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Rare air in Canada

Courtesy Banff and Lake Louise Tourism

I woke up in an unfamiliar room thoroughly confused. I had gone to sleep in Vancouver, and it appeared from the snowy mountains right outside my window that I had awoken inside a Christmas card.

As I became more conscious, I remembered that the dark forests covered in snow meant that the train had entered the Canadian Rockies. My cozy train cabin allowed me to watch a heavy April snow descend on the remote winter wonderland without even getting out of bed.

Via Rail Canada’s private train cabins proved a pleasant way to travel from Vancouver to Jasper, as I had covered a great distance during the night and gained plenty of time to enjoy the scenery during the day. All my comforts were met as the train chugged on toward its destination with meals freshly cooked onboard, a scenic dome car and even heaven-sent showers.

While I watched for wildlife and reveled in all my legroom, little did I know that the beauty of the Canadian Rockies ahead would prove even more majestic than the misty mountains at present.

I was touring the spectacular Canadian Rockies on a trip with Collette Vacations. The tour mixed luxury with untamed snowy vistas, dispelling my preconceived ideas that traveling in three feet of snow could not be quite comfortable.

Canuck country

My tour of the Canadian Rockies began in Vancouver at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, where a 450-foot-long swinging bridge runs 230 feet above the Capilano River. Although the bridge swung a little as I carefully stepped across, the views from the bridge and from within the ancient forest on the other side of the bridge were enticement enough to cross.

“You are now standing in a rain forest,” said Hanna Holbrook, guide at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, after I had crossed the main bridge. “There are seven more suspension bridges in the park. You can start to feel like a squirrel running through the treetops.”

Douglas firs, Western hemlock, Western redwood and other types of gigantic evergreens rose high above my head to block the sun. Many had smaller steel bridges connecting them to each other about 100 feet from the ground.

I walked across the treetop suspension bridges admiring the centuries-old trees holding me up. Some of the trees’ bark had grown so thick over the years that the tree could withstand even a forest fire.

Next, I stopped at Granville Island Public Market to 
peruse fresh fish, fruits, sweets, crafts and other items for sale. I sat outside the market’s main building at a picnic table with the city’s harbor and snow-capped peaks in sight. Musicians played in the background as I enjoyed the cityscape.

“As Canadian climate goes, Vancouver has a very mild temperature,” said David Rose, tour manager for Collette Vacations. “It’s a great place. You can go to the beach and go skiing in the same day here.”

After a day of admiring Vancouver’s blend of nature and modern city life, I learned the joys of overnight train travel on my way to Jasper. Jasper marks the commercial center of the Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies.

Once there, I checked into the first of three Fairmont properties that are used in the Collette Vacations’ itineraries: the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The 1922 lodge has 446 cabins spread out across the property for more privacy and more of a park lodge experience.

By the end of the day, I found myself in the outdoor heated pool despite the current snow shower. It was hard to convince my brain it was OK to swim while snow fell from the sky, but the water felt amazing.