On 22nd July the 5 Munros set off from Glasgow Airport for a flight to Vancouver. We were going to spend 9 nights in Whistler followed by 4 nights in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley. The Munro family is Calum 12¾, Greg 11½ and Kerry 8½, along with my better half Kenneth (I won’t give away his age!) and we’re all pretty outgoing and active, so Whistler was the perfect place to indulge our interests.
Part 1: Whistler – 22nd July to 31st July
During our flights we sat in two rows – the 3 kids sat together and Kenneth and I enjoyed 8 hours of relative peace and quiet. Thanks to Option Plus with its seat-back TVs the kids were very happy munching Oreo cookies and caramel bars and watching back-to-back movies and TV shows. The crew were really friendly and super efficient with meal service.
With 5 people and 4 fairly big bags we rented a 4×4 and were presented by National/Alamo with a lovely new, shiny Ford Edge (not yet in the UK). The friendly and efficient hire service was great: we landed at 11:30am and were in the car for 12:30pm. We knew where we were going – direct to Whistler – so the drive was easy. Despite some rush hour traffic through Downtown Vancouver, the journey was effortless. We were over on the North shore and on our way on the Sea to Sky Highway in no time and parked in the hotel at 3:15pm.
Our Hotel – The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler
Check in at the Westin Whistler was easy and within 3 minutes we had our keys and were off to the East Tower. We had a one bedroom suite with a connecting bedroom, both with large bathrooms. In the one bed suite part we had a full kitchen, table and living area, and a small balcony overlooking the Whistler Gondola. The connecting bedroom had a king bed and a pull out sofa bed – ideal for all the kids.
The hotel was right beside Whistler Gondola and the mountain bike school, close to the pedestrian village and a short walk to join the paths that link to Lost Lake, the Valley Trails and Blackcomb Village too. There was a lovely indoor/outdoor pool with hot tubs and sun deck. Grill & Vine is the hotel restaurant which was excellent (they also do room service) and the bar was great, with live music some nights. Save money on expensive valet parking by parking for free across Blackcomb Way (a 5 minute walk). All in all, a top place to stay for location, service, comfort and a wee bit of luxury.
The Whistler Mountain Bike Park
Now in its 20th year, this is the most developed downhill mountain bike park in the world and it rightly earns its reputation. Using the gondola and chair lift at Whistler village, you can be up the mountain in 10 minutes with 8,000ft of vertical descent awaiting you! Buy a bike park pass much like a ski pass for access to the lift and all the trails on the mountain ranges. The lifts are open 10am to 8pm in the peak summer months, so you can do a lot of riding. Our weather was very good, around 30°c for the whole time with no humidity, so it was very easy to do all sports.
We mountain bike in Scotland but not on tracks like these, so we all took part in lessons to learn the bike park trails in a safe and fun way. The kids had 3 days of DFX Camp from 9:30am to 3:15pm (buy 2 days, get 1 day free) which included instruction, bike rental, lunch, helmet and body armour. It’s not cheap but it was well worth it. The kids loved the instructors and made massive progress, soon flying down the mountain doing jumps and stunts. Not to be outdone, Kenneth and I had 3 group adult lessons (10am to 1pm). We also made amazing progress – there is no way I would have done some of the runs without the coaching! It’s a tough mountain where even easy green-graded runs were tricky in parts, but it was a huge adrenaline buzz and was totally amazing.
General bike hire
We hired trail bikes for a further 3 days – an absolute must. Surrounding Whistler are 5 lakes which are connected by paths called the Valley Trail, and the Sea to Sky Trail also runs between Squamish and Whistler, so there is over 200km of trails to ride. You can also enjoy some awesome downhill courses here without having to go up the mountain and pay the mountain bike pass. The cycle to Lost Lake and onto Green Lake is really not to be missed.
Zip Trekking – Eco Tours
We did the Bear tour which is the basic tour, offering 5 zip wires to descend taking 2.5 hours – it was perfect for our kids and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our tour started at 10am and going in the morning was great as it wasn’t too hot. In the peak of summer it gets really hot at 12pm, so afternoon tours can be tiring from heat alone.
Two guides take you on the tour and fly you through each zip wire, providing tips on how to go faster (cannon ball), upside down or in various yoga-like poses. We had a right laugh as my boys were game for anything! An awesome, not-to-be-missed experience.
Paddling River of Golden Dreams
This is a fantastic way to see more of Whistler. You can choose to have a guided or unguided tour (we were unguided) and you can choose a Canadian canoe seating 3 people, a single kayak or a double kayak. You’re instructed on how to paddle, kitted with a life vest and map of the journey, told where the collection point is and off you go. The tour starts in Alta Lake and ends at the start of Green Lake and as it’s really simple you can’t get lost!
It was a stunning day, no clouds in the sky, and we had a right giggle trying to paddle the Canadian canoe. We had to get out of the canoes to navigate over beaver dams which added to the fun and there were only a few almost-capsize moments! It took just over 2 hours to paddle almost 10km – you don’t need to be massively fit although it does get tiring even at a gentle pace, but we really enjoyed it.
Float Plane Ride – Glacier Tour
This was a 40 minute, fabulous aerial tour of Whistler Mountains and the coastal mountain range, taking in glaciers, lakes and volcanic mountain tops. It was superb, from the pilot’s commentary to the views and wildlife. We were flying at about 10,000ft at our highest and it felt like we could touch the top of Black Tusk. Take off and landing on Green Lake was amazing! This would be a must for any age of holiday-maker and I was completely blown away by the experience.
Jeep Tour Salmon Bake
Probably the wackiest tour we did, but seriously good fun. We were driven by Chris, our guide, in a 4×4 Cherokee Jeep on track roads up the side of Blackcomb Mountain. Our destination was the authentic log cabin, Crystal Hut at some 8,800ft altitude.
The ride up the mountain took just about an hour with stops to view wildlife that passed by, including a bear, several deer and hoary marmots. Reaching the Crystal Hut we were treated to amazing views of the entire mountain range and across the valley. It was 5pm when we arrived at the hut and we enjoyed a delicious meal cooked by our chef, Ryan, starting with salmon pâté on the deck, the most mouth-watering salmon baked in maple syrup with roasted vegetables and salad, finished off with a hearty slab of apple tart and ice cream. Dave the folk singer sang songs, took requests and joked with the group.
On our way back Chris drove us up further to the top of the mountain – literally where you met the glacier – and we got out for some photos on the ice and more super views. On the drive down, he thought we were up for a bit of fun and so took us over the jeep course, where he reversed us up a vertical slope and we literally dangled vertical for about a minute – the kids were loving it, I was speechless! But it was all great fun.
Whistler Golf Course
Calum and I enjoyed 9 holes of entertainment (my golf was a tad rusty) but we had a golf buggy complete with ice box containing cold beer and soft drinks, which could be topped up by a service buggy while on the course! The evening was beautiful for a game of golf no matter how many balls we lost. We were joined by Shawna Lang from Tourism Whistler who was a lot of fun and she helped to guide us round the course. The course is just at the back of the Westin Hotel and the staff very friendly.
Not to be missed! You buy a pass for the mountain and head up the gondola or any of the chair lifts and are free to roam anywhere you want. There are many hiking paths and trails which are all signposted and marked for difficulty and time, so it’s a very safe way to explore. Enjoy lunch or a snack at various locations, from The Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb to the Roundhouse on Whistler, or at the Nestea hut up at the Peak Chair at the top of Whistler Mountain!
We really enjoyed dining out in Whistler – highlights included the Garibaldi Lift Company above the Whistler Gondola (awesome for watching the bikers come down from the bike park) and you can’t go to Whistler without eating at the Long Horn opposite the gondola station – in hot weather they spray a fine mist of water to keep you cool. It is lovely! Lunches we ate al fresco from the superb selection of delis and bakeries.
After our 9 nights in Whistler, we’d had a wonderful time and were ready to head on to Kelowna for Part 2 of our holiday…
by Kathryn Munro