Squamish – Where ‘Sea’ Meets ‘Sky’

Where 'Sea' Meets 'Sky'

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, Squamish has been home to the Skwxwú7mesh (a.k.a. Squamish) people, whose legends reverberate off the massive granite monolith known as the Stawamus Chief and nearby Mount Garibaldi (Nch’kay 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 town has gained fame as a place to enjoy mountain biking, climbing, wind and water sports, and unique historical attractions.

The decline of the copper mining and forestry industries spurred a multi-pronged effort to restore Howe Sound’s aquatic ecosystem, resulting in the restoration of herring populations and a rebound for salmon stocks, as well as the occasional return of killer whales and dolphins to the waters just south of town. In September 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Howe Sound (Átl’ka7tsem in Squamish) as Canada’s 19th Biosphere Region. The fjord’s “rich Indigenous culture, biodiversity and distinct geography” led to the designation, which is intended to serve as a starting point for discussions about ensuring sustainable development. howesoundbri.org
Pemberton, ranch, horses at sunset, winter.
Winter in Pemberton, dining. Winter in Pemberton, dining.

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. The opening, in 2014, of the Sea to Sky Gondola was a defining event in the community’s emergence as a popular destination. The gondola 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.
Recently, Sea to Sky Gondola officials carried out upgrades to nearby recreational trails, giving visitors more options for exploring the stunning natural beauty available from the lodge. As well, much of the usual programming — including regular summer outdoor musical performances and yoga classes — is back in full swing for 2022. seatoskygondola.com

The Squamish area is home to other world-class attractions, including the Railway Museum of British Columbia, 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. The museum also includes an old-time print shop with a vintage printing press in operation. 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 now showcases “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 hosts an exhibit titled “More than a Mine: Recreation in a Mining Town,” providing an exploration into everyday life in a mining town, until Sept. 5. britanniaminemuseum.ca

Squamish boasts some 200 km 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 the whole family. Located just off Highway 99 next to the Squamish Adventure Centre, Rope Runner is 17 metres high and 20 metres in diameter and includes 50 “games” that engage guests in a fun and safe high-ropes adventure.

For fresh local produce, treats, crafts and entertainment every Saturday through Dec. 2, visit the Squamish Farmers’ Market just off Cleveland Avenue (a.k.a. “main street”). squamishfarmersmarket.com
Squamish is home to many fun events and festivals. The long-running Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival features amateur and professional competitors in birling (log rolling), axe throwing, obstacle pole bucking, tree climbing and much more. The event includes musical acts and the popular and often hilarious downtown bed races. squamishdays.ca
The Squamish Constellation Festival takes place at Hendrickson Fields, south of Brennan Park Recreation Centre and includes top musical acts.

The number of small breweries, cideries and distilleries keeps growing and has attracted a loyal following. The Squamish Beer Festival is a half-day event featuring the best brews from more than 55 local and out-of-town breweries. squamishbeerfestival.com
All summer long, guests can enjoy a trek on the Squamish Craft Tasting Trail (part of the B.C. Ale Trail) for a chance to visit and enjoy the offerings of 12 craft breweries, cideries and distilleries. bcaletrail.ca/ale-trails/squamish

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

Pemberton Winterfest, family fun. kids.Pemberton Winterfest, family fun. kids.Pemberton Winterfest, family fun. kids.