Opt for the role of passenger when en route to Whistler and leave the driver’s mantra of keep your eyes on the road to someone else. The journey along the Sea to Sky Highway will have you gazing out at some of the world’s most spectacular views. The vista is comprised of a series of fjords that stretch inland from the Pacific Ocean on one side and towering rock on the other side framed by blue sea and sky before pulling away from the water up into the Coast Mountains. Add to that the brilliance of the sun and one has nature’s recipe for picture perfect.
Whistler may be defined by snow and winter, but that is only half of its equation―it is also long, warm summer days. In fact, while it may come as a surprise, more people head to Whistler during the summer months than during the winter. And so, whether the desire is to stroll the plentiful trails by foot or by bike, tee off at any of the three championship golf courses―Nicklaus North Golf Course, Whistler Golf Club, Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club―or get that enviable run-and-jump off the dock into a lake photo (Alta Lake has the warmest water), Whistler is the place for all that and more. Here, a guide to discovering the summer soul of Whistler.
Where to stay.
Set up home base at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for views of towering cedars and the Blackcomb gondola. (Vail Resorts has invested $66-million in infrastructure and a new 10-person gondola is currently under construction to replace the Wizard Express and Solar Coaster chairlifts.) When weekending in Whistler, Fairmont Fridays in the Mallard Lounge is a great TGIF kickoff with cocktails and live music. Continue on to the Grill Room, where executive chef Isabel Chung has launched a menu that is a nod to British Columbia’s flourishing sustainable seafood movement. The next morning, slip down to Portobello café for the all-too decadent pastries—for the late riser, there are excellent made-to-order sandwiches. Sunday is all about brunch at the Wildflower.
Should you prefer a lakeside retreat, Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler Creekside will have you sojourning in a mountain-chic ambiance of tranquility. If the glacial-fed lake is too frigid for a plunge, opt for a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard—or simply take a seat dockside and dip your toes in the water. Delight in sundowner cocktails accompanied by charcuterie and cheese boards at Cure Lounge & Patio before settling in for a meal at Aura, the signature restaurant.
What to do.
Whistler is a fixture on “best of” lists and for good reason—the surroundings make for nature’s prime playground. There is no one itinerary that fits all and so herewith, some suggestions to suit both the ambler and thrill-seeker.
Hiking: Set deep among the towering cedar and fir trees lining the Cheakamus River is the Train Wreck Hike. Accessed from the Sea to Sky Trailhead in Cheakamus Crossing/Function Junction zone, the three-kilometre (one way) hike will have you trekking over a suspension-style footbridge to a site of seven wrecked box cars covered in graffiti art and strewn across the thicket. As legend has it, the stationed boxcars are the result of a train derailment in the 1950s.
Whitewater Rafting: Whether you seek a family-friendly float or adrenaline-pumping Class 4 rapids, the Adventure Group will deliver with plenty of spectacular scenery along the way on its whitewater rafting tours.
Cycling: The Valley Trail is an extensive network of paved paths that links Whistler’s parks and lakes. There are over 40 kilometres of a multi-use path—suitable for running, roller blading, and of course, cycling. The lift-accessed downhill Whistler Mountain Bike Park is considered to be number one in the world and although there are plenty of trails to entice the adrenaline-fuelled set, beginners can rest assured there are also trails for those with no previous experience mountain biking.
Cloudraker Skybridge: The newest alpine adventure will have you experiencing what may be the most breathtaking view to be had in Whistler. This Cloudraker suspension bridge spans 130 metres from Whistler Peak to West Ridge over Whistler Bowl and is a sky-high experience of epic proportions. Be forewarned: the more people on the bridge, the greater the rocking motion. If you’re afraid of heights, opt for a photo with Whistler’s iconic statue the Inukshuk—you still made it to Whistler’s peak.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola: Spanning a 4.4-kilometre distance between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the Guinness Book of World Record–breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola is an 11-minute ride of exhilaration over the Fitzsimmons valley. This awe-inspiring feat is one of the longest unsupported spans in the world. The glass-bottom gondolas provide another unique perspective of the forest.
Ziplining: Take a high-wire tree-top adventure with Ziptrek Ecotours, North America’s pioneer for zip trekking. As you move from treetop to treetop the guides will brief you on the region’s rich ecology. If you are interested in reaching speeds in excess of 100 kilometres an hour, the Sasquatch is the zipline beast for you—this is the longest zipline in all of North America.
Audain Art Museum: The architecturally impressive Audain Art Museum is Whistler’s largest cultural attraction, with a permanent collection of nearly 200 works from B.C. artists, including one of the best collections of Emily Carr canvases.
Vallea Lumina: This magical attraction takes visitors along a 1.5-kilometre trail through a forest brought to life with light, video, soundscapes, and scenography. Only on until October 15, Vallea Lumina is an ephemeral delight you won’t want to miss.
Where to eat.
There are no shortages of dining options in Whistler and some standouts include the Red Door, a French bistro much-loved by locals and in-the-know visitors, where chef RD Stewart puts forth dishes like roasted duck breast with cinnamon spiced almond and farro plated in an orange brandy sauce, and a West Coast–inspired bouillabaisse with crab claws, prawns, mussels, and scallops in a tomato, fennel, and saffron broth.
The legendary Whistler Italian restaurant Il Caminetto has been reimagined by the Toptable Group into a contemporary dining establishment where chef James Walt continues his culinary storytelling with dishes like spaghetti all’amatriciana and rigatoni Bolognese made with wagyu beef ragu; the bistecca alla Fiorentina is not the traditional Chianina cattle but delicious none the less, a 38 oz Angus porterhouse. Of course, this wouldn’t be Whistler dining without some West Coast infusion, and on this menu the pan seared B.C. halibut, or the red tuna served with Vancouver Island octopus.
Photos courtesy of Tourism Whistler.
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