Squamish is perhaps best known as a pit stop on the way to the slopes and trails of Whistler. But that all may change in just a few months.
The new Sea to Sky Gondola is officially scheduled to open in mid May 2014, putting Squamish firmly on the tourist map. The enormous gondola, situated on a strip of land between the famous Stawamus Chief Provincial Park and Shannon Falls, will carry visitors from sea level to a height of 885 meters – climbing into high alpine country in a quick 10-minute ride.
Up top, there’s a lot more than just beautiful vistas to enjoy. Finishing touches are being put on an entire adventure facility high in the Coast Mountains. The centrepiece is a 9,000-square-foot lodge, where visitors can enjoy a beer or bite to eat while soaking up the stunning views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains.
From the lodge, a network of gentle walking trails spread out over the mountain. The Panorama Trail winds 1.6 kilometres through woods, crossing cedar bridges along the way and leading to a truly vertigo-inducing viewpoint. A special platform cantilevers over the side of the mountain, hanging hundreds of metres above the ground. Meanwhile, the 400-metre Spirit Trail offers an interpretive account of the local First Nations history in the region.
The facility also features a 100-metre-long suspension bridge (for comparison, the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver is 140 metres long). The wobbly bridge spans a deep gully, offering 360-degree views of Howe Sound far below and the dizzying alpine scenery.
Once up top, hardier adventurers can also access some serious backcountry trails into more rugged terrain. Options range from rewarding day hikes to multi-day excursions along routes like the Sky Pilot Valley Trail, Skyline Trail and Al’s Habrich Ridge Trail.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is slated to open in mid May 2014. Adult tickets are $34.95.