Whistler, British Columbia, has long been one of Canada’s top ski destinations. Now, seven years after it hosted the world at the Winter Olympics, it’s better than ever—and the town is proving it has a whole lot more going for it than just skiing, from cool new restaurants to its own art gallery. For the ski couple getting the itch for their first ski trip of the season, this piece of west coast Canadiana is a gold-medal-worthy choice.
You could say Whistler Mountain was born for the Olympics—or at least it was conceived with the Games in mind. The mountain’s founding father Franz Wilhelmsen was inspired to create the resort after a trip to the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. And after unsuccessful bids in 1962 and 1973, he finally got the provincial government’s backing to develop Whistler into an Olympic-ready venue. So when in 2003, the International Olympic Committee announced that Whistler would host the 2010 Winter Olympics (along with Vancouver), it was an achievement four decades in the making.
Where to Ski
You can ski like an Olympian on the Dave Murray Downhill—named after a local legend—now open to the public, where Americans Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn both took home gold medals. Thanks to a $17.5 million government investment, Whistler’s snowmaking capabilities have doubled since the Games, meaning better early-season snow coverage for skiers. This year was proof; the mountain opened on November 17th, an unusually early opening that some of the veteran staff referred to as the best opening they’ve ever seen. Whistler Mountain boasts more than 8,100 acres of powdery slopes along with world-class terrain parks and more than 200 trails. For something steep and fast and a little tucked away from the rest of the mountain, try School Marm. For powder-seekers, there’s a secret area called High Test and Low Test reserved for only those that know about it.
In the 1980s, there was a popular motto among skiers that found its way onto a pair of underwear sold at Whistler gift shops. It read: “Just because I sleep with you, doesn’t mean I have to ski with you.” It was a top seller because the message rings true; couples aren’t always meant to ski together. While skiing can be a lovely couples’ activity—we wouldn’t be writing this otherwise!—some dangers must be avoided. One common cause of friction occurs when one half of the duo is significantly more experienced than the other. Teaching a partner to ski never seems to end well, as evidenced by some Whistler-Blackcomb staff who joke that while a full-day private lesson may be pricey, it’s still much cheaper than a divorce. Instead, you should take advantage of the bevy of talented ski instructors that call Whistler home. They know the ropes, and they won’t get frustrated with your inability to quickly master the snowplough. Send your less-experienced spouse off to learn the basics, then regroup later for an après-ski refreshment with dinner. Happiness guaranteed!
Farm-to-Table Foodie Scene
Whistler is no longer a simple ski town; its food scene is scorching hot—even during the cool and snowy winters. Restaurants are taking advantage of the nearby Pemberton farms to source local ingredients and create a farm-to-table culture to satisfy palates with even the highest standards. Try hot spots like Araxi Restaurant, a classy joint whose chef, James Walt, brought the farm-to-table mentality to Whistler in the first place. Stop in for date night at Bar Oso, a newish spot with a New York City feel and a tendency towards Spanish tapas. Or step into the unconventional Bearfoot Bistro, where you can get a personal chef-led cooking class, sip vodka in a -25℉ tasting room, or try your hand at sabering the top off a champagne bottle. Any trip to Whistler should include an exploration of their up-and-coming food scene as part of your après-ski plans.
Where to Stay
One of the beauties of Whistler is its selection of charming chalets both in and around Whistler Village. From ski chic to alpine bliss, all sorts of homes are available for rent year-round, some able to accommodate as many as 18. Whether part of a large group or looking for an intimate getaway centered around shredding pow, there will be a villa for you. Try the modern Belmont Estate in one of Whistler’s most exclusive neighborhoods, Stonebridge. Sure, you’ll be across Alta Lake from the village and mountain, but that’s not an issue with Belmont’s onsite helipad and helicopter, allowing you to heliski-in and heliski-out from your front door to the mountain. Villas like Whistler Slopeside and Horstman Lane offer ski-in, ski-out access (the regular kind) and can each sleep a group of 10. Those looking for a complete villa experience with a little skiing on the side can choose between Akasha and its indoor pool and waterfall, The Villa with ping pong and pool tables, and a home theater, and Compass Point, where you can arrange for a private chef and even a babysitter.