The Wonder of Whistler’s Night Skies: What you need to know to capture them for yourself
Whistler’s known for its incredible views, bolstered by bluebird days and stunning peaks. But once the sun goes down there’s nothing like the quiet of a myriad of twinkling stars peeking through treetops or the shimmering beauty of the Aurora Borealis as it dances in the sky. Throw in a backdrop like the Black Tusk, a glacier, or an ancient Douglas Fir and you may never want to see daylight again.
Before you strap on a pack and head out for the night with your camera, here’s what you need to know:
- Check the weather and moon phases. The last thing you want is to be on top of a mountain in a lightning storm or taking pictures of the Milky Way during a full moon. You’ll want a clear sky with no cloud cover if you’re taking pictures of the stars.
- Dress for the cold. It gets cold, very cold in the alpine. Bring warm gloves, a headlamp, and a toque plus an extra layer. A warm thermos of tea or hot chocolate will keep your insides warm while you sit and wait for the ideal picture.
- Bring food. You’ll probably be hiking or bushwacking to get that perfect shot. All that work will build up an appetite, especially since you’ll be carrying all that gear.
- Speaking of gear, make sure you have it all. You’ll want a tripod to get that crisp image since there is less light and your hands won’t stay still enough for your slow shutter speeds. Bring all your lenses, many empty memory cards, and a shutter release cable so you aren’t touching the camera and making it jiggle.
- Scout your area during the day. This is a great time saver since you can look for ways around objects like trees, houses, mountains, boulders or chairlifts – or the best angle to include them.
- Download a star app. This will help you know which stars or planets you’re looking at, and help you find the ones you want.
- Don’t forget to tell others where you’re going. Even if you’re walking up the hill at the back of your house, let someone know where you are and when you’ll return. The smallest rock or root can be invisible at night and leave you susceptible to tripping – especially if you’re looking up. Plus it’s easy to get lost in the dark. See tip #5 to avoid this.
- Memorize where infinity is on each of your lenses. Focusing is one of the greatest frustrations in night photography. While each lens has an infinity mark, it may not be accurate. Take the time to memorize where it is on each of your lenses and you’ll be significantly less frustrated in the dark when it’s cold out.
- Be prepared to wait. Night photography is all about slow shutter speeds and long exposures. Don’t expect to snap a shot in five minutes. Commit to the night and you’ll be rewarded with the vibrant, dramatic shot that your imagination envisioned.
Cover image: Mike Crane
Earn your time outside by interacting with planet Earth more mindfully in your daily life. Learn how from Whistler’s environmental experts at the GO Green @ GO Fest Environmental Expo on Saturday, May 21st from Noon-5:00 p.m. in Whistler’s Town Plaza. In the meantime, here are some wise ways to adventure in and interact with our planet:
Be Bear Smart –To avoid a dangerous encounter with black bears and grizzlies always remember to carry bear spray, makes lots of noise, travel together, avoid animal carcasses, keep your distance, never feed a bear (even if unintentionally) and pack in what you pack out. To learn about our furry friends, visit the Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative or the RMOW Bear Smart Program at the GO Fest Environmental Expo.
Love This Place, Reduce Your Waste – Recyclables and organics are valuable resources that don’t belong trapped in our landfills. Improve your recycling knowledge at the GO Fest Environmental Expo with the AWARE Zero Waste Station, BC Recycles and ElectroRecycle. Be remembered by the memories you leave behind, not the trash!
Plant Wisely – Green your knowledge as you green your thumb by educating yourself on native, drought resistant species, and the invasive plants to avoid. Invasive species threaten our environment, economy and health. Learn how to identify and control invasive species with the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council at the GO Fest Environmental Expo.
Adopt a Plant Based Diet – While it’s hard for many to swallow, the simple truth is reducing meat consumption is one of the most impactful environmentally conscious acts an individual can take. Learn more about stats and facts with Earthsave Whistler at the GO Fest Environmental Expo. Don’t feel like jumping into the deep end of the veganism pool? Dip your toe in instead by signing up for Meatless Mondays and see what it’s all about.
To find out more about the bountiful work Whistler is doing for the health of our planet talk to the RMOW Environmental Technician or Whistler’s environmental charity since 1989, AWARE. Get outside and play, a little more mindfully today. #GOGreen
While many Canadians celebrate the May Long weekend by opening the cabin, barbequing or heading into the wilderness to camp, in Whistler, GO Fest, Whistler’s Great Outdoors Festival, kicks off the summer season with events and activities offering the best that winter and summer have to offer, all in one weekend.
GO Fest boasts a line-up of events and activities designed to let you get out and play on a whim with no need for weeks or months of training and preparation, or even gear, for that matter!
Solo players or friends, who thrive on spontaneity, will find their paths for adventure at GO Fest’s Base Camp in Mountain Square. Base Camp will house activities information for all of the festival events and activities, as well as the Tiger Ping Pong Tournament where anyone can pick up a paddle and join in the game. Fly fishing clinics, including one just for women, a King of the Beach format beach volleyball tournament at Rainbow Park, yoga, the Whistler Film Festival Adventure Film Series, sailing, golfing, a digital photography clinic and art experiences are some of the many events and activities available in Whistler on May Long weekend.
At 7:30 p.m. each day on the Main Stage in Village Square, free concerts by Dan Mangan (May 20), Alex Cuba (May 21) and The Matinee (May 22) will provide the soundtrack to a memorable May Long Weekend.
Play and stay in Whistler during GO Fest, Whistler’s Great Outdoors Festival. Book by June 30 and save up to 40 per cent by staying longer through Whistler.com www.whistler.com/events/gofest/.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, we’re proud to say that Whistler boasts a variety of options for every ability level. In saying that, the length of your hike will then influence what you bring with you but it can be safe to say that there are a few things you’ll need no matter where you’re at in your hiking ability or the distance you choose. Here are a few things we recommend having on your next hike in Whistler:
This is a big one whether you’re going for a short out and back hike or an overnighter, proper footwear will make or break your experience. Sturdy and enclosed shoes are recommended but we don’t necessarily think you need the big and sturdy stereotypical hiking shoe. At the end of the day you need to be comfortable and something as simple as a trail running shoe with good traction and some hardiness will suit just fine for our trails. Also, some good socks won’t go astray either.
WATER & SNACKS
Even if the hike you’re choosing isn’t big, it’ll most likely be warm out and you may not necessarily be particularly close to somewhere food is sold. We recommend carrying some water, whether in a bottle or in a pack and a few snacks. Clif Bars, Vega snack bars, a ziploc with some mixed nuts and dates or mum’s homemade granola bars will do.
YOUR PHONE + GPS + MAP
Tracking your hike might be a nice addition so that you can see where you went and show friends or to get an idea of your distance. A map is a must-have depending on where you’re going and your familarity with the trail. Your phone is always handy to have in the event you get lost or you see someone who is injured and needs assistance. Just pop your phone on airplane mode for when you don’t need it so you can save your battery. Oh and use your phone to take photos of the amazing scenery of course.
A GOOD MOISTURE-WICKING OUTFIT
We’re not kidding and although ‘outfit’ seems like an odd thing to have on a list of things needed, it is incredibly important. You’re going to be hiking and it’s going to get warm and probably dirty. Anything moisture-wicking for outdoor activities gets a huge thumbs up, comfort is also key and it’s a wise idea to bring an additional layer just in case it cools down or you want to protect yourself a bit more from the sun.
And when we go crashing down we come back every time, we never go out of style. #getoutside #explorebc #outdoorwomen #sweatpink #radgirlslife #pnw #instarun #trailrun #whistler #bestlifeproject #run #adventure #runlikeagirl #werundirty #thesweatlife #LJfitchallenge #naturevibes #neverstopexploring #ragnartraining
A photo posted by morgan dunn • sea to sky (@thatgirlmorgs) on
HAT AND SUNGLASSES
Protect your face and your eyes! Likely if you’re hike goes into the forest you can put both away, but once you exit the covers of the forest you’re going to want your sunglasses. This is also a good time to mention to remember to slap on some sunscreen.
Lastly, don’t forget a smile. Remember to tell people where you’re going and better yet, hike with a friend! Make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to do your hike and come back before the sun starts to come down.
Need some hiking trail inspiration? Check these 5 out.
It’s sunny, it’s hot and it’s almost the weekend. You’ve finally booked that hotel in Whistler and have rounded up the tribe for the getaway. It’s Thursday night and you need to pack but you have no idea where to start. What do you pack for a weekend away in a place that has snow-capped mountains AND lakes? Well, we have a few suggestions:
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?
Is this a completely chill weekend away? We’re talking lazy days by the pool (or lake), reading books, sipping cocktails or kombucha and completely zoning out. Or is your trip filled with one of everything? Ziplining, biking, hiking, afternoons at the lake and maybe even a round of golf? Determining what kind of a weekend you’re having will create the outcome of your weekend bag. Whatever you’d wear for all of the above activities is what you should bring with you. Easy.
Whistler is usually warmer in the summer than Vancouver, so you can usually be safe wearing less layers but it does get cool in the evenings so packing a light sweater and some jeans won’t be a silly idea.
WE ARE A MOUNTAIN TOWN
This means things can be a little more rugged than the city, so while you can bring your fanciest clothes if you want… just be prepared that they may not be a glistening post-Whistler weekend. We opt for practical over perfectly put together.
BE PREPARED FOR SOME WALKING
We have a long valley trail system and pedestrian village, which means that can be a lot of walking involved so be sure the shoes you’re wearing (and bringing) are great for walking and if you’re going to head up the mountain and walk around, we definitely recommend enclosed shoes that are ideal for rockier terrain.
Mostly, we want you to be comfortable. It’s a weekend away so just enjoy and love the clothes you’re in. Easy, breezy and likely moisture wicking (we did say it gets hot here) See you soon!
If we’re being honest, which we like to be, Whistler is bike-crazy once the snow melts. If you’re not biking up a mountain then you’re certainly getting a lift up (A Line anyone?). But if anyone goes past our Whistler Mountain Bike Park, some might be a bit worried that it’s way out of their league. The good news though? There’s a variety of ways that you can enjoy biking and get into it without getting launching off a 6 foot drop (this is by pure choice only). We came up with a few things that you need to start mountain biking to hopefully lessen the stress and up the fun factor:
I know this is a given but hear me out because it’s important to distinguish what kind of biking you want to do to determine where to get your bike from. It’s best to rent bikes first and get a sense of whether you like it (we think you will) but ask yourself whether or not you want to pedal up and down the mountain or whether you want a lift to take you up and you’ll pedal your way down. Once you’ve made that choice, then you’ll either get a cross country bike (a pedal bike that’s lighter than a downhill bike so it’s easier to pedal up) or a downhill bike, which tends to be on the beefier side as it doesn’t need to be as pedalling efficient as the terrain can be a bit tougher and you’re using gravity to help you get down the mountain. There are a few places you can rent bikes in town, some hotels offer rentals or you can rent from Summit or Whistler Mountain Rentals under the GLC. That’s just to name a few, there are lots of places to go in town so just ask your hotel concierge or your Google concierge.
THE LEARNING CURVE
… isn’t so bad! The reason for this is because Whistler is as bike-crazy as it is, we’re also pro-getting people into the sport so Whistler has developed a range of learning options. Men’s and Women’s nights in the bike park is a great way to get into the downhill side of the sport as it’s gender and level specific and is guided by world class instructors. Not only that, there’s apres right after where you can win prizes! There are also general beginner lessons that happen during the day as well called Bike Park 101. These options are great intro’s into the sport if you’re curious about the sport. Now moving to cross country, local biking organization WORCA hosts a variety of bike rides throughout the week catering to various abilities. Monday nights are geared towards all ability levels and are broken down as such. You have to have a membership but it’s only about $50 for the season and then for each night you bike with WORCA it’s just $2, however this gets you a drink ticket at the sponsored location for apres.
A photo posted by Terry Phillips (@blackcombterry) on
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
So you have the option to do downhill biking and just use the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, but if you’d like to venture outside of this and throughout Whistler then the options become endless. This would be for those wanting to cross country bike. Lost Lake is the best place to start with a variety of trails for all abilities otherwise if you feel like you want to conquer more you pretty much literally have the entire valley. Check out Trail Forks for an extensive list of trails throughout Whistler. Just remember, like the bike park and like skiing… green means beginner, blue is for intermediate and black is for advanced.
Finally, the number one thing you absolutely need is a helmet. This sport is more than just jumping on your cruiser down the beach (although we advocate helmet wearing even for that) so make sure you protect your head. Other accessories are optional such as a pack and if you try downhill biking then you’ll be given armour for further protection. At the end of the day, it’s something to just have fun with, give it a try or perhaps even an activity to cross off your bucket list. Enjoy!
A number of years ago, Whistler was only ever seen and marketed as the number one ski resort in North America. The thought of Whistler being a year-round resort wasn’t even really a consideration for most people (some probably thought there was snow on the ground year round). But as time has gone on, this little mountain town has grown to become a bustling summer destination, just as much as it is a ski destination. There’s a saying around Whistler that, “you come for the winter but stay for the summer” and here’s why:
PLENTY TO SEE
The summertime springs to life our Farmers’ Market that hosts an array of local food and art in the Upper Village (base of Blackcomb) every Wednesday and Sunday. Recently, the Audain Art Museum also opened. This grand space holds a variety of traditional art from the province’s First Peoples through to contemporary artists. We also can’t forget the free Whistler Presents: Concert Series that’s held at Whistler Olympic Plaza throughout the summer (see who is playing this year by clicking the link). If you manage to come on a weekend that features one of our many events, you might get to witness the Subaru IRONMAN Canada, Wanderlust or our very own Great Outdoors Festival (GO Fest)!
PLENTY TO DO
From a vast trail network for hiking to the Whistler Blackcomb Bike Park there is something for everyone. Right in the Upper Village, at the Blackcomb base, there’s a fun-filled Adventure Zone perfect for the kids to enjoy, such as a luge track and mini golf. You can also access hiking trails and sightseeing from the base of either Whistler or Blackcomb. You can include the Peak to Peak and do the sight see loop! Don’t forget to check out the variety of lakes in Whistler such as Lost Lake and Alta Lake, both perfect for swimming and chilling out on the docks with friends.
PLENTY TO EAT
Whistler’s restaurant scene is just as bumping in the summer as it is in the winter with a few extra additions! Warmer temps mean more ice cream shops along the Village Stroll so don’t forget to swing by and cool down with a scoop or two. This is the perfect place to enjoy some much-missed patio time where you can enjoy a classic caesar or summer salad while you people watch. There are a variety of places to grab a bite or a drink all throughout Whistler, from Function Junction just as you enter Whistler to Alpine Meadows north of the village. Check our Instagram for a few suggestions!
A photo posted by E L James (@erikaljames) on
No matter what you decide to do, there is one thing that’s clear: Come and enjoy Whistler in the summertime. There’s plenty to see, do and eat for everyone of all ages. We’re ready when you are!
In the winter there is definitely no shortage of trails to explore with two planks attached to your feet (or one) but if you’re after greenery, warmth on your face and your hiking shoes then you’ll have to wait for the white stuff to melt away. Once it does though, there is a vast trail network in and around Whistler perfect for a variety of abilities and great for families. Here are a few of our favourites that boast incredible views to boot:
This hike is accessible just as you enter Whistler heading northbound and is one of the easier hikes to complete in the Garibaldi Provincial Park. The elevation gain is minimal and takes around 4-5 hours to complete roundtrip. Once you arrive though, you’re welcomed into a quiet and serene lake perfect for a picnic or a quick dip.
An absolutely stunning hike yesterday up around Cheakamus Lake outside of #whistlerbc. I love watching the snow line slowly creep down into the valley. Not long now before everything is as white as those trees in the background. That beautiful lake still has its deep green colour. Needless to say, #nofilter required. #cheakamus #explorebc #whistler #beautifulbc #myhappyplace #whistlerhikes #vancity #mountainhike #fresh #forest #firstsnow #novemberhiking #cheakamuslake #whistlerhiking #instapics #instahike
This hike is a bit more difficult and not for the newbie hiker but if you have a few hikes under your belt and feel good tackling the 14km trip then we can’t recommend this hike enough. While this hike gains most of the elevation in the first 7km, it’s incredibly picturesque the whole way through making it worth it! Not too long into the hike, you’ll cross a few bridges and witness evidence of a rock slide. Keep going! Eventually you’ll arrive at the beautiful lake and take a breather. You may even find some campers when you arrive!
Grant is the man & my #mcm! My motivation to hike up mountains, my personal cook for when we reach the top, & my fly swatter for when I fall asleep on a rock for an hour beside the lake! This stud is my man crush everyday ? #loveyou #hike #wedgemountlake #whistlerhikes #hikebc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #myguy
The trail for this hikes follows the same path as Cheakamus Lake for awhile until you see signs about halfway to split off to Garibaldi Lake. The total distance for this hike is 18km and often people will turn it into an overnight expedition. A popular hike for its glacial backdrop and its location, nestled between the alpine mountains. You can make this hike shorter or longer depending on the trail you pick. You can make it longer by going way of Taylor Meadows, a popular hiker camping spot, or continuing along the more direct Garibaldi Lake trail. Choose your own adventure.
Obligatory picture with #garibaldilake at #panoramaridge . Unfortunately @bennvt cut off my leg probably distracted by the [quote]shitty view [/quote]. A girl actually exclaimed that upon reaching the summit causing everyone else to turn around in shock. #mountainsmakemehappy #hikebc #whistlerhikes #beautifulbc #bcliving #alpinelake #dancerpose #outdooryoga #mountainyoga #mountainsaretheshit #garibaldi #ilikemountains #thisisprettyturquoise #whatashittyview #takeahike
A photo posted by @laura_gewuerztee on
High Note Trail
Located on Whistler Mountain, this is a trail not to miss during your stay in Whistler. You’ll need a ticket to upload but the views make it worth it. This trail winds around the backside of Whistler Mountain and explores meadows filled with wildflowers, natural creeks, boulder fields and even shots of Cheakamus Lake and another smaller lake by Black Tusk. In some years depending on the previous winter, you’ll even find yourself surrounded by walls of snow as you descend back towards the Whistler Roundhouse Lodge. There’s plenty to see on a trail like this.
High note trail on Whistler mountain is just magnificent. The sun is out and the air is fresh. The Cheakamus Lake lookout is absolutely beautiful #hikingtrail #hiking #hikingadventures #hikingtrip #whistler #whistlerhikes #whistlerblackcomb #summer2014 #vancouver_canada #beautifulbritishcolumbia #vancouvercanada #outdoorvancouver #cheakamus #cheakamuslake
Have a four-legged friend to take hiking? This hike is for you. Dog-friendly, this 6km roundtrip hike is located in the Callaghan not too far outside of Whistler village. The first kilometre is a bit steep and parts of the trail aren’t as well marked as other trails in the area however so do keep this in mind. But it’s a great trail that hasn’t been known to be overly busy and open up to a beautiful meadow to eat at and enjoy the fresh mountain air. You can also get a view of Black Tusk on a clear day as you head back to the trailhead.
Yesterday we took Micah on a surprise trip up to Brandywine Meadows in #Whistler, BC. After a month of no snow in the valley he had no idea we were about to take him to his happy place! It’s mid-spring here in the Pacific Northwest and we haven’t been ski touring for over a month. The three of us are in full biking, hiking and paddling mode, but just for one afternoon we thought we’d give Micah one more taste of his favourite season – winter. After all, he is a husky ?❄️ #winter #surprises #huskygram #husky #dogsofinstagram #photooftheday #nomnom #snowball #mountains #landscape #funny #petoftheday #adventuredog #stoked #explorewhistler #awesome #tourcanada #explorebc #excellent_dogs
A photo posted by Two Two Four Explore (@twotwofourexplore) on
With any hike, we always recommend that you let someone know when and where you’re going and what time you expect to be back. Don’t hike alone and ensure you have plenty of food, water and ideal clothing and footwear. Always check the weather and trail conditions ahead of time.