Weekend in Whistler

Enjoy a fondue snowmobiling dinner package or mingle with celebrities at the Whistler Film Festival.

Ah—the first snowfall of the year. To many, it signals endless hours of shoveling snow (or rather, unearthing the driveway from it) and enduring arduous road conditions. But for some it means dusting off the snowboards or skis and hitting the fresh powder on a whirlwind winter getaway. And is there a better place to do it than in Whistler, British Columbia? The world-class ski destination that’s soon to be home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is a bustling snow-covered paradise. Planning ahead for your Whistler vacation is a must. Here are a few recommended must-sees and dos if you find yourself in Whistler for a weekend.

Getting There

Travel time from Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky highway (car, bus and limo) is two hours. Factor in weather conditions and accidents—even a freak rockslide—and you could easily spend half a day traveling. If you’re vacationing with small children, a rest stop in the town of Squamish offers plenty of coffee, food and shopping options.

Not in the mood for sitting behind the wheel? For CA $51.45 (US $41; including taxes), YVR Whistler SkyLynx operated by Pacific Coach Lines offers daily bus service between Vancouver and Whistler; the one-way fare for children under 12 is $26.25 (US $21). There are 12 daily departures during the winter months (for this coming season, Dec. 12, 2008 to April 19, 2009) and tickets can be booked at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) domestic and international terminals. Door-to-door condo and/or hotel drop-off and pick-up is available. (www.pacificcoach.com/whistler)

For something different and luxurious, Whistler Air offers a chartered floatplane service (weather permitting) from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler, and then a car service follows to your hotel of choice. The 12-passenger Otter charter rate is $1,656 (US $1,316). Tel. 888-806-2299, www.whistlerair.ca.

Where to Stay

Featuring 77 studio and one-bedroom suites, the Nita Lake Lodge is a luxury boutique hotel on the foot of the serene lake. Astounding views of the mountains, lake and creeks await you. Highlights of the rooms include floor-to-ceiling basalt rock fireplaces, plasma televisions, luxurious, oversized spa-style bathrooms with Acca Kappa bath products and geothermal heating. A one-bedroom suite starts at $179 (US $143) per night.

The villas or the Nita Lake Houses are also an option to rent and are a great fit for larger families. They’re set on 23 acres of land among growth cedars and offer up to 4,500 sq. ft. of living space. Four-bedroom homes start at $889 (US $706.50) per night; five-bedroom homes start at $949 (US $754) per night. Reservations require a minimum five-night or seven-night stay depending on the season. Advanced booking is highly recommended. www.nitalakelodge.com

For the budget-conscious, I would recommend booking a condo. Most two-bedroom condos have pullout or Murphy beds, fireplaces and hot tubs. Aloha Whistler Accommodations (comprising more than 70 condo complexes, rates vary; tel. 604-928-6263) and the Delta Whistler Village Suites (one-bedroom suites start at $299/US $238; tel. 604-905-3987) are popular options.

[Read our Living in Whistler’s Lap of Luxury article for more information about Whistler accommodations.]

Sate Your Appetite

Sleigh and Dine

If you’re seeking a bit of adventure along with great food, you must try the Dinner Sleigh Ride package offered through Blackcomb Sleigh Rides, starting Dec. 13. You’ll ride through Whistler’s snow-covered trails for 30 minutes by Green Lake and then return to the Den Restaurant & Grill for a cozy four-course fondue dinner. Cost: adults ages 13 and over, $99 (US $79); ages 3 to 12, $49.50 (US $39); under 3, free. Tel. 604-932-7631, www.blackcombsleighrides.com.

Snowmobile and Fondue

Another great idea for adults only: How about a private, romantic fondue/snowmobile excursion? Starting Dec. 5, you’ll journey to the Crystal Hut, a restaurant perched at 6,000 feet on Blackcomb Mountain. Package includes a candlelit night with fondue dinner, fine wine and homemade pie for dessert. Cost: $225 (US $179) per single snowmobile or $189 (US $150) for a couple sharing a machine, plus $12 collision coverage. Tel. 604-938-1616, www.canadiansnowmobile.com.

Luxe Whistler Dines

For a more formal dining experience, I can’t visit Whistler without eating at either the Barefoot Bistro or Quattro at Whistler. At Barefoot, try the wild caribou entrée: It’s their claim to fame. Leafing through pages and pages of the wine selection will help pass the time. For a feel-good and carb-laden meal, Quattro at Whistler’s pastas and pizzas will warm you up. Barefoot Bistro, 4121 Village Green, tel. 604-932-3433, www.bearfootbistro.com. Quattro at Whistler, 4319 Main St. tel. 604-905-4844, www.quattrorestaurants.com.

What to Do in Whistler Beyond the Slopes

The only way to legally go out-of-bounds is to check out these next ideas for things to do that might not include skiing and snowboarding.

Whistler Film Fest

The Whistler Film Festival is almost like Sundance. In early December each year, some of Hollywood’s brightest stars and film moguls and their Canadian counterparts descend on the village to showcase their projects. This year’s festival runs Dec. 4 to 7.

Peaks and Parks

The new Peak 2 Peak Gondola opens on Dec. 12 and is touted to be an engineering marvel. Gondola-type cars or sky-cabins travel on thick cables at incredible heights—the highest point at 1,427 feet—as they cover 4.4 km (2.7 miles) in just 11 minutes. [Read more in our Whistler skiing article.]

The Whistler Olympic Park is located in the Callaghan Valley and will be the site of the cross-country, biathlon, Nordic combined and ski jumping events for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Get a head start and find out what the buzz is about. [Read more about how to snag Vancouver/Whistler 2010 tickets here.]

[Get additional ideas for your Whistler itinerary and vacation planning here.]

Destinations: Whistler

Themes: Family Travel, Mountain Vacations

Activities: Sightseeing, Skiing