The Less Obvious Guide to Discovering Whistler
Discover the beauty of Whistler off the beaten track.
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Whistler is most famous for the mountains that surround the village, Whistler and Blackcomb, and in turn the eponymous ski resort that just so happens to be the biggest in North America. But there's much more than ski runs to explore.
To begin, the scenery is jaw-dropping in every direction, and you can take it all in from way above or by getting in the thick of it. Soar over all the snow, trees and idyllic scenes via helicopter or gondola, or get up close on foot, along lakeside cross-country ski trails. And when you're looking to relax after a day of exploring, you can kick back in Scandinavian-inspired hot pools or friendly boutique hotels laden with private baths, day spas and mountain views. Meanwhile, the food and drink scene is all about local produce, independent brewers and, thanks to the cold climate, comfort — think delicious bakery treats, melted cheeses, handmade pastas and tasty ales. The trick is avoiding the tourist traps and making tracks for the locals' favourites. Luckily, we've done some research for you, and with a little help from Tourism Whistler, have developed a full guide to doing Whistler like a local.
EAT AND DRINK
When there's some serious, snowy adventuring ahead, it's important to start the day right: with a massive, hearty breakfast. Make your first stop Elements, where you can choose from seven different benedicts (including one with crab meat) or one of the most decadent French toasts we've ever heard of, stuffed with honey ham and double-cream brie. If your cholesterol levels are threatening a heart attack though, then head to The Green Moustache for a just as delicious brekkie, like their superfood-charged, all-organic Buddha bowl with quinoa, veg, sprouts and avocado. And if you're on the move or in need of a warming snack with your coffee, look to one of Whistler's best bakeries, Purebread, for their buckwheat sour cherry scones.
When the midday stomach rubbles start up, set your sights on Ingrid's Village Cafe. The delicatessen has been nourishing Whistler locals and visitors for over 20 years, serving up burgers, salads, sandwiches and a daily selection of soups. And come evening, after a day out and about, the most satisfying way to refuel is with a bowl of house-made pasta and a good Italian wine at Pasta Lupino. Otherwise, it's Bar Oso for excellent tapas, including wild chilli-garlic prawns, scallop crudo and hearty fresh and cured charcuterie boards. Plus, Bar Oso has an extensive cocktail menu, with a whole section dedicated to gin and tonics using gins from around British Columbia.
Finally, it'd be plain rude to visit Whistler without finding out what the local brewers have been up to. Swing by Coast Mountain to sample the signature IPA and Whistler Brewing, where, in case you're feeling homesick, you can sip an Aussie Sparkling Ale.
It goes without saying that most holidays in Whistler involve a bunch of skiing, boarding, snow shoeing and dog sledding in nearby mountains. But, there are plenty of less obvious escapades to be had in and around town. To get some perspective, take a helicopter tour. You'll soar over the region's famous peaks, valleys and rivers, and fly scarily close to a glacier. You can even book into a tour that'll take you on an exploration of ice caves, ending with a dip in some natural hot springs.
Another ethereal experience is the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Instead of taking the Whistler Village Gondola up to then ski back down with everyone else, head up and stay at the summit to take in the views and enjoy the idyllic, snowy surrounds from a journey on the PEAK 2 PEAK. As you ride over the Fitzsimmons Valley, you'll get a full view of the snowy dreamscape below from this extraordinary feat of engineering. Linking Whistler and Blackcomb summits, the PEAK 2 PEAK holds three world records: longest continuous lift system, highest lift of its kind (436 metres above the ground) and longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind (3.024 kilometres).
If you prefer to see some spectacular scenery with your feet firmly planted on the ground, a snowshoeing journey around the lesser known sights for Whistler will have you feeling like a local. Transporting you to a time before Whistler existed, Parkhurst sits on the banks of Green Lake, where it started life as a logging town in the 1920s, but was emptied out by the time the '60s came around.
As you wander through, you'll come across derelict cabins splashed with street art-style paintings, collapsed houses, rusty cars and a mammoth-sized tractor that looks like it froze mid-use decades ago. Snowshoe to Parkhurst from Whistler Village along the Sea-to-Sky Trail to discover the eerie, abandoned town. And to keep up the adventure, you can hoof it to Rainbow Park, Cheakamus River and the Train Wreck, featuring box cars from a 1956 wreckage that have become works of art among the trees.
Meanwhile in town, there's the Audain Art Museum. Opened in March 2016, the understated building made of local materials holds a huge collection of British Columbian art, beginning with works by First Peoples and culminating in those of contemporary artists. Architect John Patkau designed the building to feel like a part of the surrounding spruce forest. "The feeling is that the museum will be quietly inserted into a void within the forest," he says. And within you'll find an exhibition program that changes three times a year, as well as 200 permanent works depicting the history of art from coastal British Columbia.
There's only one stay in Whistler right on the waterfront, and that's Nita Lake Lodge, 500 metres from Whistler Mountain and the Creekside Gondola. If you choose this lakeside retreat during your time in Whistler, you'll be snoozing in a mega-sized villa on a king-sized bed, relaxing your tired muscles in a private hot tub and hanging out in front of your very own gas fireplace. There's also an onsite day spa, yoga studio and an outdoor plunge pool by the lake. The best news of all? Your dog is welcome with open paws.
Another boutique hotel to check out is Summit Lodge, smack bang in the middle of Whistler Village. Another pet-friendly stay — in fact there are two Rottweilers among the staff members — the wintry lodge holds rooms varying from deluxe studios to one-bedroom suites. All come with kitchenettes, hot tubs and bright design features, including walls covered in colourful geometric shapes, hand-knitted toys and art works. There's also an outdoor pool, hot tub, cedar sauna and an onsite day spa.
Another option outside of the boutique hotel is, of course, to hire your own chalet — preferably with a few mates as a lot of these places can hold ten or more people. There are many lovely accommodations to find on Whistler Platinum. Go for rustic with the warm and cosy log-walled Horstman 4590, which comes with sleeping room for ten across five bedrooms, plus awesome panoramas. And if you're keen to wake up, strap on your skis and hit the slopes immediately, book into Kadenwood 2939. Located in one of Whistler's swishest on-snow villages, this accom has its own forest-encircled hot tub, as well as five ensuite bedrooms, a log fireplace, massive windows looking onto the mountains, a pool table and floor heating.
Top image: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane.
Published on August 16, 2017 by Jasmine Crittenden