So, I'll stop with the talk and get going with the photo stream...
We started with a flight that took off before dawn, so we got to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise from the air along with a nice, quiet, cool morning 2-hour flight...
We landed for our connection in Chicago, and got our first taste of snow earlier than expected...
O'Hare had a really cool underground tunnel that takes you between terminals, actually going underneath the taxiways. J was more concerned with keeping us on schedule, but I totally was enthralled with the experience. I also took a video of going through the tunnel, which I'll have to find and get on here.
After we boarded our plane in Chicago, it slowly backed up to get out onto the apron. We then sat there for over an hour, before we ever even moved forward, with no word from anybody who would know what was going on. After quite a miserable time of sitting and lots of de-icing of the wings, we finally felt the plane get going again and start to move forward. The sun baked us in the plane like meatloaf in the oven for the 4 hour flight, and we finally landed in Vancouver not a moment too soon. We spent over an hour slowly winding forward in the line for customs, right behind some very fashion-forward (read: fashion-strange) girls, admiring their skill to keep standing in some sky-high heels.
After some QandA from the customs lady, we went to find our bags from the various bag areas, praying our snowboard bag had made it through. We finally found it in a random pile of the oddly-sized items, then had to somehow find our way to the correct bus to get us to Whistler. After some wrong lines and misguided information from airport people, we finally found the lady that would direct us to our bus. We were the LAST two people to get on this short-bus, and I ended up with the window seat above the tire (aka the one with no leg space). Yay for a three-hour drive in icy slush at dusk up a road called the "Sea to Sky Highway" that overlooks cliffs. :-) Thank goodness the windows were foggy and it was getting dark, so I didn't get so freaked on the ride up there. And thank goodness for a travel partner who doesn't mind when I need to stretch out my poor legs over his lap.
Our bus driver LOVED to talk, but unfortunately he couldn't multi-task, so his driving severely slowed whenever he was having conversation. The dude sitting up front apparently didn't realized this, and kept him in conversation for the entire drive up there. But, thank goodness Jason and I had each other for company and distraction. We also took a short pit-stop in Squamish at a fast-food restaurant, which let us get a little air. When we finally made it to Whistler, in the dark, after a full day of travel, we learned that the driver barely knew his way around the resort. It was then, thanks to his endless chatter, that we found out he wasn't a regular driver - he was one of the owners/planners for the shuttle company who doesn't even live around there. He had to come fill in because the scheduled driver couldn't make it. So, after driving all over creation, secretly fearing we were stuck maaaaany times on really steep driveways, and actually having to direct our driver around because we knew more from our online research and learning for the trip than the driver did, Jason and I were the LAST people to get dropped off at our hotel. Ours was a partner hotel with the one nextdoor, so you had to check in there and get keycards to get into our hotel. We got it all done, trudged across the snow with our bags, and finally got into the lobby - SO thankful to finally be there. But, we were treated with quite the lovely first view upon arrival, which definitely helped... (sorry it's blurry - but it's snowing, and I love all the Christmas lights!)
Me outside our hotel, finally here!!! Look at all the snow!
Inside our hotel lobby - I secretly want one of these chandeliers for our future home... j/k. Maybe if it's in the mountains. :-)
Huuuuuge fireplace in the lobby that I thoroughly enjoyed...
And after documenting the lobby, we finally made it into our room. I L-O-V-E-D where we stayed, and I would so enjoy having something just like this every single day of my life. The best part of the kitchen (besides the granite counters, huge frig, awesome appliances, and everything needed to cook provided)? The tile floors are HEATED. Yes, they are WARM. Oh my gosh, I just stood there every morning, basking in the warmth that radiated up through my cold little feet. The bathroom also had them, and both rooms had a thermostat for the floors. Haha, so innovative, and so cool. I would just love to have that every day. That was probably one of our favorite parts of the entire hotel. So serious.
We also loved the view out the living room - it looked up the side of one of the mountains, the pool areas, and at the other side of the semi-circle hotel. So beautiful.
On the first morning there, this is the gorgeous early-light view we were treated to. Everything was so calm.
We did some walking around and getting to know the area on the first day. This is Creekside Gondola, right outside our hotel. That run directly up the left of the photo is part of the Dave Murray Downhill, which is the run being used for the men's alpine event in the Olympics. I can't WAIT to see it on TV and know that I've been right there!
We caught the shuttle to the main village to explore a bit there. It's more of the "happening" place, if you will, but also therefore louder at night and busier. We chose to stay in Creekside, which was the original "village" before what is the main village now existed. Creekside is quieter and more serene, which we really liked. But it still has all the necessities - restaurants, bank, grocery store, ski shop, etc. The main village just has more of that, plus lots of shopping and more restaurant variety. Here are two of the beautiful hotels in the village, right at the base of the mountain. You barely have to walk out the doors to get to the lifts.
The lift map for Blackcomb mountain - all lifts were currently open on that mountain. Not all lifts were always open though, because there had been a lot of dangers of avalanches that season, which were causing lifts and runs in the higher elevations to close.
Looking up one of the main runs from the village, at the base of Whistler mountain.
The lift lines and base station (in the building) of Whistler Gondola. This became one of our favorite lifts, because it has a station in the middle of the mountain where you can get off, or load there to go up as well as down. We used this at the times we were exploring and taking some photos, so we could ride up to the station to see the views and take lots of photos, but be able to come back down without having to cart all the gear around with us. Also notice that there is NO line for the lift. We apparently came at the perfect down time in the middle of the season, because we never once had to wait in a line longer than just a few minutes. It was great, and definitely unexpected.
The base of the Blackcomb Gondola, later in the afternoon. You can see on the map how the higher lifts were closed on Whistler mountain.
This is the view that afternoon outside our hotel - I just love the snow on the trees. It's one of those beautiful views that I could never get tired of looking at.
Later that night, we caught the Fire and Ice Show that they put on every weekend during the winters at Whistler. It's run by the Whistler-Blackcomb staff, and the ski and snowboard school instructors are the cool dudes and gals doing all the tricks. I've never seen anything like this in person, so it was quite a show. I really enjoyed it, and I was lucky enough to get a front row spot next to the rails. The hill is actually built up just for this show - it is right at the bottom of the run that you can see from the village in the photo above. This is one of the snowcats grooming the hill before the show started...
We watched as they did some practice runs...
We watched some cool ladies throw and spin fire around for a while to techno music...
Then they lit the ring of fire, and spun wreaths of flames around their heads...
Then came the tricks! It really was cool to watch the amazing things these folks can do. Not to mention the ability to ski (or snowboard!) behind the snowmobiles that pulled them back up the hill every time for their next run. Haha, kind of reminded me of waterskiing and wakeboarding, but a lot harder looking.
And here's all the awesome instructors that put on the show for us...
We hung around for a little while after the show and got to see the snowcats completely maul the hill of snow and flatten it back out for the next day's ski crowds. It really was cool to see how much snow they have to work with and do whatever they want with.
Speaking of lots of snow, check out this video for how much snow Whistler has been dumped this season so far. It's WAY more than they got last year when we were there, and even then I couldn't believe how much there was. So the Games should be awesome!! Check out the snow... http://video.whistlerblackcomb.com/tv/125/media-25942-channel--page-1.html
And, as a good ending for now, check out the aerials in the beginning of this video. One of them has a good view of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, side by side, with the village at the base of the both, so you get a good idea of the setup of the entire place. I just watch it, and it stirs up this want to go back so badly! I'm just in awe when I see it and realize that I. have. been. there. So awesome... http://video.whistlerblackcomb.com/tv/125/
More photos, trip details, and cool info on Whistler-Blackcomb to come. The Olympic opening ceremonies are tonight!