Whistler during Covid
Whistler during covid virus was a busy location, but the question of whether it was safe from covid-19 delta variant was not clear at the time. Very few people were wearing masks indoors even though British Columbia was experiencing the highest number of covid-19 delta variant cases in Canada. We arrived in Whistler by traveling from Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway on August 17, 2021. We spent a wonderful afternoon near Squamish on the Sea to Sky Gondola, followed by two nights in Whistler.
Sea to Sky Gondola – Squamish
The Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish was the first stop on our trip to Whistler. The parking lot for the gondola is right along the highway. The gondola station is just over an hour from Vancouver or less than 10 minutes south of Squamish. The Sea to Sky Gondola opened in 2014, but vandalism forced it to close twice. Someone severed the gondola cables in 2019 and again in 2020. Cable cars were also damaged when the cable was cut. A reward of $250,000 has been offered for information leading to an arrest.
We enjoyed the Sea to Sky Gondola more than the Peak to Peak Gondola in Whistler. The line ups weren’t long and covid restrictions meant you didn’t share the gondola ride with anyone else. The gondola makes a very steep ascent with immediate stunning views of Howe Sound, Squamish and the Stawamus Chief, which is a famous granite rock climbing wall. The gondola keeps right on going though, adding lovely views of the surrounding Coastal Mountains. At the top, you will find a lodge with an expansive deck for even more great views.
The wait for restaurant seating was an hour, but the restaurant sent you a text when your table was ready. This provided a great opportunity to walk across the adjoining Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and then hike the Panorama Trail to Chief Overlook Platform with views of Howe Sound. Our meal on the deck of the Sky Pilot Restaurant was delicious. Sea to Sky Gondola – What a great experience in every detail.
Blackcomb Lodge – Whistler
After our wonderful afternoon with the Sea to Sky Gondola, it was time to travel just under an hour north to the Blackcomb Lodge in Whistler during covid virus. The Blackcomb Lodge wasn’t a big hit with us, but I’m sure the younger crowd would love it. This lodge is located right on the Village Square where the pedestrian only Village Stroll brings everyone to all the popular restaurants, shops and 3 gondola stations.
Blackcomb Lodge was one of the first accommodations to be built in Whistler. Even though our room was large, it felt dark and dated. Our balcony looked down on the steady stream of visitors on the Village Stroll. The background crowd noise didn’t die down until after 10 pm. At 7 am the next morning, the Village Square was almost a ghost town, but many coffee shops were open already. Those who like mountain biking in the summer or skiing in the winter will love the fact that you only need to walk a couple minutes to the lifts, bike rentals, popular bars & restaurants, shops or the grocery store. Next time I’ll be looking for a place a bit off the Village Stroll and taking my village stroll before the crowds wake up.
Peak to Peak – Whistler during Covid
The Peak to Peak Gondola opened in 2008 and joins Blackcomb Peak with Whistler Mountain. This allows winter skiers or summer hikers to switch mountains during their day. To reach the Peak to Peak, you either ride the Blackcomb Gondola to Blackcomb Peak or the Whistler Gondola to Whistler Mountain. Then you ride the Peak to Peak Gondola down one mountain and up the other. The Peak to Peak set several records when it opened. The distance between the gondola towers on the two mountains is 1.8 miles. The maximum height a Peak to Peak gondola car reaches above the ground is 1,430 feet.
During our summer visit, the Whistler Gondola wasn’t running. Likely that’s because of somewhat reduced crowds due to the covid delta variant spike. So, we walked a few minutes to catch the Blackcomb Gondola for its 9:30 opening. The later you start, the worse the line ups get. The ride up takes about 25 minutes. Then you walk a few steps to switch to the Peak to Peak Gondola. The Peak to Peak gondolas are very large, but a plastic divider was used to limit the number of riders to two parties. Although the ride is steep, the tower spans are large and the height is extreme at times, I never felt this engineering marvel was as impressive as the Sea to Sky Gondola experience near Squamish. The ride across to Whistler Mountain takes about 11 minutes.
On Whistler Mountain, we found the Roundhouse Lodge empty and the restaurant closed. The umbrellas were out on the deck tables though, which provided a great picture for anyone who isn’t facing bankruptcy in the restaurant business during covid. Next we retraced our route on the Peak to Peak back to Blackcomb Peak, because the Whistler Gondola was closed. We didn’t need to share the gondola with anyone even though it can take 28 passengers. Not having to share a ride was a benefit of Whistler during delta virus.
Blackcomb Alpine Loop
Back at Blackcomb Peak we decided to hike the easy 30 minute Alpine Loop. The air was fresh and cool. The mountain views were pleasant. A couple marmots were basking in the sun along the trail. The Alpine Loop was the highlight of our Peak to Peak visit.
Restaurants in Whistler
That evening we were surprised to learn how difficult it is to dine without reservations in Whistler. We dropped in at the Keg at 4:30 and they told us they wouldn’t have a table free for two days. We then began searching for a hamburger instead. Now Stinky’s doesn’t sell hamburgers but their waiter knew where to find a good one – Splitz Grill. The wait time for a flame grilled mouth watering hamburger at Splitz Grill was 25 minutes. We spent the wait time strolling through Florence Petersen Park and we ate our Splitz burgers there on the picnic tables when our meal was finally ready. Afterward we went back to Stinky’s and tipped the waiter for his amazingly generous recommendation.
Whistler During Covid – Lost Lake
The next morning we were up early to enjoy the tranquility of the Village Square and make a visit to Moguls Coffee House. Then we took a 30 minute hike along Lost Lake Trail to the beach at Lost Lake. A sign at the beach warned us of a bear in the area, but we never saw one. No black bears on our visit to Whistler this time around, though it’s common to see them at the edges of town. At the lake I did learn that the small frogs we were seeing were leaving the lake to spend their adulthood living in the forest.
Our plan was to finish our visit to Whistler with a flight over Lake Garibaldi, Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. Whistler Air cancelled our flight due to cloud. Now I’ll have to visit Whistler again to either take a flight or make the demanding 9 – 12 hour hike instead. Hopefully our next visit won’t be to Whistler during covid virus.
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