New nighttime walk in Whistler transforms old-growth forest into dreamy wonderland beneath the stars

Vallea Lumina combines lighting, sound, and high-tech special effects for a family-friendly outing in total darkness

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      By day, summertime in Whistler is paradise for outside play: hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, horseback riding, ziplining, golfing, and more. Come nightfall, the focus largely shifts indoors, save perhaps for patio dining, swimming in a hotel pool, or star-gazing.

      A new nighttime attraction is changing that, one that will showcase Whistler in a completely different light--literally.

      Vallea Lumina is an immersive multimedia experience that takes place along an old-growth forest trail after the sun goes down.

      Vallea Lumina only happens in pitch black, and it’s totally family friendly,” says Joey Houssian, founder of the Adventure Group (TAG), which is producing the event in collaboration with Montreal’s Moment Factory.  (Vallea means valley in Italian.) “This is about bringing the forest to life and showing people what’s right there in front of them with a bit of magic and technology and thousands of lights and speakers that make the forest go a bit magical.”

      The night walk launches on Wednesday (July 18) and runs till mid-October, with start times varying according to sundown. (Currently, it’s 10:30 p.m.)

      Here’s how it unfolds: A shuttle bus stops at various points throughout Whistler Village to take you eight kilometres north to TAG’s basecamp at Cougar Mountain. From the moment you step on the bus, music and light give you a taste of what’s to come. Once on-site at what’s designed to be a ranger camp, you follow the story of two missing hikers. The 1.5-kilometre path unfurls in an otherworldly way, a kind of Coast Mountain wonderland where towering Douglas firs seem to talk and hologramlike images are projected on giant cedars.

      Without giving too much away, imagine what appear to be yellow and orange lanterns morphing into natural objects as the lighting shifts, Northern Lights-like, into pinks, blues, greens, and purples. Folksy acoustic guitar leads into drum-heavy beats, all while you find yourself thinking “How did they do that?”.

      The Moment Factory has mounted Lumina in various locations in Quebec and Ontario as well as Japan and Singapore. The multimedia-entertainment company is known for its site-specific work that weaves storytelling with theatre, music, and technology. It was behind Madonna’s 2012 Superbowl half-time show and, more recently, Arcade Fire’s Infinite Content tour. Vallea Lumina is the first show of its kind in Western Canada.

      The Adventure Group offers various activities in Whistler in winter and summer, including snowmobiling and snowshoeing tours, Superfly Ziplines, river rafting, RZR Tours, and a high ropes challenge course.

      Houssian, who has a degree in environmental studies and geography, says the synergy between TAG and Moment Factory helped bring the project together swiftly, having met with the French-Canadian team just last fall over sushi and sake in Whistler.

      “I believe in sustainable business and the connectiveness of it all,” Houssian says. “For Vallea Lumina, I wanted to get across that message of oneness and interconnectedness, that humans are not separate from nature but part of nature. And in nature, there exists a ton of magic if you just look.”

      The self-guided walk takes approximately 50 to 75 minutes; there are some stairs. It costs $29 for adults and $24 for kids aged five and up. Those under five are free.

      More information is at Vallea Lumina.