An Emerg­ing Tourism Mecca


Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion: In the case of Squamish, be­ing at the head of a fjord, at the base of one of the world’s largest gran­ite mono­liths and less than an hour from both Van­cou­ver and Whistler, it proves its sta­tus as an ideally lo­cated emerg­ing ad­ven­ture tourism des­ti­na­tion. For decades Squamish was mostly a forestry town, known mainly as a cof­fee stop be­tween the two bet­ter known des­ti­na­tions; and even though it re­tains that vibe — forestry is still part of the lo­cal econ­omy and its big­gest sum­mer fes­ti­val, Squamish Days Log­gers Sports, is cel­e­brated with gusto — to­day’s Squamish is so much more than that and well worth a stop on trav­ellers’ itin­er­ar­ies. The town’s name — “Sk­wxwú7mesh” in the lan­guage of the Squamish peo­ple who have in­hab­ited the area for thou­sands of years — means “mother of the wind,” from the brisk winds that blow on sum­mer af­ter­noons. Be­cause of that, and its place at the north­ern end of Howe Sound, it is a des­ti­na­tion for en­thu­si­asts of sail­ing and other wind-and­wa­ter sports. By 2006, Squamish was al­ready an emerg­ing out­door re­cre­ation des­ti­na­tion, host­ing many wind­sports, moun­tain bik­ing, climb­ing and run­ning events. The open­ing of the Sea to Sky Gon­dola in 2014 re­ally put it on the tourism map, and in 2015, the New York Times named Squamish one of its “52 Places to Go” that year. The gon­dola, which car­ries guests 885 me­tres (2,903 feet) to a ridge be­low the sum­mit of Mount Habrich, af­fords spec­tac­u­lar views of the nearby Stawa­mus Chief, 335-me­tre (1,099-foot) Shan­non Falls, Howe Sound and Sky Pi­lot Moun­tain. To the north is the dis­tinc­tive peak of 2,678-me­tre (8,787-foot) Mount Garibaldi, and to the north­west, the glaciated crags of the Tan­talus Range. At the Sum­mit Lodge, guests can en­joy drinks or a meal along with the stun­ning views from the large, sunny ob­ser­va­tion deck, walk the Sky Pi­lot Sus­pen­sion Bridge and stroll on the trails that em­anate from the lodge. Punc­tu­at­ing the path­ways is in­ter­pre­tive sig­nage about the area’s fas­ci­nat­ing ge­ol­ogy and lo­cal Na­tive leg­ends. The Sea to Sky Gon­dola hosts many events in the sum­mer and fall, in­clud­ing the Moun­tain Mu­sic Series, with live per­for­mances on Fri­day evenings from June to Septem­ber. Rise + Climb is a ded­i­cated group hike on Satur­days in July and Au­gust, start­ing from the base area up the Sea to Sum­mit Trail at 6:45, 7:15 and 7:45 a.m., or guests can as­cend the forested, 7.5 km trail at their own pace. The gon­dola’s Moun­tain­side Yoga Series takes place Mon­day to Fri­day from mid- June un­til the end of Au­gust. Groups or fam­i­lies with an in­ter­est in Na­tive cul­ture can book a Talk­ing Trees Tour hosted by First Na­tions guides, who in­tro­duce guests to the nat­u­ral and his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to lo­cal Na­tive peo­ples of the forests and ocean around them. On a Via Fer­rata Tour, Moun­tain Skills Academy and Ad­ven­ture ex­perts will guide vis­i­tors on an adren­a­line-in­fused jour­ney that in­cludes a cat­walk, bridges and a climb­ing route that uses iron rungs and a ca­ble sys­tem bolted into solid gran­ite. For more in­for­ma­tion about the gon­dola, their hosted ac­tiv­i­ties and events, visit seatosky­gon­dola.com. Squamish is the hap­pen­ing place in the sum­mer and fall. The lo­cal Farm­ers’ Mar­ket takes place down­town, near the O’Siyam Pav­il­ion, Satur­days from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through late Oc­to­ber. Run­ning and moun­tain bik­ing events take full ad­van­tage of the com­mu­nity’s world-renowned trail net­work. The run­ning cal­en­dar in­cludes the Loop

the Lakes Trail Race, the Be Fear­less Trail Marathon, the Squamish 50 Trail Run­ning Fes­ti­val and the Sky Pi­lot Moun­tain Trail Race. Moun­tain bik­ers de­scend on Squamish for the Sp’akw’us 50 Marathon Moun­tain Bike Race in June and the final day of the seven-stage B.C. Bike Race in July. Wind and pad­dling sports take cen­tre stage at the Kite Clash and Cana­dian Na­tional Freestyle Kite­board­ing Cham­pi­onships, the Cana­dian Down­wind Cham­pi­onships and the Squamish Wind Fes­ti­val in July. The spirit and his­tory of Squamish are cel­e­brated at the Squamish Sikh Fes­ti­val in June, the Squamish Days Log­gers Sports Fes­ti­val in Au­gust and the Brack­endale Fall Fair in Septem­ber. The Stawa­mus Chief and nearby Smoke Bluffs make Squamish a mag­net for rock climbers from around the world. In mid-July, the Arc’teryx Climb­ing Academy (for­merly Squamish Moun­tain Fes­ti­val) in­cludes speak­ers, sem­i­nars and prod­uct demos fo­cus­ing on climb­ing and moun­tain cul­ture. A new sum­mer out­door at­trac­tion opened in Squamish in late 2017: Open May to Oc­to­ber, Rope Run­ner Aerial Ad­ven­ture Park, next to the Squamish Ad­ven­ture Cen­tre off High­way 99, is a 17-me­tre-high ap­pa­ra­tus of steel, wood, ropes and wire, “where peo­ple of all ages can ‘run the ropes’ in a fun, and safe high­wire ad­ven­ture.” For in­for­ma­tion, visit rope­run­ner­park.com. The Squamish area is home to two world-class mu­se­ums. The West Coast Rail­way Her­itage Park, which fea­tures vin­tage and re­stored rail­cars as well as the famed Royal Hud­son steam lo­co­mo­tive, is host­ing “Day Out with Thomas” (of Thomas the Tank En­gine fame) on week­ends in late May. Visit wcra.org for de­tails. Eleven kilo­me­tres south of town, the Bri­tan­nia Mine Mu­seum of­fers a chance to pan for gold, learn about the fas­ci­nat­ing field of met­al­lurgy or ven­ture deep into the shafts of what was once the top pro­duc­ing cop­per mine in the Bri­tish Em­pire on a vin­tage mine train. For in­for­ma­tion, visit bri­tan­ni­amine­mu­seum.ca. For de­tails about Squamish of­fer­ings, stop by the Squamish Ad­ven­ture Cen­tre or visit ex­ploresquamish.com.

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