Wide-open Sea-to-Sky Corridor offers safe spaces for guests

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      Whistler mayor Jack Crompton wants Vancouverites to know that his resort is open. But not in the way that it’s been in the past.

      “It’s certainly a different experience than it was before COVID,” Crompton told the Straight by phone. “We’re physically distanced. People are wearing masks. Our community has been planning to provide a safe reopening for the last three months, so we feel ready to host.”

      Quoting provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra of “few faces and big spaces”, Crompton emphasized that this is something his community can provide.

      “Mountain culture is why we exist,” he said, “so helping people experience those big open spaces is sort of in our bones.”

      When the province moved to the third phase of its COVID-19 restart plan, which allows for nonessential travel within B.C., Crompton encouraged Premier John Horgan to visit the resort this summer.

      Whistler mayor Jack Crompton is hoping the premier will visit Whistler this summer.

      Crompton told the Straight that he's also excited to be welcoming Vancouver residents back to Whistler.

      "Vancouverites are very much a part of this town and have been from the very beginning," he said.

      For those who crave cultural experiences, the Audain Art Museum and the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre are open in Whistler.

      Crompton also pointed out that Whistler Blackcomb is welcoming mountain bikers. And for sightseers, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola is operating, offering a 360-degree view of mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers, forests, and perhaps the occasional bear.

      “Come to Whistler and adventure differently,” Crompton said. “Come ready to find that quiet spot and enjoy time with just your family.”

      Whistler is a major contributor to the B.C. economy, generating about 25 percent of the province’s gross export tourism revenue, according to the mayor.

      But in the summer, it’s more of a domestic playground than a magnet for international visitors, who can no longer cross the border for nonessential travel.

      In fact, communities along the entire Sea-to-Sky Corridor are eager to welcome British Columbians. There’s a free Tourism Pemberton app to find out what’s open in that community, which is 32.7 kilometres north of Whistler.

      The area offers spectacular fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, motorcycling, running routes, and water activities, as well as agritourism. Unfortunately, the Pemberton Museum, which showcases the region’s colourful history, remains closed at this time.

      Down the road in Squamish, Mayor Karen Elliott has sound advice for visitors: do your homework before hitting the road.

      “If you find yourself at a full parking lot or trail head, you need to have a plan B in mind: somewhere else you can go if you don’t get your first choice of activity,” Elliott told the Straight by phone

      Squamish mayor Karen Elliott hopes people play within their limits in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor to make life easier for emergency responders during the pandemic.

      The exploresquamish.com website explains what is open and which areas, such as the backside trail up the Squamish Chief, are still closed.

      "Let’s explore responsibly, by leaving no trace, keeping wildlife wild and respecting the amenities, people and nature around us," the website states. "During peak times, this could mean seeking out quieter spaces to help maintain physical distancing."

      The district’s slogan is “Hardwired for Adventure”, but the mayor is hoping that people stay within their limits.

      “This summer is all about fun and welllness—and playing within your comfort zone—because we don’t need extra calls for our search and rescue teams,” Elliott added. “It’s more complicated under COVID-19. We want to keep people out of the hospitals.”