GET­TING THERE

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

our doorstep at the Fair­mont Jasper Park Lodge is the ic­ing on the Canada cup­cake.

The next morn­ing, the tem­per­a­ture has dropped from 19C in Van­cou­ver to -8C, as we stand at 2277m above sea level at the top of the Jasper Sky­Tram – a quick and easy way to get an ea­gle-eye view of the boomerang-shaped town nes­tled within the 10,878 sq km na­tional park.

From here we can see al­most ev­ery in­tri­cate jagged peak of the Rocky Moun­tains that sur­rounds us and the turquoise gla­cial lakes of Jasper – their bril­liant colour a re­sult of “rock flour” sed­i­ment, cre­ated by rocks grind­ing to­gether un­der­neath the glacier.

In town, we stroll past cute cot­tages and shop in stores with names like Bear­foot in the Park, Big Horn and Bear Paw Bak­ery.

If not for the con­struc­tion of the rail­way – built be­tween 1881 and 1885 to con­nect Canada east to west – this dream-filled land­scape would have re­mained hid­den to the world.

“If we can’t ex­port the scenery, we’ll im­port the tourists,” Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way’s pres­i­dent Wil­liam Van Horne said as he set about build­ing ho­tels that would en­tice visi­tors from abroad to use his rail­way and con­nect the dots across the Rock­ies.

Celebri­ties came flock­ing, as did the roy­als. Now the Rocky Moun­taineer is the only pas­sen­ger train to tra­verse the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way, al­low­ing a glimpse into the past at these orig­i­nal chalet-style tourist towns.

We travel the next leg of the jour­ney by mo­tor­coach and, while the shock of be­ing con­fined to a bus seat sinks in, the Rock­ies of my dreams ma­te­ri­alises out­side the win­dow along Al­berta’s High­way 93, which con­nects Jasper with Lake Louise. Within two hours we’re glee­fully catch­ing snowflakes on our tongues and clam­ber­ing aboard a snow­mo­bile that will take us up on to the sur­face of the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Ice­fields.

Later that af­ter­noon, we round a bend and our driver Bob pumps the brakes. It’s not the epic scenery stop­ping us in our tracks but two moun­tain goats lick­ing salt from the high­way. It’s illegal to honk them, so we wait pa­tiently and edge for­ward gen­tly un­til they move to the side and we get un­der way again.

We drive down Bear St, turn right at Moose St and gig­gle as we pass Squir­rel and Beaver streets, def­i­nitely sens­ing the theme. By 5pm we’re set­tling into our castle in the wild, the Fair­mont Banff Springs.

One fun fact Bernardo spun us on the Rocky Moun­taineer is bears can eat up to 4kg of food a day lead­ing up to hi­ber­na­tion, hav­ing a fi­nal feast of gravel to block them up while they snooze. Af­ter the three-course fon­due feast we’ve just de­voured at the Alpine-fab­u­lous Wald­haus Res­tau­rant at Banff Springs, we might just need to fol­low suit.

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