WHISTLER Welcome to Sea to Sky Country

Winter is a magical season in Whistler, and not just because it’s home to North America’s leading resort for skiing and snowboarding. Wherever you go in Whistler and the Sea to Sky Corridor, you’ll be surrounded by stunning scenery, which makes it a popular backdrop for a dizzying array of adventures: from adrenaline-fuelled thrills to world-class restaurants, galleries, spas and night spots, to tranquil treks through the stunning, snow-filled landscape. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned regular, the sheer variety of places to visit and experiences to be had here is impressive. Each time you visit, you’re bound to discover something new.

This winter, for example, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) — famed for its 8,171 acres (3,306 hectares) of skiable terrain, the largest on the continent — has added the new, 10-passenger Blackcomb Gondola and upgraded the Emerald Express and Catskinner chairlifts, part of a $66-million project by parent company Vail Resorts. The new gondola links with the Whistler Mountain and Peak 2 Peak gondolas to become the first three-gondola, continuous connection in the world. The resort also boasts the longest ski season in North America, keeping powder hounds giddy from November to July. That’s probably the single biggest reason some 3 million guests flock to the resort each year but certainly not the only one: Lodgings range from cozy and rustic to upscale and luxurious; the diversity of shops, restaurants, galleries and watering holes is second to none; and there is a youthful energy here, as evidenced by the many smiling faces of all ages that you’ll see carrying skis and snowboards through the Village on the way to their après-ski destinations.

Whistler and its surrounding area have long been inhabited by the peoples of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, who historically spent time in this part of the Coast Mountains foraging for berries, hunting and taking part in life-changing vision quests. Squamish and Lil’wat “youth ambassadors” proudly share their people’s thriving history and cultures at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. The first Europeans arrived in the 1860s, and in 1914, Myrtle and Alex Philip established Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Alta Lake, welcoming guests for summertime fishing, boating, hiking and getaways. In the early 20th century, a small community, then known as Alta Lake, grew up along the lakeshore.

In 1960, a group of four Vancouver businessmen led by Franz Wilhelmsen and inspired by the success of the 1960 Winter Olympics in the mountain resort of Squaw Valley, Calif., came to the area in search of a ski hill capable of serving as the centerpiece of a bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics. That bid was unsuccessful, but in 1966, Whistler Mountain opened for skiing at what is now known as Creekside. In 1980, a rival group opened the Blackcomb ski resort and in the mid-1990s, the two merged to become Whistler Blackcomb.

The Olympic dream endured until 2003, when the International Olympic Committee chose Vancouver to host the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and designated Whistler as “Host Mountain Resort.” During the Games, Whistler hosted alpine skiing at Creekside, bobsleigh, skeleton and luge at the Whistler Sliding Centre on the lower slope of Blackcomb, and the Nordic events (cross-country skiing, biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined) in the Callaghan Valley, about 15 kilometres southwest of town. The Olympic legacy lives on, with several sets of Olympic rings at the Games’ venues and elsewhere. At Whistler Olympic Plaza in the Village, where the medal ceremonies occurred in 2010, you’ll also find one of the cauldrons from which the Olympic and Paralympic flames burned brightly, and a display showing all the Games medal winners.

The rings and other vestiges of the Games are among the most photographed spots in the resort. But with so much to see and do here, you’ll want to be sure your phone or camera has enough space to capture the countless memories to be had in Whistler — not to mention the scenery. When all is said and done, it is likely that by the end of your visit, you’ll agree with the millions of others who’ve found that when it comes to winter fun, Whistler is one of the most magical places to be.

For help planning your trip, visit whistlertraveller.com.

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