There are SO many ways to discover the raw beauty of Squamish: climbing, hiking, skiing, kayaking, the list goes on! One of the most accessible ways for anyone to experience the raw power of the Squamish backcountry is actually via a flight! We know that not everyone is an experienced backcountry traveller, and you don’t have to be to take in the beauty of the Coast Mountains. This is one of the driving purposes of Our Mission, to make the transformative experience of the Coast Mountains available to everyone. With so many epic features in the Squamish and Whistler area, a flight is a great way to take them all in! Here’s a sneak peek at some of our favourite and most renowned geological features on our flights!
The Black Tusk is one of the most prominent features in the region, and its upper spire is visible from a great distance, even noticeable along the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler. The Black Tusk is a remnant of a much larger volcano that formed between 1.3 and 1.1 million years ago, and is a prominent feature of the Canadian Volcanic Arc. According to Natural Resources Canada, the Black Tusk may have been the conduit for lava within a cinder-rich volcano, and its loose cinder has since eroded, leaving only the hard lava core.
What an impressive sight to see from the air! The iconic Table, part of the Garibaldi Lake volcanic field, is believed to have been formed when magma intruded into and melted a vertical tube in the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. This impressive feature of the Sea to Sky region is a testament to the immense power of the ice ages in sculpting the landscape.
On our Guided Scenic Flights, you might notice how the slopes of Mount Garibaldi near Squamish look different from the surrounding mountains. This is because it is a young stratovolcano capped by a complex of lava domes, which have been built up over time by successive volcanic eruptions. As a result, the volcano is composed of layers of lava, loose ash and volcanic rubble, which erode much faster than other mountains, leading to more frequent landslides, debris flows and rock falls.
Garibaldi Lake is one of the crown jewels of the Squamish backcountry. In the winter, skiers cross it while frozen, and in the summer, hikers gaze upon it from Panorama Ridge. The lake lies in a deep subalpine basin, with its surface at nearly 1,500 m above sea level and a depth exceeding 250 m. It is almost entirely surrounded by mountains except at its northwestern tip, with volcanoes along the north, west, and south sides and non-volcanic peaks along the northeast and eastern shores. In the summer, the turquoise hue of the lake’s water is a result of glacial flour suspended in the meltwater from its two main sources, the large Sphinx Glacier to the east and the Sentinel Glacier to the south on the slopes of Mount Garibaldi.
The Chief is a medium-sized pluton of granodiorite (granite), which was formed approximately 100 million years ago by the slow cooling and solidification of molten magma deep below the Earth’s surface. Over tens of millions of years, erosion of overlying rocks caused the granodiorite body to be exhumed. Glacial erosion processes then shaped the Chief’s tall steep walls and excavated Howe Sound. Today, glacial erosion is evident in the polished and striated surfaces at the summit of the formation, indicating that the entire formation was once buried under a substantial thickness of ice.  Bill Mathews and Jim Monger (2005). Roadside Geology of Southern British Columbia, p. 163.