Whistler

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We recently added a new member to our family – a little girl. Having a baby has put travel on the back-burner for the last 6 months while we were busy pursuing a different type of adventure. But we’re not going to stop traveling just because we have a kid, and she’s going to have to learn how to do it right alongside us.

For her first major trip, we packed the baby and her grandparents into the car and drove to Whistler. It was our attempt to condense basically our entire ski season into a single, 2-week trip. As I’ve written previously, Whistler is a good bet this time of year: it’s huge, reliable, and easy to get to.

Coast Mountains; Mt. Garibaldi and the Black Tusk

The Coast Mountains. The roundish peak near the left, in the background, is Mt. Garibaldi, a volcano. On the right is the very noticeable Black Tusk.

For people who don’t love skiing as much as I do (or those who don’t live in Europe), two weeks probably sounds like a long ski trip. I fielded questions like, “Won’t you get bored?” and “Won’t you get tired of skiing?” Well, the answer is no, the two weeks flew by and I could easily have stayed longer.

Who could get bored here?

Who could get bored here? Lakeside Bowl on Blackcomb.

Although we’ve visited Whistler many times in the past, it’s never been for more than a long weekend; 2 or 3 days jam-packed with skiing, eating, drinking, and hot-tubbing. On this trip we did all of that stuff, of course, but at the kind of leisurely pace that I haven’t ever had in a ski trip.

We also had time, on rest days, to actually do a few things in town other than ski. Under normal (read: rushed) circumstances we wouldn’t take the time to go on a self-guided tour of the Sliding Center, for example.

The Whistler Sliding Center was built to host the Luge, Bobsleigh, and Skeleton events during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which Whistler co-hosted with Vancouver. It’s one of only 17 such Luge/Bobsleigh/Skeleton tracks in the world, and one of only 4 in North America. This one is still used for competitions occasionally, but mostly it’s just open the public. You can test your nerves at skeleton (that’s the sport where you’re sliding head-first on your stomach), or ride along in a bobsled steered by a professional driver. (Luge, where you slide on your back, feet-first, is apparently too difficult or dangerous for the general public.)

Skeleton at the Whistler Sliding Center.

Skeleton in action; Whistler Sliding Center

The day we visited, a group of 15 or so normal-looking people, clad in spandex, had paid $169 for 2 skeleton runs. Although the public only gets to run the bottom 1/3 of the track, sliders still reach speeds of 100 kph (62 mph). That’s on a tiny sled with sharp metal runners, with your face just a couple inches off the rock-hard ice (it’s refrigerated with ammonia). The whole thing looked, um, scary. The loud shrieks – pure, unbridled terror – from a couple of the participants reinforced that feeling.

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The final roundhouse corner. You can see the person on skeleton to the left of the “Whistler” in the track, likely going ~60mph.

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The long, uphill stopping zone. This person seemed eager to give it another go.

The Sliding Center itself, which is free to just walk around, is worth a visit. But I think l’ll stick to the relative safety (or maybe it’s just the more familiar danger?) of my skis.

Despite the more relaxed approach this trip afforded us, I was still sure to get up the mountain early on the two big (8”+) powder days.

Glacier Express queue on a powder day

In the queue waiting for Glacier Express to open on a fantastic powder day.

Powder skiing

Although I had to wait for almost an hour, the spoils afterward were worth it. Heavenly Basin, off Glacier Express.

Overall the weather was, in classic Whistler fashion, “variable,” especially when crossing atmospheric layers at different elevations. Like many parts of the West, snowfall has been about 25% below normal this year. During our visit there were two separate periods of snowfall (totaling about 4 days), and we were able to find great conditions somewhere on the mountain every single day. That’s a big part of Whister’s greatness- mountains that are large, tall, and feature terrain on all points of the compass.

Fresh snow and sun

Fresh snow and sun. Although the numbers say otherwise, it certainly didn’t feel like a bad year for snow on this day.

Tree skiing off Crystal Ridge lift

Tree skiing near the new Crystal Ridge lift, a welcome replacement for the old Crystal lift, which was slow and poorly placed.

I don’t think we’ll be able to swing a 2-week trip there again in the foreseeable future, but our trips to Whistler (at least one visit per winter for 7 years now) will definitely continue. And the baby did great.

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2 Comments »

  1. Awesome pics! These scene makes me missed the mountain a lot! :( Wish I could go back to Whistler, such a lovely place! i should find time to schedule from my busy working days. Hopefully soon! ^_^..

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