A Weekend In Whistler Sans Skiing…
Written by Jaillan Yehia
I have a confession to make: I can’t ski. So when I was invited to the famed ski resort of Whistler I was a bit apprehensive about what a London girl like me would do while everyone else made plans to zoom down a mountain.
It turned out that I was still able to zoom down the mountain – both by cable car and on a zip line – and that there’s a lot more to Whistler than the fabled winter sports.
The resort has a huge range of year-round activities and happily some incredible food to warm you up in between outings.
A shortcut guide to a weekend in Whistler
Despite being a non-skier this wasn’t my first time in a ski resort, though it was my first time looking for ski alternatives in a mountain town outside Europe; just like most European ski towns, Whistler is a laid-back, atmospheric and cosy place to spend a few days even for a snow-sports naysayer like me.
With its pedestrianised streets and low-rise wood and stone chalet-style buildings the town itself is charming and relaxed, and outside the resort there are multiple activities to keep you busy, from hiking and biking to golfing, rafting and rock climbing.
This mountainous part of British Columbia is just a couple of hours’ drive from the city of Vancouver and was given the moniker Whistler as a nod to the shrill noise made by the very vocal marmots found in the area.
But Whistler’s ties with the UK go back to the 1860’s when it was surveyed by British Naval officers who originally named it London Mountain.
These days the Brits who are most vocal about Whistler are committed skiers so I set out to show my fellow countrymen and women that Whistler makes a great holiday destination for just about anyone.
Here’s my mini guide to weekending in Whistler…
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola Ride
Get to the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb and back again the way I did – e.g. with minimum effort and exertion – by taking Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
This is a real engineering masterpiece, boasting the world records for both the longest free span between ropeway towers – 1.88 miles – and the highest point above the ground – 436 metres or 1,430 feet.
The 360 degree views from the standard red gondolas are breath-taking at any time of year and if you’re lucky you can jump on the single glass-bottomed gondola and check out the views beneath your feet as you ascend.
SuperFly Zip Lining
There’s more than one way to get down these mountains – once you’ve surveyed the scenery via the gondola, it may be time to tackle a slightly more adventurous mode of downhill transportation.
Like most girls I spend a lot of time worrying about what I’m going to wear and this was especially true on the morning I headed to Cougar Mountain for a day’s zip lining on the highest and longest lines in Canada.
It turned out I had nothing to worry about because SuperFly ziplines provide all-weather gear and while there’s no way you can look chic in these outfits, it doesn’t matter a jot and neither does the weather because flying through the air at up to 100km an hour over distances of a kilometre at a time while enjoying the endless landscapes is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.
I’ve been to a few spas in my time but I had to forget all my preconceptions about spas when I entered Scandinave, an alfresco Nordic-inspired hydrotherapy haven nestled in the spruce and cedar-clad mountains just outside Whistler village, as it really is in a category of its own.
Yes a soak in these thermal pools is perfect after skiing, hiking and other outdoor activities as a way to release lactic acid but you don’t need to have exerted yourself in advance to enjoy the benefits of hot and cold relaxation in the fresh mountain air, which is lucky as all I did was roll out of my comfy bed at The Fairmont Chateau before spending an über chilled day lounging in the eucalyptus steam room, Finnish dry sauna and hot and cold baths of this three acre oasis of calm – and silence.
In order to keep a 100% relaxed environment there’s no talking allowed here at Scandinave, quite the challenge for a chatterboxes like me and fellow blogger Arnette, but you could say it was a welcome break for both of us, and our fellow spa guests really don’t know how lucky they were to have met us in an environment where we were forced to be separated from our phones – and our thought processes separated from our voice boxes.
Hidden Lodge Day Spa
While you can get all the relaxation and massages you like at Scandinave, it wouldn’t be a girls weekend away without a manicure, and for that you’ll need to look up one of Whistler’s day spas. Hidden Lodge is easy to find, right opposite The Fairmont hotel, and offers manis and pedis as well as a range of other beauty treatments and services at much more competitive prices than the hotel spas (manis start from $39) proving you don’t have to splash the cash to have a decadent weekend in Whistler.
Where To Eat & Drink…
I learned how to saber a bottle of champagne here in the celebrated well-stocked wine cellar of Bearfoot Bistro – and that the history of sabering champagne bottles began in Napoleonic times when superstition stated that if the bottle broke off cleanly it was a good omen for battle.
The surprising success of my own attempt at slicing the neck off the champers bottle was anything but a good omen in my battle against over-indulgence at the dinner table, but it was well worth it for an evening of memorable dining that followed in the bistro, in particular the liquid nitrogen ice cream made table-side and garnished with fruit, chocolate sauce and sprinkles, to the accompanying oohs and aahs of my fellow diners.
Belvedere Ice Bar
The perfect on-site digestivo department, what could be a better place to wash down an indulgent 3 course meal than the Belvedere Ice Room, a walk-in bar which sees you donning protective parkas to keep you cosy while you throw back shots of $100 vodka in temperatures of minus 30, making it the coldest ice room in the world. Plus being cold burns calories, yes?
For serious sushi connoisseurs an evening at Sushi Village is an absolute must when visiting Whistler. This large, atmospheric traditional-style Japanese restaurant with sunken-seating has a reputation for the best sushi in the area, and the hardest part of your evening – other than getting a reservation – is choosing from the extensive menu.
The spicy agedashi tofu is such a highlight that we place another as soon as we taste the first steaming-hot portion and the decision-making process over the house special rolls is just as hotly contested. I plump for the Rainbow Roll; prawn tempura rolled with a soya bean sheet then wrapped with the chef’s choice of seven types of sliced ﬁsh. Take my advice and wash it all down with Sushi Village’s signature sake and fruit margaritas.
Café Fix is gem of an independent café and deli serving quality Parallel 49 coffee and first-rate baked goods and snacks including homemade butter tarts, a sort of Canadian answer to pecan pie that I can only imagine will have you hooked for life.
Everything edible on the appealing menu is freshly made on site, from soups and salads to sandwiches, pastries and ice creams – and the team even grow their own herbs. Plus there are plenty of gluten-free options, and they sell home-made dog treats.
There are many good reasons to eat here, but not least is that they offer a free shuttle service to collect you from nearby Whistler village – then return you once you’ve had your fill of goodies.
Where To Stay
For Traditional Elegance – The Fairmont Chateau
The Fairmont Chateau is Whistler’s landmark luxury hotel, a cosy, plush and inviting home from home right at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. As you’d expect from a Fairmont property all your needs are catered for with a selection of eateries serving everything from buffet breakfasts to afternoon tea via steak and fondue.
There’s plenty of activities here to keep you busy from a full service health club with indoor and outdoor pools and the in-house Vida Spa to an 18-hole golf course – and the concierge is on hand to help you with any other local activities you may fancy while you’re in the resort.
For Contemporary Cool – Nita Lake Lodge
This upscale property has a beautiful lakeside setting and chic and minimalist design, each equipped with their own mini kitchen, which are all about stripped wood and natural materials which reflect the lake and forest views from every one of the 77 rooms.
Nita Lake Lodge offers free bikes, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards for guests and there’s also access to a tennis court, yoga studio and outdoor pool. The concept is one of an art hotel – there’s art everywhere from the rooms to the restaurant and lounges and the hotel hosts exhibitions by local B.C. artists.
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