Vallea Lumina is a Pretty Magical Way to Spend a Night in Whistler

Someone turned a mountain forest into a magical woodland.

July 19, 2018

By David Kitai / Photo: Courtesy Vallea Lumina, Whistler, British Columbia, Moment Factory

There’s a song that plays at a few points along the Vallea Lumina trail. The chorus includes the line, “This is the spell we fall under.” It isn’t lying. The trail’s display of light and music in the near-perfect setting of a nighttime mountain forest had me ensorcelled. I found myself grinning like an idiot as the woods seemed to transform into the stuff of my childhood imagination.

Vallea Lumina takes 1.4kms of forest trail on Whistler’s Cougar Mountain and transforms it into an audio-visual show, telling the story of two hikers going deep into these woods. Visitors play the role of a ranger, following the hiker’s path deeper into a forest that seems to grow more ethereal with each step. The show is a collaboration between Whistler’s The Adventure Group and Montreal’s Moment Factory, a multimedia studio known for engaging art displays designed for interaction with the public. The Whistler show is the first of its kind in Western Canada, following five Lumina projects in the East.

“We were struck by the immensity of this forest,” said Moment Factory’s project leader Jonathan St-Onge. “We want to be inspired by the local culture and the natural beauty and we found both here.”

(Photo Courtesy Vallea Lumina, Whistler, British Columbia, Moment Factory)

Vallea Lumina only takes place in pitch darkness, the path gently illuminated for more striking light displays. The trail begins with its feet in the real world—animated shadows playing out campsite scenes in tents along the trail—before projected illusions, talking trees and trance-inducing music take things to a new level.

A few points along the path could have been better illuminated. It’s certainly a family-friendly show, but it’s not the most accessible for the less-balanced among us. My biggest issue, though, was its length; at only 1.4kms the ending feels a little abrupt. I found myself sad to see the exit and would have happily walked another kilometre (my inner child was pretty unhappy to be rejoining reality). 

The Adventure Group plans to run the show until the snows come, most likely till October. After that, it’ll return for future summers. Given the dearth of family-friendly summer nighttime activities in Whistler, the show is a welcome addition for visitors. At $28 for adults, $24 for kids 6-15 and free for kids under 5, it’s not an unreasonable way to take a break from reality.

(Photo Courtesy Vallea Lumina, Whistler, British Columbia, Moment Factory)

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