Another winter, another experience. After countless visits, I'm proud to say that every single time has been such a different experience entirely. How is that even possible?
Sometimes we keep the schedule packed to the brim. This time, uh not so much! This was largely influenced by two things. All of us have been very busy in recent months and really needed some low-key, slow-pace, reflective downtime. Perhaps even more than any of us knew. The other reason... well, mother nature forgot to bring snow! The village was eerily quiet for mid-December, and everyone looked, frankly, a little worried.
Yes, there was some snow on the ground, but it just wasn't a consistent enough base to ski on. And the low snow levels were, understandably, just enough to keep tourists away until the really big flakes came falling. But locals kept telling us their fingers and toes were crossed and that snow was expected, hopefully coming very soon.
Thankfully, it turns out that halfway into our visit the snow DID eventually come, and it came in a big way. It started slowly, and built up to a blizzard, and kept falling, and falling. Glorious! Everyone was so excited, and there was a collective sigh of relief all over the village.
By the time we got out of relaxation mode and tackled one of our favorite activities here - yes, hiking! - the snow had really begun to fall. This is a favorite tradition of ours, whether it be summer or winter months. Of course, there are several summer hikes that are just not possible in winter, but some still are if you're careful where you step and have on some reliable winter boots.
Here are our favorites that do not require snowshoes and are very-tiny-pooch-friendly:
Trainwreck Trail Hike - 4.5k. How exactly did all those train cars end up in the middle of the forest?? Sixty years ago a conductor took a corner too fast and tipped several train cars. Three of those cars were dragged away from the tracks deep into the forest, and now trees have grown up around the area. Now it's considered a free public art gallery, and gorgeous graffiti magically morphs regularly. Added bonus? The suspension bridge over the beautiful Cheakamus River. Make sure to stop in Function Junction afterward for a post-hike treat at PureBread! If you enjoy hiking at all, don't miss this one.
Nairn Falls - 2.6k. This trail is located north of Whistler heading toward Pemberton. The trail path takes you alongside and above a beautiful river through the trees, then opens up at the stunning falls. Really easy overall but can get slippery at a couple of points. When we do this we usually have lunch in little Pemberton afterward.
Shannon Falls - 1.0k. This trail is actually on the way up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler, so the only reasonable time you'd stop is when you're arriving or heading home. Hike is super short (only 1.0k), but a great excuse to stretch your legs and see a huge waterfall up very close.
Alexander Falls - this doesn't qualify as a "hike" like we had hoped because it was way too short a distance from the car to the falls viewing point. But it is worth mentioning here because the falls are absolutely stunning. Wow! We plan to return during summer months and hike Alexander Falls via Real Life Trail 10.6k. Heading over this direction we also found a great excuse to explore the nearby Whistler Olympic Park, which (embarrassingly) we had never checked out before.
So did we also get to ski? Turns out, yes we did! The day we hit the mountain did provide a lot of challenges - closed runs and a LOT of visible obstacles popping up through the snow - but the fresh snow coming down overhead was light and fluffy, and there was tons of it. Oh yeah, and virtually no lift lines anywhere. So yes, I'll take that as a win!