A Winter Wonderland By Marguerite Cleveland
A visit to Whistler, British Columbia, is magical in the wintertime. The charming village nestled at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains comes alive as skiers and snowboarders return to visit the largest ski resort in North America. With the U.S. and Canadian border now open, you can once again enjoy the breathtaking Sea to Sky Highway on a winter road trip to this festive town. Whistler Village is massive with an endless array of shops, cafés, bars, galleries and restaurants—all in a pedestrian-only village. The towering mountains and lush forest surrounding the village are ripe for exploration with many trails. It really feels like another world when you arrive to explore this snowy paradise.
Where to Stay
The Westin Resort and Spa has the perfect location for your stay in Whistler. It is tucked away at the far end of the village up against Whistler Mountain. It is within walking distance of the gondolas, which whisk you up the mountain and the Village Stroll—the main street through the village. All rooms are fully equipped with mini kitchens and fireplaces. The resort has two towers with shops and restaurants in between. With a spa and both indoor and outdoor pools, you won’t want to leave the resort.
Insider Tip: Rooms in the same category can vary in size. When checking in, see what your options are. For families, consider booking an adjoining room to a one-bedroom suite. It will give you two bedrooms and two bathrooms with plenty of space for a family.
Where to Eat
Dining is such a wonderful experience in Whistler. There is such a variety of options, from budget to high-end luxury and farm to table. There is something for everyone. The El Furniture Warehouse offers everything on the menu for $5.95 to $7.95, which is a bargain in Whistler, and is surprisingly good for the price. A dining tradition in Whistler is cheese fondue, and one of the most authentic can be found at Crepe Montagne, a small restaurant located on a side street. It is very cozy inside with tables tucked into every corner. The fondue is outstanding, with both cheese and meat varieties available. They also offer a popular breakfast and crepes served either savory or sweet.
Araxi is one of the original restaurants in Whistler and is famed worldwide for its farm-to-table excellence. The restaurant is very upscale but not stuffy. Parents will be surprised that they can enjoy a meal of this caliber with their children. Chef James Watt is a pioneer of farm-to-table dining with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Menus change throughout the year to highlight the best bounty of the season from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen.
What to Do
Winter sports-lovers are drawn to Whistler for the many outdoor adventure opportunities. Whistler-Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America with over 8,100 acres of snow-covered slopes that have over 200 marked trails, world-class terrain parks, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers. The famous PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola takes you between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, maximizing your ski time. When finished, you can ski right into the village for the ultimate ski-in/ski-out experience. For those who aren’t avid skiers, you can enjoy winter sightseeing by taking the Village Gondola to access the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola for a ride over the valley, between the two mountains, and free from the weather outside. Grab a drink at the Roundhouse Umbrella Bar, where you’ll be treated to incredible views on a sunny day.
Whistler Blackcomb offers a variety of outdoor adventures including snowmobiling and dog sledding. For an interesting tour, check out the Whistler Winter Wonderland, a series of snowshoe tours on Whistler Mountain. The Medicine Trail tour will have you exploring a mysterious forest on an old trappers’ trail. Heading deep into the ancient forest of the Callaghan Valley, you will learn the history of the area and the traditional ways local plants were used for healing.
Take a free self-guided tour with Go Whistler Tours from Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler. These unique tours will take you throughout the resort exploring the outdoors, the history and heritage, cultural institutions, and food and drink. Download the mobile app, Go Whistler Tours, for both Apple and Android devices. The app is very easy to use, and the tours are very informative. There are currently eight tours available, with new tours added regularly, providing immersive experiences and locations that are off the beaten path.
The Audain Art Museum is an architectural treasure. Designed by Patkau Architects, the building has a long hallway adorned with luminous wood strips, one side that is floor-to-ceiling windows that look out into a forest—creating a work of art. It is stunning, especially if you are lucky enough to visit when it is snowing. The museum’s permanent collection of British Columbia art was donated by the founders Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa.
For a truly relaxing time, walk from the parking lot through a spruce and cedar forest to the Scandinave Spa Whistler. This bastion of silence (no talking aloud once you enter the outdoor day spa) will have you feeling tranquil vibes in no time. The utter and complete quiet feels odd at first, but it helps to disconnect and clear your mind. Enjoy a series of hot, cold and relax, which takes place in pools both hot and cold, Nordic waterfalls, solariums, a Finnish wood-burning sauna, an outdoor firepit and so much more. Plan to bring a book and stay a few hours to achieve total relaxation.
Insider Tip: Arrive right when the spa opens to avoid the crowds. It is very popular, especially when people come off the slopes from skiing.
As you get ready for your trip to Whistler, make sure you are prepared before crossing the border. Download the Arrive Canada app (see the Specifics) and follow the instructions. You will need proper documents (passport, enhanced driver’s license for your situation), the receipt or QR code from the Arrive Canada app, your vaccine card, and your COVID-19 test results (rapid antigen tests are not valid for this requirement). When returning to the U.S., there is no COVID-19 test required if you are driving. Allow extra time for crossing into Canada due to all the documents that must be checked. Also note, the COVID-19 test must be taken within 72 hours of your crossing, and the times are checked. You will be turned back at the border if your test is older than 72 hours. These requirements were current when this article was written, but as things are constantly changing, make sure to confirm the current requirements for your visit. Also be courteous to those behind you and have all the requirements for everyone traveling with you together to hand to the agent (and not in your trunk) so you don’t cause further delays.
Border Crossing - Canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/arrivecan.html
Where to Stay
The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler - Marriott.com/hotels/travel/ysewi-the-westin-resort-and-spa-whistler
Where to Eat
Araxi - Araxi.com
Crepe Montagne - CrepeMontagne.com
El Furniture Warehouse - WarehouseGroup.ca/locations/el-furniture-warehouse-whistler
What to Do
Audain Art Museum - AudainArtMuseum.com
Whistler Blackcomb Activities - WhistlerBlackcomb.com
Go Whistler Tours - Whistler.com/self-guided-tours
Scandinave Spa - Scandinave.com/en/whistler