ADVENTURES AFTER DARK
The Fun Doesn't Stop When The Sun Goes Down
By Katherine Fawcett / Images by Joern Rohde
The daytime takes care of itself. Under clear blue morning skies, my daughter and I hit the powder, ski the gladed runs, and then race down groomed trails on Whistler Mountain. In the afternoon, we take the Peak 2 Peak over to Blackcomb and explore even more of North America’s best downhill terrain.
By day’s end, our spirits are full, and our bodies are tired, but we yearn for more — something active and interesting to do after the sun sets, the moon rises, and the stars begin to twinkle over the mountaintops.
There are plenty of options for us to enjoy outdoor fun after dusk in and around Whistler. We can zipline, skate, snowshoe, cross-country ski, tube, or soak at the spa in the crisp winter air. Then, perhaps end the evening around a blazing bonfire, our cheeks rosy and our smiles shining. Ramp up your day with some of these fun after-dark activities!
Ziplining is always an adventure, but a nighttime zip will substantially dial up the thrill factor. Once fitted with harnesses and helmets, we board the shuttle for a 10-minute drive to Ziptrek’s base. The trails, bridges, pathways and stairs are beautifully lit, and the adrenalin kicks in as we reach the platform for the first line. I’m a little nervous but excited, as the highest platform is approximately 150 feet above the forest floor. Then, one by one, we are securely clipped onto the cable, and leap into the night air to sail effortlessly to the next platform. The wind has a bite, but the zip itself is so exhilarating that I forget about the cold and the nerves, feeling like an eagle soaring through the sky. The moon shines on the old-growth forest below, lights up the snow-capped peaks around us, and twinkles upon the waters of Fitzsimmons Creek.
Ziptrek’s Winter Après Tour includes four separate ziplines. Each flight takes an adrenalin-fuelled minute (that feels like three) to transverse. And after each, I feel more confident and energized.
Ascending the steps and crossing four swaying treetop bridges, we hear our knowledgeable guide talk about this unique mountain environment. The forest course is lit with soft twinkle lights and sets a magical mood for this unforgettable dusk experience. The final line takes us back to the Village for an easy walk back where we first met.
whistler.ziptrek.com/tours/winter-apres-tour | 1-866-935-0001
GLIDING ON ICE
For 27 days during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Whistler Olympic Plaza in the heart of the Village was the site for nightly medal ceremonies. A much-loved community gathering place, in winter, the outdoor skating rink at Olympic Plaza is surrounded by festive lights and flanked by the iconic Olympic rings. It’s an easy, fun and inexpensive place to glide, spin and test your balance on blades. Enjoyable for the whole family, the evening public skate time is 6 to 8:30 p.m., and admission is $2. You can bring your own equipment, or skates are available for rent, plus free helmets; there are even free “skate aids” that wobbly skaters like myself can lean on to help us stay upright on the ice. My daughter lovingly chuckles at my efforts, as she laps me continuously, but regardless, I’m having fun!
Anyone looking for a full NHL-sized ice rink should check out the Meadow Park Sports Centre, a short drive from the Village, where public skating and drop-in hockey are available. Also, don’t miss their Disco Skate nights on Jan. 28 and Feb. 25.
whistlerblackcomb.com | 604-967-8950
It’s the thrill of tobogganing combined with the comfort of lying on an inflatable inner tube. My daughter is excited to go to the bubly™ Tube Park in the Base 2 Zone on Blackcomb Mountain. We stand among groups of all ages on a conveyor belt to effortlessly get to the top of the hill, where we simply hop onto our tube and cruise down, taking turns each run between the gentler and the faster lanes. There’s no special skill or equipment required to go tubing; just a sense of adventure. Dressed in our layered snow gear and sturdy winter boots, we spend a fun evening playing with gravity in the snow. You can purchase a one- or two-hour ticket, and the last ticket is sold at 5 p.m. The Tube Park closes at 6 p.m.
whistlerblackcomb.com | 604-967-8950
SNOWSHOE TO A CAMPFIRE COOKOUT
Another option for all-ages evening fun outside the Village is a snowshoe adventure to a campfire cookout. The ancient forests of the Callaghan Valley are about 30 minutes south of Whistler Village by shuttle with Canadian Wilderness Adventures. We arrive at their base, strap on snowshoes and feel like explorers as we trek along what was traditionally used as a trap-line trail. The walk is easy and headlamps light the way in the silent darkness. At one point, we stop at an old trapper’s cabin. It’s OK that we’re a bit worn out from the day of skiing; the tour is a go-at-your-own-pace adventure, and we take our time, marvelling along the way at the surreal shapes of the snow-laden trees.
It’s fun to turn the headlamps off, let our eyes become accustomed to the darkness, and let the moonlight illuminate the snowy wilderness. We come together at the end with crackling bonfires for each group to enjoy smokies, chili, and s’mores accompanied by live entertainment.
canadianwilderness.com | 604-938-1616
AN EVENING OF WONDER
Vallea Lumina is a unique, immersive, multimedia nighttime experience that takes us on a journey of lights, sound, and story, all set in a winter forest wonderland. We take the 10-minute shuttle, though most tours require a self-drive from Whistler Village to the Cougar Mountain base camp, wearing our warm winter boots and comfy winter gear. On the surface, Vallea Lumina is simply a self-guided forest walk. But Moment Factory, a global leader in video, lighting, sound and special effects, elevates the natural landscape to a supernatural level with multimedia and storytelling. The result is a surreal, other-worldly experience of hidden wonders.
We finish our one-kilometre, one-hour walk by building a snowman and sipping hot chocolate around a fire, as we recount the intriguing story and our favourite special effects.
tagwhistler.com/activities/vallea-lumina | 1-855-824-9955
GO NORDIC AT NIGHT
I’ll admit, nighttime Nordic skiing demands a bit more energy than some of our previous adventures in the dark, so we save our cross-country ski for a night when we haven’t downhill skied during the day.
Night skiing at Whistler Olympic Park is a favourite local activity. From 3 to 9 p.m. most Wednesdays until March 8, you can ski (and snowshoe) under the stars, and tickets are only $10 for the entire evening. There is a lit trail network around the day lodge, as well as unlit trails that may require a headlamp, depending on the brightness of the moon. We join skiers of all levels and all ages enjoying the trails Nordic skiing on either classic or skate gear, and afterward, the soup at the licensed cafe in the day lodge is a delicious end to a fun evening. whistlersportlegacies.com/whistler-olympic-park/wednesday-nights
Skiers wanting to stay closer to town should check out the trails at Lost Lake Park, a short walk from the Village. Four kilometres of lit trails around Lost Lake are available for night skiing from 3 to 8 p.m.
crosscountryconnection.ca/lost-lake | 604-905-0071
RELAX AT THE SPA
OK, it’s not a thrill-a-minute adventure — but instead, a wonderful way to wrap up an adventurous day and rejuvenate your mind and body, preparing for tomorrow.
With my daughter over 19, I was excited to share an evening of luxurious relaxation at Whistler’s Scandinave Spa with her. What could be more sublime than steaming, sweating, chilling, and relaxing under the stars on a snowy winter night, in a spa tucked into the forest? We alternate our warm-ups in the eucalyptus steam room, wood-burning sauna, Finnish sauna, and hot baths throughout the evening. After each, we bravely immerse ourselves in the cold of the Nordic waterfall, the Nordic shower, or the plunge bath. And to complete the thermal therapy cycle, we spend our relaxation time between the solariums and fireplace lounge. Finally, as the snow falls lightly, we relax around the outdoor fireplaces, wrapped in cozy bathrobes. Feeling refreshed, our body aches soothed and minds quieted, we are ready for another day of adventure!
The Scandinave Spa is open until 9 p.m. nightly.
scandinave.com/whistler | 604-935-2424