December 31 2009 by Bryson Forbes
The second leg of "Bob & Bryson's Excellent Western Adventure" took my Dad and I to Whistler to preview one of the marquee sites for the 2010 Winter Olympics. During this visit, I was stunned to learn it was actually my Dad's first trip to Whistler. For me, it was my third and, having been in April 2008, I was most interested to see if I noticed any major changes.
The first big change was the trip from Vancouver to Whistler. Highway 99, known as the "Sea-to-Sky Highway", has been given a major facelift. The 125-kilometer drive has historically been a challenging one, with twists and turns, major elevation changes and a steady stream of big trucks. Travellers needed to be alert at all times and budget two hours to travel this stretch of beautiful roadway. Four lanes now make up most of Route 99, turning this scenic drive into a quicker and safer journey. We cruised up to Whistler in about ninety minutes--including a quick pit stop for coffee.
Aside from the buzz and the marketing throughout the area, Whistler itself looks just as I remembered. The village was littered with young people from every corner of the world, with many of those who came for a year of fun never leaving. My Dad and I pulled into the Best Western Listel Whistler Hotel, located literally at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. One of the greatest things about Best Western properties is how unique each one is, with the lobby of the Best Western Listel Whistler being a perfect example. A giant fireplace with a cozy sitting area had skiers thawing out and surfing the net. All that was missing was the St. Bernard with medicine around his neck! The guestroom itself was perfect and when I threw open the drapes, my jaw bounced off my chest. Blackcomb Mountain was framed perfectly in the window. The only reason I knew it wasn't a picture was the "ant-sized" skiers carving up the mountain outside.
One of the luxuries of my role with Best Western is getting to meet many hotel managers and owners along the way. My Dad and I had lunch with Richard (one of those people who escaped to Whistler 20 years ago and couldn't think of a good reason to leave). He, his wife and two sons call the area home. Richard, like everyone we spoke with, is excited and can't wait for the Olympics to start. He's taking his good fortune to the next level and, although he couldn't divulge too much, whispered to us that he'll be a performer in the closing ceremonies!
Unfortunately, our tight schedule and my Dad's knees did not allow us to ski, so we organized another type of adventure: dog sledding! Our guide told us that dog sledding was actually one of the most popular activities in the area and I can see why. Our tour took us into the Callahan Valley, about twenty minutes south of Whistler, where the Olympic ski jumping and cross-country events will take place. Dog sledding is like tobogganing on steroids. Imagine seven husky dogs pulling you at speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour. If you're the adventure type, you have to try this.
Olympics or not, Whistler may just be the most breathtaking tourist destination on the continent and this gem will be showcased to the world in just a few short weeks. Trust me, the area will do all Canadians proud. Whistler is a fun place with a cool vibe, and it's beautiful beyond words. If you were like my Dad was only weeks ago and have never been to Whistler, you need to change that. Add it to your must-see list.
Which Olympic events have you most excited?