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THE WAY TO WHISTLER
Cheryl Briggs

"I have to find out why Whistler beats our Colorado ski resorts in the ratings every year." I said this to my husband as we sped along the Sea-to-Sky freeway that hugged the Coastal Mountains between the Canadian city of Vancouver and the famous ski resort. Loyal to my own state, Colorado, and truly believing we have the best skiing in the world, it really annoys me that Whistler rates number one worldwide every year with readers of SKI Magazine, Snow Country Magazine and Skiing Magazine.

The road to Whistler wasnapostrophet helping much. This is certainly one of the most beautiful roads in the world to travel. Coloradoapostrophes own tired and congested I-70 would find it hard to compete with the Sea-to-Sky scenic strip winding its way between the Straits of Georgia on the left and the spectacular and craggy Canadian Coastal Mountains on the right. The sheer vertical drop from the top of the mountains down to sea-level should have prepared me for what was awaiting us at Whistler. Around every turn the view became more breathtaking as tall islands in the Pacific stretched up into powdery blue skies and then reached down to welcome the numerous ferries traveling between them. Old mining towns sent up smiling faces through broken panes and hanging doors. Names like "Whiski Jack" told about a rich gold mining history and a time of faded fortune seekers.

After a short hourapostrophes drive from North Vancouver (only Loveland can beat that!), we turned into the Swiss village that nestles between Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain. Although early in the season, snow-making systems ensured that the opening was on time for November 21st. And get this: Blackcomb will stay open until August 3rd, 1998! Not even Arapahoe Basin can beat that! There are also three glaciers at Whistler where skiing is done year round.

Whistler has the highest vertical drop (5280 feet) in North America. It also has the longest ski run—seven miles. Imagine—I could do one run and then go home! And I would only have to stand in the lift line once!

Accommodation and lift tickets are also cheaper in Whistler than in Colorado. For CAD 54.00 you can get an all-day lift ticket that takes in both the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. It covers three gondolas, over 200 marked trails and twelve bowls. Blackcomb recently added 17 acres of new trails and Whistler added two new high-speed Doppler chair lifts. With a weak Canadian dollar, this all starts to look very inviting to the U S visitor.

However, property in overlooking Blueberry Hill is just as expensive as Coloradoapostrophes Aspen or Vail. Whistler Resort is a mere seventeen years old and thus all the homes appear to be modern or pseudo-old. Whistler has a permanent population of 7500. Houses on Blueberry Hill can start at 1.5 million dollars (Canadian) and up. We looked at a house being built for 2.5 million dollars, and "that includes the GST," we were kindly informed! This of course made all the difference, and we had to stop ourselves from taking out our wallets!

The village and shopping area is, of course, filled with the usual useless touristy shops and art galleries. Restaurants offer meals at inflated prices, however there are the cheaper chains like McDonaldapostrophes and Hard Rock Cafe.

Semi-permanent resident and ardent skier, Janet Jean, summed it up with what she thought were the reasons Whistler outranks Colorado in the skiing sweepstakes:

  • Lower altitude makes for warmer weather
  • Less altitude sickness
  • Easy and pleasant drive from Vancouver
  • Foreign visitors can reclaim sales tax
  • A weaker Canadian dollar

After experiencing all this for myself, sadly, I had to agree with her.

GETTING THERE:

Scheduled airlines fly daily between Denver and Vancouver Airport. Airfares start at $350. You can save a considerable amount of money if you fly into nearby Seattle, Washington, and hire a car to get you across the border. Watch out for car rental companies that try to force you to buy extra insurance for going into Canada. We were stung for an extra $90 because we did not have our car insurance contract with us. Check with rental companies before you get there.

Remember to take your passport. If you are a U S citizen, your original birth certificate and a second form of ID will suffice.

 

Cheryl Briggs of Across the World Travel is a specialist in wholesale international travel and group travel. Originally from Africa and Australia, she now resides in Colorado and is an avid skier. Never having seen snow until she moved to Denver in 1987 - now she cannot see enough of it!

She specializes in travel to Africa and Australia. Cheryl can be reached by phone: 303.674.9360/800.C.B4.U.FLY. Her e-mail address is: acrossthewld@juno.com.

acrossthewld@juno.com.