Newest Review: ... just starting to progress. Blackcomb immediately feels steeper and the immediate runs you will encounter on the gondula up will seem mor... more
Member Name: arnoldhenryrufus
Advantages: Spectacular scenery, something to suit everyones tastes
Disadvantages: It is a bit far to go from Shropshire
It has been thirty years since my hubby has seen his mom and I have never met her as we have only been together sixteen years. We speak every week on the phone but this year we have actually got the funds together and gone over to Canada for a week and met my mother in law of 93yrs young (she was fitter than me, lol). We visited in May 2009 and had a fantastic time with mom and seeing how beautiful Canada was, we stayed with mom in North Vancouver. As we were only there for a week we did a fair amount of family things and looked at a few local attractions; on a couple of days we went out to see some beautiful spots like Cypress Mountain, the Richmond Olympic Oval and Whistler. All these attractions will be hosting events during the winter Olympics of 2010; everywhere you went they were already selling Olympic memorabilia and cuddly mascots (which I thought were a little yuk, but it did mean that some of the cuddly mascots for Canada were reduced in price, bargain).
We left first thing in the morning around 0900hrs as it is a two hour drive along Highway 99 to get to Whistler Village and Mountain; at this point I have to say that the journey to and from Whistler is all part and parcel of the wonderful trip. As we travelled along Highway 99 we were greeted by some exceptional beauty as the views of the countryside and mountains came into view. As the road is so very wide you have a different view as you come back down it at the end of the visit. I was like a kid in a toy shop filled with excitement; it was just hubby and me in our lovely air conditioned hire car (which was also big and spacious) travelling along this lovely route. The snow capped mountains teasing as on the way getting larger and larger as we neared them. My other love is 'big' Lorries and the roads were full of them many coming down from Whistler with felled trees on the back. Canada has no shortage of trees and the majority of the houses are made of timber. We also drove past a couple of Indian Reservations on our way and a few eating spots if we needed to stop including a MacDonalds (they do get everywhere).
Even though there were road works at places, there was absolutely no road rage or pushing in like you get over here. Everyone was courteous and we moved steadily forward; the whole journey had an element of peace about it, probably from the beautiful scenery around you, it would be hard not to appreciate it and be captivated by its beauty.
After a couple of hours we saw the signs for Whistler Village which we were advised to head for; the village itself is very modern and very big, with hotels all over the place I saw at least 4-5 of them and loads of shops. We followed the signs for the car parks of which there are 3 large ones, but one was closed as there was some building work going on, probably building more ready for next year's Winter Olympics. The car park is not marked out into bays like over here; it was just a bit of land that people literally parked where they liked and even blocked you in at times or at least made it difficult to get out (I do hope they sort that out for next year). Some of the 4 x 4's are so large here; we actually saw one parked up on a bank as there was nowhere else to park. We didn't realise it at the time but we were visiting slightly out of their busy seasons and the car park was full.
After we parked up we headed into the village at this point not sure where we were going. We met someone on route and they directed us through the village to the top of the hill and we would be able to go up to the top of Whistler. We started our walk through the town and I know it was still morning but I was quite shocked how few people were about and a lot of the shops looked closed, but that didn't bother us as we were there for the mountain and maybe the odd little gift on the way back down to take home with us. We did stop half way through the village to have a cup of tea and a light lunch, which turned out to be a very large burger and fries and was by no means small or light. Whilst we were sitting there waiting for our food, two crows flew down onto the empty table next to us and stole the little uht milk cartons which had been left there. I was gobsmacked I have not known birds to come that close and get that cheeky before, but the waitress informed me that they do it quite often.
Completely rested and refreshed we walked a little further up the hill through the village of the shops centred around the sporting activities that you can do on whistler with the odd tourist gift shop slotted in. At the top of the village we paid to go on a gondola (this is a closed cable car) which would take us to the peak of Whistler; as they were doing repair work on the neighbouring mountain we could not take the peak to peak (I do hope to visit again one day and do this trip). We paid I think around 50 Canadian dollars for our tickets, but to be honest neither of us could remember exactly what we paid, I just remember thinking that it was a bit expensive.
We were told to hang our tickets on a belt, bag or something so that it is on display; you were given a tag to do this with. After doing this we were moved forward to join one of the two queues; one queue was for the foot passengers and skiers and the other one was for the mountain bikers as they were taking their bikes in the gondolas with them, we all loaded into alternated gondolas. Going up we could only see one way as we were one of five in our carriage: it had its perks though as they kindly took a picture of us together. Hubby soon forgot his fear of heights when his breath was taken away by the spectacular views. My only disappointment was most of the pictures going up were taken through and dirty and scratched Perspex window. You stop half way up to let the bikers off to get to the bike track. This doesn't take long and the door closed again and you are back on your way, to the top. I remember reading a sign saying it is over 6000ft up and my ears did pop twice, once on the journey up to the village and again in the gondola going up Whistler.
At the top of Whistler you get out of the gondola onto a platform which leads to an Alpine type cabin that houses a cafe, shop and toilets, the toilets were spacious and very clean, the shop was expensive and sold manly skiing items and a few tourist gifts and the cafe sold refreshments and a choice of foods, we didn't really investigate it much as we had not long eaten. There was also a lot of snow about and I was in a short sleeved top, which didn't bother me, but hubby said he was getting very cold. The skiers walk across the snow to another hut and onto the various trails where they either enjoy skiing or snowboarding. We left them to it and went around the viewing station to enjoy the magnificent views, snow was everywhere and you were looking down over hundreds and thousands of Alpine trees, it was totally amazing to look down at such beauty; you could even see beautiful lakes in the valley's and across to the other mountains. It is a beautiful memory that will stay with us for the rest of our days.
People were walking across the snow to a monument for a photo opportunity; we declined this as one I didn't have the right footwear on for snow walking, but also there was a big drop behind that monument and we didn't fancy getting that close to the edge. After staying a while and taking hundreds of photographs we got on a gondola to make our way back down; this time there was just the two of us, so we were both standing up and I had my camera out of the little window and was clicking away hoping to get great pictures (which I did). I even managed to get a picture of the track which will be used for the bob sleighing in the Olympics.
Now you would think that was the pinnacle of our trip and we would set off back to moms on another two hour drive; you would think that it would be a bit of a letdown after the beauty you have just experienced (remember you came along the same road to get here); well that is what I thought at the time, and like always you feel a little deflated having to leave such a beautiful place. The thing is I couldn't have been more wrong, on the way back from Whistler heading along Highway 99 towards Vancouver now we were entertained by even more spectacular and beautiful views; we got a close look at some beautiful lakes as we came down the mountain, my dear husband chauffeured me along the route giving me the ideal opportunity to get my camera pointing out of the window and leaving me to happily click away taking loads more photos and giving us some wonderful happy memories. I even noticed that we passed the Olympic rings on the landscape but sadly my camera missed them and I could not persuade my hubby to turn around. We also noticed on the way back a pickup truck with dog standing in the back of the truck, it just goes to show how safe and laid back the driving is over here; the UK could learn a lot from them with the approach to driving. There was only one pull in to take photos of the scenery along the route coming down from Whistler (well only one that we really noticed as too busy looking at the views). I had to laugh when we stopped at this spot to take pictures as we could not see very much of the beautiful lake at all due to too many trees, so it seemed a bit silly to have this as a viewing spot, but not to miss an opportunity we both took photos of each other with big grins on our faces and then went back to our journey.
We stopped again on the way back for a short break at one of the many cafes/restaurants along the route before heading back to moms, we got home around 5pm so we really did have a good day of it and to be honest if the peak to peak was up and running we would have been home even later, it truly was a magical day out that we both thoroughly enjoyed.
~~ Whistler and the Village~~
Whistler is renowned as one of the top four season resorts within North America, it will be used as a site of the Alpine and Nordic venues for the Winter Olympics of 2010 and the Paralympics Winter Games , I for one will be watching these saying 'I was there'.
It was originally called 'London Mountain' after the British weather of all things due to the fog and heavy rain it can suffer and apparently also after a mining claim in the area. At around 1965 the name was changed to 'Whistler' after the calls of a squirrel type animal called a Marmot which lives in the Alpine forests of the mountains and they are also known locally as 'whistlers' due to their whistling calls.
Whistler Mountain has a top elevation of 2,181m (7,156ft), the other mountain which is called Blackcomb is slightly bigger at 2240m (7349ft). Whistler has an annual snowfall of approx 30ft which is great for its winter sporting activities but it also hosts other activities as well, through its warmer times, like mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and fishing. We were there in the spring and I felt it was quite warm; it averages around 11-15 degrees C (52-59 degrees F). It is a coastal area so temperatures can drop in the evenings.
During the summer months temperatures can fluctuate quite a lot (a bit like here really), they can be as low 9c (48f) up to around 23c (73f). As the autumn comes around the temperatures do start to drop dramatically to below freezing bringing cold rain and around November time you are likely to see the first snow falls. When winter sets in, it brings the snow and the temperature goes down to -6c to 0c (21-31f), but it can get a lot colder at the top of the mountains no matter what time of year you visit.
I mentioned the village earlier, but it wasn't until we were coming back through the village that we managed to get a guide map of the village itself, to be honest we were lucky to get this as all the information centres were closed, getting ready probably for the re-opening of Blackcomb Mountain. When I looked at the map I was quite surprised at how much the village had to offer, I mentioned a few hotels earlier, but looking at the map there were loads more than I originally thought. On our visit we stayed on the main road through the village, but there are lots of little side roads taking you to more shops and eating places, there is also an upper village as well on Blackcomb Mountain. There are also over 10 different places to eat so you are definitely spoiled for choice and if you do visit here I would recommend getting a copy of the map from one of the shops or the info booths if they are manned.
~~Peak to Peak~~
When you are at the top of the village you can either take gondola up to the top of Whistler Mountain or you can go up Blackcomb Mountain; each has a place for you to have a break with Blackcomb having its own little village for your perusal. When you are at the top of the one you can go peak to peak (sadly this was closed for repairs on the cables on Blackcomb Mountain during our visit). Peak to peak if a cable ride which spans 9921ft in a gondola going from Blackcomb Mountain across to Whistler and vice-versa. At times you actually travel two miles between the towers and this is actually the longest unsupported span of any lift of this type.
If you take one of the mountain walks you may be lucky enough to spot some of the wonderful wildlife that live in the forests and valleys, like the marmot, deer, pika (a rat type animal which is either grey or brown) and the famous brown bears; there are also lakes and creeks filled with fish like the kokanee salmon and some trout. They do ask though that you don't disturb or interfere with the wildlife and definitely do not feed them especially the brown bears and they do ask you to place your rubbish in the bear-proof garbage cans as the bears do have a tendency to try and pick up your scraps. There are signs around the trails so keep reminding you and help you on your ramble.
~~ For the Adventurous and the Sporty~~
Skiing and snowboarding - there are approx 200 marked trails for you to enjoy, catering for all levels from novices to the experienced, covering an area of approximately 3,300ha.
Whistler Adventure Zone - visit here and join in activities like paragliding, climbing wall, mini golf, horseback riding and a flying trapeze; this sounds exciting although we are not sporty enough to try them out.
Whistler Bungee - yes you can even experience a bungee jump, where you can drop 160ft (49m) down into the gorge, wow you won't find me brave enough to do that.
Ziptrek Ecotours - This is where you get strapped into a full body harness, it says on the site 'that you zoom across a series of five zip line cables that span the forest valley between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It is where you are flying along the air in a full body harnesses travelling over Fitzsimmons creek, this is not for the faint hearted.
Golf - there are four award-winning golf courses here, for those of you that enjoy a round or two of golf. They do advise you to book in advance especially during the summer months.
Mountain Biking - you can do cross country, free-riding, or downhill riding here, during the summer months they even open some of the ski trails for use with the bikes. They also play host to some popular biking events like the Kokanee Crankworx which is a premier bike festival held over nine days during August.
The bike park has 46 runs which stretch over 155 miles (250km) trails to suit all riders abilities; there are three skill centres, racing, drop-off, jump and slope-style parks; there is also an air dome which has a foam pit, resi-ramp and trampoline.
You can hire your bikes and gear here as well as booking lessons. From what I have researched about this I can only say that it appears that they offer everything to cater for all tastes in mountain biking.
Hiking - After the snow has thawed there are many hiking trails for the avid walker to explore; they offer Alpine trails, wildlife trails and guided trail tours. They also offer you practical advice and stock a good supply for all your catering needs, should you have forgotten any of your own kit.
If this is your activity then please take a look at the web site to be prepared www.WhistlerBlackcomb.com; again they offer trails for all levels of hiker from easy ones to advanced for the more experienced.
They do offer loads more, but I would go on and on forever; this place has so much to offer to suit everybody.
~~ How to Get there~~
Well firstly you need to get to Vancouver, Canada (we travelled with Thomas Cook), you can then go one of three ways, you can travel by car along Highway 99, or take a bus or even take the train, but you may wish to note that you cannot smoke or carry pets with you on any of these unless it is your own car and not a hire car. The train and bus do advise that you book in advance during busy periods as they can get booked up quite quick. Whatever way you decide to take I can guarantee that you will have a wonderful scenic route to Whistler.
I really enjoyed reliving this extra special day out and sharing it with you all; if you are ever fortunate enough to visit Vancouver, I would seriously recommend visiting here, the journey and the mountains were all outstanding and extremely beautiful. It is great for the average visitor like us, and for the more adventurous and sporty people out there as well. I was totally awe struck when I did my research for this review and saw what else it had to offer. I even had a weak moment and wished I was more active and sporty, lol; but it was only a moment.
Anyway thank you for reading and sharing my wonderful experience, I can only hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Summary: Spectacular scenery, something to suit everyones tastes
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