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Within Canada, British Columbia is a popular place to go for a vacation. This province is famous for its mountains and a trip to this part of the world is not complete without a ride into the mountains. During my latest journey through Canada, I tried two of the most famous gondolas in British Columbia: the Peak 2 Peak in Whistler and the brand new Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. Both are super cool but not very cheap. If you have trouble picking one, just continue reading as I will tell you about my experiences and reasons why to choose one or the other.
You’ve probably heard of Whistler before, famous of the Winter Olympics in 2010. It’s just a one hour drive from downtown Vancouver and probably one of Canada’s most famous ski resorts. The drive to Whistler is just stunning: it will lead you over the Sea to Sky Highway, litterally from sealevel to the mountain tops. Half way during the drive to Whistler you will pass by Squamish, located at the northern shores of Howe Sound. Both places are ideal for a daytrip from Vancouver, however it would be better if you have a night or two to spend in either place.
Sea to Sky Gondola – Squamish
The brand new Sea to Sky Gondola has just opened a couple of days before I tried it in May 2014. The cabins almost smelled new and were shining brightly in the sun. I started the ride on sealevel and within 12 minutes I arrived at the Summit Lodge on 885 meters above sealevel. The first views into the valley are just breathtaking! From the Summit Lodge I stroll south to the 100 meter long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. Without hesitation I step on to the wobbly bridge, as far as I’m concerned the more movement the better, however the other visitors seem to hate me for jumping up and down to make it move. Within moments they have left the bridge and I have it all to myself (to take pictures, mission accomplished…)
Besides the Suspension Bridge there are also three observation decks. The first one is located next to the Summit Lodge. Here you can enjoy a lunch or snack and use the free wifi to send a message home and make everyone jealous by showing off in what a beautiful place you have arrived. The Spirit Viewing Platform is located about 150 meters from the Summit Lodge and can be reached via the Spirit Trail. Along the way you will find interpretive information about the Stawamus First Nations. The last observation deck is about 800 meters away and offers you the most amazing views on Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. I would have loved to stay here for the rest of my day…
Advantages Sea to Sky:
– Less than an hour drive from Downtown Vancouver.
– Jaw dropping views.
– Very good for early and late season visits, when I was there, all the snow had gone.
– Free wifi (totally necessary for a blogger haha).
Disadvantages Sea to Sky:
– Limited hiking possibilities, however this may change in the near future.
The current fare for a ticket is $ 32.95 when you buy it online and $ 34.95 when you buy it on the spot. Taxes are not included. Click here to go to the website of the Sea to Sky Gondola.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola – Whistler
When you are in Whistler, going into the mountains is a must. We did this in September 2004, back then we took the Whistler Village Gondola up into the mountains. We walked the Musical Bumps Trail, an amazing hike that we will never forget. In May 2014 I was back in Whistler and wanted to try the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the first gondola in the world to connect two mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain) through a cable. From the village you take the Whistler Village Gondola and upon arrival on the mountain, you change to the Peak 2 Peak. This gondola takes you across the valley, 436 meters below you. Normally you will take the gondola down to the village again from Blackcomb but during my visit they were doing maintenance and I could ride the Peak 2 Peak back to Whistler Mountain for free.
The best thing about this ride is that you can tell people you’ve been in the highest (above the ground) and longest (between two carrying towers) gondola in the world and that the views are simply breathtaking.
Unfortunately I’m here early in the season: the skislopes have just closed down and only three steps out of the mountain station I’m in the snow already. Hiking is impossible and all over the place constructions are being carried out. Luckily they made a small snowtubing track so at least I can go down a little hill in a tube, to have some fun. But that’s about it. On Blackcomb Mountain there’s even less to do, I take some pictures from the views and catch a ride
back to town.
Ofcourse the ride with the Peak 2 Peak is simply spectacular. On the ride out I chose to take place in the silver cabin, the one with a glass bottom. It sounds more exciting than it was since you can’t step on the glass or anything. On the way back I had a cabin all to myself and I couldn’t help but think “what happens if the thing stops working at a 436 meter altitude, will they just leave me here? …” Of course, it didn’t.
Advantages Peak 2 Peak
– The duration: from the village, the ride will take more than an hour.
– Amazing hiking possibilities once the snow is gone.
– Skislopes underneath the gondola, big chance of seeing bears.
– Free wifi (still necessary for a blogger).
Disadvantages Peak 2 Peak:
– The snow that stays around far into the season.
– It’s busy: you have to share the cabins with downhill bikers and other outdoor fanatics.
The current price for a ticket is $ 48.95 plus taxes. Click here to go to the Peak 2 Peak website.
If you travel in pre- or post season, definitely choose the Sea to Sky Gondola. The walks you can make here are simple and can be done by anyone. If you really want to explore the mountains, then go for the Peak 2 Peak. But only if the snow has melted, for me it was a big disappointment I couldn’t really do anyhting.
Liked reading this? You might enjoy these too:
– A 2 Day itinerary for a super scenic drive from Vancouver to Whistler
– Hiking the Wild Pacific Trail on Vancouver Island
– How to travel 113 days a year with a fulltime office job
– Winter hiking in Zell am See, Austria
Thank you for sharing!