With B.C. travel on the books this year, Whistler makes for an easy, gorgeous getaway for Vancouverites, the stunning beauty of the Coast Mountains all around you. If you’ve visited the mountain resort in summers past, you should know that things look a little different this season, for obvious reasons. But the pandemic isn’t stopping people from making the most out of the area’s glorious surroundings.
Sightseeing, hiking, downhill mountain biking, and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola are all on offer, in new, safe ways.
“If you can plan ahead and take a look at our safety protocols, you’re going to have the best experience possible,” Jennifer Smith of Vail Resorts Communications told the Straight. “We’re extremely conscious of the health and safety of our employees and our community as well as our guests.
“It’s a new experience for everyone,” she said. “It’s great to spend time in the outdoors right now and enjoy nature. Take a look at what you’re coming up to so you feel prepared coming into it.”
Before you leave home, pack a mask or face covering. You’ll need it for socially distanced lineups, when loading and unloading chairlifts and gondolas, and in indoor facilities. Staff are handing out masks to anyone who doesn’t have one, but having your own reusable one is better for the environment.
“We recycle all of our masks, but obviously the best way to prevent waste is for people to bring their own masks,” Smith said. “We’re really focused on sustainability, so the more that people can bring their own, the better.”
Skiers and snowboarders can use their buffs as a mask; as long as your nose and mouth are covered, anything goes. Downhill mountain bikers are showing their style with all sorts of funky, funny styles, Smith said, and all staff members are donning face coverings.
Capacity of lifts and gondolas is reduced to allow for physical distancing, with every other lift and gondola being loaded. This gives staff time for sanitization and guests more space for loading and unloading. You’ll only be allowed on lifts with travellers in your party.
The maze lineup for the mountain-biking park might look long, but it’s been reconfigured in such a way that riders don’t have anybody standing beside them while waiting, and it moves fairly quickly.
Food and beverage options at the Roundhouse, Rendezvous, and Dusty’s are grab-and-go, with socially distanced seating inside and plenty of outdoor patio space. Bring a credit or debit card; cash is out in favour of contactless payment.
Recyclable, compostable containers and cups are being used, but you can bring your own water bottle to fill up at stations that have replaced drinking fountains.
“We’re keeping things as touchless as possible,” Smith said.
Consider purchasing your lift tickets online in advance. You’ll still need to pick them up at the kiosk, but advance payment speeds things up for everyone.
Handwashing stations can be found throughout, and high-touch surfaces are being sanitized more frequently. Still, it’s always a good idea to bring your own hand sanitizer.
If you’re looking for places to hike, check out the alpine trail system or Ascent Trails, a series of three hikes that wind 6.2 kilometres from the base of Blackcomb to the Rendezvous Lodge through old growth forest and three biogeoclimatic zones. You’ll be rewarded with a great workout (1,200 metres of vertical rise) and spectacular views of the valley below.
“We’re really excited to be able to get back out with our community again,” Smith said.