Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. I’ve lived in the Midwest (Chicago and Michigan) and grew up on the East coast; I’ve seen a lot of the U.S. I’m not one of those Americans who travel abroad and then says that they’ve “never seen their own country.” I’m fortunate enough to have done both. It’s not all about luck or good fortune; I’ve always been determined to get out there and see other places. Having done that, I know I’ve landed in an amazing place, and I never take it for granted. I am grateful every single day! (Check out this short video, by Ryan Gilbert, and get a very small glimpse of this place I love)
I live one hour north of Seattle and one hour south of Vancouver, in the San Juan Islands, Puget Sound. We are fortunate to live twenty minutes from the Canadian border, and only 2.5-3 hours from Whistler, BC (British Columbia). If you watched any of the 2010 winter Olympics and found yourself stunned by the incredible footage of the area, then you have an inkling of what we live around; and, Whistler is by far one of my favorite places to go: winter, spring, summer or fall. On a good day, with a short wait at the border and easy traffic, we can be there in 2.5 hours. That makes for a long day trip, or an easy weekend away; we’ve done both, countless times. (now check out this video from Tourism Whistler… uber kool!)
Whistler is special for so many reasons. In the winter, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the two peaks that make up “Whistler,” provide some of the finest skiing anywhere. Be prepared to see people from all over the world, as Whistler is definitely an international destination. Their ski school is widely considered superior, internationally, and we have met so many Europeans, South Americans and Australians, who come over for two weeks+, to learn to ski/snowboard in an incredibly beautiful place. It’s a smorgasbord of accents and culture, on slopes like Cougar’s Milk (my favorite); Cloude Nine; Jersey Cream; Blue Line; Jeff’s Ode to Joy, Marmony Ridge; Whiskey Jack; and many others. The snow is generally ideal, with classic western powder on long, diverse ski runs. Aprés ski in Whistler Village is the bomb! There are a wide assortment of restaurants to choose from, with everything from some of the greatest cinnamon rolls to sushi, fine Italian, Bavarian fondue, local Pacific NW fare, pizza and all kinds of pub food. Food in Whistler tends to be local, fresh and excellent. The people watching in Whistler Village is by far my favorite thing to do, and I can spend hours just sitting and taking it in.
In the spring there is still some skiing, but generally it’s the slowest time at Whistler. Personally, I’m a blue-bird-sky skier and spring skiing, on a good day, is my favorite. Spring at Whistler is also when bears come out with their cubs, and there are lots of bears around Whistler, as well as other wild life. Spring is also the perfect time to pick up new gear, as stores start clearing out.
Waiting in Line to go up and ride the Peak to Peak, I was reminded that all types of visitors like to explore the wild places at Whistler. Hiking shoes vary.
When summer arrives, the mountain bike park opens (thrilling scene!); bike trails all over the valley are busy; there’s fabulous hiking; golf; swimming in crystal clear, ice-cold lakes; an amazing farmer’s market every Sunday. The shopping is kick ass year round; but summer means more sales, as new inventory starts to arrive and stores want to get rid of last year’s gear. Summer brings lots of fun festivals, free concerts on the Olympic green (we saw Mother Mother this summer!), and a chance to ride up to the top, to experience the Peak to Peak, and take in the views. It is not at all unusual to see bears from the ski lifts or gondolas, in the summer months. Signs tell you to have your cameras ready. Our visit to Whistler included: a white knuckled lift ride to the top; iconic cairn sculpture atop Whistler peak, and view of Tusk, in the distance; the Olympic rings; a mountain biker checking out the run, with stunning vista as a backdrop; more scenic views from the top, and the Mt. Bike course for Crankwerks (AKA: Whistler’s Mt. Bike park)
The Peak to Peak, is amazing in itself, but against the backdrop of the Canadian coastal range it is just that much more extraordinary! The P2P gondola is the only one in the world connecting two separate mountain peaks, and holds the world record for longest free span 3.03 kilometers/1.88 miles point to point. It also holds the record for the highest distance above the ground, at 436 meters/1430 feet from the valley floor! Several of the cars have glass bottoms, but with or without that, it’s an incredible thrill. We found that the summer experience was that much more stunning, as the snow tends to diminish the heights— still not for the faint of heart. (Views from the P2P gondola, including a view looking through the floor grate, photo courtesy of L. Mora)
Want more thrills? Want to see more? Check out this mountain biker wheely his way down the trail, we’d just walked, and then make light of one of the scariest trails I’ve seen. Sheer drops, tight turns, and not much room for mistakes. Mountain biking from the top of Whistler is not for the average cyclist.
As fall moves into summer, and temperatures begin to drop, the biking continues, but everyone begins to get excited about the up-coming ski season. No doubt biking is huge at Whistler but ski and snowboard season rules! Year round, whether we’re on the mountain, dining, taking in a movie, shopping, or just watching the scene in The Village, Whistler is all about fun! It is one of the many reasons I love where I live, and a destination well worth putting on your Bucket List.
Here’s awesome Canadian indie group, Mother Mother (Infinitesimal), live at Whistler’s Olympic green, summer 2013:
I love to get feedback. Tell me where you’re from. What did you like in this post, what was missing? Do you live in a beautiful place too? Tell me about it, in the comments section.
Dawn Quyle Landau is a writer who prefers to “Free fall.” Her work has appeared in Tangerine Tango, Women Writers Share Slices of Life, edited by Lisa Winkler; Cascadia Weekly; The Outlier Collective; Bucket List Publications; and in her blogs, Tales From the Motherland and The Huntington’s Chronicles. Dawn is the mother of three mostly grown, amazing and adventurous kids; and best buddy to a studly lab, named Luke. She and her husband of 27 years, live a very good life surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the Pacific North West. She pinches herself every day, and ignores the bruises. She does not actually wear glasses, she’s just silly that way.