Northern America, and in particular British Columbia, must be rated as one of the most beautiful places on earth. Whether your interest lies in the jagged peaks of the Rockies, the stunning lakes and forests, the lore of the First nations and ancient totems of the Queen Charlotte Islands, there is just too much to take in during one short visit, and you will want to return again and again.
Canada is a vast country, stretching from the Southern Border with the USA to the shores of the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. The winter climate is not everybody’s cup of tea, but during the summer months you can feast your eyes on some spectacular scenery. Winter months provide the essential snow, while the colours of Fall are simply breathtaking.
Whistler has been described as impossibly beautiful. The village is situated at the base of two mountains just north of Vancouver, and provides some of the best skiing and other snow sports options, outdoor activities, cultural events, and a selection of great restaurants, hotels and guest services. They truly cater for the whole family.
To reach Whistler you follow a scenic 2 hours route from Vancouver, viewing the island dotted bay, before the coastal road turn inland towards the glacial mountains. Blackcomb, Whistler and Garibaldi mountains have an elevation in excess of 7000 feet, and a flight by floatplane is the best way to fully appreciate the view.
The name Whistler originates from the sound made by a small mammal, the marmot, but there is other hardy wildlife around. This includes some beautiful birdlife, the black bear, the playful whiskey jack, or pika. I was initially very worried about running into a “vicious bear” but a local resident assured me all I need to scare away the beast is a tiny bear bell. Fortunately I never had to test this theory as I was safely positioned inside my car when the first encounter happened – what a majestic animal!
The village offers every service you need, including a nice library and some pampering facilities for the ladies. The village always seems festive, especially when transformed into Winter Wonderland. You are spoilt for choice iro accommodation to suit your pocket. We found a comfortable, quiet apartment near the Lost Lake – a nice change if you like to get away from the crowds! There is a reliable bus service to the more remote locations, but I quite enjoyed the brisk walk into town every day, secretly hoping to see my first bear.....
Skiing is the main reason why so many people travel to Whistler. Regular chairlifts or high speed lifts are available to transport skiers and snowboarders to the more than 200 trails. Some top notch instructors are always available to offer assistance, where ski levels cater for beginners as well as the most advanced. Some of the jumps are only attempted by the most daring skiers. Helicopters are required to take the adventurous athletes to some of the inaccessible areas.
These facilities came to good use during the well organised 2010 Winter Olympics, but some regular competitions attract large numbers on a regular basis. Some of the more unusual activities on offer include snow mobile rides, an overnight snowshoe tour, or a helicopter ride and glacier picnic.
During the summer months there is a huge choice of action packed activities. The avid golfer can swing a club on one of many courses, some of them designed by Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, with the spectacular backdrop of snow-capped mountains. The many walks, cycle tracks and horse trails provide options to nature lovers of all ages. Five lakes can be found in the area, allowing plenty of opportunity for fishing and other water sports. One of my most memorable water experiences however was the performance of a brass quintet, seated on their floating stage.
You can also use Whistler as home base to explore BC’s many other attractions like Squamish, Pemberton, Harrison Springs, Vancouver Island, the Brandywine Falls, and if you don’t feel like doing the driving, there are BC circle tours to choose from.
Remember to keep your shopping slips, as non-Canadian residents can claim back the rather complicated taxes. To do this, collect a GST rebate form from the Whistler Activity & Information Centre, or your reservation agent.
Transportation [by bus] is available from Vancouver Airport, but in such a lovely country an affordable rented car allows more flexibility to explore! Once you got the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road.....
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