The Other Whistler

Austin-Lehman tour highlights summer activities

By: Judd Eustice

VANCOUVER, British Columbia When most people think of Whistler, they imagine miles of ski trails covered in deep, powdery, snow. However, summertime in Whistler has a host of soft-adventure activities as well.

Austin-Lehman Adventures, based in Billings, Mont., seeks to satisfy a dilettante’s desire to have it all by crafting a tour that includes rafting, hiking, biking and paddling, and at the same time, nonstop service that will please even the most demanding client.

Included in the price of the trip ($2,900) is lodging, meals and gratuities. Guests stay in one of the best hotels in the area, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort, where each room comes with a view of the mountains outside.

And on an Austin-Lehman’s trip you’ll see plenty of mountains. On a recent hosted trip, a typical day included a guided tour through the Alice Lake Park rainforest, followed by a trip down the Elaho River. At the end of the float trip a fully catered barbeque was waiting that included fresh sockeye salmon from the area.

Another day the group enjoyed a guided hike to the top of Whistler Mountain. While the hike itself was rather strenuous, snacks were served on silver trays at the summit.

The fourth day of the trip was the most active. The morning was devoted to canoeing across Green Lake, then, after another catered picnic on shore, the group paddled to a waiting van for a drive north to Pemberton where mountain bikes were geared up. We then rode for almost 15 miles (over flat roads) through a lovely valley from Pemberton toward Upper Lillooet Park.

Although 15 miles might sound daunting, a support van cruised along with us, offering anything we might need.

The best part of the trip was that at the end of the day, when our muscles were aching, there was nothing like a soak in one of the many hot tubs at the Fairmont Chateau. If more than a soak is required, the hotel also has the Vida Wellness Spa, perfect for massages, facials and other pampering.

On this trip, Austin-Lehman guides constantly proved their mettle, as guests peppered them with questions ranging from the possibility of bear encounters to the reason for the chalky look of the rivers and lakes (limestone runoff from the glacial scrapings). Their experience, commitment to detail and good humor created an easy atmosphere for everyone.

Dan Austin and Paul Lehman said they added this tour in southwestern British Columbia to their list of adventures for the traveler who is comfortable in mountain shorts during the day and “smart, casual” attire in the evening.

Elegant dinners are served in one of Whistler’s renowned three-star restaurants. Keep an appetite for seafood, as the nearby Pacific Ocean provides local menus with salmon, crab, halibut and sable fish.

At the end of the trip, the Austin-Lehman motto will ring truer than ever to your clients: “The toughest part is going home.”


Added Incentive:

Austin-Lehman recently announced that it has upped its travel agent commission from 12 percent to 15 percent on all trips booked before Dec. 31, regardless of departure date even for trips taken in 2005.