Monday, January 7, 2013

Mount Baker and Whistler 12/25 - 1/2

This year we decided to celebrate the New Year by going on a ski trip to Mount Baker and Whistler.
New Years Vacation Route

On Christmas day, we flew out to Seattle and drove up to Mount Baker, which holds the record snowfall anywhere in the world in a single winter: 95 feet of snow in the winter of 1998 / 1999. It also gets the highest average snowfall of any resort.
Six feet of snow on the side of the road - and it's December.

Despite these impressive statistics, Mount Baker remains an unassuming and friendly place with affordable ski lift prices ($54) that cost roughly half the price of major resorts. The mountain itself is a major location for backcountry skiers and we even spotted tents set up outside the ski resort boundaries.
The surrounding forest is densely packed with snow laden trees.

We stayed at the nearby tiny town named Glacier, which contains a few cafes and restaurants. One of these restaurants is Milano's, owned by Jeannie and her husband. The restaurant was strongly recommended by the Davis family (Laure's uncle, aunt, and cousin). While we ate at Milano's, Jeannie passionately recounted stories when her family and the Davis family traveled everywhere together taking their kids to compete professionally in snowboarding.

After a few days at Mount Baker, we headed west and picked up our friend Dan Prasad at the Bellington Airport on the way to our next destination: Whistler, BC. In contrast to the small and remote town feel of Mount Baker, Whistler is at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum. It is a huge village with luxurious high end shops, delicious restaurants, well developed infrastructure, and a fairy tale feel to it. During the holiday season, they have decorative lighting illuminated everywhere at night, which added to the fairy tale feel.
Whistler Upper Village.
Whistler Upper Village.
Whistler Olympic Park for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whistler is very walkable and family friendly, which means you do not need a car at all if you are staying in the village. Unfortunately for us, we booked our lodging late, which meant we needed to stay in the nearby town named Pemberton. If you are considering visiting Whistler during the holidays, we recommend reserving lodging at least three months in advance in order to stay in the village at a price that will not drive you bankrupt.

The village has ski lifts that service two enormous mountains: Whistler mountain and Blackcomb mountain. In preparation for the 2010 Olympics, they built a "Peak 2 Peak" gondola that connects the peaks of both mountains. This gondola ride is a must-do for anyone visiting Whistler. It holds world records for the longest free span between ropeway towers (1.88 miles) and highest point above the ground (1,430 feet). The resort's thoughtfully designed gondola system allows even none skiers to enjoy this attraction plus the mountain's ski lodges with breathtaking views.
Some Peak 2 Peak gondolas have a glass bottom for extra viewing.
Quarup going from Whistler peak to Blackcomb peak.
Approximately 1,430 feet above ground.

In terms of skiing, both mountains each span over 5,000 vertical feet where the lower areas are gentler sloped with lots of options for beginners and intermediates and the upper areas above tree line contain steeper runs for more advanced skiers.
A fun photo opportunity along a ski run.
Looking down towards Whistler Village.

During our stay, we visited the Prior Snowboard and Ski factory, where they proudly make every one of their snowboards and skis by hand. We were very excited about this visit because we had read great things about the company and had bought splitboards from them a couple of years ago. We took a tour of their factory where they explained every step of the process on how they build each one of their masterpieces. It was inspiring to see how passionate and proud they were about building their gear.
Prior's factory floor.
The inner cores of skis and snowboards with different lengths and styles.

On New Years Eve while Laure and Dan enjoyed first class resort skiing, Quarup joined a backcountry tour led by Guillaume Otis from Coast Mountain Guides. The team took a few ski lifts at the Whistler ski resort and then toured out of bounds. They then climbed up Fissile Peak's SW face and then skied down the NW face (50 degrees) where they found some nice untracked powder.
Laure enjoyed plexi covered chair lifts that keep riders warm and dry.
Meanwhile, Quarup climbed in a less luxurious style.
After all the hard work, it was time to shred some powder.
Beautiful skies behind Fissile Peak.
Skiing down soft powder on one of the gentler slopes.

See more photos and a 3D animation of Quarup's backcountry adventure here.

At night, we joined a party at the Westin bar, where Dan already knew some of the staff and patrons from hanging out there every day. We had a lot of fun at the party, which included a DJ, a dance floor, free champagne, mini desserts, and a some eccentric people that we enjoyed watching.
Dan and Laure welcoming 2013.

After waking up with mild headaches the next day, we packed up and headed back to Seattle, where we stayed for an extra night before going back to face our real lives in San Francisco.

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