TRY THIS FOR SIZE
Little secrets of a big mountain
WE CRASH TACKLED LOCALS AND MADE THEM GIVE UP THEIR EXPERT TIPS. WE LEARNED THE SECRET RUNS FROM SKIERS AND SNOWBOARDERS, AND WE SCOURED THE VILLAGE
Whoa! Whistler is big! A big, bold, behemoth of a mountain, with a big, bold attitude to go with it. Oh, and did I mention, it’s big? The jewel in Canada’s winter tourism crown, and site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, it’s a 3307ha (including its neighbouring Blackcomb Peak), 200 ski and board run, 37 lift, four gondola, 10,000 bed, sprawling, spruce-forested, hive of activity.
It’s also a little daunting, especially for first timers or families or, as we were, first time families.
But fear not, because while Whistler might seem a little intimidating (or, as one local put it, “Whistler is always the most popular girl in high school”), it is also breathtakingly beautiful with plenty of room for everyone on the mountain, and quiet corners tucked away.
And my family – two adults, one teenage boy and one seven-year-old girl – found them all for you.
We crash tackled locals and made them give up their expert tips, we learnt of secret runs from skiers and snowboarders, and we scoured the village looking for places that felt like homes away from home.
So, take the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway from British Columbia’s Vancouver, hugging the coastline past birch forests and pebbled beaches to Whistler, armed with your skis, your trail maps, and some insider trading ...
TACKLING THE MOUNTAIN
During busy periods (weekends in December/January are the peak of the peak), the wait for the main Whistler Village Gondola can seem (in comparison to smaller fields) long. But, once you’re onmountain, so vast is the terrain, with big, wide, sweeping runs, it is entirely possible to feel alone in a crowd up there. Study your map, choose between hundreds of beginner (18 per cent), intermediate (55 per cent) and advanced (27 per cent) runs, and have a ball!
● If you can’t wait to get up the mountain, and the main Whistler Gondola is busy, take the main Blackcomb Gondola instead. It’s only a few metres away and is always the road less travelled.
● One of the best ways to enjoy the mountain at its most majestic is to be one of the first on it with a Fresh Tracks Breakfast ticket.
Be one of the first 650 people at the Whistler Gondola base every morning at 7.15 to head up to the Roundhouse Lodge for brekky, and as soon as the ski patrol gives you the OK, you’re good to go.
Pre-buy your tickets the day before at Guest Relations in the village, or ask at your hotel.
● Meet up with a mountain host for a free, guided, 90-minute orientation tour of both mountains. Only for intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders, meet daily at 11.30am at the Guest Satisfaction Centre, at the top of the Village Gondola for Whistler, and at the Guest Satisfaction Centre at the top of the Solar Coaster Express for Blackcomb. The information you’ll receive is priceless.
● Absolute beginners? No idea where to start? Pre-book a group or private lesson or two then, once you have your ski legs, take the main Whistler Gondola to half way up at Mid-Station for the nursery slopes, easiest runs and Olympic chair.
Or take the easy-loading triple chair at the base of Blackcomb Mountain to the Magic Chair kids and learner areas.
● From mid to late March, most visitors have gone home, it’s not school holidays in the US, Canada or Australia, and there is still plenty of that famous, annual 11.92m of snow left to enjoy.
SSSSSH, LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
The Fitzsimmons Express Chair will get you mid-station Whistler faster than the Gondola, with a much shorter queue, but don’t tell anyone I told you that.
TACKLING THE TASTEBUDS
Here’s our pick of the menu for the season, all in the main village.
FAMILY: The Old Spaghetti Factory. If you know a family who’s been to Whistler, then you know a family who been to the old Spaghetti Factory, with its tagline “It’s all
included”. What’s included? Every meal (average price $C15) comes with bread, soup or salad, ice cream, tea and coffee.
FASHIONABLE: The Garibaldi Lift Company. Perched above the last run home at Whistler, this lounge style restaurant is perfect for people-watching, with an excellent martini menu. Kid friendly too, before the sun goes down.
FUN: Fancy pretending you’re a Canadian? Escape the crowds and head to the very fancy Westin Hotel’s Fire Rock Lounge for poutines, pounds of wings, big, comfy sofas and four giant screens playing continuous games of ice hockey. GO CANUCKS!
FANCY A POI? Missing Australia? One bite from one of the meat-filled beauties from Peaked Pies and you’re home. Owned by an Aussie girl and her Canadian partner, all pies are hand made on site and bloody delicious!
SSSSH, LOCAL KNOWLEDGE:
Where do the locals eat? Pasta Lupino, tucked away on the outskirts of the village – it’s a very small diner that serves fresh, made- on-the premises pasta and sauces (linguine, spaghettini, radiator with fresh basil and plum, alfreda or bolognaise made fresh with ground beef, pork and veal) at ridiculously low prices. Better yet, you can buy the pasta and sauces to take home and make yourself. Check out the menu at pastalupino.com
TACKLING THE TACKERS
There’s so much for kids to do at Whistler, including all the usual ski schools’ ride camps, tubing parks, and ice-skating rinks. But, being Whistler, there’s also a cinema, indoor rock climbing and trampolining, a quite spectacular zip line experience through old growth forests in nearby Cougar mountain, and much more.
Peak to Peak Gondola: An 11-minute journey connecting Whistler and Blackcomb departing every 49 seconds, the Gondola’s 28 cabins take riders on a sky-high journey that will never be forgotten.
Fire and Ice Show: It’s free, it’s on every Sunday night, at the base of Whistler Village Gondola, it’s got skiers and snowboarders soaring through rings of fire on the slopes.
Olympic Plaza: Site of the 2010 Olympic Medal ceremonies, look for the Olympic rings, snap a photo beside them, then head for the iceskating rink, and tobogganing hill.
SSSSHHH, LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
Armchair Books: Tucked away in the Village Square, this charming bookshop is child-friendly, with staff who don’t mind how long you browse.
Breathtakingly beautiful Whistler has so much to offer families. Even off piste, there is indoor rock climbing and trampolining to amuse the kids.
PEAK TO PEAK
Whether it’s skiers and snowboarders soaring through rings of fire on the slopes, or throwing snowballs, your family won’t be bored for a moment at Whistler. SKI LESSONS
FIRE AND ICE