Surprise!

Canada #13 Whistler

Mention Whistler and visions of a winter wonderland bustling with snow sports enthusiasts come to mind. But with more than half of the annual three million visitors, including us, coming in the summer months, Whistler in early summer is just as busy.

The centre of the village is packed with day trippers and holiday makers and the shops and restaurants are crowded. It’s the mountains people have come to see though, and the only way to get there is on the Whistler Village Gondola which travels five kilometres to the summit of Whistler Mountain. Gliding high above the tree-covered slopes for 25 minutes, the gondola ride allows everyone time to enjoy the spectacular views on all sides.

Mountain bikers also ride up the mountain, transporting their bicycles on a chairlift before hurtling down again at breakneck speeds.

At the summit a giant stone Inukshuk, created for the 2010 Winter Olympics, gazes protectively over the valley. From a height of 2,182 metres, Whistler resembles a toy village dwarfed by the Fitzsimmons Mountain Range.

The Peak 2 Peak Gondola Ride crosses from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain in a journey of record-breaking proportions. The highest and longest of its kind in the world, with the longest unsupported span of 3.024 kilometres, the ride travels 4.4 kilometres over Fisher Valley. The bright red gondolas leave the stations on either side every 59 seconds, and cross paths high above the valley floor. At the highest point of 436 metres, Fitzsimmons Creek resembles a narrow silver ribbon draped between the trees.

Back on Whistler Mountain, the Roundhouse Lodge serves steaming hot chocolates, with peaks of whipped cream and marshmallows mirroring the surrounding landscape. Tiny chipmunks scamper between the tables searching for dropped crumbs.

The best view comes at the end of the day, halfway down on the return journey to Whistler Village.

As the gondola passes above, a mama grizzly bear guides two cubs along a narrow mountain track. The gondola continues on its way and, while our glimpse of the bears is fleeting, our excitement lasts much longer. Whistler really is full of surprises!

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42 thoughts on “Surprise!

  1. Wow! What a thrilling ride with spectacular views. Topped off with bear sightings and lashings of delicious hot chocolates! Carol, I’d say that’s pretty perfect. πŸ™‚

  2. There’s something about a chance glimpse of bears that is thrilling – you were so lucky! Much better to get that glimpse from high up, well away from them. What a great trip.

    • We thought that too, and hoped she didn’t cross paths with any of the mountain bikers. It was quite high up the mountain. We talked to someone later who said it’s not common to see grizzlies in that area. We showed him our photos and he was certain she was a grizzly.

  3. I cannot get over the length of that unsupported span. I am glad I didn’t know that when I took that ride! I hope they don’t ever have an earthquake in that area!

  4. Pingback: There’s a Bear in There! | The Eternal Traveller

  5. How exciting to catch a glimpse of the bears. I visited Whistler over 30 years ago, but didn’t take a single photo (maybe I had run out of film in my camera) so my memories are a bit sketchy. It was great to look at your photos and remind myself of what I saw (no bears for me though, I’d have remembered that!).

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