“The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world.” Georges Simenon
Whistler Village is only a couple of hours drive north of Vancouver in Canada and it’s such a fun place to visit, especially if you love spending time outdoors. The Village is located at the foot of two beautiful mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb – and there are several gondolas and chair-lifts operating throughout the year to take you onto the mountains (with a few less operating during off-peak season).
I’ve been to Whistler in both seasons and have gone skiing, biking and hiking here. In this week’s blog I’ll talk about my skiing and bike riding experiences, while next week I’ll share an amazing hike from Whistler summit.
My first trip was 20 years ago, in January 1994. My brother, Ross, had given my younger sister and I ski lessons on Grouse Mountain (in Vancouver) for Christmas and this was our first opportunity to try out our newfound skills. I remember being very nervous, because I hadn’t been that adept during our lessons. The main problem had been the lack of decent snowfall on Grouse; which meant we basically learnt to ski on ice (or more accurately, in my case, learnt to fall on my ass).
But in Whistler there had been plenty of snow and I was astonished to find that I could actually stay upright and I enjoyed some of the easier runs. It was so much fun.
Even back then, Whistler and Blackcomb mountains were very well known as a top skiing destination. But there has been a lot of development since then, which culminated with the resort hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. Today, the mountains offer over 200 marked runs, 8171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers.
It has also been developed nicely into a four-season resort, with plenty to do in the summer months as I discovered on my return to Whistler last year (in September). It was a great opportunity for me to spend time with Ross, and we wandered around the Village, hired some bikes to ride alongside the lakes in the Valley, and ventured up into the mountains to go hiking.
I was really surprised to see so many mountain bikers; and it seems that some of the ski routes become bike trails during the summer. The Whistler Mountain Bike Park has over 200km (120 miles) of trails. Although we didn’t try mountain biking, it was certainly entertaining to watch.
The fully-paved Valley Trail is an easy bike ride through Whistler Valley and was perfect for us. Ross hadn’t been on a bike for a very long time and I was out of practice, having spent most of the year training for my US hiking trip. We didn’t have a computer, so I’m not sure of the exact distance we rode, but it was probably about 30km. And it was just so nice to be back on a bike.
We set off from the village and headed to an underpass below the highway. From here, we cycled alongside the Whistler Golf Club until we reached a series of lakes – Alta, Nita and Alpha. It was such a pretty ride through sections of forests that cling to the lakes. We also crossed over railway tracks at various points, as this is the route of the famous ‘Rocky Mountaineer’. The train station is located near Nita Lake and the bike path actually skirts between the station and the lake.
We re-traced our route via Alpha and Nita lakes to get back to Alta Lake, but then cycled around the west side of that lake. From here, there were spectacular views across the lake to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, which were partially shrouded in clouds.
Note: there is a short section of the ride on Alta Lake Road (which has very little traffic) before the trail re-commences in Rainbow Park.
From Rainbow Park, the trail heads away from the lakes and into the Emerald Forest Conservation Area. On a hot summer’s day, this section is a lovely cool interlude. There is a junction just beyond here, if you’re ready to return to the Village, but we decided to continue a bit further so we could see picturesque Green Lake.
At times, we did get a bit confused by the direction of the trails (particularly in Meadow Park, near Green Lake). But it was such a lovely ride and any small diversions were not a hardship. From here it was only about 15 minutes ride back to the village, where we returned the bikes and then headed into Whistler Village for a hearty Italian meal.
Have you been skiing at Whistler, or tackled some of the bike trails in the valley or on the mountains? I’d love to hear about your experiences.