9 Tips if You’re Heading to the Olympics in Whistler
Heading to Whistler for the Olympics? Contributor Steve Jermanok gives you the rundown
1. Don't Rush
The two-hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler is on Highway 99, otherwise known as the Sea to Sky Highway. Take your time and savor the exquisite scenery as you ride along the quiet shores of Howe Sound and then up into the high peaks. A good rest stop is Shannon Falls, where you can watch ice climbers pick their way up the iced-over falls with ax and crampons.
Four Seasons Whistler.
2. Worth the Splurge
Once in town, you'd be wise to drop your bags off at the Four Seasons. In fact, you probably won't have much luggage if you booked the Four Seasons Ski Lite package, which provides skis, boots, poles, and the latest ski wear. Upon your arrival, they'll outfit you and your waxed skis and pre-warmed boots will be waiting at the hotel's Ski Concierge Shop at the base of Blackcomb each morning. The sophisticated hotel also features a Ski Elite Program with one-on-one instruction for skiers, a concierge that works solely with teenagers, and, this being a Four Seasons, the requisite spa.
3. On the Cheap
You'll be lucky to get one of the 33 beds at Hostelling International Whistler this winter. They usually book up by the end of fall for the entire winter season. Yet if you do snag an opening, you'll be treated to a pleasant abode with deck and lawn on the shores of Alta Lake. In winter, they have a wood-burning stove, sauna, and drying room for ski gear.
4. The Long, Sweet, Run
Blackcomb is known for its long, blue cruisers that can run from top to bottom. A good warm-up is the Crystal Ridge Run down to Ridge Runner. Then head up high on one of the three express lifts 7th Heaven, Jersey Cream, and Coaster that lead to the smooth as silk snow on Cloud Nine and the aptly named Cruiser. On Whistler, try the famous 5-miler, Franz's Run, a peak-to-creek serpentine trek that's one of the longest trails in North America.
5. Let's Go Bowling
For steeps and deeps that will keep that smile plastered on your face all day, spend your time in Whistler's Bowls. West Bowl is a favorite for locals, who enter via the double-black Cockalorum trail. Also give Harmony and Symphony Bowl a shot, off the Harmony Express lift, and, if you like that backcountry feel, head on over to the 700-acre Flute Bowl. Did we mention glaciers? Ride the Glacier Express to Hortman Glacier, where the snow is squeaky fun.
6. Fear of Crowds
Head to Whistler mid-week, eat lunch on the slopes after 1 pm, ski off the Creekside Gondola, south of Whistler Village, and ask about the Fresh Tracks Breakfast. For $17 (Canadian), you get to head up the mountain an hour before it officially opens, grab breakfast at the summit lodge, and get two to three good runs in before the masses arrive.
7. Other Activities
Last winter, the town of Whistler unveiled 10 kilometers of snowshoe trails through Lost Lake Park. That's in addition to the 32 km of groomed cross-country trails Lost Lake already offers. If you just can't get enough adrenalin pumping through that body, try the year round zipline that cruises across Fitzsimmons Creek from Whistler to Blackcomb. Offered by Ziptrek Ecotours, it's the longest zipline in North America. Or simply go on the new Peak to Peak Gondola that transports guests from Whistler's Roundhouse Lodge to Blackcomb's Rendezvous Lodge. The 11-minute ride covers some 2.7 miles and rewards guests with glorious vistas from atop the 7,000-foot mountains.
8. Family-friendly Restaurants
For casual fare, try Caramba! in the Town Plaza. Kids will enjoy the pizzas and macaroni smothered in three cheeses, while mom and dad can devour the plate of their signature dish, grilled calamari. Elements is a popular breakfast joint, known for their eggs benedict and veggie-strewn frittatas, all washed down with mammoth-sized cups of coffee.
9. That Special Night Out
With more than 12,000 bottles of wine, including rare British Columbia selections, and a menu that features the best of Pacific Northwest, it's hard to top Araxi. Start with the locally farmed beets and mozzarella salad or oysters on the half shell, and then move on to the miso-glazed sablefish, a BC specialty.
Steve Jermanok blogs daily at ActiveTravels.com