LOCAL VIBE



Pod Hotel Debuts In Whistler

Whistler became the home of Canada’s first pod-style hotel in August 2018. A pod hotel is a hybrid between a hotel and hostel, with small, private sleeping quarters and shared washroom and storage facilities, and common areas. The brainchild of intrepid travellers Russell Kling and his wife Jelena, the Pangea Pod Hotel aims to fill a budgetary niche that the two felt existed in several markets including both Vancouver and Whistler.

The hotel, which has four different types of one- or two-person “pods,” is based on a concept similar to the “capsule”-style hotels that have their origins in Japan; but the Pangea’s 88 pods are different. Designed to elicit a much warmer, cozier feel than most of the space-capsule-like spaces found at Asian properties, the Pangea pods’ interiors have wood finishings and accent walls to give them the look of a boutique-style hotel room — only much smaller.

“We want people to feel like they’re in a small cabin on a cruise ship or maybe a sleeping compartment on a train,” Russell Kling said. “If you’re in a small space, then how that space is sorted out is really critical. You want to ensure that the small place we give you has a space for your bags, wallet and clothes, a charging station and such.”

Four-piece bathrooms are spread among the “suites” (pod groupings) and are shared but not “communal.” Instead, each is designed with separate showers and separate washrooms, plus a vanity area and changing space. There is also a secure “Toy Box” where skis, bikes or other gear can be stored. The property’s communal living room features a café with an open kitchen and bar, as well as a third-floor rooftop patio with bar overlooking the Village Stroll, all of which are open to the public.

Kling and his wife had been looking since 2013 to open in either Vancouver or Whistler but settled on Whistler after finding what they felt was the perfect location in the heart of the Village. The reviews from customers and the media have been excellent. “We’ve been very thrilled with the response so far,” Kling said, adding that the two believe there’s a market for Pangea properties elsewhere as well. For more information visit pangeapod.com.


Local Animal: Grouse

If you’re near a wooded area in the Sea to Sky Corridor and you hear a low-pitched drumming sound — or even something that sounds like an old Model T car starting up — chances are good that you’re hearing the grouse, a mostly ground-dwelling bird that’s about the size of a chicken.

The Whistler area is home to at least three species of grouse — four, if you’re among those who feel the determination made in recent years about two slightly different types of blue grouse being separate species (sooty and dusky) was correct.

“The dusky and the sooty were once considered just different forms of a blue grouse, and the experts have decided that they’re different species, but I’m not convinced,” said Whistler-based naturalist Karl Ricker, who believes that despite slight differences in appearance, the distinction is primarily geographic.

“You see the sooty ones here, and the dusky ones in Pemberton and farther into the interior,” said local birdwatcher Heather Baines.

The ruffed grouse, which has a distinctive, black “ruff” of feathers on its head and back, and the spruce grouse are the two other species found around Whistler.

It’s common to see and hear them near forested areas in March and early April. The drumming sound of the males — starting slowly and reaching a more rapid crescendo (hence Ricker’s comparison to the sound of a Model T starting up) — is part of its mating ritual. It’s made by the bird flapping its wings against its body, often while standing on a resonant structure such as an old log.

In the warmer months, it’s common to mistake a grouse for a ptarmigan, a bird of similar shape and size. Ptarmigans, however, change colours to white in winter, while grouse remain brown or slate grey year-round, Baines said. Grouse don’t hibernate, but it’s less common to see or hear them in December, January and February, as they tend to stay back in the forest, at lower elevations. Because they nest on the ground, grouse can be quite territorial and occasionally become aggressive toward perceived invaders — including humans. According to Baines, grouse that become aggressive are often defending a clutch of eggs from the many predators that can threaten their soon-to-be hatchlings. At other times, they’re just curious or even thirsty.


Raising The Bar

North America’s No. 1 four-season resort just keeps raising the bar for skiers and snowboarders. This winter, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has significantly upgraded the skiing and riding experience with a brand new, 10-passenger Blackcomb Gondola, replacing the Wizard Express and Solar Coaster lifts. The new gondola will ensure that skiers, riders and summer visitors can stay warm and dry, year-round, while significantly reducing the time spent in lift lineups en route to Blackcomb’s high alpine.

The gondola whisks guests to the Rendezvous Lodge, which underwent a major expansion in 2015. The ride covers 3.86 kilometres and has a capacity of 4,000 passengers per hour, a more than 50 per cent increase from the 2,650 per hour with the old combination. Incidentally, the new gondola gives WB the first continuous, three-gondola lift system in the world — combined, of course, with the Whistler Village and Peak 2 Peak gondolas. WB has upgraded two other lifts as well — the Emerald Express on Whistler Mountain is now a six-passenger (“six-pack”) high-speed chair, assisting with volume in the Family Ski Zone, and the former Emerald quad chair has become the Catskinner high-speed quad on Blackcomb. Catskinner was previously a triple chair.

 

The upgrades, part of a $66-million investment by WB parent company Vail Resorts, follow the opening of new summertime attractions at the peak of Whistler Mountain. In the summer of 2018, the Cloudraker Skybridge opened near the top of the Peak Express Chair, a 130-metre-long suspension bridge, and joins Whistler Peak to the West Ridge. The Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk, a cantilevered walkway extending 12.5 metres out from the West Ridge, has a viewing platform offering 360-degree views well above Whistler Bowl. While they’re not open this winter, they were extremely popular with summertime guests and well worth a return visit.

“It was shoulder to shoulder all summer,” said Jennifer Smith, WB senior public relations specialist. “If you were going, it was a good idea to get up there in the morning to beat the crowds.”

Stay tuned for announcements coming in the spring of 2019 on new bike trails in the Creek Zone of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, with its most extensive expansion.

For more information about the WB on-mountain experience, visit whistlerblackcomb.com.

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