The third week of our Western trip was spent in the Canadian town of Whistler. Whistler is truly a great place to visit if you like winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, etc. It is also a great place to visit if you like summer sports, especially mountain biking, ziplining, trail hiking and ATV-ing. And if you happen to be in the 18-35 age range, and you embrace any of the aforementioned sports, then you will think you have found Nirvana!
Now, if you happen to be middle-aged or a senior, and not particularly athletically inclined, then you can enjoy the gorgeous mountain scenery, shop, and eat in expensive restaurants. That pretty much sums it up. For us, this means that we can visit for about 4 days, and not be bored. Am I being sarcastic? Well, okay—maybe 5 days. Unfortunately, we also encountered icky, rainy weather, and so our sightseeing options were kind of limited, even though the scenery there is phenomenal.
We arrived in Whistler late on a rainy Sunday afternoon, after driving the spectacular “Sea to Sky” highway. The scenery alone was worth the 2-hour trip from Vancouver, as the views continually amazed us all the way north. We checked into our Whiski Jack North Star at a central check-in location, where they really didn’t give us very good directions or instructions about the parking garage. The garage is spooky, dirty, dark and difficult to navigate with a mini-van, which we happened to have on this trip (long story). We climbed up, and then up again to our townhouse, and were pleasantly surprised to see how nice it was.
Our townhouse building (one of several), had about 4-6 units in it, and we quickly discovered (especially during a 6:15 a.m. fire alarm on Tuesday morning) that we were the only ones in it. Probably about half of the resort is privately owned, and this, of course, was the off-season. Everything outside was well-kept, except that when workers trimmed trees and bushes, they left everything in the middle of the walkways for a few days!
When we walked into the unit, there was a small entryway with a bench (nice for taking off boots and raingear) and wooden hooks. The kitchen/dining/living room area was small, but adequate. We used the gas fireplace frequently because of the chilly, damp weather. The flat screen TV was mounted over the fireplace. Sliding glass doors led to a nice balcony that housed our private gas grill. There was a full bath on this floor, complete with washer and dryer.
Upstairs were 2 bedrooms and a large bath with a Jacuzzi. The master bedroom had a king bed, large closet, dresser, chair and TV. The guest bedroom had twin beds, closet and TV.
A central pool and hot tub, which we did not use, seemed to be the only other amenities. There were no activities or central meeting place. During the day, there are some staff people in the office, but if you needed security at night, there was a number to call. Although the accommodations were nice, we felt like we were at a nice, cozy hotel—not a timeshare.
The village of Whistler is charming and quaint—most of the buildings and shops seem to be reminiscent of Austrian ski villages with their chalet-style architecture. No cars are allowed on the village walkways, but there is a lot of pedestrian and dog traffic, even in the off-season. The beautiful Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains form a backdrop, making this whole scene quite picturesque.
The main draw in the village is the Olympic Rings, Pavilion, and Paralympic symbols, where the skiing medals were awarded during the 2010 Olympic Games. EVERYONE poses for pictures here. There are numerous shopping opportunities in the village, especially if you like ski shops. Hotels and timeshares are abundant (lots of different Whiski Jacks), and, of course, restaurants.
Since we were in Whistler from late Sunday until Friday, we did not get to ride the famous Peak to Peak Gondola, open only on weekends at this time of the year. This gondola has the distinction of being the longest and highest in the world. As Barb always hated to even ride the cable cars at Cedar Point (those from Ohio know what we’re talking about), she was jumping for joy that it was closed during the week!
Other gondolas were operating, however, and those took bikers up Whistler Mountain so that they could ride down. It was fun to watch the young 30-something (mostly) males, in their crazy helmets, careening down the mountain over and over again. We kept wondering if they had some kind of gainful employment at night, as they did the biking thing all day. Someone told us that they often work for 6 months, and then bike for 6 months—guess that’s a good plan if you don’t have a wife and kids.
We visited the Aboriginal Museum on Monday, which was a “get in free with a donation” day. It was quite informative, and we enjoyed some impromptu music and a film. The regular price of $18 a person seems a bit steep, though.
On Thursday, the weather decided to get better, and so we went on a Jeep Tour into the mountains. We went 6000 feet up, and yes, there was LOTS of snow there—after all, it had been raining down in the village all week! Even the 95-year old lady from Australia insisted on getting out of the jeep to feel the snow on her feet! (Most 95-year old Michigan ladies know enough to stay inside when it snows!)
Anyway, we experienced gorgeous, drop-dead mountain vistas, a deer, a bear and a Whiski Jack, that ate out of our guide’s hand. If you’re wondering what a Whiski jack is, it’s a bird, similar to a blue jay, but bigger, and not blue. Since our resort is named Whiski Jack, and there are several others with that name, we wondered what that term meant. Our guess of an off-brand kind of whiskey was obviously incorrect!
The rest of our sightseeing included driving to a few nearby lakes and towns and viewing the impressive mountain scenery. The Olympic Village was closed until sometime in November, so we couldn’t see that. We were kind of disappointed–I guess we expected something more like an Olympic Museum like the one in Park City, Utah. Maybe, eventually, they will have one in Whistler.
And so, our Western trip came to an end. We were kind of ready to go home, as we missed our family and communicating was difficult. To use our cell phones in Canada would have cost a fortune, and Skype was somewhat limiting. Whistler was unique and lovely, but the weather was yucky and there wasn’t quite enough to keep us occupied—in fact, we even did a TIMESHARE PRESENTATION while we were there. Stay tuned for THAT one!!!