Get to Whistler – Summer Visit
You’ll need a car to get to Whistler. For our Whistler summer visit we drove up the Sea to Ski Highway #99 from Vancouver in about an hour and a half. You can also get to Whistler in about 2 hours on Pacific Coach Lines from the Vancouver airport or downtown Vancouver. Daily rail service to Whistler no longer runs, but the Rocky Mountaineer stops briefly on its way to Jasper. The Sea to Ski Highway was upgraded for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The road signs in native First People’s languages adds to the experience on this beautiful route.
Whistler Summer Visit – Whistler Village
We stayed right in the heart of Whistler Village for our Whistler summer visit. Whistler Village town site is at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Gondola cable cars go up both mountains from the village. During our summer visit, the Peak-2-Peak gondola was being built. The Peak-2-Peak is now complete and it joins the two peaks.
Whistler Villages has an appearance and architecture that is carefully controlled by planning restrictions. Major fast food chains are almost nonexistent and are only permitted at the outer most edges of the town site. Whistler Village feels more like Europe than North America. The gondolas and chair lifts run through the summer and provide excellent access to the mountain for tourists and mountain bikers. So, Whistler is now a year round attraction. Ever since the 2010 Winter Olympics, there are lots of options for places to stay. Summer prices tend to be lower in order help fill the town in its off season.
Whistler Summer Visit – Gondolas
On the first full day of our Whistler Summer Visit, we headed out for the gondolas and chairlifts. The Fitzsimmons Gondola was being used by all the mountain bikers, so we started on the Whistler Mountain Gondola. From there, we took The Peak Express Chairlift to the top of Whistler Mountain. On the way up, the chairlift stalled when we were over the highest part of the ride. Not a great experience for anyone with a fear of heights like me. I had the strangest sensation of wanting to jump out of the chairlift immediately even though I knew that would have been suicidal. My friends on the chairlift laughed at me and started rocking the chairlift.
The views at the Peak were wonderful. You could look back down into the Whistler Village valley or south to the neighboring mountain ranges. We sat at the giant Inukshuk stone statue for pictures. The Peak-2-Peak Gondola was still under construction during our visit, but it’s now a great way to extend your gondola tour to Blackcomb Mountain too.
Whistler Summer Visit – Mountain Biking
To my surprise, mountain biking is extremely popular at Whistler during the summer. Many hotels have their own rental bike shops. The more experienced and adventurous bikers take the Fitzsimmons Gondola up the slopes. We rented bikes from our hotel and went mountain biking through the valley instead. The gravel & dirt trail started along the hills to Lost Lake east of Whistler Village. Next we biked downhill to the valley floor. Then we made our way on a level paved biking path to Alta Lake. Our mountain biking tour finished by returning to our hotel.
Whistler Summer Visit – Bears
Black bears are very common at Whistler. When we rode the gondolas, we saw a couple black bears wandering the slopes among the mountain bikers. They seemed to share the mountain peacefully. After dark, black bears wander into Whistler Village looking for leftover garbage. It’s eerie to see a bear proof garbage bin that bears have been able to get garbage out of. During our bike ride, a mother bear and her cub ended up on separate sides of the bike path. Anywhere else in the world, this would be a very dangerous situation, but in Whistler the bears yielded to the bike traffic.
We talked about the bears with a relative who was working for the summer at a Whistler restaurant. When she took the garbage out one evening, she was surprised by a bear waiting at the bins. She was so startled that she jumped backward right into a second black bear behind her. Terrified, she dropped the garbage bag. Neither black bear paid her any attention. They were only interested in the garbage.
Whistler is one of the top winter ski resorts in the world, but it’s also a great place for a summer visit.