When Doug Washer, President and CEO of Head-Line Mountain Holidays, asks you if you’re free on a Tuesday, trust me – you are.
This is how I came to find myself climbing into a fire engine red helicopter at approximately 11:00 a.m. on February 20. Joining me was a family of four from California as well as Matt, our guide, plus our pilot. Within moments, we took to the sky and my heart soared as I looked out to a spectacularly sunny Whistler day.
The journey took only a few minutes – barely enough time to take in the beauty of the snow-covered peaks of the Coast Mountain Range - and before I knew it, we were landing on an Ice Cap. Looking around, you’d never guess we were atop ice caves but that’s part of the magic.
Matt pointed out one of the entrances and following a quick safety talk, I found myself climbing down steep steps of ice into the first cave. Surrounded by jagged ice of all angles, I immediately took note of the light, iridescent colours and the smooth-like-glass texture. You can’t help but touch it and marvel at how absolute and perfect it is.
I didn’t think I had ever seen anything so beautiful until Matt said, “We’re only getting started!” Next I crawled through a tunnel that was about three feet high and 15 feet long. It’s not for the faint of heart – or for claustrophobics – but worth the extra adrenaline.
From here, you enter another much larger cave. Everywhere you look there are different shades of blue and turquoise ice seemingly growing from the ceiling and walls.
Following the sound of trickling water takes you deeper into the caves. Frozen waterfalls descend into the middle of the cave, frozen in time. The colour of the surrounding ice is now a rich, jewel tone and it’s almost impossible to comprehend something so magical. There were so many corners, nooks, and crannies to explore – I could have stayed forever.
Instead, we stayed for several hours then ventured back out to the top of the Whistler glacier where a gourmet picnic awaited us. As I was devouring my lunch, the helicopter returned to take us home, and before I knew it, we were jetting back over the mountaintops and landing gently back at the Whistler Heliport.
It was an incredible adventure, and one I am so grateful to have experienced.
The ice is receding more each year. It was a sobering thought to know only 25 years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to stand up in the caves. That’s why I was so pleased to learn that Head-Line Mountain Holidays donates three per cent of the revenue from its Ice Cave adventures to a research initiative in which they collaborate with Simon Fraser University.
The Whistler luxury helicopter ice cave experience takes about four hours roundtrip, including transportation from Whistler to the heliport. It is truly a bucket list experience that can’t be missed. Luckily it is available year round (although I think there’s something spectacularly fitting about enjoying it on a bright, clear, snow-covered day) and is one of the most exciting outdoor activities in Whistler - summer or winter!