Having recently visited Salzburg and Vienna, I have been looking for a Canadian destination where everything is right there in the center of town, a place with charming character, convenient walking access, a location with great outdoor activities and a place with world-class restaurants. Enter Whistler, British Columbia.
An Award-Winning Resort
Whistler was dreamed into existence by a group of visionary businessmen and has evolved over the last fifty years to its current world-class status. In the years between 1966 and today, it has been a rugged ski experience, a crazy party town, the 2010 Winter Olympic site for downhill events, and now a luxury year-round resort that has won a slew of awards (Whistler won Ski Magazine’s Best North American Resort three years running!).
Whistler is incredibly unique: downhill year-round sports are easily accessible, a short walk from accommodation right in the center of town. Winter snowboarding, summer downhill biking and hiking are easily walkable from wherever you stay in the main village, and a short bus ride from other locations in the area.
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola: Longest in the World
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola takes you from Whistler to Blackcomb Mountain and back, increasing downhill access for hiking, biking and boarding. The gondola affords spectacular views of peaks and valleys in every moment of the trip. Peak 2 Peak holds the world record for the longest unsupported gondola at a shocking 3.024 kilometres, and is the highest lift of its kind at 1,427 meters above sea level.
In town, there are home-grown and global coffee shops where you can journal, sip on a latte and hang with friendly locals. There are clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants a plenty for après-whatever-your-sport-of-choice. You can choose dining options as varied as authentic Mexican burrito to hand-tossed pizza, KFC to duck confit, or beef burgers to grilled elk loin. There is everything from Italian polenta to French Canadian tourtiere. After dinner, walk to the ice cream shop. You will not have to look far to find live music. There are currently two local breweries offering beverages on tap around town: both Whistler Brewing Company and Coast Mountain Brewing offer regular tours and samples.
If you prefer cooking your own meals, grocery and liquor stores are close, as is shopping for everything from outdoor and downhill gear to bikes, art, kitchen accessories, haute designer labels, and even boots and shoes.
The Whistler Visitor Centre is 134 kilometers from the Vancouver airport via Highway #99, the Sea to Sky Highway. It can be driven in about two and a half hours from Vancouver. Pacific Coast bus lines makes several trips a day from the airport and downtown Vancouver if you are not renting a car or driving your own. Alternatively, plan a road trip and drive from Edmonton. I take two days, stay in Kamloops overnight and travel highway 1 west to highway #99, the north route into Whistler. This winding road provides beautiful North American scenery.
Ample accommodation is available through VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owners), traditional hotels and timeshares. A new concept, the pod hotel is planning to open in 2018.
Whistler is a world-class, pure fun resort that has the feel of a European mountain town square. A week in Whistler is almost as much fun as a week in Salzburg!
By Timothy Fowler – Traveler and Writer