I've got a secret. It is tucked away in the stunning Coast Mountains in British Columbia. It is one plane and one short car, bus or float plane ride away. More than 50 movies have been filmed here.
The weather is nearly always perfectly seasonal. Wildlife ranges from octopus in cold bays to cougars, bears and bald eagles seen soaring in the brilliant blue skies. Once you arrive, you will be ensconced in a pedestrian village with incredible mountain scenery hugging you. This fully-connected, walking holiday destination is filled with flowers, restaurants, bars, shops and smiles; it's laid back relaxation infused with outdoor activities. This is Whistler.
Whistler is a master planned community begun in the 1960s by four Vancouver businessmen who viewed the area for its potential opportunities, one of which was to hold the Olympics on site one day. Creating a world class ski destination was another. In 2010, the world’s eyes were focused here as nine Americans took home the gold. During our visit, over and over we heard a similar story from the residents. Most came for a year but have ended up living in Whistler for five, 10 or even 20 years. It is that wonderful.
The magic begins once you are riding on the Sea-to-Sky Highway – the views more impressive around every turn. In just 90 minutes, you’ll find yourself in Whistler.
You may recall Whistler's wintertime charms if you watched the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Many activities were held here and the pleasing after effects dominate the town. Snowboard, ski, bobsled, golf – your wish is Whistler’s command. Whistler comes alive in winter, its peak season, but summers in this Canadian wonderland also offer a host of activities and outdoor opportunities. Take a hike, mountain bike, white water raft, bungee jump, kayak or canoe – your options are endless. There are more than 8,000 snowy slopes in Whistler as well as half pipes and marked trails. It has been named a top skiing destination annually since the 60's. Tour the Whistler Sliding Centre and choose the piloted Bobsleigh or self-guided Skeleton experience. Check out the Olympic Park or the Olympic Village, inhabited now by permanent residents.
Lost Lake can be found just a short walk from town. The flat gravel road that runs around the lake is perfect for hiking or biking. If you are looking for something more challenging, there is another trail that cuts off through the forest, offering a change in elevation. Avid hikers can explore the Blackcomb Mountains. Wide paths can be found for family-friendly exploration while more advanced hikes are also offered which will take you past lakes and glaciers.
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There is no shortage of amazing things to do. Take the Sea-to-Sky Gondola any time of year for simply stunning views of idyllic Whistler. A 360-degree view from the sky will take your breath away. Or, hop in their glass-bottom gondola for a bird’s eye view! Raft down the Cheakamus and Squamish rivers on the glacial melt waters. The Audain Art Museum – Whistler’s newest cultural attraction – is scheduled to open November 21, 2015. It will showcase British Colombian artists. Whistler is also home to an extensive number of public art galleries, museums and workshops. On Sundays, there is a nice Farmer's Market throughout the village, filled with interesting foods, crafts and treats.
Vida Spa at the Fairmont offers a range of traditional body therapies, facials, wraps and exfoliations. Many of the treatments are based on Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system. Ayurvedic treatments. These folks know what they are doing. Heaven! Scandinave Spa is an unusual place – nestled in the alpine mountains over a series of terraces and outdoor seating areas. Guests are encouraged to contrast hot and cold in the hydrotherapy experience. Warm up in the Finnish sauna, hot baths or eucalyptus steam room and then take a dip in the outdoor cold plunge or under a Nordic waterfall. Lastly, relax on the terrace, in the solarium or in a hammock near an outdoor fireplace. And yes, guests enjoy the cold plunge pools in winter at this peaceful, mountain-top spa. But they warm their toes on the heated outdoor sidewalks. Traditional massage and a small cafe offered.
Can golf get any better than course laid out among the mountains with dramatic water features, view of valleys below and often accompanied by wildlife observers? Whistler is home to four courses and top ranking like Best Golf Destination in Canada; Larry played two. The Whistler Golf Club is Arnold Palmer’s first Canadian course with 18 holes, nine lakes and two creeks all bordered by a forest full of wildlife and tall trees. It is well manicured with medium to fast greens and while some holes require ball placement and positioning, rather than just letting loose with a drive, the greens and fairways are forgiving. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones, is more challenging and require gauging your clubs on every hole due to the varying elevations. Mountain golfing in the Blackcombs with a 400-foot elevation change and beautiful views of Whistler Valley makes this course unforgettable.
Whistler is a hip place where affluent travelers relax. The culinary scene has sparkling facets with locally owned, serious restaurants. There are also many smaller, casual options but in Whistler, you can enjoy some of the world's best dining.
Araxi – One of Canada’s leading chefs, James Walt, is at the helm at Araxi – located in the center of Whistler and always bustling. Expect unique regional cuisine crafted from locally grown ingredients.
Barefoot Bistro – At Barefoot Bistro, guests are invited to 'saber' a bottle of champagne or visit the Ketel One Ice Room for a vodka tasting (loaner jackets complimentary.) The Champagne Lounge has a pewter bar with a spectacular rail of ice designed to hold and keep your glass of Champagne perfectly chilled. Melissa Craig is the award winning, enormously popular chef. Come for the beautiful food and stay for the celebration – always exciting, never stuffy. The servers are charismatic and the experience is second-to-none.
Airport Fairmont - We arrived late and opted to stay the night at the Vancouver Airport Fairmont. Our stay exceeded expectations and was such a pleasure. Located just 10 minutes from baggage claim you will find the Airport Fairmont and their friendly, professional staff. Traveling with a pet? Be sure to look into their pet program offering treats, a bowl and a bed for your furry friend. Or, for guests with an extended layover looking for a place to briefly rest your head, you can rent one of their rooms for a 4-8 hour period of time.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler - We checked in at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, with the Blackcomb Mountains serving as the backdrop for this luxurious hotel. Our Gold Level experience was one of the best we have ever experienced. Daniel, our concierge, was witty, handsome, brilliant and one step ahead of his guests. Breakfast, snacks or drinks and appetizers are served in the private lounge with elegance. The Mallard Terrace offers Whistler's classic slopeside location for fresh cocktails, views of the mountains, live entertainment and a prime viewing spot to watch the kids at play on the croquet lawn. Don't miss ordering an Alpine warmer such as Milk and Honey made with honey from the Fairmont's resident rooftop bees. And do enjoy making a choice from the Chocolate Bar- a by-the-piece or flight of indulgent chocolate combinations.
Be careful when making your Whistler reservations, you may end up asking for a Realtor! To learn more, visit whistler.com.