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.