For some places in Canada the beginning of spring in March or April brings the return of migratory birds and the first flowers in gardens. Vancouver famously heralds spring with the arrival of cherry blossoms and (sometimes) the end of steady rains. In Whistler, as the last snow in the valley continues to melt, however, signs of spring’s late arrival take a rather different form: skunk cabbage and spring skiers, both of which have a relatively long documented history.
It’s not uncommon to spot a few early daffodils and crocuses around the valley if you’re looking for them (especially outside of Meadow Park Sports Centre, which may have something to do with nearby heat tracing), but it is hard to miss the bright yellow blooms and swampy smell of skunk cabbage that mean spring has truly arrived in Whistler. In May of 1977 the Whistler Answer declared skunk cabbage, or Lysichiton americanus, to be the official flower of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, claiming that it “best exemplifies the spirit of this young community” and that “its bright yellow flower is as cheery a sign of spring as any Robin Redbreast, cherry blossom or halter top.” Also known as swamp lantern, skunk cabbage can be found throughout Whistler; one needs only to walk down the Valley Trail or drive along the highway.
Just as easy to spot are the spring skiers and snowboarders heading up Blackcomb for the last few weeks of the season with light or no jackets or, on warmer days, in short and t-shirts. Spring skiing has been popular on Whistler Mountain since its opening in the 1960s. At breakfast with my own grandmother, she recalled a day of skiing back when the Roundhouse was still round when one female skier arrived inside the cafeteria in her bathing suit with her skis still strapped on her feet. Though images of a similarly attired woman were used to advertise spring skiing on the cover of Garibaldi’s Whistler News in 1970, such outfits were not actively encouraged by the same publication’s spring skiing tips. Instead they warned that “it only takes one fall on hard packed snow to cause painful cuts, scratches and bruises on legs and arms” and advised “lightweight stretch pants and wind shells or light sweaters.” Garibaldi’s Whistler News also emphasized the importance of two other spring skiing tips that can still be applied today: sunscreen and sunglasses.
Whether getting a few more days on the mountain or riding the trails in the valley, enjoy spring in Whistler while its lasts. Summer will be here before we know it.