Squamish – A Mecca for Outdoor Adventure

A Mecca for Outdoor Adventure

By David Burke / Images By Joern Rohde

Mount Currie, Pemberton.
The community at the head of the fjord known as Howe Sound boasts a history that’s as unique and interesting as its surroundings are spectacular. For millennia it has been home to the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh) people, whose legends reverberate off the massive granite monolith known as the Stawamus Chief and nearby Mount Garibaldi (Nch’kaý to the Squamish). For more than a century after European settlement, Squamish was primarily known as a logging town and while that industry is still influential, the community has gained renown as a place to enjoy mountain biking, climbing, wind and water sports and historic attractions.

The decline of the mining, sawmill and chemical industries has helped spur an effort to restore Howe Sound’s aquatic environment, which has been so successful that group of locals is working toward creation of the Howe Sound Biosphere Reserve as a UNESCO-designated marine reserve. Such reserves are described as “places where people are inspired to find ways to live, and work in harmony with nature,” according to the initiative’s website, howesoundbri.org.

Since the 1980s, Squamish has been promoted as the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada” because of its growing reputation as a place for outdoor pursuits. A defining moment in its emergence as a tourist destination was the opening, in 2014, of the Sea to Sky Gondola, which whisks guests 885 metres (2,903 feet) to the Summit Lodge, from which they can enjoy stunning views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. During the ride up, visitors can see 335 m (1,099 ft.) Shannon Falls and the 702 m (2,303 ft.) Stawamus Chief, a popular hiking and climbing venue.
The gondola, which had been closed because of an act of vandalism in September 2020, has re-opened with beefed-up security to prevent a recurrence, said Christy Allan, manager of sales and marketing.
“We have implemented extraordinary upgrades to our security measures. The safety of guests is our No. 1 priority,” Allan said.
Upgrades to nearby recreational trails, and revisions to some of the Summit Lodge’s dining and programming options in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, also aim to keep visitors safe. “We’re creating a series of trail loops to… give people more options for hiking or trail running, with a real focus on locals and their ability to get out in our own backyard,” Allan said. seatoskygondola.com

Pemberton, ranch, horses at sunset, winter.
Pemberton Winterfest, family fun. kids.

The Squamish area is home to other world-class attractions, including the Railway Museum of British Columbia (formerly the West Coast Railway Heritage Park), featuring vintage, meticulously restored railcars and the famed Royal Hudson steam locomotive. There’s also a mini-rail train and the chance to ride one of B.C. Rail’s old Budd cars to the nearby Restoration Shop to see skilled technicians restoring vintage railcars to their former glory, said General Manager Gord Bell. wcra.org

Eleven kilometres south of Squamish, the Britannia Mine Museum is located on the site of what was once the most productive copper mine in the British Empire. The museum recently added a significant new attraction: “Boom!,” a video and special-effects show that brings the 97-year-old, 20-storey Mill No. 3 building to life. This summer, the museum boasts an exhibit called “Connected by Copper: From Cells to Cell Phones,” building on last year’s successful “Copper: Bug Busters” display. Advance booking is recommended. britanniaminemuseum.ca

Winter in Pemberton, dining.

Squamish boasts some 200 kilometres of recreational trails, making it one of B.C.’s most popular destinations for mountain bikers and trail runners. Its consistent summertime winds and water access also make it popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders. Rock climbers enjoy tackling the challenging routes on the Stawamus Chief or the variety of pitches found in nearby Smoke Bluffs Park. squamishaccess.ca

The Rope Runner Aerial Adventure Park is an activity that’s fun for your whole family bubble. Located just off Highway 99 next to the Squamish Adventure Centre, the Rope Runner course is 17 metres high and 20 metres in diameter and includes 50 “games” that engage guests in a fun and safe high-wire adventure. Advance booking recommended. roperunnerpark.com

For information about events and activities, visit the Squamish Adventure Centre just off Highway 99 near downtown, phone (604) 815-4994 (local) or 1-877-815-5084. exploresquamish.com