For our one year wedding anniversary, Paul surprised me with a trip to Whistler in the Canadian Provence of British Columbia. I had never been to Canada (unless you count that time 15 years ago when my grandparents got lost on a road-trip and had to make a u-turn at the border).
SUMMER IN WHISTLER
Our home-base was downtown Vancouver, but after exploring much of the city, we decided to rent a car and drive up to Whistler. Prior to this, my only association to Whistler was the 2010 Winter Olympics, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in the summer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Whistler is a very active town regardless of the season and boasts average summer temps in the mid-80’s.
EXPLORING THE VILLAGES OF WHISTLER
Upon arrival, begin by wandering through Whistler Village, which is made up of three small villages, creatively named, The Village, Village North and Upper Village. They’re all walkable to one another, making for an enjoyable morning stroll. Offering a plethora of restaurants, bars, and kitschy shops, you’re sure to find something of interest. If you’re looking for a photo-op, Village North is home to Olympic Plaza, which houses the statue of the famed Olympic Circles.
After lunch, make your way through The Village to purchase tickets for the Peak 2 Peak 360 gondola. If you go during the busy season, purchase your tickets in advance online. The Peak 2 Peak gondola takes you between the mountain peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb. It is famous for holding the world record for the longest free span between ropeway towers, just under two miles! While you could easily spend all day on this excursion, I recommend at least two hours.
You’ll begin your journey in an enclosed gondola. As the gondola climbs, the views stretch out before you. Teal-colored waters, resembling the Caribbean come into view. Lush evergreen trees spread out like a velvety blanket below you. As you approach your first stop, at Olympic Village (also home to another Olympic Circle statue), the snow begins to cover the mountain floor. Here, you have the option to walk approximately 15 minutes to an open-air ski lift, whisking you up to Whistler Summit. The short ride is worth the time and fear-inducing heights. Whistler Summit is over 7,000ft in elevation and 100% breathtaking.
In June, the air temperature at the summit hangs in the high 60’s, but there is still snow and ice in some areas so take precaution. Confession, I wore sandals on this adventure, so be sure to pack something that doesn’t scream “I’m not made for this”.
After exploring the summit, board the Peak 2 Peak 360 Gondola to Blackcomb Mountain. There are two options, one is a typical enclosed gondola, and the other has a small glass cut-out on the floor. In my opinion, the extra 15-minute wait for the glass-bottomed gondola would be better spent sipping beers or souvenir shopping, as it tends to be overcrowded and underwhelming. Floating over 1,400ft in elevation, the Peak 2 Peak gondola takes about 25 minutes to reach Blackcomb. The summit offers incredible views and a spot to grab food or drinks.
Upon leaving Blackcomb, opt for the open-air ski lift down, this time, to the Upper Village. The ski-lift takes approximately 20 minutes and is a relaxing journey. The fresh Canadian-air, sweeping views, and peaceful quiet that you can somehow only find in nature are reasons enough to opt for the ski-lift. Remember to keep an eye out for wildlife. On our descent, we spotted the reclusive black bear! They’re magnificent creatures to see in person. Since they tend to stay out of direct human contact (thanks, bears), it’s truly exciting to witness them in their element.
Keeping in the outdoor spirit, head back to The Village. One of my all-time favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to rent a bike. Whistler has many bike paths, both paved and unpaved, and numerous bike-rental shops. Ask the bike shop attendant for recommendations on which paths to take, they range from quick treks to day-long rides.
Whatever path you chose, make it a point to explore Rainbow Park, on Alta Lake. It is accessible by car, hiking, or bike, and is only about 15 minutes outside of the villages.
As you approach the park, an incredible scene unfolds before you; massive, green lawns, a cool blue lake and the snow-capped peaks of Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains rising in the distance. Beautiful people in brightly patterned swimsuits dot the land and water. Volleyball games and golden retrievers fill the space. It was so stunning, my husband and I joked that we had discovered a place that didn’t actually exist. Bring your swimsuit and a light snack and bask like a local in the warm sunshine.
FLOAT DOWN THE RIVER OF GOLDEN DREAMS
Grab a raft and take a leisurely float down Alta Creek, charmingly called “The River of Golden Dreams”. Although we were unable to take this advice, we did ride past a portion of the river on our bikes, and it truly looked refreshing and relaxing. Meandering through the outskirts of Whistler, the river is only 5km in length, so it easily can be done on a short trip. It was said to have earned its name due to the golden-hued sunset that graces the evening skies.
SUNSETS & MOUNTAINS
If you have access to a vehicle and are heading back towards Vancouver, stop at Tantalus Lookout to watch the sunset behind the mountains. Not far from Tantalus is the stunning Shannon Falls. They rise over 1,000ft and are the third biggest falls in British Columbia. Lastly, a great spot for photo enthusiasts is Horse Shoe Bay. The tree-covered mountains jut of the smooth, glass-like water, resembling fjords.
Whistler proved to be a wonderful spot to spend a summer day. Who knew a world-renowned winter resort would be so summer-friendly. Paired with the lovely people and lively atmosphere, Whistler is not to be missed.