Whistler whirlwind tour

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Within a mere 54 hours, or two and a quarter days, I traveled from Vancouver to Whistler, B.C., round trip aboard the Whistler Mountaineer scenic train, Ziptreked across raging Fitzsimmons Creek; skied Blackcomb; shopped the village from one end to the other; and toured the soon-to-open First Nations Cultural Center. And ate BC foods, especially salmon and cheeses, and drank BC wines from the Okanagan Valley. Whew.

While I wouldn’t advise anyone to do all this in such a whirlwind manner, I can recommend each of these activities. Let’s start with the choo choo, the Whistler Mountaineer. Excursion trains are so civilized, so relaxing, especially this one, which snakes its way up into the mountains passing a stunning landscape of island-studded waters, raging–in spring–whitewater rivers, soaring snow-topped peaks and through a tight and deep cavern.

Splurge on the observation car, with it’s curved glass-windowed top providing unobstructed views accompanied by breakfast and beverage service on the way up and a full, high tea on the return. The car attendants take pride in their work, enjoy their jobs and spread their enthusiasm, all while explaining the history, flora and fauna, and geology along the route.

When approaching a “Kodak” sight, one for which the engineer slows down the train to a crawl, head for the open-air heritage car for the best photo spot. Highlights include a spectacular canyon, a waterfall and, of course, the fjord, the southernmost glacial fjord in North America.

On the opposite end of the heartbeat scale is the Ziptrek tour–zipping across lines strung through a coastal rainforest, from treetop to treetop, mountain to mountain, far above rushing torrent of whitewater. I was strapped in via a harness that attached to the line, then wheeeeeee, off I zipped, dangling high above the river valley separating Whistler from Blackcomb mountains. Five zips, three hours, with plenty of down time waiting for others in the group to go. Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d probably opt for the high-energy, fear-factor tour with the longest line double the length of the longest I did. Then again…

As for skiing. Hey, it was late May. It had been close to 100 degrees–you read that right–the day before I uploaded the gondola and chairs in search of snow. Avalanche danger was high. It was raining. Buy hey, it was skiing, and there was plenty of snow up high on Blackcomb. Due to the risk of avalanche, not a lot was open, but it was enough to enjoy, despite the rain. And actually, considering everything, the conditions were pretty damn good. Of course, on adjacent Whistler Peak–which next year will be connected to Blackcomb via a peak-to–peak gondola strung along the world’s longest section of unsupported cable (gulp)–mountain bikers were strutting their tricks in the mud.

In June, the new First Nations, Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is slated to open, honoring the Squamish and Lil’wat tribes. The architecture alone is worth a visit, now add a interactive exhibits, presentations, and a medicinal herbal garden tour.

Now, if you also want to raft, hike, play golf, bike… you’ll need more than 54 hours. That’s the problem with Whistler, there’s just too much to do in too little time.