SQUAMISH

Win­ter Adventure Awaits

Whistler Traveller Magazine - - TRAVELLER I CONTENT - STORY BY DAVID BURKE IM­AGES BY JOERN RO­HDE

Half­way be­tween Van­cou­ver and Whistler along the scenic Sea to Sky High­way, SQUAMISH used to be known as a sleepy forestin­dus­try town and rest stop be­tween the two bet­ter-known des­ti­na­tions. But with its strate­gic lo­ca­tion at the head of the spec­tac­u­lar fjord known as HOWE SOUND, its place as a rock-climb­ing mecca punc­tu­ated by the sig­na­ture gran­ite mono­lith the STAWA­MUS CHIEF and the open­ing of the spec­tac­u­lar Sea to Sky Gon­dola, Squamish has earned wide ac­claim as a tourist des­ti­na­tion in its own right.

The gon­dola, in par­tic­u­lar, is well worth a visit in both win­ter and sum­mer. As­cend­ing 885 me­tres (2,800 feet) above its base two kilo­me­tres south of down­town Squamish, vis­i­tors are whisked in eight-pas­sen­ger cab­ins past the south­west face of the Chief as Howe Sound and pris­tine coastal rain­for­est stretch out far be­low. From the Sum­mit Lodge, win­ter­time guests can take in the breath­tak­ing, 360-de­gree view of Howe Sound, while en­joy­ing a hearty meal or a warm drink. The Sky Pi­lot Sus­pen­sion Bridge, which runs from the lodge to the Spirit View­ing Plat­form, is ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one, as are the 400-me­tre Spirit Trail or the 1.6-kilo­me­tre Panorama Trail, both of which start and fin­ish at the lodge.

Dur­ing win­ter, the gon­dola is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from Dec. 4, 2015 to April 2016, and a few select evenings for din­ner. When con­di­tions are right — check be­fore you go — the young and young at heart can whoosh down the groomed runs in the world-class tube park next to the Won­der­land Loop Trail, or snow­shoe through the snowladen coastal forests (rentals avail­able). Those ex­pe­ri­enced at ski tour­ing will en­joy start­ing their adventure from the Sum­mit Lodge, where some 1,300 hectares (more than 3,000 acres) of ter­rain in four alpine bowls await. One caveat though: the ter­rain in and around Sky Pi­lot Moun­tain, Sky­line Ridge and Goat Moun­tain is not for be­gin­ners and should be ap­proached only by those fully pre­pared for all win­ter con­di­tions.

For hardy hik­ers, the Sea to Sum­mit Trail (open in win­ter as con­di­tions per­mit) of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to trek 7.2 kilo­me­tres up­hill to the Sum­mit Lodge, where you can cel­e­brate your suc­cess­ful as­cent by grab­bing a snack or a drink, and then take the gon­dola down.

For in­for­ma­tion about the gon­dola, in­clud­ing spe­cial events, visit seatosky­gon­dola.com, or call 604-892-2550.

The north­ern­most Squamish neigh­bour­hood of Brack­endale is known as the win­ter home of the Bald Ea­gle, and for good rea­son. From late Novem­ber to March, thou­sands of the ma­jes­tic raptors de­scend on Brack­endale to feast on the abun­dant salmon that spawn in streams that empty into the Squamish and Cheaka­mus rivers. Vis­i­tors can learn about ea­gle mi­gra­tion and feed­ing habits on a breath­tak­ing float trip with a lo­cal guid­ing com­pany; or if you only have a cou­ple of hours, drop by the ea­gle-view­ing dike ad­ja­cent to Brack­endale Ea­gles Pro­vin­cial Park. In­ter­preters are avail­able on busy days to of­fer in­for­ma­tion and a chance to view the ea­gles up close through a tele­scope.

The Stawa­mus Chief and nearby Smoke Bluffs make Squamish a year-round des­ti­na­tion for clim­bers. Be­ing at sea level, Squamish en­joys more snow-free win­ter days than ei­ther Whistler or Pem­ber­ton and there­fore, is the place to en­joy moun­tain bik­ing, hik­ing or trail run­ning dur­ing the cooler months. It’s also home to the West Coast Rail­way Her­itage Park and, 11 kilo­me­tres to the south at Bri­tan­nia Beach, the world-class Bri­tan­nia Mine Mu­seum.

For in­for­ma­tion about all the recre­ational and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties in and around Squamish, visit the Squamish Adventure Cen­tre near the down­town turn-off from High­way 99 or tourism­squamish.com.

SEA TO SKY GON­DOLA / PAUL BRIDE

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