Day-tripping to Whistler

The Travel Companion (TC) and I debated long and hard about renting a car in Vancouver, even if it was only for a few days. Public transit has always been encouraged and what people say about Vancouver being a ’small’, walkable city is to an extent, true, unless you’re staying out in the suburbs and not Downtown.

In the end, we compromised (isn’t this always the case?) and rented a small, white pimple of a VW Golf—easy to handle, though guaranteed to give you performance anxiety as larger cars and trucks breeze past on the highway—because we wanted the freedom of exploring Vancouver’s suburbs while doing a day trip to Whistler without being shackled to the rigid pick-up and drop-off times.

Day-tours are personally my favourite: I find that I don’t have to repack my bags for a few days away, but bring all that I need to get through a long day sightseeing some place while still getting back to base to collapse in a familiar bed at the end of it all. Obviously exceptions do apply.

In this case, we were rather torn between wanting to visit Vancouver Island and Whistler, but some research on travel forums suggested that Whistler (via Squamish) is the easier one to do, while the trip to Vancouver Island is more exhausting to manage with ferry crossings and all. Leaving Vancouver island for a longer weekend trip was recommended and that was time which we didn’t have at all.

As the name suggests, the sea-to-sky highway (highway 99) is a twisty, tricky road dealing with changes in elevation (dubbed ‘killer highway’ before road upgrades) that follows the Howe Shoreline and winds through the coast mountains of British Columbia. It heads straight for Squamish—a backcountry haven for climbers, bikers and trekkers—and goes through to Whistler and Pemberton. We didn’t make too many stops in this 95-km-long trail, having started out at the boundary of Burnaby-North Vancouver-West Vancouver, getting caught in heavy traffic before finally getting untangled from it to head northwards. Inclement weather in the first day of spring meant that we were slow-ish turtles on the roads compared to those who raced past us down the difficult stretches, though the weather cleared up later in the afternoon.

We simply headed to the back to parking lots 1-5, paid CAD10 for a day’s worth of parking and headed off.

Whistler has a staggering number of resorts, all of which offer some kind of package for skiers or holiday makers. Non-skiiers like TC and I opted for the Peak 2 Peak tickets that cost CAD 59 per person and that allowed us a gondola ride up Whistler (taking approximately 20-30 minutes) and then yet another ride across to Blackcomb Mountain. The pass officially expires when you take your last trip down to Whistler Village.

This being spring break, the crowds were in full force, meaning, there were queues going up. Spring was delayed this time, and winter seemed to be making a comeback instead, so there really wasn’t much else to do except ride the gondolas up and down and to-and-fro. Summer however, would present more opportunities to hike and explore the other peaks around Whistler.

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