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BRIDGING THE GAP AT WHISTLER


By Jane Cassie

When I was seven years old, I had high hopes of joining the circus. My dad even installed a trapeze in our basement to pacify this childhood whim. That was a few decades and a hundred or so pounds ago. Today, as I teeter on the edge of Whistler's Zip Trek platform, I'm not as certain that I'll soar through the air with the greatest of ease.

"Just hang on and enjoy the ride," I'm told, nonchalantly, by our two fun and very fit guides. Marcus and his counterpart, Marc, are as carefree as they come, and although I'll be careening high above a deep valley gorge that bisects Whistler and Blackcomb, they make it sound like a simple swing in the park.

As well as shelling out tips on aerodynamics, they provide running commentaries about local ecology, wildlife and sustainability. Before taking this leap of faith, we've learned about pileated woodpeckers, inspected the bark of old growth hemlock and explored our eco-friendly surroundings. The canopied Treetrek Trail, linked by boardwalks, suspension bridges and stairways, is the perfect forest alternative for families with young children -or zippers who have second thoughts about Spiderman swinging across Fitzsimmons Creek. And while my heart palpitates and the thunderous water tumbles eighty feet below, I'm seriously considering staying on this side of the ravine with the scaredy cat crowd. Then I remember why I'm doing this aerial flight.

We've come to Whistler with our daughter and her boyfriend in search of a little fun and adventure. What better place to find it than the venue of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?!

Although traces of frost still remain during this spring visit, we've been able to trade our snowboards for mountain bikes, hike a few summits instead of skiing them, and drive a ball on one of the four embracing golf courses. We've also discovered that there's a lineup of elating escapades to satisfy adrenaline junkies like our daughter.

"Let's try rap jumping," she had suggested when we were first planning our itinerary. When I heard that this face forward, free fall was off the summit of Whistler, and it involved a harness, ropes and a breaking device, I felt suddenly faint and quickly declined. Her next suggestion, Via Ferrata, would take us on a climb to the same pristine peak, but not the traditional way. Instead, we'd be ascending by steep ladder rungs. I'm not sure why Italians gravitate to this 'Iron way' of hiking, but it's sure not up my alley. Finally she recommended Zip Trekking, a year round air-obic adventure that's suited for both the greenhorn and guru. "It can even be done in the dark with headlamps," she had assured. How hard could it really be? I quickly jumped on board before any other hair-raising ideas were brought to the table.

Now, while my husband and I are guided around on the gentler Bear Tour, our thrill-seeking daughter and boyfriend are soaring on the Eagle. Their scream extreme not only boasts a lengthy zip span of two thousand feet but also drops down twenty stories. It rips and zips all the way from the heart of the coastal rain forest to Whistler Village and our Pan Pacific Mountainside retreat (where I'd rather be hot-tubbing).

But instead, while wedgie-harnessed and hooked up to the high wire, and feeling oddly like Tinkerbelle, I'm heading into no man's land. Like the new revolutionary PEAK 2 PEAK gondola that bridges the gap between the summits of Blackcomb to Whistler, I'll be doing the same -just a lot closer to sea level.

"Whenever you're ready," Marcus encourages, after clipping a final carabineer to the zip line. With both eyes shut tight, I step off the final stair and into big air. Before I have time to think, I'm rocketing through space and broadcasting my loudest roller-coaster yell. It's a thrilling, exhilarating experience, yet I feel surprisingly calm while cocooned by this section of untouched forested terrain. Before I reach the second platform, I'm ready to fly again. On zip number three I'm going hands free. And after the fifth and final take-off, I'm hanging flip side, trapeze style, and reliving my childhood dreams.

IF YOU GO:

Ziptrek Eco Tours Inc
Tel: 866-935-0001
Admin: 604-935-4102
http://www.ziptrek.com/

Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside
Toll Free: 1-888-905-9995
Direct: 604-905-2999
www.panpacific.com
whistler_res@panpacific.com

Tourism Whistler
http://www.tourismwhistler.com/

Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.travelwriterstales.com

PHOTOS by Brent Cassie

1. Guides Marcus and Marc (1479)
2. Zip Trek Platforms beneath the canopy of evergreens (1478)
3. boardwalks, suspension bridges and stairways make up the Treetrek Trail (1475)
4. lots of snowy summits to hike (1558)
5. Wedgie-harnessed and hooked up to the high wire (1502)
6. Going flip side, trapeze style (1528)

 


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