As we hurdle towards the start of summer, and thoughts turn to inspiration for an outdoor getaway, why not consider a family vacation to the Northwestern edge of the Garibaldi Provincial Park. Here you will find the home of the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort, and particularly the town of Whistler and Whistler Mountain. Originally named London Mountain after a local mining claim and at an elevation of 7,156 feet, the peak is a major feature of this famous snowboarding, mountain biking and ski resort. Following the development of the resort in the late sixties, the mountain’s name was changed to reflect the “whistling” call of the area’s native marmots.
At its summit, the Whistler Peak chair continues to transport some of the largest tourist numbers in British Columbia.
Situated 78 miles north of Vancouver, the town of Whistler plays host to some 2 million visitors annually. This largely pedestrian village has won prestigious design awards, resulting in a rightful place as a top tourist destination in North America. Featured in major skiing magazines since the mid-nineties, Whistler continues to draw thrill seekers in droves as they partake of this most sociable of sports. A major accolade in its recent history was Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics where most of the alpine skeleton, luge, nordic and bobsleigh events were held. The International Olympic Committee, by bestowing this honour, ensured Whistler a first as a community to receive this designation.
With its location on the rugged, picturesque Sea to Sky Highway – British Columbia Highway 99 – Whistler is served well by routes connecting to the British Columbia interior as well as the Trans-Canadian and Cariboo Highways. Indeed, getting there is a delightful experience in itself. For a slightly more relaxing journey, why not let the train take the strain? The Whistler Mountaineer – the only elite class rail service – runs between the town and North Vancouver, just a few scenic hours south. Although regular passenger rail services are no longer available, nearby towns such as Jasper are still serviced by the Rocky Mountaineer. If a coach journey sounds more appealing, services are provided by the Whistler and Valley Express with links to Squamish and Pemberton. Viewing this stunning region from the air is certainly not to be missed either. Be it by plane or helicopter, the Whistler/Green Lake Water aerodrome provides connections to and from several provincial cities. Whichever travel preference you favour, however, the region always serves up a lasting impression.
Diversity is very much the key word when describing the types of accommodation available. From hotels to condos, chalets, lodges, mountain homes or delightful B & Bs, the choices are as wide as the days are long. All offer a wide range of amenities with prices to suit all budgets and hotels all have 24-hour check-in services. To assist in your choice, a “Tourism Peak Rating” is applied from basic and moderate accommodation to luxury. Condos provide flexible self-catering or full daily housekeeping options in areas ranging from in-village to well off the beaten track. For those keen to put down more permanent roots and get away from it all, Whistler also offers chalets and private, custom-built homes which tend to be tucked away in more desirable locations. But whichever option you decide on, you’ll not be spoilt for choice. For a more comprehensive overview, please go to www.whistleraccommodation.com.
Forming part of an astonishing 8,100 skiable acres, Whistler Mountain and its immediate neighbour Blackcomb, offers three breathtaking glaciers, twelve alpine bowls, in excess of 200 trails, 38 ski lifts and seventeen restaurants. Impressive statistics by anyone’s standards. But it doesn’t end there. Running from mid June to mid October, The Whistler Farmers’ Market features local produce from the Pemberton Valley. It’s a great day out for the entire family, with face painting, artisan foods, street entertainers and loads more. If you’re a keen music fan, the Whistler Olympic Plaza is the venue for free outdoor concerts all summer long. Starting at the end of June until early September, this permanent venue, with a capacity of up to 5,000, is the place to go for arts, culture and music. Currently, if you book a three night stay by June 30, your third night is free. Prices start from $99 per night.
Fancy a barbecue at 6,000 feet? Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, from 5p.m. till 8p.m., the Roundhouse Lodge is the venue with live music. The Whistler Village gondola will whisk you skywards for a mouthwatering menu inside or outside on the mountaintop patio. The scenery and views are simply breathtaking. The Lodge is open from June 29th until September 1st and 7th. For reservations, call 1-800-766-0449. At the base of Blackcomb Mountain, in the Upper Village, you’ll discover the Family Adventure Zone. This is one venue guaranteed to tick all boxes. The Zone features a 315 metre downhill luge track, golf centre, bungee trampoline, electric go karts and plenty more. The Adventure Zone is ideal for small kids and big kids (and adults) and opens daily from June 15 until September 2, Sunday – Thursday 10a.m. – 6p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10a.m. – 8p.m.
New to the art of skiing? Wanted to try but never had the courage? No need to sit things out any longer. Comprehensive skiing tuition is widely available based on your own levels of competence. From complete beginner, with one to one tuition, right through to intermediate and beyond. Go to www.ultimateski.com for details of their services and you too could be well on your way towards your first adrenalin rush down the ski slopes.
No ski resort is complete without the apres ski nightlife, and Whistler is certainly no exception. Choose from over 90 restaurants. Sample sushi and saki, nibble at tapas, dance the night away to resident DJ’s, even after a day on the slopes. The choice is yours. One very prominent 5-star establishment is Dusty’s – “the perfect mountain pub”. Whether it’s savouring their award-winning barbecue, watching sporting events on their big screen TV, or partying the night away to live music, the options are endless. Check them out at www.facebook.com/dustyswhistler. For a genuine Irish pub, why not visit the Dubh Linn Gate at the base of the Village Gondola. With both a menu of traditional pub food and traditional Irish beers and Guinness on tap, this is one venue you won’t forget for all the right reasons. Go to www.dubhlinngate.com for more information.
With perfect powdered snow, its breathtaking scenery, superb nightlife and all round activities for the whole family, it is clear that Whistler provides precisely the right mix of visitor attractions. Is it little wonder that its tourist numbers continue to grow year on year. Why not reserve a week or two in your diary this summer and experience what this superb tourist spot has to offer.