Active interest

Malavika Bhattacharya | Updated on January 23, 2018

Photo: Malavika Bhattacharya

A dreamy town in Canada’s Coast Mountains, Whistler is all about love for the outdoors

‘Whistler is bear country. Place garbage in bear-proof containers.’ Under this rather welcoming sign at the Town Plaza stood firmly padlocked garbage bins. Locals may be used to furry friends ambling through the shopping complex, but I couldn’t resist a nervous glance into the shadows. Throughout my visit, I was regaled with stories of black bears wandering into hotel gardens or sniffing around people’s backyards. Nature is serious business west of the Rockies, here in Canada’s Coast Mountains.

Whistler in British Columbia may be just a two-hour drive from Vancouver, but it’s a world apart from the shiny steel-and-glass metropolis. I visited in October, when the air was crisp and warranted a jacket. The trees were up in flames — in the colours of fall — maple leaves in burnt orange and crimson carpeted the streets. Gabled chalets and half-timbered houses stood at the foot of the Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains. The town’s Alpine, bohemian vibe was distinct.

Developed as a ski resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Whistler today is among North America’s premier adventure destinations, drawing skiers, snowboarders and adventure enthusiasts from around the world. In warmer months, cyclists flock to the town’s well-known mountain bike park for its heart-stopping trails.

Walking through the cobbled streets, I found myself jumping out of the way of speeding traffic ever so often. Not cars, but skateboarders weaved their way around a handful of pedestrians. Slick mountain bikes whizzed past. Toddlers, who barely reached up to my knees and not quite steady on their feet yet, glided along on little skateboards. Their older counterparts headed out to the Skate Park in hordes, skateboards slung low across their backs. At the base of the mountain bike park, I watched cyclists hurtle down the slopes on unpaved trails, jump off ramps, spin mid-air, and land nimbly on two wheels. At the ‘training’ Flo Park for children, toddlers cycled up baby-size ramps, jumping off fearlessly. It ain’t Whistler if it isn’t extreme.

A large open-air market was crammed with all kinds of ski and snowboard gear in preparation for the winter. It seemed everyone around me was heading off to conquer some unparalleled feat.

I wanted to get in on this action.

There was no snow to be had in October though, so I hopped over to Salomon’s and rented a nifty little mountain bike and helmet. I’d heard lots and caught glimpses of the gorgeous forested trails and lakes. The 40-km Valley Trail seemed like a promising option — a partly paved trail winding through the mountains, cutting through forests, and linking five of Whistler’s lakes.

I started on a narrow rock-strewn path, past the Fitzsimmons Creek. Its glacier-fed water is an almost luminescent blue from glacial silt. Under a graffiti-covered bridge, past picnicking families, and gradually uphill I went until I emerged onto the hillside. Cedar forests covered the inclines. The uphill slope was steeper than I anticipated. Out of breath but exhilarated, I pedalled on higher, diverging onto the Lost Lake loop. It was a bright day, but the narrow avenue I was on was dark, shaded by the thick canopy of tall coniferous trees. Speckled sunlight formed patterns on the carpet of fallen maple leaves — komorebi is what the Japanese call this interplay of light and shade. Gusts of wind brought a shower of autumnal leaves down on me. It was magic.

The path to the Lost Lake diverged downhill. The voices of my companions drowned out as they fell behind, replaced by the loud whistling of the wind. “Maybe that’s where the town gets its name from,” I thought to myself. The forest parted to reveal a glassy expanse of water at the foot of a hill. The lake mirrored the trees on the hillside in their shades of green, red and brown. A young family lay on the grass, throwing a ball into the water, while an eager Golden Retriever repeatedly swam in to fetch it, wet and happy. I wasn’t the only one who’d found the Lost Lake.

Travel Log

Getting there : Fly from Delhi or Mumbai to Vancouver with British Airways. Whistler is a two-hour drive north via the scenic Sea to Sky Highway.

Stay : The Four Seasons at the foot of the Blackcomb Mountain is a rustic, chalet-style property, beautifully designed in timber and stone.

BL ink Tip: Get outdoors. Cycle along the mountain trails, swim in the lakes, or opt for an easy hike through the forest.

Malavika Bhattacharya is a Delhi-based freelance travel journalist

Published on August 28, 2015

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