Our family had a wonderful stay in Whistler during a summertime vacation in British Columbia, and I encourage you to consider this world-class destination for your next family getaway if your vacation style is the same as ours - active!
Three of us made the trip - my wife and I, along with our 16-year-old son. We prefer active vacations, and look for destinations which offer a wide variety of exciting, challenging activities. Having experienced Whistler in the summertime, we guarantee that it offers limitless options - perfect for the active family!
You have heard the phrase 'getting there is half the fun' - well, let me offer up a drive that captures the essence of that phrase perfectly: the
Sea-to-Sky Highway! This stunning journey from Vancouver to Whistler was reconstructed in advance of the
2010 Winter Olympic Games, and it provides breathtaking vistas along the way. We stopped three times along our journey - twice to take in the awesome views at two sets of falls (
Brandywine) and once at one of the many pull-offs where signs indicate that the views are outstanding. Build in some extra time to enjoy the drive up to Whistler, and make the drive in the daylight!
Whistler itself is so packed with family-friendly activities that you will likely struggle in selecting which ones to enjoy! We are Olympic 'super fans' - we have been to four Olympic Games: Athens, Beijing, Vancouver & London, and we have seen over 20 events including the Opening Ceremonies in Athens - so a stop at
Whistler Olympic Park was a must!
Ever wonder what an
Olympic Ski Jump Hill looks like? Well, you quickly learn that it is as steep as it looks on TV! Be sure to stop at the
Olympic Biathlon Range for a cool experience. For a nominal fee, you are instructed and then shoot live bullets (.22 calibre) at real targets on the actual Olympic Biathlon range. The instructors are thorough - we hit 14 of 15 targets...not bad considering none of us had ever fired a gun before!
We also recommend that you experience the
Whistler Mountain Bike Park. This brilliantly designed facility features paths of all difficulty levels that wind their way through three well-delineated zones: Fitzsimmons Zone, Garbanzo Zone and Peak Zone.
For the pros, the Peak Zone offers everything you could ask for in an extreme experience. With the aptly-named 'Top of the World' run leaving from the peak of Whistler at over 7,000 feet, mountain madness awaits the pros who are up for this challenge.
We chose a more family-friendly zone - the 3,300 foot Fitzsimmons Zone which served up 'green' trails (the easy ones just like what 'green circle' slopes mean when skiing). These downhill trails provided thrills and allowed us to traverse our way down the mountain, one banked turn after another, yet at a pace that we could easily control.
We recommend 'wearing the gear' which you can rent on-site. Extreme bike helmets, elbow pads, shin guards and gloves are wise protective choices and our rental bikes were adjusted to suit our height and weight for added control and safety. We found it helpful to have protective glasses or sunglasses on too since the trails were dusty. Our runs took 15-20 minutes each and getting back up the mountain just required a chair lift ride. The higher zones required longer rides up in a gondola or up a second chairlift.
A three-ride ticket would be a good option to test the experience if you are unsure of what's to come. My wife and son both agree with me that this was an awesome experience and one not to miss in Whistler for any athletic, active family!
Another top shelf experience was mountain hiking on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains! We spent an entire day enjoying the experience - seven hours of high altitude adventure! The
PEAK 2 PEAK Alpine Experience starts with a gondola ride up Whistler Mountain. We did some shopping at Roundhouse Lodge which features Canada's largest restaurant! A must is taking the Peak Express chair lift up Whistler Summit - the views from 7,000 feet are truly out of this world. Leave lots of time for pictures of both the Olympic Rings at Roundhouse and the huge inukshuk at the summit - guaranteed to be your next screensaver shots!
We hiked down Mathew's Traverse and then Pika's Traverse before catching the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola over to Blackcomb. This 4.4 km gondola ride is the longest and highest lift in the world and provides stunning views of glaciers, mountains, coastal British Columbian rain forests and much more.
Once on Blackcomb, we decided to hike to Blackcomb Lake for more awesome vistas - Alpine Walk followed by Overlord Trail and then onto Lakeside Loop, our trails of choice. A chairlift ride completed our 7-hour odyssey!
Be sure to pack the right clothing, high energy snacks, water and choose proper footwear to make your day enjoyable. The air was clear and beautiful with very little humidity even though we hiked in late August. Temperatures were about 9 degrees Celsius, cooler at the summit than in the village so take that into consideration.
We really, really enjoyed these activity-packed summer days in the Whistler area. Any family, couple or individual looking for an active, memorable vacation would be wise to put this world class region on their 'must do' list!
Top of the World - NEW Downhill Trail, Whistler Bike Park
Tom van Steenbergen Rides the Whistler Bike Park
Fred Masters and his wife Kathy reside in Kitchener. Fred has performed technical review work for a major Canadian textbook company. Both are avid "last minute" travellers who have attended three Olympic Games. (Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012)