Wonderful Whistler/Blackcomb

By Stacy Hickman


Why leave the USA to ski? Why not?

Whistler/Blackcomb is annually rated as THE top ski area in North America by some publications. So who wouldn't want to ski the best.

Our merry little group flew into Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from various points in the USA. I will not lie. It's a long flight, not made any easier by the airlines cutting back on their flight schedules. After the ordeal of Canadian customs and a few

beers waiting on the group to gather, we boarded our buses for the trip up north.

Whistler is located 75 miles from Vancouver and 218 miles from Seattle. From the airport, you drive through the entire city of Vancouver, over the Lions Head Bridge past the rain forests of Lord Stanley Park to the Sea to Sky highway. On a clear sunny day, the views of Horseshoe Bay will take your breath away. On a rainy, foggy misty day, the clouds blanket the fjords in an eerie white haze. Be on the look out for the various waterfalls along the highway. Much has been said about the dangers of driving the Sea to Sky Highway. But, if you drive the speed limit or below and avoid driving at night, you should have no problems.

We stopped in Squamish to purchase some supplies for the week at a cheaper price than shopping in downtown Whistler. Vancouver and Whistler combined are making a bid for the 2010 Winter Games. So the area is putting on it's best face and Olympic signs are everywhere.

Three hours later, we arrived at the Tantalus Lodge on the Whistler side of the Mountain.

It is walking distance to the Whistler lifts and gondola but the property runs a shuttle back and forth to the mountain. The weather was rainy but we had high hopes for the week.

Whistler/Blackcomb offers a two-pronged assault, combining great skiing with high speed lift access and a vast array of après ski alternatives. You can experience all four seasons in one day at W/B. It can be raining at the base, snowing mid-mountain and sunny with blue skies at the top.

Day1-Ski Whistler. A little rainy but we were not worried. We took the gondola up to mid-mountain. The rain turned to snow to it was a little foggy but manageable. We went up to the Harmony Bowl chair. The snow was fresh, a little wet but not to bad.

We enjoyed an excellent day of skiing. Little did we know it would be the best day for visibility?

We had après ski at Buffalo Bill's in the Whistler village. Nice place with live bands and pool tables. The bar food is very good.

We enjoyed a nice light dinner at Cicca. They offer a little bit of everything on their menu plus a great selection of unusual martinis.

Day 2-Time to try Blackcomb Mountain. We took the Blackcomb gondola up to mid mountain. We rode the lift up to the Blackcomb Glacier. It was snowing and the visibility was next to zero, a white out. No real powder skiing, heavy spring snow with a hard pack underneath. We stuck with skiing mid-mountain to stay above the rain line.

We made the best of it and had a good ski day. Since, we were on the Blackcomb side, we après skied at Merlin's. Merlin's is the best bar in town. Live bands, awesome food and the best bartenders.

Day 3-Back over to Whistler Mountain. The weather was not good that day. Both mountains are in the clouds. It was foggy, windy and snowing like crazy. We headed up to the top of Whistler. The 7th Heaven chair is in the low clouds, visibility is zero. After 30 minutes, we finally made it back to the mid mountain area. The wind was whipping and the snow is getting heavier. I feel like I was skiing by Braille. We stopped for lunch at the mid station.

Our ski race at the Pontiac race center was canceled because of too much snow. We found a

nice little area under the orange chair, that had a few sheltered tree runs, which helped

with the visibility. We skied to the Blackcomb gondola midstation, the snow had turned to pouring rain. Exhausted and soaked to the bone, we downloaded to the base.

We dried out by the fireplace at Black's Pub for après ski. We hit the nightlife at Garfinkel's in Whistler Village.

Day 4-A slow start to the morning. The weather was still bad. The lift status board shows all the lifts at the top were closed. We were going to board the gondola when we heard

the mid-station lifts were being shutdown. We elected not to ski. A few people in our group were already on the mountain. One got stuck on the gondola for 20 minutes in the high winds. We learned later that one lift cable had blown off a pole, one lift was buried in the snow and the 80mph winds blew out windows in buildings at the top. Whistler/Blackcomb had 50 inches of snow in a 24-hour period. The mountain was closed except for the bottom lifts. This was great for the restaurants and shops in the village. They were packed. The sun finally came out at 3pm, just in time for après ski at the Longhorn Saloon.

Day 5-Back to Blackcomb, it was cloudy and the visibility was low. The upper lifts were still closed. The snow was excellent but everyone was limited to skiing off only three lifts at the mid mountain, same situation on the Whistler side. Just to many people on the same runs. We spent the afternoon shopping and had a nice lunch at the New Amsterdam Café, a Whistler legend.

Day 6-Final ski day. Still limited to mid-mountain and below. The sun was out and you could see. We elected to ski Peak to Creek. Creekside is the original base area of Whistler.

The Creekside gondola services it. The best run on that side is Franz's Run. It is the proposed site of the Women's GS for 2010. It's a fun cruiser with just the right pitch on

the mountain. A fun day of skiing. Sadly, our planned heli-skiing trip was canceled due to the bad weather.

This was my second trip to Whistler/Blackcomb. I love the place. But to be honest, if this had been my first trip, I'm not sure I would have come back. Fortunately, Whistler is has great atmosphere, things to do other than ski and many, many restaurants. If you've never been, go, ski Whistler/Blackcomb.