All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer for a memorable journey through Canada.
ABritish tourist once asked why Lake Louise is so blue and was told by a waggish local that it is drained every so often and the bottom painted. Apocryphal no doubt, but the informant had a point. The truth behind this picture-postcard sight, high in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, is far more intriguing. The lake, front and centre at the five-star Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, owes its hues to the light-filtering effect of ‘rock flour’ – fine silt-sized particles ground down by glacial erosion, which can be rubbed off rocks picked up from the ground or lake. A shift in the sun turns the turquoise water to emerald.
The lake is only the opener to an unsurpassed view from the hotel. The sparkling 2.5km-long waterway is encased in an arc of ragged, snow-capped peaks.At the far end is a towering cliff topped by the sheer edge of a glacier, a plinth of ice which, if you hear the thunder of bits breaking away, means you missed the visual spectacle by minutes.
Guests young and old take a mountain hike up to Mirror Lake – so called because mountain goats can see their reflections – to a teahouse overlooking Lake Agnes. It’s a climb roughly equivalent to the height of the Empire State Building plus another 20 storeys, passing a waterfall and looking out for bears, cougars, otters and wolves on the way. In summer, you can paddle a canoe on the lake; winter is the time for snowshoeing (walking on snow) in the moonlight.
This is the starter for our journey on the Rocky Mountaineer train, from the timeless, World Heritage-listed Banff National Park to the modern foodie destination of Vancouver. We are in GoldLeaf Service class – the most popular – ensconced in a glass-domed carriage with generous seating upstairs, and an open bar and fine dining below. The poor souls in SilverLeaf must eat in their seats. Such suffering! > The Rocky Mountaineer, one of the world’s great rail journeys, gives travellers easy access to Canada’s iconic landscapes of snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes and alpine forests. This is the view from Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.