With our body clocks saying it was noon, we picked up the rental car in downtown Vancouver on Sunday morning at 8am feeling fresh and ready to head up into the mountains. A couple of outstanding coffees acquired (conveniently right next door to Avis), we pulled out of the city in a sexy Fiat 500 with a sunroof. Fifteen minutes outside Vancouver, we’re on to the Sea to Sky Highway and more than an hour of views like this:
Is there a more beautiful drive in Canada than the ninety minutes between Vancouver and Whistler? Haven’t seen it yet if it exists. Could anyone have had a better Sunday June 2nd? Doubt it. There’s not much traffic on the way to Whistler and as the driver, I got plenty of time to take my eyes off the road and drink in the scenery.
Our plan was to head up the mountain first thing. The crowds are thin and we snagged a cable car for just us. About half way up Whistler, this is the view back down toward the village:
About that point in the journey, we moved up past the snow line. It was a couple of degrees above freezing, but there’s a pretty solid base of snow hanging around. Just before reaching the top of the mountain, we got this view over to Blackcomb which had an even deeper base of snow:
There are a few indications that the skiing competitions from the 2010 Olympics were held on this mountain. Here we are beneath the Olympic rings:
Next up was the Peak to Peak gondola to head over to Blackcomb mountain. It allows you to cover the 4.5km span between the mountain peaks in about ten minutes. Here I am in our gondola (notice the other gondolas on the cable behind me to see some of the perspective of distance):
At its highest point these cars pass 436m above the valley floor below. You can take a glass bottomed gondola to get a different perspective, but those don’t run as frequently and there are long lines to wait for those ones. Even without the glass bottom, you get an excellent perspective on the distance and height. The views on the trip between mountains are really spectacular:
On top of Blackcomb, we landed in a winter wonderland on this June 2nd morning. I got a few odd looks from non-Canadians as I was just in a t-shirt and jeans. As long as I was in the sun, it was actually pretty comfortable:
The top of Blackcomb provides this stunning view back down toward the Whistler village and town site. I love the shadows cast by the clouds dotting the mountains:
We spent a bit of time on top of Blackcomb, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the cool fresh breezes as we took in the million dollar views. From here, it looks like we could have spent the morning skiing. There were a few runs open for the ski buff:
A couple of return gondola rides got us back down to the village of Whistler. It’s a cute, stereotypical ski resort town. Lots of restaurants and bars and plenty of places to just relax and watch people walk by. Before stopping for lunch, we headed to the Olympic Plaza, the site of quite a few Canadian medal celebrations, perhaps none as famous as Jon Montgomery being handed a pitcher of beer walking through the town after his gold medal win in skeleton (also, for my money, the time the entire 2010 Olympics felt like it took a turn Canada’s way). Here are the Olympic rings with Whistler mountain in the background:
After a leisurely lunch, we made our way back to Vancouver with the knowledge that we would have a spectacular drive ahead of us. We took good advantage of our rental car’s sun roof on the return and pulled off in a few rest stops to drink in the scenery. Here was the most spectacular stop on the way back:
The drive, the mountains, the village and a pretty tasty wood-fired oven baked pizza made for a great day trip and a wonderful way to spend our first full day on the west coast. Our rental also added to the experience and I became attached to it for the four hours driving we did. Here I am with the Fiat before making the last leg of the journey back into Vancouver. A pretty awesome way to kick off eight days in British Columbia.