Photography courtesy Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

Whistler in the Summertime: A Whole New World

Discover another side to the town that has nothing to do with skiing, snowboarding—or snow, for that matter.

Visiting a ski resort in the summer is like going on a second date with someone and discovering there are a lot more twists and turns to their life than you first imagined, when they were cloaked in a little mystery—or, in the case of a ski resort, shrouded in powdery layers of snow. When I arrive at the base of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, one of the top-rated lift-accessed parks in the world, I feel like I’ve landed in the middle of a Mad Max Thunderdome theme party where everyone is dressed like gladiators and covered in dirt. Most of the literature on the park boasts that there are more than 80 kilometres of “gravity-fed, adrenalin-fuelled downhill trails.”

I’m here to ride, but my idea of the “perfect flow” is where there are no knee-crushing obstacles, jumps or gaps. In other words, a trail that’s “gnarly”-free. So I leave the shredders behind and head out on the Valley Trail, which has 40 kilometres of mostly paved paths that wend their way through the area’s wetlands, forests and lakes. My only moment of drama is when I zip past a fresh pile of bear scat and wonder whether I can pedal faster than one of the area’s 60 resident bears.

Besides biking, I’m also here to do some canoeing with the crew from Canadian Wilderness Adventures. It’s been a few decades since I was a competitive canoeist with a precise J-stroke and a not-too-shabby draw stroke, but I assure my boat mate—who is visiting from England and has never canoed—that it’s
like riding a bike. Right? We launch the canoes in Alta Lake and paddle our way across the choppy waters to the edge of the marsh and then through a narrow opening in the bulrushes to get to the River of Golden Dreams.

My J-stroke is a little rusty, hence we crash (several times) into the shrub-lined shore in the narrow sections—but at least we don’t have to worry about snakes or sandflies. (While kayaking one time on the Amazon River, near Leticia in Colombia, I was terrified I’d see an anaconda coiled around an overhanging tree branch. My husband, who wasn’t keen on kayaking or the Amazon, was bitten by a sandfly and developed cutaneous leishmaniasis. Yes, it is as nasty as it sounds.)

Gently paddling along this ambling waterway dotted with flowering lily pads is bucolic—and bug-free (at least in early June). Some three hours later, we leave the tranquil river and enter the turquoise-coloured Green Lake. There are epic views of the forested hillsides and the snowless runs on the Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. My upper body feels like I’ve been doing bear crawls, but we’re still dry—despite a few tippy moments. It’s one more totally-gnarly-free unforgettable moment that reveals another snow-free side to this rugged mountain scene.

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