Nestled within the Coast Mountains within one and a half heart-stoppingly beautiful hours of Vancouver, Whistler is the most visited mountain resort in North America, logging over four million visitors per year on average. Founded initially with the intent of bringing the Olympics of Vancouver in the 1960’s, the founding fathers suffered a setback on their first try, as Montreal was hosting the Summer Olympics during the same year in which they put their first bid.
The second time around, they weren’t as unlucky, as the mountain community was awarded the games along with Vancouver for 2010. The show that was put on won over many that were sceptical of its success, with mild weather and the death of a Georgian slider casting a pall over the opening days of the Games. Its massive success opened the world’s eyes further to the perfect mountainside accompaniment to the world class city of Vancouver to the south, as its lush forests, heavenly lakes, and deep, abundant powder on its peaks come winter matched Whistler’s contemporary with excellence in the natural sphere, just as Vancouver excels in its modernity.
This resort, after the frenetic pace of the big city to the south, will prove to be the perfect first taste of the Canadian wilderness that is rhapsodized by foreign media around the world.
The centrepiece of this community is the massive mountain complex of Whistler-Blackcomb, which has grown over the years to a mammoth 8,000 + acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain, offering everything from bunny hills to experts-only glade and bowl runs. Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains used to be physically separate, with a great deal of effort being required to get from one peak to the next. This difficulty was erased by the completion of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which connects the upper mountain areas of both peaks with a 4.4 kilometre span.
In summer, when the snow has melted (and even then, glacier skiing/boarding can continue into July some years), the mountains are turned over to the cyclists, as features are installed to make this place a mountain biker’s dream.
For those that don’t find hurling themselves down 5,000 vertical feet an appealing way to spend a mountain holiday, there are plenty of other ways to make the most of your time in this paradise. Lost Lake Park is an excellent place to engage in these lower-key forms of recreation, as there are many trails for trekkers and cross-country skiers. Additionally, there is a beautiful lake that gets to be the warmest in the Whistler area (still very refreshing to what some other people are used to in warmer climes), drawing locals looking to beat the heat in the most effective way possible, or those just looking to suntan/hang with friends in inspired surroundings.
If hitting little white dimpled balls is a passion of yours, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many well-designed golf courses within the Whistler valley. One of these has been created by legend Jack Nicklaus, making the appropriately named Nicklaus North being the most sought after courses in the area.
If you recoil at the thought of sweating, the sights alone are worth the trip to Whistler, British Columbia in addition to the excellent amenities that await you after a busy day taking in one of most special natural places in Canada. First, take the Sightseeing Gondola @ Whistler/Blackcomb, which uses the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to showcase the scenery of the valley below, as well as the peaks of the Coast Range that will spread out before your eager eyes.
Next, take your rental car and make for Brandywine Falls, a powerful waterfall that requires little physical effort on your part. After parking your ride, only a 500 metre walk separates you from a massive torrent of water that drops 70 metres from a cliff top into a dramatic gorge below. Drop by in the autumn for optimal pictures, as the changing colours of the leafy trees makes for the perfect photographic accompaniment.
Finally, the base of Whistler Mountain has developed a resort village that has become a showcase for amazing new restaurant and bar concepts. Additionally, many shops selling everything from top line outdoor gear and apparel to a variety of gifts, crafts and knick-knacks will keep you busy strolling the labyrinthic streets of this pedestrian-friendly development for most of the day that you dedicate to exploring it.