I always thought of myself as outdoorsy. I mean, what Australian isn’t? That was until I moved to Canada and realised I was basically a couch potato with an accent and a cricket bat.
Canadians, in contrast, have a kind of frenzied outdoorsiness that only makes sense when you do the math – even in a mild climate like on British Columbia’s West Coast, it’s a long winter. Summer is fast, fleeting, fantastic and inspires a kind of hyperactive playfulness that fills the parking lots, parks and patios, making it an absolute sacrilege to laze about inside if the sun is out.
So get out of the city, head up the Sea to Sky, and try these four fail-safe ways to inject a little Canadiana into your system. You don’t have to be a hardcore adventurer. You just have to appreciate that you have a small window within which to enjoy the life-changing magic of a Canadian summer. Your time starts NOW.
Grab supplies from Hunter Gather, the new taphouse on Whistler’s Main Street, and beeline it for a local lake. Whistler is riddled with trails – trails that set the benchmark for trail design – and the Valley unfurls with a necklace of lakes strung like chunky jewels along the highway, all linked by a paved trail network that is cruiser-bike or dawdle-friendly – although you can cover a lot more ground, maybe even all five of the mountain-fed lakes, if you’re willing to pedal.
A new food-truck program offers fresh and funky eats at many local parks, but it’s always better to bring your own, especially if you’re still chasing your disoriented soul across time zones. Leverage your discombobulated body clock by heading out with a Canadiano in hand (a short black sweetened with maple syrup) in the early morning to Whistler’s lakes – fresh air and a rising mist is the best cure for jetlag. Or wander out late at night and you might just catch a show of the aurora borealis. They’ve been known to make unscheduled appearances in this neck of the woods.
Arrive thirsty, leave inspired, promises the BC Ale Trail champions at Explore BC. Craft beer’s revival is not unique to Canada, but BC’s reclamation of beer-love is deep-rooted in its role as a hops-growing mecca for the British Empire back in the late 1800s. At the peak of the local industry, Squamish boasted 10 hops-growing farms, exporting to the UK. Discovering the place through a beer tasting is culturally legitimate. Squamish, recently named by the New York Times as one of the ‘top 52 Places to Go’, has three microbreweries; Whistler’s newest Coast Mountain Brewing is getting rave reviews, and Pemberton’s premium organic spirits distillery – one of 10 best craft distilleries in Canada and a pioneer of micro-distilling in British Columbia – uses local potatoes, hops, Devil’s Club root and hemp seed, to craft their award-winning offerings. Pemberton tours and tastings take place every Saturday.
Summer turns everything in the mountains on its head, including lift operations at Whistler Blackcomb, where three new Ascent Trails let you hike up the mountain, and take the chairlift back down. Little Burn, Big Burn and Heart Burn are three brand-new trails that offer a 6.1km uphill hike gaining 1,200m in elevation from the Valley to the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain. Enjoy a mountaintop lunch and glass of wine, and then let the chairlifts take the knee-knackering out of a descent, as you coast back to the valley, spotting for black bears while you download. Of course, the lifts still run uphill too – in case you left your hiking boots at home. The view from the top is the same, however it’s attained, no matter what the breathless hill-climbers claim.
Every August, Pemberton farms open their gates and invite people to come back to the land and connect with the source of their food. A 13-year tradition, that has spawned similar events in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island farmland and even recently in Sweden, Pemberton’s Slow Food Cycle sees a few thousand cruiser bikes take to the flat country road. The 20km stretch closes to vehicle traffic for four hours in the middle of the day, and food becomes front and centre as people sip and sample their way from farm to farm. It’s not a race. People can ride out and back at their own pace. But it does feel like a celebration. And why shouldn’t farmers get at least one day of love and adulation?
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