Looking for a sublime winter vacation? Canada's Whistler/Blackcomb has to be at the top of your list. There is a good reason that the winter wonderland is consistently ranked as the No. 1 mountain resort in all of North America. It's because this place is simply incredible.
Located just two hours north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler is an outdoor adventure-lover's paradise all year-round. But since their snow season often starts in October and goes into May, fans of winter sports are the real winners when it comes to this gorgeous and well-designed destination.
Fly into Vancouver and hop on one of Pacific Coach Line's express luxury buses to Whistler right at the airport, or rent your own wheels and travel north along a scenic ocean drive to Whistler Village. That's the action-packed center, a pretty little place designed to meet your every need, of the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Dotted with slope-side hotels, specialty shops, galleries, restaurants, grocery stores, and (most importantly) the main lifts up to the slopes, it's designed for walkers only; cars are left on the perimeter, and virtually all of the hotels that are not in the center of town provide constantly running shuttle service to the village.
Top hotels in the heart of the town are the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre (an all-suite hotel with breakfast included) and the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa, with a Javanese spa that's the perfect antidote after a strenuous day on the slopes.
Luxury-loving adventurers can go up the hill past the village to the five-star Four Seasons Whistler, where their famed service includes a ski concierge, who will set you up with complete ski or snowboard rentals, then whisk you right to the entrance to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. That's the longest continuous lift system in the world, a glorious ride that connects you across the tops of Whistler and Blackcomb. These two resorts offer up 8,100 acres of trails, bowls, and glaciers to snow-lovers of every skill level. It is the largest ski resort in North America, which is obvious once you are high above it all looking down on the views that go on for miles.
It's easy to hit Whistler on more of a whim, too, because if you arrive with nothing, it doesn't matter. Whistler Winter Wear's Shannon Hearn is poised to outfit you from head to toe with cool-looking, waterproof snow clothes, goggles, hats, helmets, boots -- you name it, he and his crack staff will bring it right to your hotel room with a promise to fit you perfectly no matter what your size. And of course, renting skis or snowboards is a snap in Whistler Village.
After getting in a bunch of runs on the well-groomed, powder-filled slopes, consider a visit to Whistler Olympic Park, located about 10 miles southwest of the village. Whistler hosted the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and this park was the site of the cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and biathlon competitions. It's truly a winter wonderland, crisscrossed with 27 ski trails for every level and plenty of snowshoe trails, too.
And if you are ready for the ride of a lifetime, head over to the Whistler Sliding Centre. There, for $149CAD, you can pretend you are an Olympian either in a bobsleigh or laid out flat on a skeleton ice sled. Just remember to hold on for dear life.
The Barefoot Bistro is one of Whistler Village's finest culinary experiences, complete with a few exciting adventures of its own. Start with a memorable wine encounter, as owner Andre St. Jacques is happy to take you down into his 2,000-plus-bottle wine cellar, where he'll help you use a saber to cleanly decapitate a bottle of sparkling wine, then pour you a generous glass of bubbly.
And before you sit down to a delicious dinner at the bistro, head into their faux tundra, known as the Belvedere Ice Room, and taste shots of top-shelf vodkas so cold that your teeth may chatter while wearing very necessary fake fur coats.
Also on the short list of sublime dining experiences in Whistler is Araxi, a delightful restaurant in the heart of the village. A fixture for decades, the eatery is still at the top of the list for foodies to visit after a big day on the slopes. Taste the venison loin or the pork tenderloin, each served with vegetable accompaniments and sauces to die for, and you'll be in heaven.
There's much more to see and do in Whistler, especially in the summer months, when the mountains go into bloom and hikers, mountain bikers, campers, and fishermen fill the village with a completely different vibe. But that's a tale for another time.
- Travel Destinations
- Travel & Tourism
- Whistler Village