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Lit­tle se­crets of a big moun­tain

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION CANADA - FRANCES WHIT­ING

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!

HOT TIPS

● 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.

HOT TIPS:

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.

HOT TIPS

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.

PIC­TURES: JUSTA JESKOVA/MIKE CRANE/ TOURISM WHISTLER

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

GON­DOLA RIDE

PIC­TURES: TOURISM WHISTLER

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

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