I just finished up a pretty ridiculous week of travel and work. For the most part, it was not very pleasurable. However, I was fortunate to be able to tie a bit of skiing into my business trip to Vancouver, so I decided to pack my electric blue valdez snow jacket and head up to Whistler, British Columbia. Ever since being a kid and reading Ski Magazine, I have always wanted to go check it out. Read on for the report of my quick trip!
The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is incredibly beautiful, and if I weren’t in such a rush to get up the hill, I would have stopped over to snap some shots. Instead, I took the unsafe route and tried to point my iPhone out the window while I was driving! Two thirds of the drive is along the bay, and it’s such a sight to see such beautiful mountains edge right up against the saltwater bay.
I made it up in just over two hours, and I stayed on an award stay at the Westin. The Westin is definitely a ski-in/ski-out property, about a 3 minute walk from lifts up to both Whistler and Blackcomb mountain (the mountains are accessible with one lift ticket). The room was very large and comfortable.
The funny thing about Whistler is that it’s actually not a very high elevation. If you compare my pictures of the peak of Whistler to those of Aspen and Telluride, you’ll see that the top of Blackcomb is actually about 50% the elevation of those Colorado mountains. With the base of Whistler being only 2000 feet, don’t be surprised to see rain when you arrive. It was doing just that when I got there. When I got into my hotel room, it was snowing. When I got out of the shower, it was raining again. This is just how it goes at Whistler!
The Westin is conveniently located along one end of the Village Stroll, a long path of restaurants, bars, and shops in Whistler. I was looking for a spot where I could find some good food and a beer to finish off my night. I found a great spot called 21 Steps. Check it out if you’re up there. Reasonable prices – small plates is definitely the way to go there. I had fried goat cheese and bacon wrapped filets.
Luckily, the mountain is HUGE. There is an enormous vertical of 5,280 feet. Yes. A whole mile. Thus, the snow quality varies greatly based on how high up you are. Up at the top, the powder was soft and light. By the time I got to the bottom on my last run of the day, I was snowboarding on a snow cone! My advice would be that after you take the lifts up from the base, stay on the upper half of the mountain until the end of the day.
As a kid, I was always fascinated by the fact that Nintendo sponsors the terrain park at Whistler. I LOVE classic Nintendo stuff, and I was hoping that they would take advantage of their sponsorship by sticking Mario and Luigi banners everywhere. I was sadly disappointed to see that the only trace of Nintendo was right at the entrance to the park. B-DOUBLE-O.
The top of Blackcomb Mountain is actually a glacier. I’ve never skied a glacier so I relished the opportunity to give it a shot. Well, it turns out that once you cover a glacier in snow, there’s not much difference between skiing a glacier and a mountain. Skiing the Blackcomb Glacier was just like skiing any other bowl at a major ski area. Actually, the main face of the glacier is actually only an intermediate run. Still, it was a lot of fun.
It was just a quick 24-hour trip to Whistler for me. After my day on the mountain, I drove back down to Vancouver. The trip down was even faster, and I enjoyed the opportunity to check out the view one last time. After my day of work in Vancouver the next day, I took my Air Canada prop plane to Seattle to connect with a Continental Red Eye to Newark. I left British Columbia wanting more. The terrain up there is absolutely stunning. I’d love to go hiking and exploring up there in the summer.
There was just one thing that annoyed me about British Columbia. As an American, most everything feels similar… the language is the same, driving is no problem, and all of the creature comforts are the same. So it doesn’t FEEL like a foreign country… but you can’t use your darn cell phone unless you want a bill from AT&T that will look more like a mortgage payment!