Welcome to Sea to Sky Country
IMAGES BY JOERN ROHDE
Whether you are visiting Whistler and the Sea to Sky Corridor for the first time or you are a seasoned regular, no matter where today’s adventure takes place, there is one given: spectacular scenery will surround you. Although Whistler has the reputation of being North America’s top four-season resort and the heart of Sea to Sky Country, there is no question you will be equally entranced by the natural beauty in and around the neighbouring communities of Squamish and Pemberton.
The Herculean landscape of the Whistler area — including the breathtaking Coast Mountains, Howe Sound and the Pemberton Valley — has not gone unnoticed by sports enthusiasts, so be prepared to see adrenaline junkies at every turn. It is well known that Whistler Blackcomb boasts the largest skiable terrain of any resort in North America at 8,171 acres (3,306 hectares). Postcard-perfect views and endless stretches of ski runs keep powder hounds giddy and yearning for more. The ski season here is the longest in North America, running from November to July. But eight months of snow does not seem enough to appease some winter-happy locals, though, and praying to Ullr, an Old Norse god and patron saint of skiers, has become tradition to encourage more snowfall.
Unquestionably, the superb skiing, snowboarding, and variety of other snow-sports and activities, are a large part of what draw visitors back to Whistler repeatedly. There is also the wide range of upscale hotels, outstanding choice of restaurants, and diversity of shops and vibrant arts scene. Many who come to Whistler often find that when they reach the end of their visit, no matter how long they have been here, they would always like at least a couple more days.
More than 2 million tourists flock to Whistler each year. The town’s main hub, called the Village, is directly at the base of the mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, and includes many of the shops, restaurants, spas and bars. Patios spill onto pedestrian walkways in a fashion like that of European mountain towns. People carrying skis and snowboards pack the walkways at the end of the day, usually stopping at one of the many bars and restaurants for après ski. At night, clubs keep partygoers carousing until the wee hours, and a youthful energy seems to float around the Village.
For centuries before Europeans arrived, the indigenous peoples of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations inhabited the Whistler Valley. To this day their cultures include the shared traditions of hunting, foraging for berries, and fishing, as well as drumming, dancing, art and taking part in life-changing vision quests. You can learn more about their fascinating history and cultures at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.
The first Europeans ventured through in the 1860s; and trappers, loggers and business prospectors eventually moved in, establishing mills and camps in the early 1900s. The resort started in 1914 when Myrtle and Alex Philip bought 10 acres (four hectares) of land and established Rainbow Lodge. It was an immediate hit, becoming a popular summer vacation destination for fishing, boating and hiking. Of course, Whistler (previously known as Alta Lake) was very different from the established world-class resort it has become.
That all started to change in 1960 when four Vancouver businessmen led by Franz Wilhelmsen had the dream of turning the area into a ski resort and bidding on the 1968 Winter Olympics. While their Olympic dreams went unrealized at the time, the ski plan took off. In 1966, Whistler Mountain opened to the public, and in 1980, rival Blackcomb Mountain opened to skiers. The two merged in the mid-1990s, and ever since, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has kept its ranking as the top skiing and snowboarding destination in North America.
The dream of hosting the Olympics was realized finally in 2010, when Whistler served as “Host Mountain Resort” for the Olympics and Paralympics. It was the site of alpine skiing, the sliding sports (bobsleigh, luge and skeleton) and the Nordic sports (cross-country skiing, and ski-jumping and Nordic combined). Locals are justly proud of the role they played in hosting the world, and you can find the venues for the three disciplines, as well as several sets of Olympic rings, around the community.
No matter where you are in Whistler and the Sea to Sky, breathtaking mountains and forests will always surround you. Pack your camera and be prepared to spend hours capturing images of the beautiful landscape.
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