An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Ah summer! We had a brief fling... and then you were gone!

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Summer in Whistler truly has to be one of the most magical places on earth. Stunning scenery, fauna, wildlife, lakes, vistas and activities galore for everyone to enjoy.

The problem is that winters are so goddamn awesome and long here, receiving a substantially higher than average snowfall and bigger snow base than most other resorts around the world. This year, that meant that the snow that our beloved god Ullr dumped upon us, never really departed from our mountains until, well, now actually.

We weren’t the only ones to ‘suffer’. It was the same for much of the west coast of Canada and northern USA. Summer just never really got going until mid July, sporadic days of sun and warmth here and there, but the long, hot days we usually relate to just didn’t materialize. However, when they came, they announced themselves in grand fashion. It was hot, occasionally humid; they timed their arrival with all the free concerts in our newly erected celebration plaza, the lakes welcomed those hungry for vitamin D rays with open arms and even the mosquitoes finally came out in force!

The impact of ‘good’ weather perhaps unsurprisingly with a close ‘local’ market, can and does have a very direct impact on the number of day and weekend visitors and really can make or break a good summer. It’s not too dissimilar in winter either. So given the ‘short’ summer we seem to have had, it may surprise some to know that the numbers passing through town has been very good.

So, given our burgeoning summer as it slowly grew, imagine our surprise when one day last weekend we enjoyed the hottest day of the year, the next it decided to pour down and the temperatures plummeted. This was almost immediately followed by the falling of the leaves and just like that, autumn or ‘fall’ was here!

So what do a bunch of ex-pat Brits in a small town do once they’ve undertaken their chores and in some cases, perhaps their morning training runs – well they decide that in slightly chilly (It had just plummeted from close to 30 degrees Celsius to barely 15C), damp weather, what they really need is a good old fashioned roast dinner. Hard to come by out here unless you cook it yourselves. Brace yourself for the autumnal weather and turn to the food you grew up with! Not quite ‘comfort food’, but nonetheless, you can still picture yourself perhaps in a rustic old country pub or maybe even round a table with family with the weekly home-cooked luxury that mum served up.

Now not everyone wants to suckle up to a big roast dinner and escape from the great outdoors…at least not many round these parts anyway. September is the official ‘month of pain’, which means multiple running and biking events. Each year there will be a few individuals, although many locals will participate in some, which will strive to be involved in as many events as they can in a quest to complete and compete and prove themselves the most competitive.

As I said, multiple events such as the Xterra off road triathlon, duathlon and trail run, the Terry Fox run (an annual charity run / walk that takes part right across Canada and celebrates the life and achievement of this young man who, whilst already having lost a leg to cancer, took it upon himself to run across Canada to raise awareness – having managed to cross around two thirds of the way across, Terry finally succumbed to the disease which he fought so valiantly. This event is therefore a huge charity event that everyone in Canada gets behind). This weekend sees the ‘Spirit Run’ – a series of relay and longer events around some of the stunning trails in Whistler’s Olympic Park where the cross country skiing, biathlon and ski jumping took place. Also on this weekend, there is the local classic trail race of the ‘Rubble Creek’ – At around 25kms and a run which runs primarily uphill, peaks briefly and then descends a long, long way down, near crippling the quads of those unprepared.

Now of course, it would be very remiss of me not to mention the biking events of course, which are always going on. There are the weekly trail rides in the ‘twoonie’ races, just last weekend we had the huge Granfondo – the road biking event that saw riders travel from Vancouver all the way up to Whistler, to mention but just a few.

Those that don’t wish to ‘suffer’ in the month of pain, can simply relax, take in the last few days opportunity to ride the gondolas up both mountains and soak up the views, get in some last walks on the beautiful trails with the flowers still barely in bloom as the dipping mountain top temperatures quickly begin to kill them off again. There are deals to be had too as we approach what will become our ‘off season’ and the visiting numbers drop. The restaurants will offer many a deal to entice locals and who ever is in town. Hotels also have a many a deal on to as they seek to populate their beds in this ‘quiet’ period and now many a store already has sales on to ‘rid’ themselves of their summer stock.

A transitional period I guess you could say. We’re approaching it at full speed, but as this author accepts summer’s fate, I for one am looking forward to the beautiful ‘fall’ colours and perhaps the opportunity to stoke up the fire once or twice over the coming weeks before the snow finally begins to come down.