I still find it hard to believe that I have visited 31 countries, and somehow, Canada had not been on my travel map, even though I live in Idaho, a state that borders our neighbors to the north. But that all changed this February, when I saw that our friends at Face The Current magazine were giving away a trip to Whistler, British Columbia, complete with airfare, hotel, lift tickets, and snowmobile and zipline adventures. So, on a whim, I decided I wanted to experience what the contest winners would, so with the help of Tourism Whistler, I hopped on a plane and was off for my first adventure north of the border.
Before we check out my adventure though, make sure to enter the contest. Who could say no to a free trip to Whistler?
So off I was, flying past Mt. Rainier, on my way to the Vancouver airport, where I would take a 2-hour bus ride with Pacific Coach Lines on the Sea to Sky Highway. I had heard from friends that this is a stunning drive, and it did not disappoint. On the way north to Whistler, sit on the left side of the bus for the best views of dramatic fog and distant mountain peaks.
Once I arrived in Whistler, I checked into my incredible room at Evolutions in Creekside, just a short walk to the gondola that takes you up the Whistler side of the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. As the temperatures hovered around freezing all week, my in-room fireplace and giant bathtub would be a lifesaver after a long and tiring day on the slopes.
And those slopes, that’s what I was most excited about. I had heard that Whistler Blackcomb is one of the best places to ski and snowboard in North America, and I couldn’t wait to strap on my snowboard from Showcase Snowboards and check it out. And luckily, I had one of the best mountain guides possible in Jesse Millen. Millen is a pro snowboarder who has lived in Whistler for 10 years and knows how to take advantage of this outdoor playground. And so my four-day adventure in Whistler had begun. And I learned five things about this glorious destination.
The Mountain is Epic, Even if The Snow Isn’t
This winter has been rough for us powder hounds. After a pretty intense snow season last winter, this year was mainly a bust overall, at least in the places I usually frequent. Whistler was not immune to this either. Millen had told me that the season started off with a bang and he was hopeful for another winter of endless storm systems dropping fresh powder consistently. But it was not to be. The storms slowed, the air warmed, and the snow on the mountain had become icy at times, as it was two of the three days I went during this trip. But, even a Whistler with less than ideal snow conditions is an incredible experience. The mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, are huge, with 220 trails covering an astounding 8,100 acres. You can easily spend an entire day skiing and never once repeat a run.
The best parts of the mountains though are the peaks, especially Peak Lookout on the Whistler side. The 360-degree view is stunning, and the distant peak ‘Black Tusk’ makes for a great backdrop of photos of you and your friends. Although be warned: it is very windy and cold up here, so try not to have your gloves off for too long while taking photographs.
Sandwiched in between the two days with less than perfect conditions, we had awoken to 8 inches of beautiful powder and bluebird skies, which gave Millen and I an incredible morning session. I can say with 100% certainty that there are few places in North America as enjoyable as Whistler on a powder day.
Not speaking French, I was lost when I kept hearing Millen and others say ‘après.’ Not wanting to sound uninformed, I simply nodded my head in agreement. Well, I soon came to find out that après means ‘after’ in French, and this is what Whistler locals call the late afternoon parties in Whistler Village that start to heat up as the mountain starts to cool with the setting sun. This video on the Go Whistler Facebook page sums it up perfectly.
Whether it's après at Garibaldi Lift Co (GLC) – Whistler, fireside patio fun at Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub or bundling up for the Vodka Ice Room at Bearfoot Bistro; Whistler's nightlife is legendary! Tell us your favourite haunt and your next evening out could be on us! #OnlyInWhistler
Posted by Go Whistler on Friday, February 23, 2018
There Are Giant Zip Lines Running Across Mountains…And They Are A Great Place to Get Engaged
Generally, I am pretty unimpressed with ziplines. Sure they are fun, but they usually aren’t very long, or high off the ground. But, once I saw the massive superfly ziplines that stretched across Cougar Mountain, I was intrigued and wanted to see if they were as incredible as they looked. I met the team at TAG Whistler and off I went, high up the mountain. When I saw the first zipline, my heart started racing with excitement and nervousness. It was indeed huge. I couldn’t even see the landing platform. It was a kilometer long, 500 feet high and reached speeds of 100km hour.
I was strapped and ready, but nothing could prepare me for the exhilaration that overtook me as I raced across the canyon, frantically trying to take photos, which was not easy at such a high rate of speed. Once I hit the landing platform, I let out a loud “WOOOOHOOOO!” that echoed through the wilderness.
Three more ziplines and a phenomenal show of Alpine Glow as the sun set led to one of my most memorable experiences in Whistler. But it wasn’t nearly as memorable for me as it was for Jack and Stephanie, a couple in the group who got engaged on the final platform. Oh, did I mention it was Valentine’s Day? Nice work Jack, nice work.
Over some après beers, I told Millen and my friend and awesome Whistler-based photographer Blake Jorgensen that I was scheduled to go snowmobiling the next morning with Canadian Wilderness Adventures. They both immediately said “I hope you go up to Sproatt Mountain! It’s incredible up there.”
Well, sure enough, that is exactly what I did. I met my guide in the early morning, and off we went. We started by driving our sleds for about an hour up perfectly groomed trails that led to some narrow uphills that added a little challenge (and a lot of fun), before reaching Sproatt Mountain. And were those guys right. The views from the cabin overlooking a frozen Sproatt Lake were gorgeous under a rare clear sky.
As we waited for breakfast to be cooked in the cabin, we took our sleds down to the lake and had a great time speeding around in a big circle, hitting little jumps formed by the recent snow. After about 10 minutes, we had worked up a hearty appetite and headed inside for coffee and breakfast. And what a breakfast it was! A steaming delicious scramble and pancakes with Canadian Maple syrup made our bellies full and our hearts happy before we headed down the mountain.
The Yukon Breakfast tour is a must if you like to have a delicious meal with your morning adventure.
The Community is the Real Whistler
It’s hard to imagine a strong sense of community in a town such as Whistler, where most of the residents of the day will not be there tomorrow. But even in such a town filled with tourists and weekend warriors, I found that the locals are a passionate bunch who band together to enjoy everything that the region has to offer. It seemed everywhere I went with Millen and Jorgensen, they would always stop to talk to other locals they knew, laugh about some crazy adventure they all did together, and talk about when to do it again. The core of the community is the locals, and they all came to Whistler, British Columbia for a reason. They loved mountain sports, living an adventurous life, and being surrounded by some of the most stunning nature in North America. Many told me they came to work a winter season and just never left. Once you experience Whistler, it’s easy to see why.