Monday, March 30, 2009

Sea to Sky: Hwy 99 North to Whistler, BC

A few of us did a Sun Dance a few days ago and the Sun God granted us our wish of a bright, rainless, sunny Sunday. While the sun looks as warm as that of Florida, we are still in the grips of winter, even though it is technically Spring. Oh, what to do ? Whister is not my first choice of a relaxing place to wander around but I have not driven the "Sea to Sky Highway" since last year. We got an early start and headed North from the heart of urban Vancouver, BC. The locals call this the "Killer Highway".

(just south of Squamish, BC Hwy 99 Sea to Sky highway)

They are doing a major facelift of the highway which runs along Howe Sound. It is very expensive to blast the rock faced cliffs, and during the winter and rainy season there are a lot of rock slides and bridge washouts which often close this Highway. There is no alternate route Northward from Vancouver.

(another view, south approach to Squamish, BC)

This was originally, mostly a single lane road with limited access passing lanes. During most of its length towards Whistler it is mostly 4 lanes, however in the mountainous sections it is 2 lane (one lane each direction) or 3 lane (usually 2 lanes uphill, 1 downhill) alternating, dependant on direction. There have been countless accidents along this highway due to the many twists and turns, mostly head on as the offending vehicle could not manage to stay in their own lane and end up crossing the line onto the opposing lane -- mainly due to speed.


As you take the upper levels highway (Hwy 1 TCH) from West Vancouver, Squamish is approx 70 kms north, and Whistler is another 50 kms further. In the old days, before construction, you were able to travel this distance in just and hour and 20 minutes. With all the construction zones and heavy traffic it is taking closer to 3-1/2 hours (each way). We left home around 9am and did not arrive at Whistler until around 12:30pm



There are not many places to safely pull over due to all the pylons and cement barriers but I did manage to stop a few times when traffic was light.

(Notice motorcyclist in the oncoming lane)

The closer we get to Whistler, the more snow we see


(Whistler Vistor Centre)

We eventually arrive in Whistler and head over to the "The Village" , Whistler Village, that is.

(Whistler Village)

Blackcomb-Whistler is one of the finest ski resorts in the world. Acres of ski runs, two separate mountains (next to each other) with the "Village" in the middle.

(Blackcomb Gondola)

Turn your head a few degrees to your right and you see one of many Whistler chairlifts.

(Whistler chairlift, one of many)

About a half block further (to the right) you come across the Whistler Gondola building

(Whistler gondola)

We purchased tickets to go to the top of the mountain


We have to wait our turn and let the occupants egress


Here comes Gondola #147, can't wait to jump aboard

to be continued . . .

Here's the first thing we saw as we got to the top of Whistler, Roundhouse station.

(Whistler mountain, Round House station)


  1. Dear Bobskoot:

    Beautiful shots of the road up to and into Whistler. I have drven this road many times, but never on two wheels. My girldriend, Leslie (Stiffie) owner a condo on the ski slopes of Whistler for many years. In fact, I believe you may have takken a picture of it in Whistler village. It was in Bear Lodge, about a three minute walk to the first of the chairlifts.

    The road int whistler assaults the senses with breathtaking views -- one after the other -- along its entire length from Vancouver. Yet I found that Squamish held far more charm and character then Whistler, which is in essence a huge Hollywood set designed to empty the pockets of the tourists.

    No one who works in Whistler can afford to live there.

    I do not ski. My girl skis like a champion. But I did cross country ski at one time. I was disappointed that the groomed cross-country trails around the resort avoid much of the wilderness for which the place is famous. The are gets its name from these weasels (not real estate people) or marmots or mongooses, that stick their heads up from the ground and whistle at women with nice asses or something. (I wasn't paying attention.)

    Rare is the occasion that I have driven trhat stretch of the road and not seen a bear (summer). By the way, I thnk the Mining Museum in Squamish is a pisser. Have they resumed rail service on that stretch yet?

    Nice pictures and interesting text.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  2. PS: Stiffie tells me that picture was not Bear Lodge. She claims there was a gazebo down in the courtyard that I do not remember. I do remember the Dublin, the copy of the Irish Pub across from one ski lift.

    And when you staggered out in the street at 2am, there was a vendor selling beaver tails, or bear claws, or mongoose eyes. It was something screwy like that.


  3. Jack:
    Sometimes I am just amazed at how much knowledge you can squeeze into that brain of yours. You are a walking Wilkipedia. Our paths may have crossed as we used to go to Whistler often, much before it was even a dot on the map. My uncle worked for BC Electric and supervised the contruction of those Powerlines. The PGE was the only way you could get up here. Hydro had 4WD vehicles and it took us 6 hours on logging roads to get to Alta Lake, where we stayed at the original Alta Lake Lodge (Long gone now)
    In that picture of "the Village" there is that brownish building, on the ground level there is a Dublin Pub with outside seating. Had I known I would have snapped a pix for you.
    I saw BeaverTails for sale so next time, I'll have one for you. You are right, Squamish is the bedroom community for Whistler but land values are creeping up there too.
    We took a tour of the Britannia Mine site a few years ago and went down into the shafts below. The building was originally RED but they painted it a brighter colour and it just doesn't look right. They were filming a movie there so we didn't stop. And the first nations people have shops there to sell "Trinkets".
    Too bad you didn't keep the condo, it's probably worth a Million $$ by now. As you say, you have to be rich to live there

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  4. Hey Bob.

    Jack sent me. I enjoyed your photos of Whistler and the road leading to it very much. I have traveled that road often. So many times I regret that I am no longer making that trek in the winter.

    BTW, the condo my dad and I had was in Town Plaza Suites -- the top floor of the building overlooking the gazebo in the North Village. Cool vantage, except at 2 a.m. when the bars let out and folks thought they'd try out their singing voices in the gazebo.

  5. Bob,
    excellent post as usual, great pictures...lovely one of the way down to squamish you capturedit well my friend.
    The story of the killer HWY is better told than anywhere else I've seen.

  6. Leslie:
    Glad to finally meet you. I've been admiring your BLOG and I understand you're quite the artist and photographer. You'll have to give Jack some "hints". He acts so helpless, at times. I have been lurking on your site and followed some of those photo links. Now I won't be afraid to post a comment or two.
    Jack is so lucky to have you around, and I know he is going to really appreciate that Russell seat, but I also noticed that there is not a lot of room for you. I'll have to snap a pix or two of the Plaza Suites the next time we are up there.
    Thank you again for stopping by

    Soon I will get back to posting some 2-wheel stuff. I thought winter was over and was preparing my SV for the road but yesterday it snowed.
    I'm not a proponent of widening the Sea-to-Sky Highway just to shave 15 or 20 min off the travel time. I think it just encourages more people to speed and tailgate. I think they should have installed speed bumps instead to slow the traffic down and make it a slow "one lane" each way sort of scenic route so you could actually enjoy the ride. They have removed all the dangerous corners and put in a lot of cement abutments so there are not many spots you can pull over to take a pix. (similar to what they did in the Fraser Canyon). thank you again for your kind remarks.

  7. We certainly don't have scenery like that where I live. I appreciate the photographs. I am a lifelong Kansan and it is no wonder that we Kansans have a tendency to go to Colorado or some other place like it to get see some beautiful scenery.

    Don't get me wrong, I am proud to live here. Kansas is very beautiful in its own way. But it is nice to see your part of the world also. Maybe I'll get up there one of these days.

  8. Umm I'm pretty sure they spelled Center wrong. Strange for such an expensive place where even the streets are filled with spare sugar. In the US we subsidize our sugar manufacturing to the tune of Canada's annual GDP and can't afford to pile it up in the streets.
    Must be nice to live in a country where banks store your money and don't steal it from you.

  9. Bobscoot
    I agree with you except, the speed bumps are so badly done I think they are more of a harzard than anything else,....