Whistler! Skiing, ziplining, and all of the beer!
Pictured above - Zoe and I atop Whistler mountain (not the peak, as that was closed due to avalanche concerns that day) on our mid-day break from skiing.
Happy Monday! I am so surprised with how difficult it has been for me to find time to write during the last two weeks! I was annoyed by it at first but I have to remind myself that I can do anything but I can’t do everything. I am moving in 5.5 days and the state of my apartment is not packed. Some stuff is, and I have movers, boxes, a plan to get more, and a cleaning person booked for when I leave. However, I have a long way to go. I’m going to bike to friend’s house today with a few things and leave my bike at her place since I’ll be staying there for June - with dog sitting gig and a trip to Toronto in there too. My life is about to be a little strange and nomadic for the next two months but I’m embracing it because I don’t have a lease and I’m holding out hope for a few things to happen and that I’ll have the freedom to say yes to them and go where I want when they do.
Anyway! Enough of the little vague update about why things are crazy and on to Whistler. I could not have loved this town more. I just mentioned that it might have topped Banff as my favorite place on Earth now. The surrounding mountains are beautiful, there is something to do here outside all 4 seasons of the year, and the people and the tourists were kind, relaxed, and active (ideal IMHO).
Zoe and I had plans to ski two days and then hike on our third day. We arrived on a Monday evening after driving in from Vancouver and our long day of touristing at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, hiking the Grouse Grind, and then driving the 1:30-ish drive on the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler. We had three full days in the town and then a 12:45 pm flight on Friday. When we arrived in Whistler, we wanted to get the lay of the land immediately but were also really hungry. Luckily, Zoe had done some research on our drive regarding good places to eat so we unloaded, checked in to our Airbnb, and then walked to dinner. We found Beacon Pub because it had good recommendations and once we arrived we quickly realized we loved the beer list and ordered burgers and beers. The patio was great, it had a very relaxed vibe, and we were able to sort out our plans the next few days.
Since we stayed in the village, we walked by all of the shopping and equipment store rental places on our way to dinner and realized that the next day we needed a lazy day and booked an evening zip lining tour with Ziptrek Ecotours. Neither of us had zip lined before and we knew skiing and other things were going to be expensive, so we chose one of the late afternoon tours for the cheaper price and we had all day to explore the town, shop, and sleep in the next day. We decided to buy a lift ticket for Wednesday and ski all day but see how we felt at the end of that day before buying a 2 day lift ticket. We held Thursday open for hiking too, since my friend in Edmonton recommended a hike that was about a 90 minute drive north of Whistler and beyond a small town called Pemberton in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park.
With our plans set, we spent the first night in the communal hot tub with some of our growler from Storm Brewing and figured out where to eat breakfast the next day. We also bought our lift tickets and figured out where we would rent skis based on the off season prices and figured out the parking situation. The place we stayed, the Alpen Glow Lodge (a hotel style condo that was an Airbnb), was $15 a night to park. So we drove the car to one of the surface lots on the second day because we managed to visit Whistler in the brief, 2 week shoulder season window when parking in the surface lots is FREEEEE. Score! Parking isn’t free anywhere the rest of the year, just FYI. But early May, when Blackcomb Mountain is already closed for skiing and Whistler is still open and it didn’t seem like all of the mountain bike trails were open, is the shoulder season.
Ziplining - We paid about $60 USD for this and signed up for the 5:20 pm departure of the Bear Tour. On our tour there with two families with two kids each, ranging in age from 6 years old to 15/16. So this truly is for anyone! The two smallest kids had to ride tandem with the guides on two of the longest cables, but everyone had fun! I don’t recommend this if you are afraid of heights. We zipped over a river and through a canyon. The longest line was apparently longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall (by a little bit) and it was faster than I thought it would be but very fun! Ziptrek has several locations around the world and the Whistler location offers 5 different tours but Sasquatch, one of the longer ones, was not open yet for the season.
May was a great and inexpensive time to visit but keep in mind that since it is shoulder season, there is plenty to do but everything is not fully operating. The weather was also amazing and unseasonably warm for early May. It was cool at night, in the high 40s to low 50s and a few days were 75-80 degrees! We really enjoyed this the day we skied. And more about that! We rented our equipment at the Can-Ski at the Westin, (that link doesn’t have much, btw, but has the contact info), used the lockers around the corner at the base of the main gondola to store our stuff for the day, and then clomped (because there is not other way in ski boots) the short walk to the gondola in our boots and hopped on. In March, we’d both skied at WIlmot in Wisconsin, which was acquired by Epic some time in the last few years. So we kept those day pass cards and added the day to them on Epic’s website and didn’t have to check in at any window, we just walked on the gondola with our tickets in our pockets and they scanned easily. Did I recently buy one of the less expensive Epic passes for the 2019-2020 season? Perhaps. :P
Skiing - Because my ski experience was limited to the Midwest at this point, I had no idea we’d be riding the gondola for what seemed like 15-20 minutes to get to the top. Once we did get to the top, I was a little bit intimidated because I kept thinking that I was out of my league. But, the snow was better quality than everything I’d encountered in my experiences in Wisconsin this year and I quickly got comfortable again. It isn’t exactly like riding a bike for me, yet, but I’ll get there. We skied all day and stopped mid day for lunch at the top and an outdoor beer (where the header photo was taken). We both had a great time and because it was so warm, people were skiing in t-shirts, bathing suit tops, no jackets, shirtless, etc. It was fun to see the variety of attire. I’d bought a lighter weight ski jacket for this trip and for March skiing in the Midwest and I’m so glad I had that as opposed to my heavy coat. I only wore a t-shirt under it - my Vancouver half marathon shirt - and I am glad that I did because we did get hot. The last half of the day I had my jacket unzipped and was having so much fun that it did not occur to me to pull my buff out of my pocket and put it on my neck because I got a really cool sunburn on my neck. Live and learn.
The most interesting thing about skiing mid-week in May (for me) was having quite a few of the very long green runs completely to ourselves for long stretches. We veered off the most common path to try all of the open green runs at in the afternoon, we skied past what looked like BEAR TRACKS. It would have been black bears in BC, not grizzlies, but we still both were like wow, let’s get out of here and find people!
Eating- After a full and very fun day of skiing, we were HUNGRY. We’d split a cafeteria style lunch at the top and as mentioned, a beer. But, after nearly 6 hours out there, we both had a craving for pizza. We stripped off our ski clothes and put on some very casual clothes - pretty sure I wore leggings, the same Lululemon shirt I mentioned didn’t smell after the Grouse Grind and ziplining, a fleece, and some slip-on sneakers. My point is that pretty much any attire was okay at any bar or restaurant here, and that is my kind of place. We ordered two pizzas to share at Pizzeria Antico and also sampled more of the beer menu. I would tell you what we ordered in each place but the beer lists were pretty seasonal and nothing was disappointing! Coast Mountain was one of our favorites out there though, and we visited the brewery on our last full day (more on that later!)
On our final full day in Whistler, we slept in a wee bit and then headed to Purebread for coffee and tea, a pastry to eat outside in the Village, and a pastry for the road. Sidenote, I never eat this much sugar in real life but we were super active and my body was craving sugar and we did eat salads and vegetables and protein but that is not as exciting to write about. I highly recommend getting a pastry or two here. Purebread is a local BC chain with locations in Vancouver as well and there were so many items to choose from that I am glad we had to wait in line because I needed time to decide what to order!
Hiking - We hit the road for Joffre Lakes Provincial Park around 10:30 and thanks to my friend Tero and his recommendation about the hike and for his checking of the traffic cameras to make sure the roads were clear. I didn’t know what he meant until we got there. Along the way, we stopped at a lookout point with some other cars to view a waterfall called Nairn Falls and then realized we wanted to do the short hike to the actual falls.
After leaving Nairn, we had a long and winding drive on the way to and once we were north of Pemberton, BC and a lot of elevation gain. Once we arrived at Joffre, we ate our second pastry in the parking lot while we watched other people put on snowshoes and take out their hiking poles. We also saw much less prepared people than us (we at least had hiking shoes) but the snowshoe people made us nervous. This sign also made us nervous.
We had a very short hike to the first lake and there was some snow on the ground but it was still slippery in parts and we felt like the recommendations of 3 hours for 3-4 km to the middle lake were crazy. So we have actual photos of the first lake and then we hiked for about 2 hours from the first lake until we saw the snowshoe people struggling up a huge incline and decided we were not prepared for that and that the risk was not worth the reward. The entire hike past the first 30 minutes was snow packed ground and a lot of ice and some very steep hills. It was a beautiful hike and challenging, we both wished we’d remembered to rent poles or Yak-trax (I have some, AT HOME) from one of the gear rental places in town but we’d been too concerned with pastries that morning. Oh well! We still had a great time and hiked at a high elevation and we were both in our element.
This hiking day was less strenuous than the Grind, but just as pretty and worth the drive north. Here’s a another great link for the park. On our way back, we knew we needed food and we were hoping to stop at Coast Mountain for some beers. It was the one brewery in Whistler where I really wanted to visit the taproom. Zoe navigated us to its tiny location, in an interesting industrial park/office space area. When we drove into the parking lot of the space, I felt like we’d finally found where the non-tourist jobs and employees where! We stopped for a late lunch at the Green Moustache Cafe, which had 2 hour parking, and ate two really delicious and healthy grain bowls. They had really great kombucha on tap too! I noticed that a lot in Vancouver and Whistler and I’m jealous, I don't encounter that a lot at home and I am tempted to make my own. I drank a lavender one here and it was so tasty and refreshing. We were able to leave the car in the small lot and walk around the corner to Coast Mountain and enjoy two beers there. I had the Day Dreamer hazy IPA and the Juice Box Sour Wit and both were really good. They had so many options though, it was difficult to make a decision. And we had to be careful since we had to drive the 10 minutes back to the village. The patio was nice here, we enjoyed the sun and mountain views, and started feeling little sad that we were headed home the next day.
And that’s it! I’m so sad that I had to leave beautiful Whistler and Vancouver. I’d hoped to take a backpacking trip through those mountains in August or September but with so much uncertainty in the air regarding everything, I’m hesitant to book anything else before Ecuador.