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Taking the train is amazing. Have you done it recently? A train ride today usually entails free WIFI, the ability to walk around, a comfortable seat, air conditioning, and a window with a view of Canada that many don’t often get the privilege of seeing. The train from Vancouver to Valemount is so chalk-full of Canadiana and epic Canadian views that it’s aptly named, “The Canadian.” Couple this train-ride with a true blue rodeo in one of British Columbia’s best mountain towns, and you’ve got yourself an epic adventure.
The Train Ride
Before we launch into what you can expect on a Western Canadian train trip to a raucous rodeo, we should probably give a brief history lesson of why trains and Canada go hand-in-hand. Canadian Confederation may not have been possible without an extensive network of railways. Before Confederation, the separate colonial governments had invested nearly all of their money and resources into the expansion of railways within the country. As a result, a union was needed and encouraged with the promise of a transcontinental railway. All of this is to say, railroads are in the same tier of Canadian history and identity as canoes or beaver pelts. When you board a train in Canada, you’re entering a gateway to a past collective consciousness. Taking a train like a pretty cool history lesson; one that includes a plush chair and a moving vehicle dipping in and out of the Rocky Mountains, through lush forests, and next to and across swiftly moving rivers.
The 16-18 hour train from Vancouver to Valemount is worthy of a trip in its own right. Boarding is simple, seats are affordable, and if you book in advance, even sleeper class cars can be inexpensive. Hosts will ask you where you’re coming from, and where you’re going, and oftentimes, the stories of others will be enough to spur on conversation. People from all walks of life pack the economy class cars, and as such, they’re a proverbial gold mine for meeting people you may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.
The sleeper room cars are equipped with something akin to bunk beds, with one bed on top and another on the bottom. Walls are retractable, and if requested, can open up into bigger rooms or bed pairings. Depending on the season, the sun is apt to rise pretty early, but leave the blinds open for a natural alarm clock and sleepily watch the thick forests and towering mountains pass you by while lying in bed. How’s that for the start to the day.
But the best way to view the scenery is in VIA Rail’s infamous observation cars. There are two specially made cars for viewing the passing vistas and views: Touring class passengers can ride the Panorama Dome Car, which has six feet wide windows that stand at six and a half feet tall. These nearly floor to ceiling windows absorb 62 percent of harmful UV rays so you don’t catch a tan sitting in your seat. And the Skyline car made of multi-layered laminated glasss can resist an impact twenty times greater than a car windshield. These cars are accessible to anyone on a first come first serve basis and feature a small dining area below the seating. This car also features two booths with tables. As seating is on a first come first serve basis, it’s considered a cardinal sin to fall asleep in these dome seats, even though the gorgeous scenery and warm sun make it challenging to resist.
You can certainly pack your own food for this sixteen-hour trek, but VIA’s dining car is an incredibly unique place to eat, and not just because you’re on a train watching some world-class scenery pass you by. The food is great, and the kitchen sends it out quickly, especially so considering you’re on a train. Take a moment to appreciate cooking in a moving vehicle. Who needs a core workout when you’re a cook on a train? The breakfast is traditional (eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, fruit) and the best meal to indulge in as it’s served hot, but only served once on a first come, first serve basis. Lunch is served by group seating and those who ate breakfast first also receive lunch first. As you can imagine, the seating in dining cars is limited, so VIA has been forced to get creative with serving. The lunch menu is rather small but tasty and features staples such as pasta, sandwiches, and salads.
Along the way, the train conductor will announce if any interesting wildlife, waterfalls, or other notable features are passing by and slow down for photographs. So be sure to bring your camera and notepad.
The term “mountain town” conjures images of a small town, high in the mountains, surrounded by trees and fast flowing rivers, and certainly, Canada has a number of these towns. But few can boast a name as fitting as Valemount. In 1927, C.N. Rail set up a stop in a valley between the Rocky, Monashee, and Cariboo Mountains. Recognizing the need to name this stop, a survey was conducted among C.N. staff, which ultimately settled on “Valley in the Mountains,” before refining it to a shortened Valemount, the name the town still bears today.
Valemount is the nearest community to the west of Jasper National Park and the nearest community to Mount Robson Provincial Park, which features Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. With Valemount’s proximity to these incredible parks, you may want to spend a few extra days exploring the many trails within the park boundries. Just make sure to be bear smart. Like any proper mountain town, it’s not just the location that gives this special area its mountain town classification, but moreover the people that inhabit the town. Hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, and fishing are all popular activities among residents, but the most popular outdoor pursuit could arguably be horseback riding.
You’ve likely heard of stampedes or rodeos, or perhaps you’ve seen them on television. But few rodeos’ compare to the Canoe Mountain Rodeo in Valemount. Every July the Canoe Mountain rodeo grounds draw cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation to compete in bull riding, bareback broncs, barrel racing, and more. If the typical events aren’t enough to keep you hyper-entertained, the rodeo features rodeo stunt shows that will raise you out of your seat. Finally, the sun lingers for an incredibly long time at Valemount’s latitude, but when it finally sets, kick up some dust at the equally legendary rodeo dance.
What To Bring And Tips – The Train
Schedule: The train doesn’t leave at the same time every day, nor does it operate every day, so be sure to check the schedule. Budget for some extra time on the rails. Mountains are known for fluctuating weather conditions and freight trains get priority on the rails.
Prices: Prices vary depending on the time of year, your cabin and class and seat selection. Sleeper cars are great as they are private and comfortable, but a little more expensive. Booking in advance is the best way to minimize the cost.
Meals: Breakfast and lunch are included in sleeper class tickets. Alcohol is not. Bring some cash if you intend to grab a few drinks ($6-8 each). Additionally, bring some snacks and drinks regardless of your class of seating.
Packing: Even if you book a sleeper class car, be sure to check your luggage to maximize space. Only bring the essentials in an overnight bag and you’ll be glad to have the extra space.
Travel Tips – The Canoe Mountain Rodeo
When: Saturday, July 9 and Sunday 10, 2016
Concession: Day one – 11:00AM – 1:00AM, Day two – 11:00AM-5:00PM
Start Time: Events begin on a Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 1 PM
Admission: $15 adult and $25 for a weekend pass. Seniors and students have access to $10 entry and a $15 weekend pass.
Saturday Night Dance With The Road Side Splinters: $10 admission. Starts at 8:00PM
Other Activities and Events In Valemount: Summer activities include Whitewater rafting, fly fishing, boating, mountain biking, ATV’ing, golfing, horseback riding, camping, and wildlife adventures. If you make the trip to Valemount in the winter, expect some world class snowmobiling, heli and cat skiing, ice skating, dog sledding and more.
Where To Stay: Best Western Valemount, Super 8 Valemount, Yellowhead Motel. Valemount also has an array of cottages and cabins, vacation rentals, and bed and breakfasts.
Like this post? Check out The Ultimate Guide To Surfing Epic Waves In British Columbia and A ‘Weekend In The Life’ With Instagrammers @EmanuelSmedbøl & @LittleBrownFox, too!