Underneath the Ice: A Kingdom of Cold
With Four Seasons Resort Whistler, venture by helicopter to a rare ice cap and explore the frozen wonderland below.
Looking up from the base of a swirling cavern of ice, deep in Whistler’s back country, you see sunlight reflected to kaleidoscopic effect. “We call this feature the Cathedral,” says Doug Washer, an expert on the area. The name is necessarily majestic. The slow-moving but ever-changing characteristics of the glacial shaft – called a moulin, the French word for “mill” – create a kind of frozen wonderland that is rarely seen by humans.
The Cathedral is just one of many attractions to which Washer, president and CEO of Head-Line Mountain Holidays, safely guides guests of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler during a combination helicopter and ice cave tour. It’s a spectacular experience, he says: a journey through the glassy hollows of a cave formed by the southernmost ice field of British Columbia’s Coast Mountain Range.
Step inside the ice cave and you’ll see icicles stretching from floor to ceiling like columns. Broad channels carved by glacial waters curve and converge at various depths, filtering exterior light into rich shades of blue and purple. At the cave’s bottom, Washer says, the light changes dramatically. “People always want to hang out down there.”
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If hanging out at the bottom of an ice cave sounds daunting, take comfort in the fact that at least one infant and several guests over the age of 70 have taken the journey before you. Washer and his team have partnered with Four Seasons Whistler to create an adventure travel experience that showcases the extraordinary wilds of Whistler while catering to all fitness levels.
“There are very few ice caps this far south on the planet,” Washer says, referring to the roughly 300-square-metre (120-square-mile) glacial field that forms the cave. Making it accessible to any guest who wants to experience it is a priority for him and for Four Seasons: “We take families and couples and even corporate groups down there.” All you need is warm clothing (skiing attire is ideal), a camera and a sense of adventure. His team works closely with a group of glaciologists who constantly monitor the ice, ensuring the safety of the cave for visitors who come throughout the year.
The full experience lasts approximately four and a half hours, and getting to the cave is part of the thrill. Soaring by helicopter above the expansive ice cap offers exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities and a bird’s-eye view of the dramatic terrain.
“We fly over moose habitats, and, in the springtime, the grizzly bears, cougars, black bears – everything converges,” Washer says. The ice cap is the headwater for several high-volume rivers in the region, making it a stomping ground for a variety of species: “It’s like a highway for wildlife.” Your helicopter lands at the entrance to the ice cave, where up-close encounters with animals are also frequent. Wintering mountain goats range nearby, and visitors often spot wolverine tracks.
“This is certainly not an everyday experience,” says Washer. He maintains an element of secrecy when he talks about the cave and its surrounding landscape. As a result, it remains relatively undiscovered by tourists and other outdoor adventurers. Following a path created wholly by nature, not human footprints, makes your journey into the ice cave all the more sublime.
Book this Wilderness Wellness experience with Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler, or discover more extraordinary experiences around the world.