If you are a runner, biker, hiker, or a skier or a generic outdoor recreational enthusiast, Whistler Mountain in British Columbia, is your dream come true?
There is so much of the outdoors to love and appreciate here that you will pinch yourself and think, "can this be heaven?"
We won a silent auction for a trip to Vancouver and a three-night stay at the Fairmont Hotel Chateau- Whistler. My husband won this almost a year ago. He thought for a while that we were going to Banff or Lake Louise.
A week before the trip, I started researching the Fairmont website to check the hotel amenities and to read about Lake Louise. The photos of the hotel were beautiful and the area, more so. I had heard of Lake Louise from my friend, John Nish, but I didn't realize how beautiful it was. Well, my husband had been visiting family in Michigan, and when he returned home that week, he checked the award documents and wouldn't you know it, we were going to the Fairmont in Whistler.
Well, if you compared the photographs of Lake Louise and Whistler, you will understand how going to Whistler was a total let down.
My attitude changed when we commenced our road trip to the mountains.
Rather than take a shuttle to Whistler from the airport, we decided to rent a car. The shuttle costs about CAD 100 each way per person, which was expensive. The vehicles cost the same, but it gave us more flexibility.
Downtown Vancouver was a bottleneck, and it took us most of an hour to go a mere 12 miles from the airport. Our destination was Highway 99 or the Sea to Sky Highway, the mountain road to Whistler. To get there, we had to go through downtown to the Lions Gate Bridge over the Burrard Inlet. The Lions Gate Bridge connected Vancouver to North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and points north. It was slow-moving, but we understood it to be the best way north.
Our first sight of the Lions Gate Bridge was amazing! The suspension bridge, about 4000 feet long with 364-foot towers overlooking the waters of the Vancouver Harbour, was a sight to behold. All thoughts of the irritating traffic jam disappeared, and I tried to get as many photographs as I could in a moving car!
Getting off the bridge, we traversed through relatively small city streets in and around North and West Vancouver to connect to Highway 99. As we got to Highway 99, we understood why it was called the "Sea to Sky Highway." It is one of the most scenic drives we have ever taken. We were following pristine waters of the Howe Sound for the first 20 plus miles to the City of Squamish and then 30 miles of steep summits (part of Mount Garibaldi), spruce laden mountain terrain. The mostly two-lane road climbed, dipped, and zigzagged along sheer cliffs following the Howell Sound. My husband complained that he could not enjoy the scenery because driving on the curving roads was challenging.
Inspired by the success of the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, a group of Vancouver entrepreneurs began to dream of building a ski resort to bring the 1968 Winter Olympics to Alta Lake (former name of Whistler Mountain). Up to the 1960s, this area was mostly uninhabitable. There was no infrastructure and no utilities. There were no roads from Vancouver to Squamish.
Between 1962 and 1965, Garibaldi Lift Company raised funds to begin the development of the ski resort. It was also in 1965 that London Mountain became Whistler Mountain. Locals already called it that after the whistling sound of the marmots, which a kind of squirrel.
Whistler Mountain officially opened in 1966 for skiing, and the new era for Canadian skiing began.
Canada won the bid for the 1976 winter games, but because the summer games were in Montreal, they could not have both Olympic games in the same city in the same year.
Fast forward to 1980 with the opening of the Blackcomb Mountains and 1992 when Whistler became the #1 ski resort in the world. Finally, in July of 2003, Whistler, in partnership with Vancouver, won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
If you are a runner, biker, hiker, or a skier, you've come to the right place. Most leisure opportunities in Whistler are of the outdoor adventure variety - mountain hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, gondola excursions, bobsleighing, kayaking, bungee jumping, and zip-lining. There's even a school to teach kids how to mountain bike.
While Whistler opened as a ski resort, the summer has grown to be as popular as the winter. There are less strenuous outdoor activities like fishing, golfing, sailing, tennis, and others, as well as many music and art festivals, summer theater, photograph workshops, and stargazing.
The scenery and the weather were spectacular, and "drinking" that all in was enough for us. We drove about 30 minutes to the next town north of Whistler called Pemberton. The scenery there was spectacular as well.
On the way back to Vancouver, we took advantage of the different overlooks on the Sea to Sky Highway to take pictures. It is hard not to "gush" about Whistler and Highway 99. Take a trip out there, and you will know what I mean!
Read about Vancouver which is an early favorite city I consider the "best place on earth