Glacier Coach Lines will be bringing a touch of yesteryear to Whistler this spring with the introduction of an old-fashioned trolley service to the valley. As of May 18, 2001, the trolley will become a familiar site as it trundles around the village and wider community on its twice daily narrated tour.
Mike Banner, owner and manager of the Whistler-based family company, thinks it will be a big hit with the tourists even though a similar venture eight years ago using a regular bus failed to get off the ground.
"Seven or eight years ago Whistler was pretty much a winter destination but now it is truly a year-round resort," he explains. "Local tour volumes have increased hugely since then, thanks to the marketing efforts of Tourism Whistler and other operators."
He says the dream back then was to make Whistler a "mini hub like Vancouver" where people would spend a few days and do activities in the area, and this has now happened.
Banner also believes the trolley itself will be a big draw card, simply because its fun to ride on. He says taking a trolley ride in another city planted the seed in his mind for the idea. But he recalls it was other trade tour operators who provided the real catalyst.
"Last May I was at the Rendezvous Canada trade show in Calgary and three or four of the operators were saying that people need inactive leisure pursuits in Whistler, especially the more mature clients."
He says visitors in Whistler are presented with a host of "active options" such as white-water rafting, ATV-ing and horse-back riding, but some people just want to relax. And whats more relaxing than being driven around, he adds.
"The tours will be fun and informative and can be packaged to include a sight-seeing trip up Whistler Mountain or a BBQ dinner at Joels restaurant."
Banner admits using a trolley involves some poetic license since they were mainly part of Canadian city histories, rather than rural towns. But he says its the perfect vehicle to give a history tour in, and many people are not aware of the Whistler Valleys fascinating pre ski-resort past.
"The two hour tour is a real eye opener," he explains.
"We take people to the heritage site in Rainbow Park where the first hotel was built back in the early 1920s when Whistler was just a summer resort."
Among the highlights of the tours will be visiting Lost Lake, the Chateau Whistler Golf Course and Nicklaus North Estates and golf courses. Mid-station on Blackcomb Mountain is also a port of call, because the snow making equipment is stored there, he says.
"Many summertime visitors have never heard of snow guns or snow machines and find it fascinating that we actually make snow in Whistler."
Most curiously perhaps, on the advertised list of tour highlights is the visit to Marketplace and Nesters to "see where the locals hang out and live."
Glacier Tours anticipates running the trolley tours twice daily until Oct. 5, dropping to a single daily trip until the end of that month. The company says it also plans to dovetail with new rail journeys being launched this spring and summer by B.C. Rail.