Book Review 

The Whistler Book: An All-Season Outdoor Guide by Jakc Christie

Reviewed by G.D. Maxwell

In the preface to his recently published, updated volume, The Whistler Book , Jack Christie captures the essence of the place when he writes, ÒIf you canÕt enjoy yourself in Whistler, youÕre dead and donÕt know it.Ó JackÕs probably enjoyed himself in Whistler — and pretty much every other place heÕs been — as much as anyone I know.

And in the new volume, he offers up that enjoyment and sense of wonder in an easily digestible format crammed with more information, page-for-page, than most of us can dig up in a decade of poking around our surpernatural back yard.

Organized geographically, south to north, The Whistler Book highlights both the journey and destinations avid hikers, bikers, picnickers, climbers, rafters, paddlers and nature lovers might want to check out from Squamish to Pemberton, with a few choice spots as far north as Lillooet thrown in for good measure. If you only have one guidebook for this part of the world, it should be this one. ItÕs not exhaustive and would neither replace nor supplement volumes dedicated to, say, climbing or paddling, but as an all-around introduction to the Sea-to-Sky corridor, itÕs an invaluable starting point and a great read. It ought to be in every home and condo in Whistler.

In the introductions to each section — Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton — and throughout the text, Jack stuffs his prose with historical tidbits, keen observations, colourful characters and tips designed to make the reader aware he or she is passing through both a place and a time. And stressing, whether describing a novice hike or an exposed trek requiring advanced skills, that ÒThe thin veneer of civilization around the Sea to Sky corridor suggests a cosiness that can be deceptive. Éthose who do not respect the wilderness often face uncompromising consequences.Ó

The range of activities covered, makes this book suitable for families with small children who are just looking for a short stroll to a natural setting where they can enjoy a picnic lunch, Alice Lake for example, to the no-pain no-gain crowd who might want to tackle the vertical hike up to Wedgemount Lake. Whether writing about something as pedestrian and prosaic as wandering along WhistlerÕs Valley Trail or describing the raw wilderness of entering the Stein Valley via Blowdown Pass and hoping for a chance encounter — at a distance — with grizzly, Jack expresses the serenity or excitement of a place with the keenly focused eye of a seasoned naturalist and the encyclopaedic detail of a historian.

Scattered throughout the text of a place are informative sidebars highlighting some of the people whose pioneering, in the broadest sense of the word, left indelible imprints on the places described. From Joan Matthews, a champion slalom skier who mapped much of the backcountry north of Squamish, to Randy Stoltmann, whose work for the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C., helped highlight the need to preserve large tracts of wilderness.

The sidebars also give Jack license to compile a list of Òbests,Ó from best eagle watching spot to best midnight cross-country ski, to best ghost town to JackÕs top three trails: JackÕs Trail at Alice Lake, Tin Pants, west of Lost Lake and Joffre Lakes Trail, in case you were wondering.

To ensure you donÕt get lost, reasonably detailed maps are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, marked with highlights noted in the text. And to ensure youÕre suitably motivated to use the maps, the book makes generous use of black and white and gorgeous color photos taken by JackÕs traveling companion, wife, photographer and lifeÕs love, Louise.

In a perfect world, the book might include an index organized around level of difficulty and round-trip time. As it is, that information is included in the text and hunting for it carries the bonus of leading you further into JackÕs entertaining prose. Besides, this is a book that should be read cover to cover. The reward for investing the time will be a hike or bike ride or paddle you might not have known about or a new appreciation of some of your old favourites.

The Whistler Book: An All-Season Outdoor Guide , is Published by GreyStone Books.

Jack and Louise Christie will hold a book signing at Armchair Books this Saturday, July 2, from 1 to 3 p.m.

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