In the summer, from the seat of an ATV, the ski hill is a whole new world.

Or as my 13-year-old son puts it;

“Bro, this is, like, 90% unrecognizable. Where even are we?”

Putting aside the fact that he calls his father bro, the kid is not wrong. Each summer, Whistler Blackcomb’s wintery smooth carpets of corduroy and pow-pillowed chutes transform into imposing slopes of steep boulders, dense green forests, and runs of grassy fields punctuated by wildflowers, clover, and (if you’re lucky) the odd black bear.

As a kid growing up in Whistler, my parents used to take me hiking up Blackcomb every summer. We’d climb under the Wizard and Solar Coaster chairs, hunting for treasures – sunglasses, pocketknives, even cash, accidentally dropped the previous winter. I guess I am getting soft because while my son and I are no strangers to lift-accessed alpine hikes like the High Note Trail, he’d never experienced the ski hill from bottom to top at ground level before.

ATVs wind up the trails on Blackcomb Mountain in the summer.
Feet and his family weave up Blackcomb Mountain on ATVs. PHOTO FEET BANKS

Three Generations on ATVs

So with my parents visiting during a stretch of perfect mid-August weather, I figured the Canadian Wilderness Adventures ATV Salmon Bake would check all the boxes – adventure, scenery, wildlife, and dinner at 6,000 feet (1,828 metres) on the deck of Blackcomb’s Crystal Hut. What’s not to love about three generations out for a rip and a dinner on the ski hill I grew up on?

The nostalgia kicked in before we even hit the Canadian Wilderness Adventures base camp because en route the shuttle passed the Blackcomb Valley shop, where my dad started working as a mechanic back in the summer of 1988. He lived in a camper for a few months (housing has never been easy in Whistler) and Mom and I moved down in October, just in time for the winter of our lives. The original plan was to ski for a year and then head home back to northern British Columbia. We never left.

Feet and his family pose around an ATV at the top of the Crystal Ridge chairlift on Blackcomb Mountain.
Stopping for a family photo in a spot that holds memories for all of them. PHOTO FEET BANKS

Reliving and Creating Memories

And Blackcomb was our zone. The Stoker lift line run, the south side of 7th Heaven, splitting the walls into Pakalolo, picnics on the rocks above the toilet bowl, and summer hikes straight up the fall line and over into Jersey Cream and Blackcomb bowls. Sitting with my kid on a four-wheeled ATV, following my mom and dad up cat track roads my son and I have grown up jumping off, and past runs I distinctly remember following my folks down for the first time is a pretty incredible feeling. Matched only, perhaps, by the perspective of seeing it all for the first time. With the valley lakes, Whistler Village, and surrounding peaks as a backdrop and me driving the rig, my son was able to really soak in his familiar-but-not surroundings.

“Wait, this is Ridge Runner?” he’d exclaim as we slowed to navigate a switchback turn behind the guide. “It seems way narrower and on an angle.”

“The snow fills it in and helps level it,” I explain over the purr of a perfectly serviced engine. “Look, right there is that jump we always hit.”


The fact that he forgets to add bro means he’s actually pretty astounded. We motor along, gaining elevation, pushing toward the treeline. It’s a warm day midway through a long, dry stretch so the mountain roads are more than a little dusty, but a cool vat of lemonade and other refreshments await on the sundeck as soon as we pull into the Crystal Hut. The refreshments go down smoothly, and the memories come flooding back.

“Remember we went to Sig and Nicole’s wedding up here,” my mom says as she stares northwards at the Armchair glacier and Mount Currie.

“And Mark and Mandy got engaged here,” my dad recollects. “We used to come here just for the bison burgers on the deck. What’s that epic tree run called we used to scramble into?”

Old stories are retold, and family memories are dug up. My son is more interested in the very friendly Whiskey Jack birds darting to and from table to table in hopes someone has left a cracker unattended (or perhaps even a dish of the delicious spicy hummus or salmon / cream cheese dips).

Henry looks out over the Whistler Valley from the deck of the Crystal Hut on Blackcomb Mountain.
Henry looks out over Whistler Valley from the deck of the Crystal Hut, 6,000 feet up Blackcomb Mountain. PHOTO FEET BANKS

Salmon Bake at 6,000 Feet

As a local guitar player serenades us with a selection of songs tailored to the group (Brit-pop for the Brits, a little country for me, classic rock and maybe a little acoustic disco that everyone can get behind) while we snap photos in every direction. My son displays his knowledge of the local lake names for his grandparents (and according to him, Lost Lake is named that because the other four lakes in the Whistler Valley are connected by streams, creeks and the River of Golden Dreams, while Lost Lake is all on its own).

And then the Canadian Wilderness staff serve dinner. Perfectly cooked wild BC salmon with grilled vegetables and, as my kid puts it, the best potatoes of my life (I think the secret ingredient might be rosemary). As we eat I notice a marmot ambling through the rocks below the deck – happily munching late summer foliage and soaking in the evening alpine sun.

Cedar planked salmon served on rosemary potatoes and fresh vegetables, with a stunning view of the Coast Mountains as the backdrop.
Dinner is served along with an incredible mountain view. PHOTO FEET BANKS

We chase the sunset down the mountain, riding single file, keeping an eye out for bears that can, and do, forage the greenery of the ski runs (it was likely still too warm in the sun the day we went) and by the time we arrive back at basecamp I’m ready to just keep riding. This is ideal because there are definitely other ATV adventures available and zones to explore in the Whistler area.

Feet and his family on the patio of the Crystal Hut, 6,000 feet up Blackcomb Mountain with the Whistler Valley and Coast Mountains in the background.
Three generations make memories in the mountains. PHOTO FEET BANKS

For me, however, nothing beats the ski hill. Those slopes, those runs, the various lifts and gondolas – those are the reason my folks brought us here. They’re the reason I’m still here, raising a little ripper of my own. My folks retired to Whistler shortly after the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They don’t ski as much as they did 35 years ago when we arrived here. They don’t hike quite as far either. So to get three generations up on the hill together, to think about all those moments we’ve shared, to add new memories into the mix – it’s more than just a delicious meal in a beautiful place. It’s why we come here, and why we stay.

And best of all, my whole family is fed and I don’t have to do the dishes.

Editor’s Note: Tours typically start in June, although the start date is weather-dependent, so check in with the team when planning. You can also choose to do this dining adventure via 4×4 / Jeep if you don’t fancy driving your own ATV. You need to be 19 years of age and carry a valid driver’s license to operate an ATV. Near the end of the summer season, this is one of the only ways to explore Blackcomb Mountain during the week as Whistler Blackcomb undergoes its yearly maintenance. 

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Feet Banks moved to Whistler at age 12 so his parents could live the dream and ski as much as possible. He ended up living it too. After leaving home Feet did a few good stints in warmer climates and 4 years of writing school before returning to the mountains to make ski movies, hammer out a journalism career and avoid the 9-5 lifestyle as long as possible. He’s been a hay farmer, a hole digger, a magazine editor and has a jump named after him on Blackcomb Mountain, Feet’s Air. It’s tiny.