August 24, 2011

Whizzing from Whistler to Blackcomb by gondola

The Peak2Peak gondola. Pic by Quinet

Tash McGill is not what you’d consider a native snowboarder or skier (in her own words!), so was quite relieved that her visit to Whistler was in the summer and no one would be asking her to don snowshoes or a snowboard. Alas a cold snap blew through…

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The unseasonal cold snap caught us by surprise and the quantity of snow on the mountain was something else! Having already gone snow hiking unintentionally the day before (see my 4 Things to Fill a Vancouver Day blog here >>>), I was discovering a new love of the powdery white stuff and a new-found respect for kiwis who call Whistler paradise.

Whistler is a resort town, built to be enjoyed to the max. The village is nestled at the base of the mountain, surrounded by apartments, houses and hotels – you can stay any old way at Whistler!

Whistler village. Pic: Lucas Gomes

The stores, restaurants and standard amenities are positioned around pedestrian-only streets and a central square where you can wander amongst the eateries, fashion stores, boutique chocolatiers and tap your feet with the street entertainers before or after coming down from the mountain via the gondolas at the edge of the village.

Grabbing lunch at a local soup and sandwich café was a treat – everything is mountain-food, hearty and delicious, warming you from your toes up. Then after a quick scope of the town we were off to the top!

One of the latest and most incredible must-see attractions at Whistler is the incredible 4.4 km Peak-2-Peak gondola experience that opened in 2008. It boasts the largest unsupported stretch of cable in the world and takes you between the peak of Whistler to the peak of Blackcomb and back.

Whistler and Blackcomb sit side by side, but previously if Whistler wasn’t delivering the powder runs you were after, you’d traipse down one mountain and then back up the other. Now, the Peak-to-Peak not only serves as a great tourist attraction in its own right, but makes traversing the mountains a little simpler for the core business in this town… snow.

Everything about the Whistler experience screams easy, accessible mountain fun. From the hotel to the gondolas is a ten minute walk, a far cry from my Whakapapa experiences of childhood! It’s so easy to understand why this is such a great place to travel for those who love making the most of their mountain time.

The Fairmont. Pic Keng Susumpow

The gondola takes an amazing swoop between the peaks, where the birds eye view of the treetops and village below gives you a sense of how compact and beautiful the place is and an amazing view of the hotel we were to stay at, the 550-room, dog-friendly Fairmont Chateau.

At the base of the mountain where the snow was cleared, mountain bikers were churning up dust and dirt. From up top, Whistler looks like one large playground – exactly as it should. An ideal world for playing hard and then relaxing equally intensely. Which is precisely what I had in mind, starting with dinner and drinks at the Chateau.

Tips: Get here by train, rental car or bus. You can hire snow gear at the mountain, or bring your own depending on how heavy-laden you want to travel. For the mountain, bring your bikes and boots for summer, your snowboard for winter and plenty of sunblock year round.

Air New Zealand flies direct from Auckland to Vancouver 3 times per week in summer and 4 times in (Northern hemisphere) winter. Jump to www.airnewzealand.co.nz

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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