Here’s an idea for a great summer trip close to home.
Take a large dose of the best athletes around the world and put them all together in one place, with their visibly large calf muscles and sun-browned skin, add a sprinkling of families with young children and retired folks wanting simply to take in the mountain air and you have outdoors-obsessed Whistler, British Columbia, Canada in the summer.
As a winter wonderland, Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, has some of the best skiing in the world. It is less well known as a summer destination. Hotels are on the expensive side, the shops sell the highest priced name-brand athletic gear and the restaurants all seem to have vegetarian and gluten-free options, catering to the buff athletes that seem to be everywhere.
Built around a main, central traffic-free area surrounded by shops, restaurants and hotels, other “villages” surround the main area and are connected by bus. During the winter, you can ski-in/ski-out to many of the hotels in the main area as this is where the ski lifts all converge. During the summer, these same ski lifts connect to a marvelous set of mountaintop attractions, including the “Peak to Peak” gondola connecting Whistler and Blackcomb Mountaintops with the longest free-span cable in the world at 1.75 miles. It takes 11 minutes from one peak to another. Unfortunately, Whistler weather during the summer is frequently cloudy and drizzly so visibility is uncertain.
Once on top of either of the two peaks, other interesting sights are available as well as restaurants. Among the possibilities are a sky-bridge and a snow tunnel, even in summer, as the snow caps the mountains yearlong.
You can ski through mid-July at the mountaintop where a glacial base keeps the snow from melting late into the year. But mountain bicycling and hiking seem to be the biggest draw in summer. The mountain base ski lift area is converted into an extreme bicycle track. You can watch daredevils descend at frightening speeds. All around Whistler, you can rent a bicycle to pedal around town from some of the finest bicycle brands available, all vying for your business in what may be the highest concentration of bicycle retail locations anywhere.
A new and exciting Whistler summer attraction, launched in 2018, is called “Vallea Lumina” and is proving to be very popular. It’s difficult to describe; sort of like a haunted house in the woods. There’s nothing quite like it. A light show in the forest, an art installation, haunted house with the spooks replaced by exotic light effects against the backdrop of the thick canopy. Entry is about $30 per person. This attraction should not be attempted if you have trouble climbing stairs. Except when there is lightening, the show goes on in all weather. Rain does not cancel a show. I went in a drizzle, which made the trails muddy, slippery and somewhat dangerous. I am told the event continues during the winter. Trudging through the light show in the snow would probably be more treacherous and it would be spookier.
A shuttle transports each visitor from the attraction’s in-town starting point to its forest location about five miles away. Once there you follow a circular path through the show. Once you start, it’s hard to turn back. The hike through the exhibit takes about one and one-half hours.
While in Whistler, more common activities include the marvelous Squamish Cultural Center, which tells about the life of the local indigenous tribes. Also, bear safaris in season, zip lining, ATV treks, whitewater rafting and just about any summer sports you can imagine are available, including a Jack Nicklaus golf course and racquet club.