Who, what, where?
Canadian Affair team members Chris and Kathryn enjoyed a tour of Western Canada, visiting our partner hotels and refreshing their memories on the different regions. They visited Vancouver before driving up to Whistler. After two days in Whistler, they caught an internal flight to Calgary so they could explore Banff National Park. This is what they say about their two days in Whistler:
The region in a nutshell:
If you fly into Vancouver, Whistler is a scenic 90-minute drive on the stunning Sea to Sky Highway. Whistler is famous as a winter ski resort, but it’s just as lively in summer when it becomes an adventure playground. We stayed in the Coast Blackcomb Suites hotel. It was the GranFrondo weekend in Whistler, which is an annual cycling race from Vancouver to Whistler, so the whole resort was full to bursting with cyclists and supporting family.
The hotel is tucked away at the very top of Blackcomb. You feel like the road runs out – which it almost does – but this elevated position gives great views down the mountain and across the resort. There are frequent shuttle buses to the village or you can walk down the edge of the slope to Blackcomb in just a few minutes (it takes a bit more effort to walk back up the hill though!)
Experience of a lifetime:
For us, it was the Peak2Peak gondola ride which links Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It was pretty awful weather while we were there, so we didn’t hike (wrong clothing!) But from the gondola, you can get a feel of the scale of the hiking trails and what a good day out you can have up the mountain. Each year they make more and more improvements to the hiking paths, so this is definitely something that anyone fairly fit can do.
What made the experience for us was that on the gondola ride up the mountain we spotted four bears! How amazing was that? It was so lucky to see them just wandering around. What a buzz it gave us. It just goes to show that you can see wildlife anywhere with a bit of luck, and still have a fantastic experience even on a rainy day.
Gear up vs wind down?
For something high octane, choose The Sasquatch zip line. This is recommended for the very brave or those who have already conquered the normal zip lines. This 1.4km zip wire is the longest and steepest vertical zipwire in North America. It follows the line of the Peak2Peak gondola – at a much lower level – but you do cross from Blackcomb to Whistler Mountain, which is pretty cool. It only takes one minute to descend so it’s over before you know it! But you have to be brave to step off that final step and let yourself go. We loved it.
We didn’t get time to try the Whistler Bike Park, but we did sit and watch the armour-laden riders come off the hill. They all had huge smiles on their faces, having earned that cold beer or burger with some hard riding. This is hardcore action biking which takes a high degree of skill and madness…so not for everyone! But they do offer lessons and bike school – just like ski school – so you can learn how to downhill ride.
For winding down, Whistler is famous for its spas. The luscious Scandinave Spa is a must-visit with its waterfalls and hot pools. However, most hotels have spa facilities and the outdoor pool and hot tubs are awesome at the Coast Hotel.
Culture vultures should:
Whistler boasts dozens of festivals per year, from outdoor concerts to writing and film festivals. Check out what’s on when you visit, as there’s bound to be something! In the town, you can find lots of galleries and museums which celebrate First Nations culture. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre was the first ever centre dedicated to the history and culture of local First Nations. From canoes to totem poles, there is tons of fascinating art inside.
Outdoor lovers should:
Hire a bike! As we mentioned, Whistler is linked by a network of paths that run through the villages and the outlying lake and forest trails. So, you can get totally lost on your bike for a long time! There are signs everywhere and lots of lovely parks to stop at for picnics or an ice cream. Hiring a bike is easy and affordable. You won’t see too many people in summer not on a bike!
One of the best restaurants in the Whistler resort is Araxi Restaurant & Oyster bar in the centre of Whistler Village. We had a special dinner with tourism partners, so this was a lovely treat. It’s not your average night out in Whistler, but a superb place for a special meal in the resort.
A visit to Creekside wouldn’t be the same without stopping in Dusty’s, Whistler’s first watering hole! Dusty’s is a very busy après ski lodge in the Creek and we went for lunch mid-cycle. The food was great!
BrewHouse is an iconic microbrewery right by the side of Olympic Plaza. It’s part of a chain of microbreweries in BC, so you can expect great beers and awesome food. We had the ribs and were very satisfied! Good friendly service, with lots of smiles and jokes. This is great for families, as well as groups and big tables. There is lots of room and you can make plenty of noise! A cute attraction is a trainset which runs around a track suspended from the ceiling, led by a Rocky Mountaineer engine – it’s a fun thing for kids to watch.
If you do one thing:
Everyone in Whistler is active! So, when in town, hire a bike or bring your running shoes. We undertook a couple of runs around the village and lakes to acquaint ourselves with the layout of the three main areas of Whistler – Blackcomb, Whistler Village and Whistler Creekside. A series of pathways interlinks all of them, so it’s really easy to get from one to the other. You just need to be a little adventurous and walk/run/cycle.
You can also rent paddle boards, canoes and kayaks at many of the lakes. Summer is a very long season and you can enjoy the water from Lost Lake, Alta Lake, Green Lake and Nita Lake long into September before the weather gets too cool. So, get outside and get active!