June 24-26: graduation, Whistler, Peak 2 Peak

As “per usual”, NPY booked our annual Whistler trip in June (one week before Canada Day weekend) back at the end of 2022, when his annual travel credit card rewards were about to expire. Based on the positive experience I had at the Whistler Village Pan Pacific last year, I didn’t want to try out another hotel and we booked there again.

Then I learned in spring about Kiddo’s Chinese school graduation in the afternoon of the day we left and NPY didn’t try until too late to reschedule. I invited my sister and family to join us, framed as one last trip before who knows when we’ll travel again together, on account of a new baby joining them this summer. (Hopefully we’ll travel again together next summer!) She looked around and managed to book the same hotel because, frankly, if not the same hotel, what’s the point??

Saturday, June 24

First, we got Chinese school graduation out of the way. It was slated to end at 3:00 pm but it was like 3:30 when it really ended and 4:00 pm when after Baby used the bathroom and changed so she could nap on the way up. Just was we pulled into parking in the hotel parking lot, the car’s emergency brake and other warning lights came on. It couldn’t be disengaged. To his credit, NPY largely blamed that he hit a strange combination of buttons to land us in that status, as opposed to blaming the unfairness in life.

Given how late we arrived and how disgruntled we all felt, I tried not to bring us all down about the lost time and suggested it Old Spaghetti Factory – it was going to be one of the evenings and we didn’t have to wait too long to get a set in the familiar family environment and the kids could cause ruckus and it frankly did not matter too much. I ordered a glass of moscato. NPY stayed in the suite to Google anything he could do, look up if there were any mechanics in Whistler or only back in Squamish.

After dinner and the kids had their dessert at the restaurant, I just wanted to bed down. I didn’t want to deal with taking them to the playground in the village and wishing immediately to head home. Since we don’t often have the kids’ cousin over, I wanted to “host” in our suite but I think even the kids knew it’s not the same as their cousin coming to their house and playing toys.

On our walk back to the hotel, I ran into my friend Gigi with whom I went to Whistler perhaps 10 years ago for her bachelorette weekend. Come to think of it, it may have been a 10 year anniversary weekend for the couple… or just a kid-free weekend in Whistler.

Sunday, June 25

Prior to going to Whistler, I was looking for activities that would be family friend and not excluding my pregnant sister. I thought we might rent boats at the lake but since an hour might be the limit for the kids and with the sun coming down on us, I hadn’t made reservations (couldn’t make reservations). NPY seemed to want to go biking like last year but I also didn’t know the logistics. We wouldn’t likely cycle very far and wouldn’t be able to bring gear to hang out at a lake and the rental cost and keeping safe the bikes would be disproportionate to the amount of time cycling.

I had looked into the Peak 2 Peak experience and wondered if there was a cheaper alternative, like not pay and not take the Peak 2 Peak gondola, just take the gondola up one mountain. No. So when I was not being decisive about what to do when we had a whole day, BIL suggested Peak 2 Peak – he had gone on it last summer when friends from Toronto were visiting and I was just floored that they paid for the whole experience and did not go on the highlight Peak 2 Peak gondola on account of some of the group having a fear of heights. “It would kill some time,” he said. Famous last words!!

We went to the ticketing office closest to us on Whistler side and the Whistler gondola was only for mountain bikers for the upload and we were advised we might not want to use it for downloading as they aren’t as clean of mountain biking dirt. We trudged ten minutes through a park to the Blackcomb gondola and passed the Family Adventure Zone that we must try out next year. The glee of the kids getting into a gondola for the first time – we had it to ourselves – and the lift and their excitement, I should have captured that on video!

At the top, we walked up a trail to be able to have had the most mini of hikes and it was like the side of the mountain if we tipped over, if the fine gravel gave way, we’d be sliding down the steep small trail and if tipping, rolling onto craggly rock the mountain. After getting the photo opp and inching our way down to level ground, we took the Peak 2 Peak gondola to Whistler Mountain.

The queue for the glass bottom gondola was longer than for the regular gondolas and they only came very 15 minutes and held 20 passengers and so it would be a full cabin. We saw a depiction of the glass bottom which looked small in comparison to the spacious gondola and was marked off with a set of metal railings. It did not look worth over 30 minutes wait.

The regular gondola was really amazing enough and the best view was seeing the whole of Whistler ahead and looking straight down the valley. On Whistler side, we took obligatory Olympic podium photos and then had lunch at the Roundhouse Lodge the “largest restaurant up Whistler Mountain” – isn’t it the only restaurant on Whistler? It turns out to be a cafeteria and that’s just fine to fairly quickly get food and have the kids eating.

It’s just like me and I wanted the full experience for my ticket and have the maximum adventure. Included in our ticket was to take the Peak Express chairlift to the Top of the World Summit (which we could see from the Peak 2 Peak gondola and no one believe me that we could go there) and Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk. But there were issues with three kids under 8, BIL with his bad back and my sister being pregnant. The girls were not tall enough to ride the chairlift (have to be 48″), who knows how uncomfortable a chairlift was for my sister, it was something like a 10-minute hike from the gondola to the chair lift, and I felt so guilty even if I wanted to leave BIL to watch the girls while my sister, Kiddo and I went. We’d be out there at least 45 minutes?

In any case, when we arrived at Whistler summit at Roundhouse, the signage indicated that the Peak Express chairlift wasn’t even running due to lightening in the area and I was relieved to have the decision made and we had lunch. (Unless the option would become available after lunch?)

When we finished lunch and wanted to walk outside to take some photos from the outdoor patio, we were not permitted to go outside because the personnel of the lodge were starting to close off exiting outdoors because lightening was within 20-30 kilometers. Wasn’t that a little dumb? We knew about lightening striking that day even as we planned the day in the hotel room. We did not know its implications when we are on a mountain top and the only way down is gondolas!

I scouted out a large bench away from the main cafeteria and we settled there as we saw the lodge (largest restaurant on Whistler) fill up from other stranded visitors. The kids chased each other around a little before we let them just watch videos on our phones and finally let them have junk food too as the afternoon wore on.

NPY did not join us because he didn’t like the outlay of costs, he has a fear of heights, and of course, no progression at all on our car that might have a stuck e-brake and how were we to make it back to Vancouver?? We had an early dinner reservation at Hy’s Steakhouse which, frankly, I didn’t really want to go to but BIL and my sister went to The Keg just the week before and BIL mentioned Hy’s as an alternative. It’s more expensive and less kid-friendly than The Keg (in general), although in Whistler, it’s still going to be family friendly.

After a few hours, a queue started to form within sight of our bench and we inquired what it was for. People were putting their names down who qualified for priority seating on vans that were coming up. For a couple of hours, my sister was asking when the vans were coming and it seemed to me like the most efficient would be gondolas, that vans wouldn’t come until nightfall.

With a pregnant lady and three kids, we easily qualified for priority and were ushered out the side door and into a zip line tours van where we got the back row which is the worst for bumpiness! What followed was the wildest 20-minute ride – I didn’t know long it would take – down the mountain, bumping like crazy because of the rocky road and suspension being gone. Seatbelts were required to not hit your head on the ceiling. I looked out the front window and saw the snow patches still on the road and we kept taking hairpin turns. I was afraid Baby would throw up pretty soon into it and someone provided me with a plastic bag.

We really did come down in a van! At the base, we could see the caravan of trucks and vans ready to go up and continue bringing people down – it looked like they drew from every available rugged vehicle in the vicinity for the rescue effort!

There was technically the opportunity to go to the hotel’s pool but I had been there last year where it’s dark inside and not really aesthetically pleasing and then the attraction is outdoors but that has it’s issues. So the kids drew a bath and had fun there.

We ended up having ramen in our suite from Ohyama Ramen which we hadn’t tried before. What an experience that was!

Monday, June 26

The videos NPY found indicated that he could put the car into service mode and disengage the parking brake through a series of button pushes and pumping the gas pedal which I had to write down. He tried it out on the roads around Whistler and was reasonably confident that the e-brake would stay disengaged for the drive home and only re-engage when putting the car into Park. BIL and my sister would drive near us in case we needed anything.

When I was packing for the weekend on Saturday it seems like so much effort – so much stuff – for a shortened weekend (on account of graduation) and I tried not to be disappointed that no much “went my way”. I remain optimistic for our next trip because my sister can technically go to Scandinave Spa (even if technically does she, can she want to be away from her infant for at least a few hours and we leave the dads with four kids??) and we’ll check out the Adventure Zone. In a few years, the girls will be old enough for the full Peak 2 Peak and maybe next year, Kiddo will warm up to and be willing to go ziplining.

We basically packed up until check-out time and then head to Dubh Linn Gate for brunch. The complimentary breakfast program we enjoyed so much in 2022 was on a hiatus and the hotel was offering free parking or credits to use for meals at Dubh Linn Gate which was closer to the other Pan Pacific location (but not far from ours). For our last meal in Whistler for this trip, we had a real one at a restaurant, on a patio. The kids visited Rocks & Gems store after discovering that last year and we were headed back home to reset for a short work week and get started on laundry!

On this day..