A picturesque alpine ski resort in the heart of British Columbia's backcountry wilderness, Whistler lies a mere 73 miles from Vancouver, making it a popular weekend retreat for busy urbanites. The absence of cars and abundance of cozy cafes, boutiques and gourmet restaurants give Whistler the look and feel of an idyllic European mountain village.
Whistler is one of the leading areas in the world for winter leisure activities and is one of the top ski-resort towns in North America. But visitors can choose from an ever-growing selection of additional snow-related activities, including snowboarding, dogsledding, snowshoeing, sleigh riding and snowmobiling. There's no doubt that Whistler helped Vancouver win the bid to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. All the alpine and Nordic skiing and sliding events were held at Whistler, the host mountain resort.
With easy access to British Columbia's endless resource of natural treasures, the region also serves as a playground for outdoor summer activities, such as mountain biking, hiking, climbing and other ecoadventures. It is also a golfer's paradise, with four of Canada's top 100 golf courses. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Robert Cupp have each designed championship masterpieces in this magnificent setting, earning Whistler a spot among the top golf destinations in the world.
Sights—Stunning clifftop views from the Sea to Sky Highway en route from Vancouver; spectacular mountain panoramas from the Peak 2 Peak gondola; dense, snow-draped forests on a snowshoe hike in the Callaghan Valley; the picture-perfect, icicle-draped Whistler Village in winter.
Museums—Local First Nations culture at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.
Walks—Summer hiking through alpine meadows on Whistler Mountain; exploring nature trails in the Whistler Interpretive Forest; nosing along the stunning shoreline at glassy-calm Lost Lake.
Especially for Kids—Whizzing down chutes at Whistler Tube Park; ziplining through the air and into the village with Ziptrek Ecotours; ice skating and swimming at Meadow Park Sports Centre; taking a ski or snowboard lesson from a veritable United Nations of instructors; stopping mid-piste for a snowball fight.
Home to pioneers and early adventurers in the late 1800s, Alta Lake was the original name of the region's main settlement. Trappers and fur traders unofficially named the area Whistler after the shrill sound made by the groundhog-sized western hoary marmots that live among the rocks in the area.
In 1914, the Great Pacific Eastern Railway expedited what had been a three-day journey by steamer ship and horse. This linked the valley to the outside world, turning the region into a viable logging and mining center. Soon after, the area discovered its appeal to tourists when it became a fashionable holiday destination for wealthy, sophisticated Vancouverites. By the 1950s, Alta Lake was a popular summer retreat for the middle class, packed with backcountry lodges and fishing-charter operations.
Whistler took off in the early 1960s when it turned in to an alpine ski resort. By 1965, Whistler Mountain was equipped with a four-person gondola, a double chairlift and a day lodge. When the town officially opened for skiing in 1966, its population totaled a mere 25 people.
Whistler Mountain was originally called London Mountain, reportedly named so by British navy surveyors in the 1860s, because the fog reminded them of the U.K.
This region is bear country, but visitors rarely spot them in Whistler Village—except in September 2011, when a video appeared on YouTube of a local black bear helping himself to a few slices in a local pizza shop. After filling up, the bear was captured and relocated.
The official population of Whistler is less than 10,000, but more than 2 million people visit every year.
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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