I seem to have a desire to face all my fears these days. This month I rode the new Peak 2 Peak Gondola at Whistler, B.C. confronting my vertigo, which is bad enough to keep me from bungy jumping and sky diving. This record breaking gondola was built for the upcoming Olympics and the ride is 4.4 km in length with only four towers in total holding up the entire gondola. There are two towers close together on each peak and then the cable just swings low into the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb mountain peaks.
I came to Whistler a few years back with my brother and was amazed at how high we were able to go on the regular gondolas. You get so high that you can see bears munching on berries, and then the trees stop growing and it almost seems like an alien landscape. That day my brother told me this ridiculous story that they were planning to build the longest and highest gondola ever between the two mountain peaks with hardly any towers, just the cable holding you up. And then I laughed at his fantasy which must have been made up. But he wasn’t kidding. It sounds ridiculous but now the thing exists!
When we went to purchase tickets we were told that it would cost about $45.00 per adult, but that if we came back at 4:00 we could purchase tickets for $33.00 because there was a chance we might miss the Peak 2 Peak, which closes at 5:00. At first, my wife was adamant against going on this thing. But she changed her mind realizing that otherwise we had driven all this way just to visit a charming ski village.
So at 4:00 we started taking the older gondola up to the peak of Whistler. Even this ride is frightening to me. I kept imagining the door would just open and we’d fall out. Yikes! In the summer the ski hill is a dirt bike trail. The bikers ride the chair lift up and don’t even pull the bar down to protect themselves. Are they insane?
After spotting a bear we finally made it to the top and immediately went to the Peak 2 Peak entrance. Luckily, because it appeared to be a cloudy day, not too many people were up there, and the view on the Peak 2 Peak was clear. We had an empty car to ourselves. The cabins are quite spacious and can fit 28 people. There are even a few cars with a glass bottom.
My wife and I recently went on the massive Behemoth roller coaster. That was terrifying too. But it was terrifying for a short period of time. What is scary about this is that you are up there for 11 minutes each way. And if you are afraid of heights you are basically terrified for the entire time. That is 22 minutes of terror! And the 22 minutes felt like an hour – or a bad Canadian news comedy show.
The cable drops after the second tower as you make your long descent into the valley. You become acutely aware that you are hanging by nothing but a cable. You have put your life in the hands of the engineers and workers who built this thing. You pray that your destiny is to survive as your stomach goes up into your throat. Imagine being on this thing in a storm! This is the view from the very middle. You look down at a glacial river.
Then we slowly made our way up to the top of Blackcomb. There was a cloud covering the peak so we did not have a great view.
There is a restaurant up there and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the people that have to take that terrifying ride each day. My wife informed me that she will never ride on this thing again she was so scared. After our short visit we got back on the gondola. There was an amusing hieroglyphic sign telling people not to walk towards the cliff.
Again we were suddenly plunging towards the middle of the valley. This time my stomach was a little more relaxed and I wasn’t clutching onto safety bars. I kept imagining that this is somewhere James Bond would end up.
My biggest fear was that the gondola would malfunction. When I was a kid I remember when the Sunshine Village Gondola in Alberta was built and it would sometimes break down and you would just sit there for an hour wondering what the hell was happening. What if that happened here?
Luckily it didn’t and soon we were disembarking with a friendly Australian greeting us. For some reason everyone who works here is from Australia. Not sure why. In fact the whole thing is made out of materials from other countries. There is definitely an international feel at Whistler which will be good for the games.
Suddenly the older gondola seemed like a piece of cake as we headed back down to the crowded village and I felt a little less scared of heights.