Over the past 250 million years, these processes created the globally unique landscape of British Columbia’s Fire & Ice Aspiring GeoRegion. But it’s far from over: the area remains the most geologically active in all of Canada.
From coastal rainforest to dizzying peaks, lava flows to thundering waterfalls, underwater moraines to the steaming vents of a dormant volcano, some 70 geosites tell an end-to-end story of ongoing plate tectonics, glaciation, volcanism and collapse—landforms that spawned their own cultural stories for the Indigenous Squamish and Lil’Wat peoples who have shared this territory since time immemorial.
The Fire & Ice Aspiring GeoRegion offers a passport to this intriguing past—and an ever-evolving present.
UNESCO Global Geoparks are distinct, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are celebrated and managed for tourism under a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
Geoparks are non-binding designations; they do not commandeer public lands, inhibit any form of development, or affect private property.
Through tourism and education, using elements of natural and cultural heritage, Geoparks leverage an area’s geological attributes to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society—things like planetary history and processes, the sustainable use of natural resources, mitigating climate change or reducing the risks associated with natural disasters.
The purpose of a UNESCO Global Geopark is to raise collective recognition of the historical and contemporary importance of a region’s geological heritage. As with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and UNESCO World Biosphere Regions, the designation serves to strengthen residents’ identification with an area, providing communities with a sense of pride, stewardship and an overarching template on which regional tourism can both coalesce and cooperate.
As of April, 2021, the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network comprises 169 Geoparks in 44 countries and an equal number of communities committed to promoting these unique natural sites (https://en.ccunesco.ca/networks/geoparks).
Currently, Canada has five UNESCO Global Geoparks and an equal number of Aspiring Global Geoparks (http://www.canadiangeoparks.org/our-geoparks.html).
The Fire & Ice GeoRegion will eventually contain some 70 geosites stretching from the park’s southern boundary at Porteau Cove in Howe Sound, the location of a towering submarine moraine, 175 km north to Canada’s most active volcano, Mt. Meager, in the upper Lillooet Valley. For the time being the main focus is on sites in and around Whistler, with some additional sites visible from Hwy 99 that are impossible to miss. Our site descriptions offer four types of information for each: highlights, geological context, storyline, and visitor information.
Under this heading you’ll find information that expands on the geological context of the site with the aim of fitting it into the larger geodiversity picture of the Geopark. This can involve geologic and geographic information, as well as relevant cultural, historical or biological notes.
A basic description of the site, with ages where relevant. The Fire & Ice Aspiring Geopark comprises four main geological pillars referenced in all interpretive material: (M)ountain Building, (G)laciation, (V)olcanism and (C)ollapse.
Mountain building can involve several processes that contribute to the formation of mountains, such as the collision of tectonic plates that result in folding, faulting, metamorphism and the creation of subduction zones associated with volcanic activity and igneous intrusion.
Glaciation refers to landform phenomena associated with the formation, movement and recession of glaciers and ice sheets. In temperate latitudes such as British Columbia, montane glaciation at higher altitudes is the norm while continental glaciation occurred during Ice Ages like the recent Pleistocene.
Volcanism is the eruption of subterranean molten rock (magma) and gasses onto the surface of the planet and includes the production of volcanic landforms and the effects of eruptions and flowing lava on pre-existing surface formations.
Collapse is a term that refers broadly to both slow processes of destabilization and erosion by wind, water and ice, as well as rapid processes like rockfall and landslides.
Whether acting as primary or secondary forces, one or more of these processes figure in the creation of each geosite.
These same four pillars are also reflected in the four colours of our logo—Mountain Building (grey), Glaciation (blue-white), Volcanism (sienna) and Collapse (black).
In this area we list anything that might be helpful for the visitor. This could include location and directions, tricky issues to navigate, site hazards or warnings, available services, how best to enjoy the site and an appeal to respect the environment at a site. If it’s a difficult-to-reach backcountry area, this might include where to look—e.g., guidebooks, websites—for the most relevant information.
In terms of caretaking and stewardship, the Geopark philosophy embraces the idea of respect for all things—land, water, air and all life; the ancestors who’ve gone before us; and each other. We reiterate this as a guiding principle for visitors as well.
Geosites of the Aspiring GeoRegion lie wholly within the unceded traditional territories of the Líl̓wat Nation and the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Nation. The nations have lived in—and shared parts of—these territories since time immemorial, with many landscape features and geological events woven into their cultural and oral histories. We are grateful for, and committed to, the opportunity to learn and share these perspectives of the land alongside its original stewards.
Would you like to receive updates, information from the Fire & Ice GeoRegion? Sign up for our newsletter now!