Updated: November 2018
My son is four years old now and I’ve become that guy, the dude with the little bit of grey in his beard ranting about how video games are a waste of time and TV rots your mind.
“Go read a book, son. Or build some Lego… or better yet, get your boots on we’re going outside.”
Of course, I used to love video games and some of my fondest memories are of eating cereal and watching old Spider-Man cartoons but I was also very lucky — growing up in Whistler meant “outside time” was part of everyday life, and the most enjoyable part at that.
Last year The Insider waxed poetic about the joys of skiing together as a family so for 2014 I packed the kid up and headed for the Callaghan Valley for a quiet day of romping through the snow and immersing ourselves in nature (with a little tobogganing thrown in to keep the excitement level up).
Callaghan Country have been specializing in authentic Whistler wilderness adventures for over 30 years and with 3500 acres of pristine nature to play in this seemed like the ideal place for my son to try snowshoeing for the first time. The large, clunky wood-and-rawhide framed apparitions I remember as a child have been replaced with lighter, smaller and much easier to use contemporary snowshoes — within minutes of strapping in my son was ripping around both the groomed trails and forest pow like a pro.
Although they have over 30 KM of snowshoe trails (both tracked or untracked) Callaghan Country has a newly established a .5 KM “Treasure Trail” family-oriented snowshoe route that never ventures too far from the base. This was good because snowshoeing with a young kid seems to include as much snow-eating, tree-moss examining, snowball throwing and jumping off things as it does actually snowshoeing. Families with older kids will be able to tromp much further out and enjoy the spectacular setting and peaceful bliss of uninterrupted time with the people you love. Bring a camera (or at least turn off your phone and use it only as a camera).
After a short lunch break around the Callaghan campfire (bring your own marshmallows or hot dogs!) we shifted gears and signed on for some skate skiing, with my kid getting the free ride in a customized ski-chariot.
The Callaghan Valley is Whistler’s premier Nordic skiing area. Callaghan Country and the Whistler Olympic Park have joined forces to offer over 130 km of groomed ski trails available for use with just a single Ski Callaghan day ticket. The Olympic Park hosted the Nordic events for the 2010 Winter Games so their world-class trails give skiers a chance to re-imagine some of that competitive glory in a world-class facility.
Callaghan Country focuses on the more natural, “wild and wooly” side of things. Their trails are less formal and more focused on immersing skiers in the splendor of Whistler’s wilderness and meandering through the forest and alpine at your own pace. With one pass giving access to both venues there really is no better way to experience the full spectrum of XC skiing.
Of course, it helps if you know what you’re doing. As a lifelong downhill skier and ice skater I assumed I’d have no problem skate skiing down the groomed track while towing a 37-pound kid, his lunch, and two stuffed animals. Turns out skate skiing is harder than it looks. It was fun despite my obvious lack of ability and my son definitely enjoyed the royal treatment of gliding through the forest behind a flailing, out-of-control old man. I suspect the chariot is easier to drag if your kid is much younger and lighter, but if you’re looking to burn some calories this definitely works.
After a quick hot chocolate at the Kickstart Café we loaded the car and headed up to the Whistler Olympic Park. While I was keen to sign the child up for the Biathlon Experience (a four-year-old with a rifle, what could go wrong?) we opted instead to hit the toboggan tracks.
For most Canadians, tobogganing is an integral part of childhood. I grew up sliding under a strict “the steeper the better” ethos and, of course, in the 1980s there were no helmets to be found on any toboggan hill. Times have changed and helmets are mandatory at the Whistler Olympic Park toboggan hill but they have them available to borrow and they have free toboggans and sleds as well. The slopes are safe and short but they get sun late into the day and the Nordic ski jumps provide an impressive backdrop (no you are not permitted to take your toboggan off the ski jump, I asked).
After some gourmet poutine at the day lodge we called it a day and loaded the car for home. The views of Black Tusk mountain shining in the late-day sun required a longer look so we pulled off the road for one last deep moment of appreciation. Whether you’re four years old, or pushing 40, the mountains are a magical place. And that magic is all the more incredible when you share it with the people you love.
The best part is, the entire ride home my son didn’t once ask to play video games on my phone. Of course, I had the Led Zepplin cranked so loud I probably wouldn’t have heard him anyhow. “This is what real music sounds like son! Back in my day we used to….”
Happy Family Day everyone.
Lost lake Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe trails are another option for Family Day, so is a trip to Meadow Park Sports Centre and skating at the outdoor ice rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza. Get all the details plus accommodation package deals at Whistler.com