On vacation last summer, I took the opportunity to drive the beautiful Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler, in the Pacific Northwest of Canada. If there is ever a time to avoid the regret of not upgrading your rental car, this is it. The Highway combines the elements of stunning visuals, some thrilling twists and turns that will focus the most disciplined driver, and a few good stops for lunch or sightseeing. This is a flashback to a time when getting there was almost as good as the destination; a rare opportunity to engage in the time spent traveling. After completing the almost 2 hour leg you are richly rewarded by one of the real jewels of the Coast Mountains: Whistler Village and all of its spectacular amenities.
As per my stay in Vancouver, I headed up towards the base of Blackcomb Mountain to the Four Seasons Whistler. This hotel is well situated as a hub for both winter and summer activities, and truly captures the magic and beauty of Whistler in its architecture and guest experience. Entering the lobby you are immediately aware that you have entered a modern alpine resort, with low hanging chandeliers, dark wood beams and stone reminiscent of Norse mythology. The hotel is a short walk to the Blackcomb ski base, and is situated across from the Chateau Whistler Golf Course, Lost Lake, and all of the accompanying trails.
The hotel takes care of a lot of the little details that arise in a vacation where you may have ski equipment, golf gear, or mountain bikes. You can get sized for ski boots in a shop under the main lobby, then walk over to the lift and a Four Seasons tent and your gear will be ready for you. There are shuttles to the village if you’d prefer not to enjoy the 15 minute walk along Blackcomb Creek to get to the village, where the shops and restaurants await. The rooms themselves feel very private, luxurious and offer a nice place to unwind after a day of activity. We had a balcony that offered the perfect view for an evening smoke.
I didn’t have to go far to find a tasty treat, since Sidecut was right on the hotel’s main floor. Catching a whiff of savoury grill, and seeing much of the wine selection displayed behind a glass cellar as you enter the restaurant made me think of the perfect après-ski dinner. Chef Scott Thomas Dolbee and wine director Dave Foran have put together a unique concept, pairing local cuisine with 6 distinct meat rubs and serving it with 6 different sauces and a deep wine list. Many of the fresh herbs are grown on site in special greenhouses. The variety of flavours during dinner here can be exhausting but also exhilarating.
There are plenty of great dining spots in the village as well, with a couple of renowned restaurants including Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro. Anyone who has walked through the village in summer has very likely done a double take when passing Araxi and seeing the Seafood Towers on display. Araxi has in my opinion the best wine list in Whistler, with lots of options outside the usual BC/California/French brands that you would expect in a tourist trap location like this. The Bistro attracts attention with its gimmicky below zero vodka room, where you put on a parka and taste ultra-chilled spirits. Worth visiting and taking a few pictures for the scrapbook. Both restaurants feature authentically local cuisine prepared impeccably and creatively.
For breakfast I will recommend a little out-of-the-way bakery that seems at odds with the fine dining options I’ve extolled above. Hot Buns bakery is a casual omelet and crepe bar with good coffee and fair prices. It can be found near the village centre around the corner from the Amsterdam pub. This type of joint is rare indeed in a city filled with mostly fine dining and upscale pub fare.
Perhaps the enduring allure of Whistler is the rich visuals combined with a constant reinvention with the changing of seasons. The experience is so different in summer from winter that it feels like a new destination. Likewise there is a sensible balance between relaxing activities and active ones. Everyone knows about the epic ski experience, and it still is the literal backbone of the resort. But hiking, biking, golf, swimming, climbing, swimming, cross-country mix with spa, spectating, shopping, dining and more, and all are well represented. We spent a day by Lost Lake doing nothing but relaxing. What more do you need?