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Surrounded by one of North America's top ski resorts, Alta Lake is located in the community of Whistler, British Columbia. Reflected on the glistening surface of Alta Lake are Whistler and the Blackcomb Mountains, part of the Pacific Range in the Coast Mountains. With Vancouver only 75 miles to the south on the Sea to Sky Highway, these two sport-oriented communities have been selected to co-host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Originally named Summit Lake, Alta Lake is part of the Vancouver Coast & Mountains tourism region in southwestern Canada. For centuries, Coast Salish First Nations occupied these majestic mountains and fertile valleys. In 1877, the land opened to settlement with the construction of a trail that brought prospectors and trappers from the Pacific to the village of Pemberton, north of Alta Lake. An adventurous couple, Alex and Myrtle Phillip were among the early settlers on the lake. In May of 1914, Myrtle and Alex opened Rainbow Lodge along the western shore of Summit Lake. For over 30 years, the lake's superior fly fishing brought fishermen to isolated lodge and lake.
As roadways and transportation improved, the potential for recreational development on Alta Lake and the surrounding mountains was recognized. On February 15, 1966, the first ski lift was opened. As visitor numbers increased, spring and summer attractions were added to the already popular fly fishing season. By September, 1975, development along Alta Lake had turned the valley into a year-round attraction and the community of Whistler became the first designated resort municipality in Canada.
In addition to two small streams, Alta Lake has four inlets: Scotia Creek brings mountain water from the west and Rainbow Creek flows in from the northwest. From Alta Lake, water flows out via Alta Creek (named the River of Golden Dreams by Alex Phillip) into Green Lake and on to the Lillooet River. Today, the rivers, streams and Alta Lake's 247-acre surface continue to attract fishermen.
With an average depth of 31 feet and maximum depth of 80 feet, glacially carved Summit Lake is known for its rainbow trout and cutthroat trout fishing. The steeply sloped shoreline makes land fishing a challenge, so fishermen may want to try the 1,600-square foot Fairhurst fishing dock on the west side of the lake. Blueberry Park, located at the northeast end of Alta Lake, also provides docks. Boats may be launched from Lakeside Park or a public ramp about 200 yards north of the park. Boating and fishing regulations apply. The maximum boat speed is 7.5 mph and "catch and release, single barbless hooks and bait ban" apply. For those who would like to fish in a more relaxed and isolated setting, fishing guides are available to take you to coastal streams or back-country rivers.
Nine well-planned parks are available in the village of Whistler. Rainbow, Lakeside, Wayside and Blueberry Parks provide access to Alta Lake. Rainbow Park is located on the site of the original Rainbow Lodge. This northwest-side attraction provides a swimming beach, volleyball courts, water fountains, restrooms and Barking Bay dog beach. Toward the south end of Alta Lake, Lakeside Park also provides a small beach, picnic tables, boat rentals and restrooms. Continue south to Wayside Park, where you will find additional picnic facilities, wheelchair-accessible walkways and restrooms along with canoe and kayak rentals. Blueberry Park is a small secluded park located on the eastern shore of Alta Lake. In addition to hiking trails, the park offers three small docks.
At 536 acres, Lost Lake is Whistler's largest park. North of Alta Lake, this park's amenities include picnic and cook-out areas, concessions, restrooms and a variety of swimming areas from a family beach to Canine Cove, where dogs may swim without a leash, to the unmarked "clothing optional" dock.
To preserve the tranquility of Alta Lake's mountain retreat, Whistler Village is closed to motorized traffic. Transportation is provided by WAVE, Whistler's public transit system. Walking is a pleasure when you stroll past charming village shops, enticing restaurants and beautifully landscaped walkways. Numerous scenic hiking trails cut through Whistler Valley, past such inviting sites as Emerald Forest and Rainbow Wetlands Conservation Area. Summit Lake's popular hiking areas include Whistler Interpretive Forest, Valley Trail, Flank Trail and Lost Lake, where hiking trails become cross-country ski trails when the snow starts to fall.
Additional sporting attractions surround Alta Lake. Facilities are available for golfing, tennis, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and horseback riding. For those who enjoy more extreme sports, be prepared for the challenge of heli-skiing, heli-hiking, ice climbing, paragliding and bungee jumping.
Should visitors want to leave the posh development of Alta Lake and Whistler, Garibaldi Provincial Park lies only two miles to the east. This magnificent park stands in total contrast to the comfortable lifestyle provided at Alta Lake. With 481,000 acres of undeveloped mountain wilderness, high Alpine meadows, and 8,786-foot Garibaldi Mountain, this park provides a true backcountry experience. Outside of park roadways and parking lots, the park is closed to all motorized vehicles. Campgrounds, cabins and shelters are available. Hiking into the park comes with all the wildlife and hazard warnings one would expect in the wilderness.
The glacier-capped mountains are a reminder that winter sports are the major attraction to Alta Lake and Whistler Village. Considered the largest ski area on the continent, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort advertises "7,000 acres of ski and snowboard terrain, with over 200 marked trails, 12 massive Alpine bowls, 3 glaciers and 33 lifts."
Alta Lake's beauty and stately mountains that guard the peaceful valley are magical. They draw over two million visitors a year. With a growing population of 9,500 people, new vacation rentals and real estate properties are readily available. You can make your own magic happen during your short visit or, if you can't get enough, a forever vacation. Find a home where you can stroll along pristine Alta Lake, ski among the majesty of snow-capped mountains, and test your limits at world-class sporting facilities. Come to Alta Lake and live the spirit of adventure.
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