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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 12:13 pm | Fair 54º


Judy Crowell: Summer Along British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Highway

Scenic drive from Vancouver to Whistler serves as a gateway for outdoor adventures and breathtaking views

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Move over Big Sur, French Riviera and other acclaimed scenic drives. The Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler in British Columbia is breathtaking and gets you very close to heaven on earth.

Advice: snow tires and chains. Yes, those old-fashioned things called chains are the law November to April, so summer is the perfect time to take this fantastic 75-mile drive and stay for a while.

Along the way, stop at the waterfront village of Horseshoe Bay, pan for gold at the Britannia Mine Museum, view the thunderous Shannon Falls, picnic beneath the Brandywine Falls and hike the Stawamus Chief near Squamish, the outdoor recreation capital of Canada.

Exciting mountain adventures really kick in when you arrive at Whistler, a unique, vibrant, pedestrian-only village. Pack away your acrophobia (I did!) and hop on the ski lift for the exhilarating 20-minute ride to the top of Blackcomb Mountain — at 8,000 feet, about 840 feet higher than Whistler Mountain next door.

For the full test of your acrophobia (mine failed), take the Peak 2 Peak, joining the two mountains. At 1,427 feet above the valley floor, it’s the highest lift of its kind and the longest continuous lift system in the world, with unparalleled 360-degree views from the gondolas (so I’m told).

Back on terra firma, you’ll want to try canoeing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding through old-growth cedar forests, biking at Whistler Mountain Bike Park with more than 47 trails for all skill levels, biking with one of the rental bikes along the village paths and sidewalks, and summer skiing and snowboarding in snow (yes, real honest to goodness snow) on the glaciers at 7,600 feet.

Whistler and surrounding areas are a top destination for golfers, so pack the irons and enjoy some of the most spectacular golf courses in the world. For the thrill seekers among us, there is ziplining, white water rafting, ice climbing, paragliding and — the orthopedic surgeons’ favorite — rock climbing.

Whistler Village boasts a year-round population of about 10,000, rising to 50,000 during peak times. It’s truly a “rags to riches” story along the West Coast, growing from an isolated wilderness to a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and co-host for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Black bears, marmots and other critters were the main occupants of this pristine land, along with the Indians.

The name Whistler comes from the shrill whistling sound the western hoary marmots made to warn of predators. Shrills can still be heard coming from the Family Adventure Zone, where children of all ages delight in pony rides, miniature golf, bumper cars, Kiss the Sky bungy trampoline and Amaze’n Maze, a great substitute for a babysitter.

The Village offers endless shopping and dining options. Some favorites are the Portobello Deli and the Mallard Lounge & Terrace at the Fairmont Hotel; Milestones for a marvelous prawn salad; and Araxi for award-winning cuisine and wines. My all-time favorite, however, has to be a barbecue hamburger, grilled at the top of the mountain.

We found much to like outside the Village. Tucked away in the woods and alongside beautiful Green Lake is Edgewater Lodge, a charming and rustic lodge with rooms overlooking the lake and glorious mountain views. Dinner there was a surprising culinary delight — both the delicacy of the meal and the thoughtful service. I highly recommend this.

Another find was Rimrock Café for a log cabin atmosphere with a sophisticated menu and highly touted wine cellar. Try this, too.

Choices overwhelm for accommodations in the Village. We chose the Fairmont, and I would recommend this highly.

We departed this summer wonderland, known and associated with winter skiing, driving south on the now Sky to Sea Highway wondering, when can we return, and who the heck needs snow?

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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