Slight delay in getting this blog uploaded as we’ve been away from an internet connection for the past while. We last left you with us about to set off north along the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. Another incredible road to add to the lengthening list of incredible roads we’ve driven. We spent a night in Jasper, spoiled ourselves on a big diner breakfast the next morning and set off west.
A day later, on the steep road down into Whistler we had our first car trouble. Sam’s inexperience with driving (before setting off on the trip he’d only driven once since passing his driving test, on flat rural roads in Iceland) was largely to blame for the four smoking, seized brakes that greeted us at the bottom of the mountain descent – we didn’t know that the T&C’s ‘L’ gear was meant to be used when descending steep slopes and so drove the 3-ton fully loaded minivan down the mountain solely on the breaks. Oops. We started joking about the fact that we at least made it to the other side of the country but to be honest, we all thought it would be the end of our beautiful trip. The car was towed to the nearest garage in Whistler – a place on the edge of town called Barney’s. There, we sullenly unpacked our gear to spend the night in a nearby campsite contemplating our options. Happily in the end, the mechanics simply needed to flush out our boiled brake fluid and top it off again. We were on the road towards Vancouver Island again the next morning, having found the name of our car, Barney.
That evening we had our very first view of the Pacific Ocean. As we drove north along the road to Tofino we had glimpses of it through the trees but it took until we arrived at our campground to get a proper view. Every night of the journey so far we’ve been following the setting sun west. At Tofino we ran barefoot down a sandy beach towards the ocean. In front of us the sun approached the horizon and we felt a quiet contentment knowing that we’d reached a huge milestone in our journey. We had driven across Canada, as far west as we could possibly go.
We slept that night within earshot of the waves rolling onto shore and woke the next morning to the same sound. After months of cold Canadian winter, Tofino became our little paradise. Sun, sea sand – it was perfect. We could stay there forever – all these feelings, just from our first morning in the campsite.
“My Favorite Places to Ski, Part 2” was to be the subject of this post.The weather has been so strange this year (I’ll save that rant forlater), that I pondered writing my favorite places to mountain bike instead. Then is started snowing again! So instead I’ll write about where I’ve skied and biked recently. Quite a year it is when you can do both in the same day!
Whistler, BC, Canada has long been a favorite place for me. Big alpine lines, impressive backcountry access, beyond-stellar views, big big big…the list goes on and on.
Since I’m a small town girl, I adore staying in Pemberton, BC instead of in the fancy Whistler resort. Only a half hour away, Pemberton’s lush valley is surrounded by animal, veggie and berry farms, with mountains like Mt. Curry rising 8,000 feet above. For food, don’t miss Mile One – burgers with local Pemby Beef that are to die for, especially with toppings like handmade goat cheese.
The Whistler/Blackcomb resort is so massive that finding a local guide is essential to link the goods together. They do offer free guided tours (check the map/grooming report/big boards for info) or just post on Facebook before heading there and find a friend or friend of friend to guide you. Unless you want to spend a lot of time on lifts or looking at vistas, choose either Whistler or Blackcomb to ski for any given day.
The backcountry is vast, and often requires a sled, but I’ve found plenty great stuff via skins as well. The Duffy is one of the local classic places to go tour. This video below is of Alaska, but it reminds me of the alpine terrain in that area: (more…)
I usually try to avoid the opening weekend of the Whistler Bike Park. Some reasons for my refusal to participate in this annual event are paltry, being that there are just a few muddy trails open, huge lines and the fact that other Sea to Sky venues are in mint shape this time of year, including, well, everywhere else.
All of that aside, I went this year. I think the Whistler Corp would like to hear that it was because of their barrage of marketing prior to the lifts firing up. Not really, although I did enjoy the first Force of Nature Video released before opening, featuring their motley bunch of bike athletes. The video shows riders carving perfect corners and lofting sculpted lips in what looks like epic mid-season conditions. Pretty convincing stuff, but the deciding factor for me was some good ‘ol fashioned arm-twisting by a group of buddies. A deal was struck where we worked out a balance of park and pedal, in a few Sea to Sky locations, over this Canadian long weekend.
It was a good decision. The bike park was all-time. The trail crew put in their due diligence, preparing almost every lower mountain trail in time for the gates to drop. The dirt was tacky and the riding was heroic. We had a casual start to the day, nothing like the kids who waited in line from 3 a.m. in order to secure first chair. The casual start was no hindrance though, as we were greeted by mellow lift lines that grew progressively larger over the afternoon. The wait in line was welcome though, as I could rest my cramping hands and catch up with friends. “How was your winter?” and “Epic conditions, eh?” were refrains echoing through the queue.
I had my own “Force of Nature” Friday night after a questionable chicken burrito wreaked havoc on my guts for the next 36 hours. I almost pulled the plug and hightailed back to Vancouver to recuperate, but the weekend was heading into high gear, so I decided hang around to see if things would improve.
The next day dawned wet and rainy, and my guts were still churning something fierce, so we abandoned the “official” opening day of the Park for a pedal in Squamish. A lush rainforest met us there, along with some fun new trails that magically sprung up over the winter, not unlike the mass proliferation of green undergrowth that appears with the spring rain.
The weekend was a blur of riding, eating and sleeping. My food poisoning waned, so with renewed energy I sampled more bike park, usually riding the lifts in the morning until the lift line got too oppressive, and then trading bikes for a pedal in the Whistler Valley or Pemberton. An amazing way to spend this Victoria Day long weekend!