The essence of British Columbia’s Sea to Sky region can be found in its stunning natural setting.
The essence of British Columbia’s Sea to Sky region can be found in its stunning natural setting. The waters of Howe Sound are part of a vast inland “sea,” while the spectacular glaciated and volcanic peaks of the Coast Range thrust into the “sky.” Perhaps the first time the term was widely seen was when a Whistler photographer named John Bartosik published the Sea to Sky Country coffee table book in 1984, just before the tourism rush from Expo 86 and the brand new Whistler Resort.
The best-known feature of the Sea to Sky is the eponymous highway, BC provincial highway 99, which most locals agree begins at Horseshoe Bay and ends in Pemberton, almost 200 kilometres north. Rated as one of the world’s most scenic drives and one of BC’s top tourist attractions in its own right, the highway has received extensive upgrades over the years, most specifically for the 2010 Winter Games when it connected Olympic venues in Vancouver with those in Whistler. The Coast Mountains, forests, waters of Howe Sound, and the communities en route are part of what locals also call the Sea to Sky corridor.
Sea to Sky is not a registered or copyrighted trademark, and it is widely used by non-profits, businesses, and government agencies alike. The concept of the Sea to Sky “brand” exists on many different levels. One important element is about diversifying the economy of the region by including tourism along with traditional resource industries such as mining, logging, and forest products. When selecting a name for this spectacular new tourism experience, there was never going to be any doubt that it would be “the Sea to Sky Gondola.”
The Sea to Sky Gondola represents a major step in the development of this region, specifically near the town of Squamish (population 19,500 in 2016). Recognizing the enormous scope and sheer number of different activities available within the district, Squamish branded itself as the Outdoor Adventure Capital of Canada in the mid-1990s. The community has since rebranded itself but Squamish as Canada’s Adventure Capital remains top of mind. For adventurers there are outstanding rock climbing, trail running, mountaineering, hiking, walking, bird watching, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, kiteboarding, sailing, boating, fishing, windsurfing, whitewater rafting, canoeing and stand up paddleboarding experiences—tired yet?
To say that this $22 million project has enhanced the Sea to Sky reputation is an understatement. From the very beginning, the District, Sea to Sky businesses and residents from communities up and down the corridor showed their support in creating a truly world-class signature experience that rises above the mediocre and bland.
The Sea to Sky Gondola is now well known as one of British Columbia’s newest iconic tourist attractions. The gondola was featured in the New York Times' 52 Places to Go in 2015 list, where they cited the attraction’s “unusual combination of West Coast wilderness and accessibility." On January 16, 2017, less than two and a half years after opening, the gondola welcomed their 1 millionth guest, Carolynn Moon.