It’s 6am. We’re prepping to make fresh tracks. It was so unbelievably cold last night that Whistler Village felt as cold as an air conditioner running in Antarctica. Yes - it was THAT cold I tell you (a casual -20 degrees celsius). Before we hit the slopes, we were reunited with my brother, Josh, and his girlfriend, Kellie, after having not seen them for a year! It was the most memorable start to 2019 I could have ever asked for. We had planned this trip almost a year in advance.
Whistler is essentially the Mecca of winter destinations. Named for the furry marmots that populate the area and whistle like deflating balloons, this alpine village and Winter Olympic venue is one of the world’s most popular ski resorts. I had been hearing stories about Whistler from family and friends as so many tend to chase the winter to do a ski or snowboard season here; and it did not disappoint. As luck would have it, North America was having the winter of a lifetime; so we were in for an epic winter holiday.
We had three things on our minds for our first Canadian winter holiday experience: make it for first lifts each day, discover as many tracks as possible, drink a lot and eat poutine. Repeat.
It’s all about the journey. If you endorse this philosophy and are planning to drive, then get ready for the drive of a lifetime. British Columbia’s cliff-hugging Highway 99, otherwise known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway is the gateway to Squamish and Garibaldi National Park, eventually ending in the resort town of Whistler and is less than two hours from Vancouver. Lauded as one of the most marvelously scenic drives in the world, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a drive to savour and will leave you completely speechless, which is difficult, even for me. We beelined it straight to Whistler in an hour-and-a-half; but if you aren’t in a rush, DON’T. Take the time to appreciate and absorb your surroundings and see if you can catch sight of a bald eagle floating on air currents, or witness a pod of orcas breaching.
Nestled in the shadows of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, Whistler Village is the epitome of a frosty winter postcard. There are 37 crisscrossed chair lifts and gondolas to transport you up above the clouds and back down the mountain (if need be), with over 200 groomed runs. There is also the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which is famously known as the first lift to join two side-by-side mountains.
Below the mountains you will find a real-life winter wonderland. With every lamp post, tree and building adorned in thousands of glittering lights and blankets of snow covering the ground; Whistler is beyond picturesque.
While we spent majority of our days skiing/boarding and discovering new uncharted runs, we made the most of the fantastic apres-ski experiences Whistler has to offer, every day. Apres-ski is French and simply means “after skiing” and typically implies meeting up with friends or family at a bar or restaurant after a day on the slopes. There are lots of Whistler bars and restaurants that offer an apres-ski menu, in fact, there is at least one of these at the base of each gondola. If you want to experience some old school Whistler apres-ski, you can’t go wrong with these places:
Dusty’s at Creekside - Dusty’s is found at the base of the Creekside gondola. It is a favourite of “locals”, as it is the first gondola that you reach from Vancouver and there is lots of free underground parking. In addition to a large indoor restaurant filled with picnic benches and stools, Dusty’s has an enormous outdoor patio that is an amazing place to relax on a mild sunny day.
Longhorn Saloon & Grill at Whistler Village - The Longhorn is located at the base of Whistler Mountain and is basically in the centre of the action in Whistler Village. There is normally a DJ and if you hang around long enough, live bands play most nights. It has the perfect apres menu of wings and burgers.
Merlins Bar & Grill at Blackcomb Village - Merlins is located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. It has an old-school vibe with a laid-back mountain cabin décor. But, don’t let that fool you. There is a live-music stage and suspended gondola-car DJ station. Apres often turns into some pretty crazy stuff. Dancing on the bar is encouraged.