07/27/2015 05:03 EDT | Updated 07/27/2016 05:59 EDT

At This Whistler Golf Course, Nature Is the Champion


Ryan Vit watches the rushing waves of Blackcomb Creek cascading down rocks and cutting through the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club course. He nods with appreciation for what is an increasingly rare and important natural wonder -- nourishing, glacier-fed, drinkable water. The creek flows beneath a bridge on the front nine of the only Audubon-certified course in Whistler. On this day, it is flowing faster and harder than it should for July, says Vit, the Fairmont property's Whistler Experience Guide.

"I'll direct some of our guests down to the rocks," Vit says, pointing to the boulders on the shoreline, which on this July evening is being bathed by the waters streaming from Blackcomb Mountain. "Most can't believe it's actually coming from a glacier or that it could be so clean."

He recounts the story of a pair of sisters from Taiwan who were so moved by the phenomenon they filled two empty plastic bottles with the water and planned to pack it in their checked luggage to take home as a souvenir.

"They were amazed you could drink water from a creek," Vit says. "It gives you an appreciation for what we have here and why it's important to protect it."

That sensitivity for the environment was a reason the Chateau Whistler launched a new product this summer, the Clubhouse Dinner and Nature Tour. The idea is for couples and families to learn about the flora, fauna and wildlife occupying the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course that was opened in 1993.

While we didn't see black bears on this tour, they are a common sight -- and one of the draws that entices players to challenge the course. We did spot a family of grouse and learned about the course's environmental initiatives, including a reduction in the amount of water it uses on its greens and fairways.

"If golf is going to survive, players are going to have to get used to playing on brown grass," Vit opines. "Water is an increasingly rare commodity. There are water bans in a lot of places, especially the southern US. It becomes harder to justify using sprinklers on golf courses as often as they've been used in the past."

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Visitors on the nature tour also get to spot the Bat Cave, a small, birdhouse-shaped structure on a tree that houses a population of the nocturnal flying mammals. The bats help pollinate plants and reduce the population of insects that can infest fruits and vegetables.

Aside from the bears, the best part of the nature tour for golfers and non-golfers is the scenery. The Chateau Whistler course is reputed for its elevation change, which tops 400 feet. Surrounded by mountains, it is an idyllic and impressive setting for a round of golf, or simply a pleasant drive in a cart.

Summer Happenings in Whistler

The village -- the largest and arguably best ski resort in North America -- is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary, honouring the launch of the 1965-66 ski season. The celebrations are already beginning, however. Here are some highlights of summer happenings in and around the village.

Crankworx: The acclaimed mountain-bike competition and festival runs from August 7-16. More than 150,000 visitors are expected as the mountains become filled with daredevils hurtling downhill on two wheels and a prayer.

Araxi Longtable Series: Arguably Whistler's finest restaurant, Araxi continues its annual Longtable Dining Series with an al-fresco experience in the fields of North Arm Farm in nearby Pemberton. Executive chef James Walt teams with his peers from the TopTable Group of restaurants to create an immaculate dining experience focused on locally sourced, sustainable and organic products. The Pemberton dinner takes place September 5, while a Vancouver version is set for August 3 on the Bard on the Beach grounds at Vanier Park. The cost for either experience is $159 per person. Click here for details.

Wanderlust Whistler: The yoga-inspired festival that features the good vibes of Michael Franti hits British Columbia's favourite resort town from July 30 to August 3. Between performances from the likes of Thievery Corporation and the Barr Brothers, attendees can participate in yoga and meditation classes throughout the village. Single-day tickets start at $11.40 per person. Click here for more information.


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