Picturesque and pristine, Whistler has been coined North America’s best ski resort with good reason. Boasting sublime mountain views, 8,000 acres (32 sq km) of terrain and miles of untouched wilderness, Whistler is a haven for skiers and snowboarders.
With an average of 11.63 meters (38 feet) of snow a year, it’s no wonder sport enthusiasts flock to Whistler every winter. However, Whistler isn’t just a ski town. With an extensive selection of restaurants, spas and alternative outdoor activities, the resort town is the perfect year-round holiday destination. From Nordic-inspired spas to art galleries and an iconic sushi restaurant, here are the best things to see and do on a whirlwind trip to Whistler.
Morning: Enjoy breakfast with a view at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Located right at the base of Blackcomb Mountain’s gondola, start your 48-hour trip by checking into the renowned Fairmont Chateau Whistler. This legendary ski-in/ski-out hotel is ideal for all snow sport enthusiasts, as Blackcomb’s slope and chairlift are quite literally on the hotel’s doorstep. This world-famous mountainside hotel is also a great place to stay during the summer months, as it is perfectly located for guests to take part in a range of summer sport activities. Conveniently, the hotel is just a short 5-minute walk from Whistler Village Centre.
Decorated in a traditional and homely ski-lodge style complete with a grand vaulted ceiling and timber columns in the lobby, this hotel offers elegant rooms and suites in a comfortable alpine setting. Amenities include a spa that boasts hot tubs overlooking spectacular mountain views, exceptional Canadian dining and an impressive schedule of outdoor experiences like snowshoeing and trail runs. In the summer months, the hotel encourages guests to use its 18-hole golf course and to practice their downward dog in yoga lessons held on the Chateau’s rooftop. Be sure to try Fairmont’s signature chocolate range, made by Mumbai-born pastry chef Anup Chaubal. The Honeybear chocolate bar is particularly popular, and is made from honey produced in the Fairmont’s rooftop beehive.
After checking into your room, head downstairs to the Fairmont’s restaurant The Wildflower where you can dine on an extensive breakfast buffet. From an omelette station to fresh fruit and pastries, the restaurant serves an array of locally sourced, organic dishes. Alternatively, pick a plate from their menu of Pacific Northwest-inspired cuisine. While there, take a seat next to one of the large windows for stunning views over Blackcomb Mountain.
Afternoon: Be inspired at the Audain Art Museum and unwind at a Nordic-inspired spa
After breakfast, walk 12 minutes to the Audain Art Museum which can be found on the other side of Blackcomb Creek. Nestled in Whistler’s beautiful natural landscape, the museum was designed by Patkau Architects in a minimalist style with angular glassy forms that contrast and merge seamlessly into the surrounding, untamed wilderness. The museum opened its doors in 2016 to showcase its founder-philanthropist, Michael Audain’s expansive personal art collection. Spanning across centuries and disciplines, the artworks on display are a glorious celebration of the varied artistic talents found in British Columbia. Discover a comprehensive display of 19th and 20th century First Nations masks, as well as fine paintings by some of Canada’s most prominent artists including E.J. Hughes and Emily Carr.
Afterwards, trace your steps back to the Fairmont, and grab a quick lunch at Portobello, a casual café sited in the Upper Village. Either order a sandwich to go such as the cranberry chicken sourdough, or sit down and try a Canadian classic of smoked brisket poutine. The café also caters well to vegans and vegetarians, with plenty of plant-based options like the delicious portobello mushroom, spinach and lentil strudel.
Once you’ve finished lunch, book a taxi at the Fairmont’s front desk for a short 7-minute car ride to the Scandinave Spa. Located just north of Whistler Village, the Nordic-inspired outdoor spa is nestled within a spruce and cedar forest and is encompassed by untamed woodland right on the edge of the Lost Lake and Spruce Grove parks. Sat within British Columbia’s awe-inspiring peaks, this peaceful oasis is surrounded by sweeping mountain views and is the perfect place to unwind, breath in fresh mountain air and take a moment to rejuvenate. The spa offers a traditional Nordic bathing experience called hydrotherapy, which involves following a two-hour cycle of hot, cold and relax. Guests are also encouraged to use the eucalyptus steam rooms, Finnish wood-burning saunas, ice-cold plunge pools, freezing rain showers and relaxation areas to treat sore muscles and relax busy minds. The age-old Nordic sauna tradition has been proven to help eliminate toxins and improve the body’s circulation, so not only does it help guests unwind, but offers health benefits, too. Note that the spa adopts a no-noise rule, so staying silent is mandatory.
Evening: Dine at legendary Japanese restaurant, Sushi Village
Having spent the afternoon indulging in a well-deserved pampering session, head back to the town center by car to Japanese restaurant, Sushi Village (located above the store Showcase Snowboards in the Sundial Hotel) for dinner. Since opening in 1985 by local legend Mikito ‘Miki’ Homma, Sushi Village has gained legendary status among Whistler’s local residents. Always packed and lively, this laid-back sushi restaurant serves an extensive menu of sushi, as well as udon noodle bowls, donburi (rice bowl dishes) and yakimono (grilled or baked fish or meat plates). Be sure to order a pitcher of sake margaritas for the table to complete your meal.
Night: Order a nightcap at the Mallard Lounge
Once you’ve finished dinner, walk 11-minutes across Whistler Village back towards the hotel and head to the Fairmont’s refined Mallard Lounge. Cosy up next to the stone fireplace and order an expertly crafted cocktail created by the bar’s master mixologists. Try the smoked espresso martini, which is served theatrically in a glass box enveloped in smoke. But don’t stay up too late, as tomorrow’s start is an early one.
Morning: Wake up early and be the first skier to lay fresh tracks on the mountain
To beat the crowds, wake up at the crack of dawn and head to the base of the Whistler Village Gondola with skis and snowboards at the ready. Try to get there by 7am, and certainly pitch up no later than 8am to ride up the mountain. Once at the top, head to the Roundhouse Lodge for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Pile your plate high with eggs, sausages, bacon, breakfast potatoes, pastries, fresh fruit and yoghurt. Eat up fast and listen for the bell, as once it’s rung you can strap on your skis or snowboard and be one of the first people to lay fresh tracks on pristinely groomed slopes and perfectly untouched powder – there’s truly no better piste experience. Don’t forget to buy your ‘Fresh Tracks’ tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment and remember not to ski or snowboard right to the bottom of the mountain. Note that this experience only runs during the snow season from December to April.
Get your heart pumping with an ‘Extremely Canadian’ guided Ski Session
After a few warm-up runs, book yourself in for an unforgettable day of guided skiing with Extremely Canadian. Not for the faint-hearted, and aimed specifically at adventurous, intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders, Extremely Canadian offers private full day “steep ski clinics” to improve skiers’ technique on steep terrain and guide them to the best and the most untouched spots on the mountains. Established by freeskier Peter Smart in 1994 with his wife Jill Dunnigan, the duo’s aim has been to redefine and revolutionize ski instruction by guiding experienced skiers on how to navigate tricky terrain and back-country adventures with fearlessness, confidence and control. “We bring clients to places and get them doing things that a traditional ski school wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” explains Smart. Their expert guides know the mountain like the back of their hands and will for sure get your heart pumping.
Afternoon: Admire mountain views over lunch at Christine’s on Blackcomb
After an adrenaline-packed morning, head to Christine’s on Blackcomb located in the Rendezvous Lodge at the top of the Solar Coastal Express. By far the best table-service lunch spot on the ski hill, Christine’s serves contemporary Canadian cuisine using locally sourced, sustainable and ethical ingredients. Try chef Steve Ramey’s spicy Keralan fish curry served with roasted coconut and basmati rice, or the game burger served in a soft brioche bun. Overlooking stunning mountain views, this is the most scenic fine-dining experience in Whistler. Be sure to book in advance, though, as the restaurant is particularly popular during the high ski season.
Ride the famous Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Once you’ve finished lunch, head out onto the hill for more runs with your Extremely Canadian guide. However, before the end of your session, be sure to take a ride on Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which is the longest continuous lift system in the world at 4.4km (2.7mi). Inspired by traditional Swiss ski lifts, the gondola opened in December of 2008, and was designed to link the top of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains together. Take in breathtaking mountain scenery and look down (if you are not scared of heights) to see stunning glacial blue waters of Fitzsimmons Creek.
Evening: Indulge with a bowl of homemade pasta at Il Caminetto
After a tiring day of intensive skiing, head to Whistler Village for a dinner of contemporary Italian cuisine at Il Caminetto (‘the fireplace’ in Italian). Executive Chef James Walt serves a menu of comforting and classic Italian dishes with a modern twist, using locally sourced produce. Nibble on warm olives with almonds to start, then try the rigatoni bolognese as your main. All pastas and breads are made in-house on a daily basis. The sommeliers are friendly and helpful, and the Italian wine selection is exceptional.
Night: Order a Caesar cocktail at Fitzsimmons Pub
For a nightcap, head to Fitzsimmons Pub which is a 13-minutes stroll from dinner. Another favourite with residents, this little neighbourhood pub is famous for being Whistler’s first British Columbian craft beer bar. With eight rotating beer taps, a strong community spirit and friendly staff, this is the perfect spot to let loose. If you’ve not ordered yourself a Caesar yet, this is the moment to do so. As Canada’s version of a Bloody Mary, this cocktail is a true B.C. classic, created using clamato juice with a celery-salted rim. Fitzsimmons closes at 1am most nights; stay until the last drinks round and then wander back to your hotel room, which is conveniently just a one-minute walk away.