Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Blackcomb Mountain is North America’s only mile-high mountain, with, literally, a 5,280-foot drop.
- Vancouver/Whistler sought the Winter Olympics three times (1968, 1976, 1980) before the 2010 win.
- But, after Denver turned down the 1976 Winter Olympics, Whistler declined as well.
- Whistler is named for the shrill whistle sound made by marmots that live among the rocks.
- Whistler Blackcomb is the only North American resort offering skiing and snowboarding on a glacier.
An Olympian ski resort
Much can be said for creating a resort town from the ground up. That is essentially what happened at the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia.
The Whistler town site was home to a few lodges from early in the 20th century; area lakes and rivers made this a popular, although-not-very-accessible, summer destination for anglers. Natural resources brought loggers and miners, too.
In the early 1960s, Vancouver businessmen, eyeing a chance to host the Winter Olympics, settled on Whistler Mountain for development, a site in the backcountry wilderness, but only 73 miles from their city. They initiated construction of ski facilities and a resort town to match. That development triggered road upgrades to make Whistler more accessible, too. Vancouver (with Whistler) finally hosted the Olympics in 2010.
Meanwhile, Vancouver’s visionaries had created a charming alpine pedestrian-only village that provides ready access by foot to ski lifts, accommodations, restaurants, shopping and numerous other diversions.
Planners can take credit for the aesthetic appeal of the resort town — even for installing the ski facilities on Whistler and later Blackcomb, but in the end, the success of Whistler as a vacation destination is down to the area’s incredible natural resources.
In winter, the prime attraction, of course, is the two mountains, considered by many to have the continent’s greatest vertical-rise slopes. Nowadays, when it snows, visitors have many choices besides downhill skiing — cross-country skiing, dogsledding, heli-skiing, sleigh riding, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
The mountains are a potent attraction in summer, too, for climbing, hiking, mountain biking and more. In the valleys, vacationers pursue other interests: canoeing and kayaking, golfing, horseback riding, river rafting and the long-time favorite, fishing. And they go swimming at a lake with a tantalizing name: It’s called Lost.
In fact, the destination is mature enough that a vacationer can enjoy the ambience of boutiques, galleries, photography and other entertainments while ignoring all the demanding activities.
Visitors have few negative comments about Whistler except that it’s expensive. The best antidote to that is timing. Avoid the peak season; come in the spring or autumn for better seasonal rates.
Things to do for Venturers
- In summer, snowboard on a glacier at Blackcomb Mountain. But if you visit in winter, go for quite another adventurous option — heli-skiing.
- Get your license and take a guided winter fly-fishing trip. You may come back to base with char, salmon, steelhead and trout.
- Follow one of numerous hiking trails on Whistler Mountain after taking a gondola up to your starting point at Roundhouse Lodge.
- In summer, challenge yourself on a mountain bike in the Whistler Bike Park. Its trails are accessed via lift.
- Register for one of the two-to-four-day Whistler Art Workshops on the Lake. Classes, designed for those at the beginner to intermediate level, provide instruction in acrylic, oil and watercolor painting, sketching and life drawing.
- Ski those long drops on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. If you are up for it, check out apres-ski social options, too.
Things to do for Centrics
- Ride the Peak to Peak Gondola between the Whistler and Blackcomb peaks. It has the world’s longest unsupported lift span (1.88 miles).
- Watch the professionals and sample the entertainment at the April TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
- Travel to Brackendale, 32 miles away, in January for the Bald Eagle Festival. You can see the eagles diving for salmon in the Squamish River throughout winter.
- Hike or do some kayaking in the Whistler Interpretive Forest. Or, in winter, use the same terrain for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
- Ride on a dogsled. Or, be a little more comfortable and take a sleigh ride.
- Take the cool (literally) 90-minute tour — on an underground train — through the defunct Britannia copper mine at Britannia Beach about 30 miles from Whistler.
Things to do for Authentics
- Learn about the area’s original inhabitants at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center. Local First Nations people participate to make this an enriching experience.
- Follow the ArtWalk trail in Whistler Village to see local art and crafts in nontraditional gallery settings. If the timing is right (early July), attend one of the opening receptions for the two-month event.
- On some summer Sundays, taste artisan foods and see live cooking demonstrations at the Whistler Farmers’ Market. Buy your favorites to carry home.
- Go swimming in an area lake. Also, play golf.
- Attend the summertime Whistler Dragon Boat Festival and watch others paddle furiously.
- After your ski sessions, take advantage of options for comedy, dance, music and theater, which are offered in an annual Performance Series.
For more information, consult Tourism Whistler at www.tourismwhistler.com