Whistler may be world renowned as a premiere ski resort destination, but it is a fantastic place to go at any time of the year! The ski and snowboard racks in the village are replaced with bike racks in the late spring, summer and early fall. And when you are not biking in Whistler on one of the extensive bike trail networks, you can hike in the forest, swim in a lake, and stroll the vibrant village full of wonderful shops and restaurants!
Whether you live in Vancouver, or you are visiting the area, adventure in the spectacular town of Whistler calls! Known as Sḵwiḵw in the Indigenous Squamish language of the region, Whistler is about an hour and a half drive north of Vancouver. But you can extend your fun by exploring the sites along the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway that takes you there. Situated on the shared territory of the Indigenous Squamish and Lil’wat Nations, Whistler is an absolutely picturesque place at the foot of incredible majestic mountains. Whistler is famous for its epic skiing and snowboarding and for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. But Whistler is fantastic all year round!
Over the years we have taken countless trips up to Whistler with family and friends, but this time, we took our children (aged 7 and 10 years old) on our first family trip with our bicycles! For this two-night adventure, we stayed at the Aava Hotel in Whistler Village. This lovely property is conveniently located in the south-west corner of the main Whistler village and we love their pool and hot tub area — complete with comfortable deck loungers and stunning mountain views. It had everything we needed for a short stay, and fabulous high-ceilings from our top floor room that looked out to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains!
The front desk staff at the Aava Hotel were very helpful for us first-time Whistler bikers. They gave us a map and offered us great ride suggestions for a young family. And you can ride all over Whistler — the village is full of bike racks where you can lock up your bike while you shop or dine. During the warmer months, most of Whistler accommodations’ ski-locker storage become safe havens for your bikes to be securely stowed, so you can sleep soundly at the end of the day!
As soon as we had put our bags in the hotel room, we popped our helmets on and started out on the smooth paved bike path that runs alongside the Aava Hotel. Heading west, we went under Highway 99 and connected onto the Valley Trail bike path that is part of an extensive network designed as commuter trails that allow you to easily travel about most of Whistler. We did the loop that encircles the Whistler Golf Course, making several stops to check out the view and to re-hydrate in the roughly 30° Celsius (86° F) weather. It was a perfect little first run.
We ended our evening with dinner out, capped off with yummy ice cream from Cows and a leisurely walk around the village. There are splendid live outdoor music performances around the village during the season that we thoroughly enjoyed.
The next morning was our son’s 7th birthday and we were eager to ride in celebration! So after a quick breakfast we were off, riding west on the smooth paved Valley Trail past the Whistler Golf Course then turned south towards Alta Lake. We rode to Rainbow Park and stopped to take a water break as we watched volleyball and the swimmers cooling off in Alta Lake. Hot after our ride, we were tempted to jump in the lake as well but instead returned to the hotel to enjoy their pool and hot tub.
After lunch we were ready for a bigger ride, this time travelling east and then north on the Valley Trail. The smooth pavement gave way to loose gravel as we went onto the Lost Lake Loop trail. It was dusty and hot, with a lot of uphill on the way in, but the trail is still wide and that first part is the most challenging section of what is mostly a leisurely family ride.
After a long day of riding, it was time for a celebratory dinner and the birthday boy chose the fun atmosphere of the budget friendly Old Spaghetti Factory. Our kids love the fresh bread, the salad and the spaghetti, and they got to enjoy some special-treat Shirley Temples. Our son was both embarrassed and delighted by the after dinner sparkler in his ice cream, and the restaurant staff and patrons getting together to sing a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’!
We couldn’t leave the next day without taking one last ride, so we went on the Valley trail once more, taking it east to the Dry Creek Trail. Close to the Day Parking Lot 1 we came across a fun little free bike course of rolling hills and turns, perfect for our kids. Some more experienced riders were also practicing mini-jumps here.
One day we may hit the more challenging trails on the mountains, but for now we are happy with the easygoing free rides all around the gorgeous Whistler area.
By Anita Pettersen
Anita Pettersen, BECCEd, began studying and working in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education in 1992, and in 2014 she received her degree in Early Childhood Education from Capilano University, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The daughter of European immigrants, she was raised in the Vancouver area by her metaphysically-minded mother. Anita is a perpetual student with an eclectic study and work resumé, but being a parent is her greatest experience. Her family adventures bring her such joy and the next escapade is always in the works! http://www.anitapettersen.com