Story by Miguel Strother
Vacay.ca Sports Editor, Western Canada
QUALICUM, BRITISH COLUMBIA — I love the twists and turns of the geography that connect the east and west coasts of Vancouver Island. From the sharp reefs of Pacific Rim National Park, through the turn off to the Barkley Sound, past the architectural visions of the Tseshaht First Nation in Port Alberni, the 1,000-year-old trees of Cathedral Grove, the hippie heritage of Coombs Country Market, and onto the easy shores and golf courses of Qualicum Beach, it is a fantastic automotive stroll.
Hosting the second leg of our surf, golf, and ski experiment was Pheasant Glen Golf Resort. One of seven golf courses surrounding the quaint little retirement town of Qualicum, Pheasant Glen is a great 18-hole track with an excellent training facility and a perfect pub patio. The club has undergone championship renovations in the last decade while maintaining the charm of its executive days. The best moments of the course, other than the 19th hole, are the incredible panoramic views of Mount Aerosmith on the wide open early and late par 4 and 5s, as well as and the ubiquitous flatland bird and wildlife that seem to regularly sneak out of the silence and tranquility.
As rubber armed as I was from my surf just a few hours before, I had a riot playing early season golf on the absolutely impeccably maintained course. The way the club manages to make the greens play so pure in mid-April is phenomenal and if it’s any indication of what will come to life in the prime of golf season, Pheasant Glen is a must-play golf course for anybody on or visiting Vancouver Island.
As a player, I leave a lot to be desired. Today, however, my body seems to have forgotten for a few moments its many handicaps. Whether it’s the adrenaline or the course conditions, I am not sure but I hit some great shots. Those include a tricky little putt on the very first hole I played in 2012, which I swear to sand traps, I plugged right in in the middle from 15 feet!
In addition to the course, Pheasant Glen owns a significant parcel of land planned for resort development. Considering its location close to the core of Qualicum, it’s likely only a matter of time before the development is realized. Qualicum has a very strong real estate market because of its climate, services, and natural charms and has even become a hot spot for film crews.
As for me, after a few big shots on the massive open fairway of the 18th hole and a celebratory pint on the sweeping patio, there was no time to linger. I had to get to the Comox Valley and Mount Washington to complete my recreation marathon. And what a surprise I had in store.
A SURF, GOLF, SKI TRIATHLON ON VANCOUVER ISLAND
I should say up front that I am a Mount Washington love slave. I absolutely worship at the altar of this ski hill and feel like a bit of a Judas for saying so. Here is why: Most people across the region had, to this stage, responded to my one-day adventure with surprise and intrigue. When I rolled into the Comox Valley, I told a few people what I was up to and folks responded with an unsurprised meh. That’s likely because many are used to filling their boots with adventure and snow-to-surf exercise is just a part of the regular outdoor regimen.
In fact, the Valley hosts a yearly Snow to Surf race, with legs that include downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, running, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking. The place is an outdoor adventure oasis. And if you hit it right, you could just as likely surf, golf, and ski in the Comox Valley alone on one day if you know what you are doing and catch a good wind swell off the Strait of Georgia. As far as this traveller is concerned, that the trifecta is even possible in one place is straight amazing. But the most common line I heard when expressing wonder at these natural gifts was almost always, “Don’t tell anybody.”
Sorry about that folks.
As nice as the weather was as I left Tofino, and when I played golf in Qualicum, it certainly started to grey as I made my way north. At the start of the 20-minute climb to Mount Washington from the turnoff on the Inland Island Highway (a quicker course than the slow magnificence of the Old Island Highway) it started to spit rain. As I climbed higher, the temperature, which had reached 17 degrees Celsius on the golf course, was dropping dramatically and in minutes I found myself whooping out loud to a full-blow blizzard! Sweet land of milk and honey this was perfect and I caught myself in the rear-view mirror smiling ear to ear.
Mount Washington is a ski and snowboarding gem. It offers nearly 360 coverage and some of the most dynamic mountain vistas I’ve seen on the slopes anywhere in the world. These are as varied as the crags and canyons of Strathcona Park, BC’s oldest provincial park, the sandy shores and small islands of Discovery Passage, and on a good day, the British Columbia mainland’s Coastal Mountains.
As I jumped onto the soft, slushy mix to rip some turns on the six-metre snowpack and officially sign off on the success of the adventure by declaring myself a recreational triathlete, I should have asked, Was this the best travel day ever? From the eyes of a hyperactive adventurer, the answer, if I had stopped long enough to interrupt the perfect turns and glued-on grin, would have to have been a resolute yes. Surfing, golfing, and skiing in one day; actually, it’s pretty easy on Vancouver Island.
MAP SHOWING MIGUEL STROTHER’S ROUTE ON HIS ONE-DAY ADVENTURE
Note: Photo of Pheasant Glen courtesy of Pheasant Glen Golf Course.