringing, a custom-designed navy blue, white-and-gold, bi-level glass-domed train emerged through the morning mist. Rocky Mountaineer had arrived to take us on a journey through the Canadian Rockies.
We’re set to follow the “First Passage to the West” route from Banff to Vancouver, the only passenger rail service along the historic Canadian Pacific track, which connected British Columbia to the rest of Canada more than 130 years ago.
Stepping onto the upper level of the train and into GoldLeaf Service, we settled into oversized leather seats and were given warm hand towels, coffee, and pastries to kick off the journey.
Considered a signature of Rocky Mountaineer, the train’s glass domes allow jaw-dropping, panoramic views. As such, a new surprise appeared around every corner—craggy peaks, powerful waterfalls, and wildlife, seemingly unaware of our passing. The rivers were a stunning turquoise blue, similar to Lake Louise and Banff, and the trees were at their peak of autumn colors. They dazzled with a vibrant mix of gold and red, contrasting with the blue sky and new fallen snow on surrounding summits.
“Dining on ROCKY MOUNTAINEER is an event in and of itself—a throwback to the days of romantic train travel.”
Not long after we pulled out of Banff, we were escorted downstairs to the first floor and an elegant dining room. Culinary offerings on Rocky Mountaineer is an event in and of itself—a throwback to the days of romantic train travel. While sitting with other travelers, we enjoyed a freshly prepared breakfast and three-course lunch as dramatic scenery passed outside the windows. In the GoldLeaf Service dining room, food is prepared by Michelin-trained chefs, Jean-Pierre Guerin and Frederic Couton, who oversee a bustling kitchen staffed with a culinary team of 85. They create cuisine in a space less than 26 feet long and 10 feet wide, one of the smallest commercial kitchens in the world.
Prior to each season, the chefs re-imagine the menu, inspired by the bounty of Western Canada and highlighted by such ingredients as Pacific salmon and Alberta beef. My breakfast included perfectly poached eggs over Canadian ham and buttermilk pancakes with local berry preserves, of course topped with Canadian maple syrup. Later in the day, I enjoyed a lunch of fresh maple-cured wild Coho salmon from British Columbia, paired with wines from the Okanagan Valley.
After breakfast, the train passed over the Continental Divide at Kicking Horse Pass and through Spiral Tunnels, which cuts into Cathedral Mountain and Mount Ogden, and past Craigellachie—the spot where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven—before descending into the Columbia River Valley. As landscapes changed so did the wildlife and the colors. Our conductor would slow the cars while our onboard Host would alert us to sightings of bears, mountain goats, elk, deer, osprey, and heron.
Rocky Mountaineer, however, is much more than just a sightseeing adventure; it’s an experience in pampering and a practice in decompression. I spent the day talking with other passengers, reading, and tasting regional wines. I also spent a lot of time on the outdoor viewing platform, taking photographs and counting bald eagles (35!) as they dove into the rivers to feast on salmon that had returned to the bedrock from which they spawned.
This unique adventure is perfect for avid photographers, those who love escaping city life to relax in nature, and adventurers who want to be surrounded by the mountains while indulging in leisurely activities and exquisite cuisine. Through the passing of endless ponderosa pine, aspen, and evergreens, I came to understand that while these mountains, rivers, and landscapes may be timeless, the view simply never gets old.
Rail Time For further info on Rocky Mountaineer itineraries, visit our website and enter OFFER M18995.
Photo: Rocky Mountaineer travelling past Cheakamus Canyon on the Rainforest to Goldrush Route / Rocky Mountaineer