WHISTLER WONDER – North America’s Premier Ski Destination
The Big Daddy of Ski Resorts
There is a reason Whistler was voted 2014’s #1 Ski Resort in North America by Ski Magazine. Personally, having had a few not too shabby Canadian experiences to compare it to including Lake Louise, Fernie, Sunshine Village etc., I’ve pretty much concluded that this must be the Big Daddy of ski resorts. Then again, it’s not really a resort, it’s a village. It is an all-season area approximately two hours drive on the scenic Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver, Canada, which in itself has so much to offer. Not only can visitors enjoy the village under a blanket of snow, but also open air concerts, biking, and markets in the summer. Hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010 meant facelifts and upgrades that can be enjoyed by all that visit.
My kids have lived in South Asia for most of their young lives. This is their first real year being exposed to snow, so it’s hard for them to grasp winter sports. But Whistler provided a great introduction to the amazing world of winter.
I think the one thing that totally caught me off guard, was the sheer size of Whistler Village. I’ve read that the Village was designed in such a manner to ensure that the incredible views could be enjoyed, seemingly unobstructed, on it’s pedestrian only streets. It’s a maze of high-end shops and restaurants, mixed with pubs, earth friendly/trendy shops, spas and sporting equipment shops galore.
Things to do in and around Whistler – From the Bottom of the Hill to the Top of the Slopes
Lessons, Lifts & Lunching
We chose to book lessons and equipment rentals online at Whistler Blackcomb for my 9 year old son. I highly recommend at least booking the lesson portions online during peak season, as you not not want to risk arriving there and being told there is no availability. Nothing worse than a disappointed child! I always find that booking things online leaves so much to the unknown. It tells you where to go and what time, but how far is the pick up place from the meeting place, and how far is that from where we are staying? I have to say that it was much easier than I imagined. It is very well organized in that you pick up the voucher for lessons in one area, walk out the door to the many options for rentals, then head to the side to pick up your lift ticket. It’s all central, one step after the other and right next to each other. The meeting place is conveniently located right next to the gondola. Impossible to get lost and all very efficient.
What you first have to wrap your head around when finding deals online is the fact that most things are described as Whistler Blackcomb. To try and simplify it, it’s basically two mountains offering essentially the same types of services with a shared base at the bottom of each gondola. Both Blackcomb and Whistler have accommodations, and parking lots surrounding them, for easy access. To confuse things even further however, there is Whistler Creekside. It was the original base of Whistler Village, and is less busy and draws a lot of families as it is said to be quieter. It is approximately 7km from Whistler Village.
We chose Whistler Village for lessons and the instructors are prompt, eager, and patient. They are prepared for tears, whining, and have seen it all. Kids wear a bib so they are recognizable and the guardian must present the identification tag to pick up the child when the lesson is over at the end of the day. Lunch is provided and the kids go home with a progress chart. If, however, your child is not interested in learning or is perhaps a bit young, there is daycare available. Any hotel will be able to provide the details for signing them up.
The Learning Area is fantastic and is the first stop off the Whistler gondola. In fact, I joined my son there. After 12+ years of not skiing, I felt a warm up was the key to coming home with all my limbs intact. Everyone here is learning and you can take your time. After a few runs, we worked up the courage to ride the gondola all the way to the top where they, of course, have green and Family Zone routes that link to a chair lift that drops you back near the gondola going down to the base.
The views from atop Whistler are incredible and there is nothing better than being outdoors in the snow, especially when it isn’t -40C. There are ski patrols dotted here and there to offer assistance and to make sure people are obeying the “slow” signs.
Lunching, Lounging & Apres
Gone are the days when you must exit the hills for nourishment. In fact, you can start your day off with a belly full of waffles at the Crystal Hut. There are dining options such as this, cleverly located on the hill that allow you to take a short break, instead of taking the gondola or skiing all the way down to the bottom to dine. There are even outdoor parks for the kids on the slopes such at the Tree Fort and Magic Castle.
Once we had our fill of skiing for the day, we made our way back down to the Village for APRES. I’d seen this term on signage in windows, on pamphlets and had heard a waitress mention it. Of course, I knew what après meant, but it embodies a whole “thing”, similar to how one would use the term “brunch”. It’s the idea of all those things that could be done AFTER your day of skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, etc.
Brew Pub Whistler
Options are endless. There are fine dining spots, pubs, and clubs. To accommodate families, there are many places that now allow children to join their parents where alcohol is served, until 8pm.
For something totally unique, join the folks at the Belvedere Room at Barefoot Bistro’s for vodka tasting, in what they describe, as the coldest ice room in the world. For something uber healthy, check out the Green Moustache. Offering creations from local and organic produce whipped up into brownies and magnificent juices.
Other Activities – So Much to See and Do
There are so many activities in the area that it is hard to list them all. As mentioned, there are activities in the winter and summer to enjoy. These include:
- Snow shoeing
- Ice Skating
- Cross country skiing
- Snowmobile tours
- Zip lining
- Mountain biking
- ATV tours
- Movie Theatres
Medical Attention – Rest Easy Knowing Help is Near
Unfortunately, accidents happen and my 13-year-old nephew broke his arm while doing tricks at the terrain park. A member of the ski patrol contacted his father and they brought him down. The medical centre’s doctor had x-rays taken and even arranged for a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon, which was amazing. They were fast and efficient, which is comforting to know as a parent, should an injury occur.
Where to Stay in Whistler Village – Mountainside Lodge
There is just no end to accommodation options in Whistler Village. There are your hotel chains at the foot of each mountain’s gondola. We chose the Mountainside Lodge that is also a timeshare property, and is a one minute walk to the gondola.
As we were travelling with other family members, a suite worked much better than a standard hotel room in that there are kitchen facilities for quick snacks etc. Whistler Village has a grocery store so it is a good way to save on eating out and easier than rounding up young children for a dinner when everyone is tired.
There is nothing like driving away from your vacation having had a fantastic time and wondering when you can make the time to come back again. With so many resorts vying for our business, we are bombarded with offers and options. We loved the fact that even though our 3 year old didn’t want to learn to ski or snowboard, we could take him tubing or skating so that he enjoyed the outdoor winter experience as well.
You can book the Mountainside Lodge, or get more information about the property by clicking on any of the hotel photos above.