Squamish is located roughly mid-way between Vancouver and Whistler. It is located at the north end of Howe Sound. Howe Sound is considered a fjord, which is a long, narrow inlet characterized by steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity. The Sea to Sky Highway follows the coast of Howe Sound.
The town first began during the construction of the railway at the beginning of the 1900’s. Traditionally the main industry has been forestry, including logging operations, sawmills, and a large pulp mill. The pulp mill closed in 2006 and one of the major sawmills closed in 2004. Now, Squamish has become a “bedroom” community for Vancouver and Whistler residents who want to escape the rising cost of living. The town of Squamish built a new tourist information center after the pulpmill and sawmill closed to try and develop tourism in the area. Tourism is becoming a bigger part of the town’s economy. Outdoor recreation is the main attraction and Squamish’s nickname is “The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada”.
Squamish is the name of the aboriginal people who have lived in the area, including North Vancouver and West Vancouver since before the Europeans arrived. The word Squamish actually means “Mother of Wind”, as it is usually very windy at the end of Howe Sound especially at the mouth of the Squamish River, which is the reason Squamish is a worldclass windsurfing and kiteboarding destination. They have several villages throughout the town and have recently built the Casino at the south end of Squamish. Residents of these Indian Reserves are members of the Squamish Nation and do not have to abide by the local municipality government. They have other villages throughout the general region.
One of the major attractions is the Stawamus Chief. It is huge granite monolith with massive cliffs which are very popular with rock climbers. There are hundreds of climbing routes on the main face of the Chief. There are also steep hiking trails around the back of the Chief, which access the three peaks that make up the massif. At the top of the Chief, there are beautiful views of Howe Sound and the surrounding valleys and Coast Mountains. Between the Chief, Shannon Falls, Murrin Park, the Malamute, and the Smoke Bluffs, there are over 1200 rock-climbing routes in the Squamish are. There are also hundreds more rock climbs on the way to Whistler, as well as thousands of bouldering problems.
Mountain biking is also very popular, with over 600 trails. From easy cross-country singletrack trails to expert only steep downhill trails, there is something for everyone. One of the major mountain bike races that occurs each summer is the Test of Metal bike race. It is a 67-kilometre, cross-country, mountain-bike race held annually in late June. Limited to 800 riders. The race is very popular and usually sells out in under an hour.
Other popular tourist attractions and activities in Squamish include:
Squamish has six public elementary schools and two secondary schools. There is also a Montessori School and Waldorf School. There is also two small universities. Capilano University offers post-secondary education at the Squamish campus, including diploma programs and university transfer courses. Quest University is Canada’s first private, non-profit university, which opened in 2007.
Squamish is one of the wettest locations in Canada, with nearly 2400 millimetres of rainfall per year, often falling in long stretches through the winter. Snow is not typical in winter, but can fall in heavy amounts with 50-centimetre accumulations not uncommon, although it often melts quickly. The warmest and driest months are typically June, July, August, and September. The wettest months are typically November, December, January, and February.
The surrounding area of Squamish has been used for filming TV shows and movies such as the Twilight movies, Men In Trees, Supernatural, The Guard, Saw Dogs, Walking Tall, A-Team, X-Files, Free Willy, Chaos Theory, Insomnia, and Happy Gilmore.
Squamish never hosted any events during the 2010 Olympics but it was a convenient place to stay, since it was mid-way between Vancouver and Whistler. Some of the work crews stayed on cruise ships that were moored at the deep sea port in town.