Whistler was the first stop on our road trip through the Canadian Rockies and proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. It had it all: mountains for as far as you could see, metres of snow, tranquil lakes hidden in woods so dark and deep, I thought I was in a Robert Frost poem and a charming, accessible, snow globe village. My daughter, Melissa and her husband Ben spent a year in Whistler, as many young Aussies do, and to this day it holds a special place in their hearts. I now appreciate why they found it so difficult to come home!
On a cloudy, grey day, with our luggage in tow, we made our way from the Sylvia Hotel in the West End to the airport where we picked up our car. Using the excellent bus and train system, it was surprisingly easy and cost only a few dollars. Having said that though, a taxi would have only cost us around 25 dollars. We chose the former because we had time and wanted to pretend we were young backpackers if only for a few hours.
The drive from the airport into the city and over the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore was not too difficult. Our car didn’t come with sat nav and we chose not to upgrade. Kenn was confident that he still had excellent map reading skills and sure enough we soon found ourselves zooming over the bridge and onto the Sea to Sky highway. We had scarcely travelled 30 kms and the weather started to clear. The highway skirts the coast with wonderful views over the ocean and then climbs firstly to Squamish and finally to Whistler. The drive was breathtaking, so much so that I forgot to take photos. I just wanted to look and look some more.
The Summit Hotel and Spa
We stayed at the Summit Hotel and Spa located on Main St close to the Marketplace and the Town Plaza, a great location as it turned out. Initially, I chose this property because I found an incredible special on booking.com and after checking with Melissa re location and facilities, booked. In fact it was so good, that when we went to check in at reception, the girls had never seen a booking so cheap! Was I a forger? A cheat? The back records had to checked to verify my booking.com reservation confirmation. A few anxious moments … and then smiles all round.
We certainly couldn’t fault our apartment. It featured a separate bedroom, a living room complete with kitchenette and gas fireplace, a luxurious bathroom and a delightful balcony overlooking the pool and hot tub with views to Blackcomb mountain. A perfect home away from home for four nights! Leaving our unpacking for later, we spent a wonderful afternoon exploring the village and getting our bearings. Just around the corner from the Summit we discovered an Aussie pie shop (peakedpies.com) which had an amazing variety of gourmet pies at reasonable prices. Just the thing for a late lunch.
The next day dawned cloudy, cool and overcast but rain was not predicted so we decided to walk the Lost Lake loop. This was on Melissa’s must do list. It was an easy 5 to 10 km walk. Initially we walked through woods, dark and deep until we reached the lake.
Crossing a wooden bridge over a bubbling stream,
we came to a pontoon.
Here we had to stop . There’s just something about wooden walkways that invite one to explore…
This would be a perfect spot for yoga, I thought. I could visualise myself attempting downward dog listening to the water lapping the deck, drifting into a zen like state. But my vision was shattered when Melissa told me that this is a favourite swimming spot for the nudist community. I couldn’t believe anyone would actually enjoy swimming here. I had dipped a toe into the water and even if I had a thermal wetsuit on, I wouldn’t dive in let alone clothed only in my birthday suit! Bits would freeze off I’m sure.
We resumed our walk and every turn of the track seemed to give us yet another vista of peacefulness. We returned by taking the track to the upper village along a delightful covered bridge.
It was time to tick off another item on Melissa’s must do list. Eat a zog dog and poutine. Essential Canadian fare! I can’t report that we found them super delicious. A Zog dog is a saucy hot dog and poutine is basically hot chips with gravy and cheese curds. They were a bit salty and stodgy, perhaps best consumed on a cold winter’s day after a run down the mountain. Then, I imagine they would really hit the spot. We wandered back to the Summit where we enjoyed an hour or so in the hot tub and sauna before indulging in a great value for money dinner at the Spaghetti Factory.
It was packed but it was no hardship to sip a cocktail or two while we waited for a table.
The Peak to Peak Gondola
This has to be the best gondola ride on the planet. The sheer scale of the Peak to Peak Gondola is breathtaking. We scored a beautiful day and made the most of it. First of all, we rode the gondola up Whistler mountain.
Up you go, up some more and when you think you have reached the summit, you go up, up and up! Below, the village dwindles away.
As the summit, we grabbed a bite to eat and then explored a little before climbing aboard the Peak to Peak gondola.
We found the Olympic Inunshuk and of course took a photo in front of the Olympic Rings.
Going across to Blackcomb mountain on the gondola allows you unparalleled mountain and valley views. We were lucky enough to catch the glass bottom gondola as well. It’s a long way over as you can see in these photos.
Once we reached Blackcomb, we watched the skiers and snow boarders flying down the mountain. Skiing in late Spring! We could have caught the gondola back to Whistler mountain and then down to the village but decided to catch the Blackcomb chairlift down the mountain instead. And we saw bears! Playing in the flowers! What a day!
Walking on top of the world.
The following morning was also wonderfully sunny, so we caught the Whistler gondola up the mountain again to walk the only Alpine track that was open. It took us to Little Whistler Peak. Although we have walked to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko in Australia, this was very different. There was so much snow and ice and we were so much higher. The air felt so clean, so good that you just wanted to drink it all in.
The walk follows a service road and climbs very steadily to the peak. As you round bends in the road and look behind you, wonderful vistas open up.
Soon, we found ourselves walking between walls of ice that seemed to get higher and higher as we climbed.
And there were ice sculptures!
All too soon, we were at the end of the walk, feeling at one with the world.This was such a lovely thing to do. Descending on the gondola, we were captivated by the mountain bikers taking on the mountain. This was not an activity that I wanted to pursue but what an adrenaline rush for the riders!
These were some of the highlights of our Whistler stay. Of course there was so much more: museums, cafes and restaurants, bike rides and of course hot tubbing our aches and pains away under the stars, just to list a few.
While Whistler comes into its glory in the winter, it’s a wonderful destination that offers so much all year round to visitors of all ages. We were sad to go.