Whistler is a resort town in British Columbia located at the southern end of the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains. The resort is one of the top destinations for winter sports and receives over two million visitors a year. It was also the location for the 2010 Winter Olympics. While it is a top place for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, there are also lots of other things to see and do during a vacation to the area.
Whistler is found in the pass between the Green River headwaters and the Cheakamus – it is flanked by glaciers on either side for a stunning vista. The landscape is dotted with ski resorts and there are many amazing Whistler vacation homes in and around the resort that also enjoy this amazing panorama.
The original inhabitants of the area were the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nation peoples who lived here long before the Europeans arrived. The British were the first Europeans to visit the area with a survey in the 1860s. They named the area London Mountain because the fog and cloud reminded them of the polluted skies of their capital!
The first modern settlement in the area was the Rainbow Lodge, established in 1914 by the Philips from Maine. Logging became a boom industry in the area and this led to the clearing of many of the slopes around the resort. In 1966, Whistler Mountain opened to the public as a ski resort, although the town was still known as Alta Lake. It was renamed as Whistler of marmots that live in the area and are known to whistle like deflating balloon.
Due to its location, Whistler offers a huge range of things to do outdoors from hiking and walking to winter sports and sightseeing natural landscape.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
Located between Whistler and Squamish, this wilderness park has a number of glacier topped mountains and includes Mount Garibaldi, part of the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt. It has five main entrance points, each offering trails including the Diamond Head, popular for hiking or skiing on the south of Mount Garibaldi and the Cheakamus Lake entrance, nearest to Whistler. The park is home to black bear, deer, the famous local marmots as well as bald eagles.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola
One of the unmissable experiences while in the Whistler area is the Peak 2 Peak gondola. This is a link between the two main mountaintops in the area and is an 11 minute long ride in glass bottomed cars that definitely requires your camera. It is a great experience in both winter and summer as the view is always different.
Cultural things to do
From First Nations peoples, through to European settlers and modern times, Whistler has a varied and interesting history that means there are plenty of things to see and do.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
This center celebrates the two main First Nations cultures in the area, one coastal and one living in the interior of the area. It offers a great sense of the culture of the people as well as exhibiting artefacts and even features on-site artist demonstrations. There is a great local arts and crafts section in the gift shop and a café serving local favorites.
Whistler Museum & Archives
This unassuming little museum documents the history of the resort from those early days right through to its big moment as host of the Winter Olympics in 2010. It contains the Olympic torch and the original gondola from the first ski lift in 1965.
Audain Art Museum
The Audain Art Museum is the newest addition to the cultural tour of Whistler and is a dramatic building that is a landmark in itself. Inside is an impressive range of First nations carvings as well as iconic pictures from top artists including EJ Hughes and Emily Carr. It also has a strong contemporary section with work by Jeff Wall to offer something for all tastes.
The winter sports are one of the biggest attractions in the area and as a former Winter Olympics host site, there are plenty of sports and locations to choose from. There are over 8000 acres of snow covered slopes in the area with 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers and the world class terrain parks that are a leftover from the Olympic times. There are even 200 marked trails to cover to suit all experience levels. Ski and snowboarding season is from November until May.
Relaxing in Whistler
The resort offers plenty of quality eating and drinking places for all times of the day and all tastes. You can grab a quick après-ski snack or sit down for a fine dining restaurant meal. Locations such as Alta Bistro offer French inspired local cuisines while there are also classic Italian pizzerias, grill houses and even takeaways if you want to eat in your villa.
If you enjoy a day away from the slopes, Whistler also offers plenty of shopping opportunities. While there are winter sports related shops to choose the latest equipment for the slopes, there are also art galleries, jewelry stores and footwear shops as well as beauty parlors and hair salons for a little pampering.
Winter sports do play a massive part in the annual events of the resort but there’s also plenty to do away from the slopes. Go Fest celebrates the end of winter and the start of summer, for example, and takes place every May. The Whistler Children’s Festival happens in July and lets the children enjoy everything from arts and crafts to theatre and uses the Olympic Plaza as a base. You can even enjoy the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra who perform in the resort every July.
For ski and winter sports fan, visiting Whistler is an unforgettable experience – skiing the slopes used by Olympic athletes and enjoying the amazing scenery. But the resort offers a lot more than just skiing and makes it a must-see place for anyone visiting British Columbia.