Light installations are very IN right now.
Projections, light shows, strobes - who knows whether it comes from campfire nostalgia (anyone else do the whole "flashlight-bunny-ears" schtick?) or just flexing our tech muscles at how far we've come since those flashlight days - it feels like they're popping up everywhere. Pacific Science Center has a multitude of laser shows year round, and last year MOHAI saw "Borealis, a Festival of Light" debut to much success (it will be back in 2020). And while Refined luckily been able to attend both these experiences and can attest that they're awesome - some of these are...less than impressive. Shining a light on the side of a building, or a rock, or a person - does not a Light Show make.
So I was more than a little nervous when the chance to see Vallea Lumina, Whistler's "Multimedia Light Walk Through An Enchanted Forest" came across my desk. While the press trip up to Whistler would include many other activities I could cover, Vallea Lumina was definitely the highlight. What if it sucked? What if I came back home and only wanted to write about the winter zip-lining and food, and completely ignored the whole reason we went up there?
I know, play me the tiniest violin in the world - but I was nervous. Sometimes the hype around a thing (aka the press release) sounds too good to be true. I did my research (website is very cool, but a little mysterious), and looked at their Instagram feed (pictures looks highly edited) to see what I was in for. Then I said yes, because good content is good content - and I knew I'd get at least a couple stories out of the Whistler trip. Whether Vallea Lumina was one of them or not, I just wouldn't know until I knew.
I mean come on - how could this image be real?
I could draw this intro out even more than I already have - but I'm already breaking at least 15 rules of good writing by not having the thesis statement in the first paragraph. Which is:
Vallea Lumina was one of the most wondrous, emotional and overwhelming experiences I've ever had.
Yup. That's right - it was 100 times better than I was expecting. "Light Show" doesn't even seem the right combination of words to describe it properly.
The experience, created by The Moment Factory and The Adventure Group, was originally was a summer excursion. After two successful years, and many requests for a winter version - it's finally here. Taking an outdoor "walk" that involves lighting and technology from summer to winter is, as you can imagine, difficult. The winter path has shorted and become flatter to anticipate weather conditions and safety, and the lighting and technology also re-outfitted to still work and play in colder temperatures.
The experience starts at Whistler Village, where shuttles (complimentary with your ticket purchase) shuttle you about 20 minutes outside of the village to Base Camp. You cannot drive to Vallea Lumina, there is no parking - so you must take the shuttle. Don't worry, it's comfortable and quick, and once at Base Camp you'll find drinks, food, warmth, bathrooms, etc. to prep you for the walk.
Once you're ready to enter Vallea Lumina, you''ll head under the awning and begin the walk, made up of several stations. It's pretty clear where a station is, as there are blinking or strobing lights, crescendoing music, a projected light scene, or people crowded around something. Each station's "performance" is three to four minutes, and on a rotation, so if you think you missed something or came at the tail end, just wait a bit and it will restart.
While the technology involved with the projections was mind-blowing (the video below doesn't do justice, but the figures honestly looked like they were right there), it was the music and lights that took hold of me. Maybe it was the mix of the snow-laden trees and brisk winter air, but combine that with beautiful music coming seeming out of the trees, lights literally everywhere - and you get emotional. At least, I got emotional. It wasn't necessarily sadness or happiness, it was just straight wonder. And feeling overwhelmed by all this external stimuli.
Man. Even as I read that last paragraph back, I realize it's near impossible to explain fully. You're probably feeling the same way I did when I read that press release: Whaaatt??? The photos attached here will help, and the video on our Instagram Highlight might as well. But unless you're there in person, it's hard to feel the feelings you get in-person.
All I can say is this: If you're in Whistler between now and April (that's when the Winter version runs through), and have the means/ability to purchase tickets, do it. Give it a shot. I think you'll be amazed, like I was.
Details/Important Things To Note:
- This walk takes place at night. Vallea Lumina was originally a summer experience (and will be again), and this is their first year doing it during the busy winter season as well. It takes place every night at sundown, and it's therefore dark, chilly and often snowy. Dress for it: waterproof, warm layers with appropriate winter footwear, gloves, scarves and hats. The path is 1 kilometers (~0.62 miles), of a mostly flat trail that is maintained well after snow and ice. This is Whistler, after all!
- Tickets: Adults (16+) $29.99, Youth (6-15) $24.00, Child: Under 5 (Free)
- The walk usually takes 45 minutes to an hour. Adding in transportation, plan on at least 1.5 hours total
- Whistler's winters go looooooong, so you can experience this version up until April 2020 (exact end date TBD). Summer experience start dates has not been announced yet
- It's strongly recommended to book a ticket online, so you can make a reservation at the time of your choosing
- We said it before and we'll say it again: there is ZERO parking at the venue. If you absolutely need parking, you can use the Whistler Village Day Lots. Otherwise, the shuttle service is complimentary and will meet you at the Gateway Bus Loop in the Village. The shuttle will return you to this stop after the experience concludes.
- The trail is mostly flat, but does have one staircase
- Strobe lighting is used n the walk, so if you are affected by visual light stimulation effects, proceed with caution
- No flash photography! This will diminish the experience for you and others. And don't worry, there are plenty of lights around to get good photos. Remember that Instagram image up above that I saw, and though for sure was edited? Here is my iPhone picture from that same spot...pretty incredible right? Can attest to the Instagram images on their feed being very realistic to the experience.