A bird’s eye view of the forest 

Sustainability, Natural Step part of Ziptrek canopy tour

Suspended almost 160 feet over Fitzsimmons Creek, swaying with trees that have been growing on the hillside for up to 600 years, you get a whole new perspective on Whistler’s forests. The view’s not bad from up there either.

After months of engineering and construction Ziptrek Ecotours has launched Treetrek: The Whistler Canopy Walk. Treetrek currently consists of two sections of platforms and suspension bridges that were built into the canopies of resident hemlocks and Douglas fir trees that offer visitors a bird’s eye view of the forest, a view that few people get to see.

Along the canopy walk interpretive signs and guides teach visitors about the trees, animals and the coastal temperate rainforest ecosystem of Whistler. The tour also covers the basic principles of ecological sustainability and The Natural Step, a framework of four system conditions for achieving social, environmental and economic sustainability.

ZipTrek owners Charles Steele and Dave Udow came up with the idea of building a canopy tour after talking with forest scientists. The more they learned, the more they felt they had to share with visitors to Whistler.

"What a lot of people don’t know is that this forest, which is part of the coastal temperate rainforest, is one of the most endangered types of forest on earth," said Steele.

"For every 36 acres of rainforest, which is what they’re cutting and burning in places like the Amazon, there is only one acre of coastal temperate rainforest left in the world. We have some of the best examples of it that can be found anywhere."

The coastal temperate rainforest is also one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, Steele says, converting sunlight to energy and providing the nutrients for systems that sustain some of the largest carnivores on earth, including grizzly bears and cougars.

"There’s a lot of neat stuff going on here that most people don’t know about," said Steele.

"People come to Whistler and they go shopping and recreate a little, but they never get a chance to learn about the forests, which is a shame because it makes you appreciate Whistler a lot more. Once you understand how unique this is, you can never look at it the same way again.

"We bring people up here and they’re just blown away by the forest and the views from up there. We had a family here from Mexico today, which has a rainforest, but they still couldn’t believe it. Most people don’t have this where they come from."

Udow and Steele consulted with a variety of tree experts before they started work on Ziptrek, including Dr. Reese Halter, the founder of Global Forest Science.

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