When one thinks about planning a vacation to Whistler, the first thing that comes to mind is amazing skiing. But did you know that Whistler Blackcomb, and areas nearby, offer some equally amazing off-season activities?
Home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb's majestic setting is equally enticing in the summer months.
Expertly carved downhill mountain biking trails lure timid newbies and daring thrill-seekers each year.
Whitewater rafting is offered nearby and if you've never experienced it, be sure to add it to your bucket list.
For those who want to hike, golf, or otherwise enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife, a few days in the area is all it will take to satisfy the need for a clean-air, no hassle, surreal-surroundings getaway.
I recently had an opportunity to visit the area for the first time.
About 45 minutes from Vancouver, Squamish is home to Sunwolf. We arrived on a Sunday evening in early July and checked into our riverside cabins. The small resort has 10 charming cabins available. We were treated to a memorable multi-course dinner by Chef John Ferris. The “collective kitchen” at Fergie's Cafe produces unique and enticing dishes served beneath the canopy of an enormous tree, on the deck or inside by a cozy fire.
Seriously, worth the drive from Vancouver even if all you do is eat. We peered into the little kitchen with sheer amazement as to the bountiful and beautiful courses it produces via local chefs. Everything is local right down to the table flowers in jars collected just prior to dinner. Our group was comprised of female journalists from the U.S. and Canada. The trip was called Women's Warrior Weekend, and I must admit that it caused for some initial hesitation. I was assured that all the women would be at about the same fitness level. But perhaps they weren't expecting an average Texas gal, who works up a pretty decent sweat in about 10 minutes on her bike. These ladies were fit!
I walked a few feet from my cabin door through the trees to the riverbank near the confluence of the Cheekye and Cheakamus rivers. The Cheakamus has drawn fisherman for years for some of the finest salmon (as early as July to January)and Steelhead (February to May) fishing anywhere. I asked if this was the river we would be riding in the morning, a little nervous about the swiftness. Alas, no. This river, I was told, was too mild. We would be on the Elaho, a 4-plus on a scale of 1-5! So, a little nervous became a little more nervous. The next day we all geared up in the provided wet suits, helmets and life vests, and headed toward the Elaho on a school bus turned raft carrier. Our guides were Slater, one of the owners, and Bob, another rafting expert. Bernardo had his own kayak to scout ahead and provide extra assistance if anyone fell out of the raft. We were given instructions on how to paddle and what to do in the event that we fell out, which I can tell you I was determined not to do. What a blast! My tension quickly turned to thrill as we powered down the Elaho under the capable guidance of our experts. The views are almost too splendid to describe, so you just have to go see them for yourself. The most river riding, err, floating, I had ever done prior to that was down the Frio or Guadelupe … simply no comparison whatsoever.
We stopped for lunch about halfway down, where our guides turned chefs and grilled the most amazing salmon I've ever eaten, and I've eaten a lot, with chicken and some prepared sides that we picked up from our waiting bus driver along the way. They really have the trip down to an art. And hey, if three hot guys want to cook, and I don't have to clean up, you won't hear any complaints from me. After lunch we finished off the rafting trip with more invigorating ups, downs, splashes, sprays and squeals of excitement. And with one of the largest populations of bald eagles in the world, you might want to plan your trip between November and February to take advantage of the Eagle Float. Much milder, so you won't get wet, and hot beverages and soup are included ($100 per person/$65 for children under 12).
To schedule your Sunwolf experience for whitewater rafting, an eagle float, hiking, biking, and much more, call 1-877-806-8046 or visit sunwolf.net. Be sure to say hello to Tanya and Slater, Jake and Jess. These two young couples turned their dreams into reality when they bought and lovingly restored the resort to what you see today. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler After regrouping at Sunwolf after the river ride, we headed to our next destination, Whistler Blackcomb, and checked into the breathtaking Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
The rooms are immaculate, the views spectacular and the service is exceptional. And visiting in the summer gets you a better rate. We dined at he Wildflower restaurant in the hotel two evenings; one in the main restaurant and the other in the Grill Room. With a focus on local and organic, the Wildflower offers both unique and more traditional dishes, by day buffet and á la carte, and by night a more sophisticated, fine dining experience. They can accommodate any diet restrictions.
Downhill Mountain Biking At the base of Whistler Blackcomb, you'll have access to everything you need for a ride to fit your level of challenge, whether a first-timer or a regular. The ski lifts turn mountain bike transport in the off-season. The Top of the World trail will require another $15 lift ticket, but descends through three climate zones: Alpine Tundra, Mountain Hemlock and coastal rainforest. Only 100 riders per day are allowed on the new trail, which increases the park's total vertical to 4,946 feet. You can take it easy or get some wind beneath your wheels while enjoying the outdoor beauty of Whistler Blackcomb (www.whistlerbike.com). Planning the Perfect Trip No matter what accommodations, activities, number in group or number of questions, you can contact Enjoy Whistler at 888-882-8858 or enjoywhistler.com for expert assistance and access to the best deals available. They can also tell you about the 3-day Women's Warrior Package, which does include some pampering. Whether you're a frequent traveler or just looking for the perfect annual trip, I highly recommend giving this one some serious thought.