Davey Barr has lived in Whistler all his life. When Whistler Traveler asked him to describe a perfect day there, he said, “…mid week, blue bird spring morning on the mountain with 30 cm of fresh snow, followed by a mountain bike ride to top it all off. The ultimate dual sport day!”
About 60 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler has grown into maybe the best all-amenities-resort area in North America. With 8,171 acres of skiable terrain making it more than twice the size of Vail, Whistler, the biggest ski area in North America, also has the longest ski season, normally from November to July. But Whistler isn’t just about skiing. We were there in September and the place was jumping.
It’s no surprise that Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics with grace. An Olympic Park was developed here for alpine events–Nordic combined, cross-country, biathlon, and ski jumping. The Vancouver to Whistler Sea to Sky Highway was completely redone. On this road, one of the world’s most beautiful drives, The Tantalus Lookout provides one of this planet’s most spectacular views. There are other travel options to Whistler. like the Mountaineer, a train from Vancouver that operates from May through September.
Garibaldi Whistler Mountain opened in 1966 with a single gondola and chairlift. Thirty-three years later 7,160 feet Whistler Mountain and 8,000 feet Blackcomb were combined and Whistler became the first resort in North America to welcome more than 2 million skiers in a single season.
What can visitors do in Whistler that they can’t do in Vail? Legally buy a Cuban cigar. Experience Peak to Peak. Learn about the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations in their Culture Centre at the intersection of Lorimer Road and Blackcomb Way. Walk slowly through Whistler Village, the area’s unofficial capital.
Whistler Valley has grown to 18 distinct neighborhoods where celebrities like Justin Timberlake are “rumored” to own property according to Whistler Traveler. The Valley has accomplished this growth without seeming overcrowded and overdeveloped, an amazing feat.
Peak to Peak was the ultimate experience on our most recent visit. Unlike us, access it fairly early in the day and allow several hours to ride more than once in one of this engineering marvel’s 28 gondolas that can hold 28 people and takes only 11 minutes to travel from Whistler to Blackcomb. Holder of 3 world records–longest unsupported span, highest lift of its kind over a valley floor, and longest continuous lift system–Peak to Peak whisked us across the sky for almost 3 thrilling miles. Because it was September, Ruth, Bob, and I had to access Peak to Peak via the Whistler Village Gondola to Roundhouse Lodge. We delighted in sharing this ride with excited kids, mostly boys, determined to use the Whistler Mountain Bike Park as often as they could before the gondola shut down for the day. Below us all the way up and back were, not the expected bears, but focused mountain bikers ripping down 155 miles of downhill trails maintained because they service the lifts.
I learned in Visitor’s Choice that Whistler got its name from the calls of local hoary marmots, full-figured ground squirrels. They whistle. You will too when you have an ultimate dual-something day there like Davey, Bob, Ruth, and me.
PS: 30 cm is almost 12 feet! If you want inexpensive tasty italian food in an unpretentious setting while in Whistler Village, go to small, terrific Lupino’s.