Whistler Snow Walls
June 16 is my birthday. In 2016 I turned 24. This year I wanted to ensure I was going to have an exciting one by planning an activity I’ve always wanted to do. Hike some snow walls.
I first heard of snow walls when I was about 16 or so. I thought they were something only available in Switzerland. Or maybe Japan had the better technology and manpower to make them. But, no. It’s here in my home and native land… where people not an hour away in America think I plug my laptop into a tree and ride a polar bear work.
But in all honestly, no wonder Americans think Canada is a frozen wasteland. I literally took my mom and son to see snow… in the middle of June. And while it had already been melting for week, it was still over ten feet tall and towering over us. Yeah, a frozen wonderland is what I’d call it, but to each their own I guess.
We drove up to Whistler Village leaving home around 7:30 AM and it took about 2 hours of driving a beautiful winding road. I pointed out to my mom, whom we picked up in Horseshoe Bay, where the Shannon Falls were as we passed Squamish, and we have agreed to make a trip together so she too can see the Waterfalls.
Once in Whistler, our adventure truly began. We arrived at about 10AM, and couldn’t figure out where we needed to park. It was only at the end of the day did we find ample parking in a large pay parking lot.
I ended up running around for 45 minutes trying to find a parking meter that worked in one of two hotels, and then it only took coins and I needed to get change and the ATM was locked in a bar that wasn’t open yet… it was a mess.
By 10:45 my phone alarm went off saying it was Gregory’s nap time and we hadn’t even hit the Ski Lift yet. It was all good, because my mom and the Bean were off exploring the village having a grand time together. Our adventure continued after I managed to pay for parking (about $15 for 10 hours) and we went to the Whistler Ski Lift.
Ski Lift & Gondola
We rode a ski lift 30 minutes up the mountain. Actually we rode two. It was really cool, and only slightly cold. The view we had on the mountain side… we saw a bear, streams, lost shoes and jackets, trails, cliffs, the sky line mountain views and rear view to the village was also stunning.
I’ve only been skiing once before in my life, and I don’t remember being in that much awe riding last time. The difference between riding in the summer versus winter. That and maybe mountain size is a factor.
Once at the top of the Whistler ski lift, we checked out the area. There was a restaurant and amazing views. While we were wanting to find a trail to hike and find a lake, we also couldn’t wait to try out the gondola.
We ultimately rode the Peak 2 Peak Gondola 3 times. We took a round trip before we went back to the village because it was a very nice ride. Plus, it warmed us up after walking the snow walls. The Gondola from Blackcomb to the village is about 30 minutes ride.
WARNING: the ‘dola seems to stop at what seems to be your get off station on the way down the mountain. Do not get off the ‘dola. It’s actually a pickup station for people riding up the mountain, you stay on, your ride isn’t over.
Pika’s and Mathews’ Traverse Road
Pika’s traverse seemed to be the easiest path to find once we exited the Peak to Peak Gondola. Now, I knew it was a hike, and that we were on a mountain, but this is a HIKE up a MOUNTAIN. I was sweating bullets within minutes.
You can check out a PDF map here, or pick up a paper map at the visitor center in the village. You’re looking for the Alpine Hiking Trail Map for summer trails.
It is not only challenging because it’s a hike, but the altitude is going to hit you. It hit my mom and I big time. Prevent yourself from passing out by taking frequent breaks, drinking water and bringing along a healthy snack like an orange or apple to replenish your blood sugar.
Don’t be shy of stopping every 50 meters either, take advantage of your time to turn around and take in the view. Snap some photos, and capture fun footage if your brought a video camera. Pika’s is supposed to take 1.5 hours and it continues right in to Mathews’ which is about another 45 minutes. I had a toddler to haul along and we stopped to play so it may have taken us a bit longer. I definitely was taking advantage of checking out the snow walls, views, and photo ops.
The snow walls we walked through were awesome. At some points the snow was really low and Gregory could stand and see over and down the mountain side covered in untouched snow. At other points you were walking between two 10 foot (or more) tall snow walls. It was awesome! People wrote names, dates, drew pictures in the snow, while Gregory and I dragged our fingers to collect enough to make a snow ball.
Oh, and watch the cracks along the ground where the snow meets it. There are caves and areas that look super cool. We climbed into one a bit, aware of the potential danger we were partaking in. There a many of these pockets you can back your feet into for a photo, search for one that doesn’t look too steep or drop straight down. Be smart when being rebellious.
At the top of Mathews’ Traverse you are able to lookout at the top of the world. Literally, on my map is says we are at ‘Top of the World Summit’, which is 7,087ft up. It’s got amazing views and an innukshuk. Which, even though I am Canadian, I too get all touristy around these sorts of things. It’s a big part of the Olympics, come on VANCOUVER 2010!
We stayed up in the lookout area for as long as we could stand before we knew we needed to head down. It was cold. I mean, it’s a mountain, covered in snow. Why wouldn’t it be?
The views were so breathtaking, I couldn’t have asked for a better sight on my birthday. I literally was holding back tears of pure joy, accomplishment, astonishment, thankfulness to be alive and ability to experience this world.
I am getting all misty eyed just thinking about it again, our world is a beautiful place, and while there are many people and man made contraptions on that mountain, there was also still so much of Mother Earth that was untouched. It’s beauty that we don’t get to see often anymore. And one I relish when I get to experience.
So, pardon my mini-adventure rock climbing clip in the #ourRADhouse vlog. I was literally on top of a mountain, and feeling like I was on top of the world. I know why people risk their lives to climb Mount Everest. I feel like that’s now on my Girl, you’re crazy, bucket list. One that I really want and hope to complete, but I need to get the balls to train and do it. If I envision it, I can make it happen.
The walk down the snow walls was easy peasy. We stopped several times to rest our burning leg muscles, and to adjust the Bean who was passed out in the carrier behind me. I wonder what he was thinking when he fell asleep at the top of the mountain between snow walls and woke up in a Gondola.
Once at the bottom of Pika’s Traverse we chose to ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola once more and took another gondola down Whistler Mountain to the village. This made for a much warmer ride down the mountain and warmed up our bones after the cool exposure we had at the summit.
We walked though the village and stopped at Earl’s to eat some Chicken Tenders and fries. I sucked back two iced teas and half my water bottle there. Service was good, the antler-chandelier was pretty cool, and the food was deliciously warm in our bellies after a hard hike in the cold.
While I say we were in the cold, when we hiked up, we were sweating and panting hot. When you stop moving as much or stop exerting as much energy, the cool mountain air gets to the sweat beads and cools your body. So the hike down was easier, we cooled our body temps when we were being all tourist-y at the summit for half and hour or so. Warm food was perfect.
Oh, and free Earl’s wi-fi was even more perfect to distract my toddler while we ate and kept talking about what we just experienced. I’m not one to always let my toddler use my phone as a distraction, but I do have my moments where I take advantage of one of my few favourite phone apps, at Earl’s Gregory watched YouTube Kids.
We got to walk all through the village and check out the shops, high end name brand stuff. I kept forgetting the Olympics happened here, it was built for the tourists. So bring your wallet, or be more than satisfied with what nature has to offer you up there. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you skip out on Aritzia and Lululemon so you can go find the river and jumbo picnic chairs along a river (stream/creek?) that let you bask in the sun.
RAD Photo Dump
Here you go, the best part of any travel post. The photos. I took hundreds of photos on my little phone. Gosh I can’t wait to save up enough for a DSLR. Here are my favourite pictures from our trip. Don’t forget to scroll back up and check out the #ourRADhouse vlog. You’ll really get to check out the views in the video.
Before You Go
This was an awesome day, most definitely one of my top 3 birthdays I ever had. My last good birthday was my 20th, when I rented a party bus for my and my friends to ride after our pre-drinking party before the club. It was a very different time in my life, but the energy that filled the air was all the same.
These epic days get recorded more and more on my blog. While you can’t read about my 20th birthday party bus adventure (yet), you can check out our other RAD adventures. Like our trip to the Othello Tunnels in Hope, or even the Kerrisdale play palace which was much closer to home, but still enjoyable.
I highly recommend you check out the Whistler Snow Walls. Let me know if you’ve been before in the comments, or if you’ve seen photos on Tumblr like I have and always wanted to go. It’s okay, you can be a little envious that I managed to get to see some. Why do you think I took my camera along for the ride? So I could bring you with me!
I hope you enjoyed the #ourRADhouse vlog, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see our adventures before they get written about here on the blog. Like, weeks before sometimes. Come along our adventures by subscribing and checking out my twitter for updates on adventure plans. I like to share my excitement, the build up is half the fun.