Famous for its winter scene, which won Whistler the best ski resort in North America (multiple years running) by SKI Magazine and a host of other publications, Canada’s most posh peak is packed with hotels, spas, shopping, and restaurants fit for trendsetters who put as much thought into their “snow-tinerary” as they do into their summit style.
Situated 30 miles inland from Canada’s West Coast and accessible by car from Vancouver or Seattle, Whistler’s alpine terrain covers a whopping 8,171 acres—more than the entire footprint of Stanford University (the second-largest campus in the world)—meaning there’s a lot of ground to cover, whether one conquers the mountaintop resort on skis, snowshoes, or in furry snow boots.
Want to hit the ground running like a seasoned weekender who only packs the essentials and has their reservations sorted before they hit the road? Here’s where to stay, play, eat, and shop in the Pacific Northwest’s most chill address.
Viewfinder Tip: For the freshest pick of rooms and restaurants, book up to a year in advance for peak holiday times, or visit during the “secret season” (April) when the hills are still stacked with snow and the crowds are gone.
From luxury villas to local-flavor inns, and all-the-fixings resorts to boutique hotels, there are nearly 20,000 pillows within 500 meters of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. For an edited stone-and-timber stay so stunning it needs no filter on Instagram, check out Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler Creekside, just a five-minute shuttle (included) to the resort’s epicenter. The all-suite boutique hotel touts a fireplace and double-soaker tub in every room and has enough distractions of the spa and dining variety that you’ll never need to leave the lakeside property, but I implore you to explore the snow-dusted surroundings!
Any time a destination has the word “resort” in its official title (the Resort Municipality of Whistler), you know there’s going to be an extensive set of things to do. And since it’s Canada—a country known for embracing its winter wonderland—most of these activities take place outdoors in nature’s cathedral.
Let’s begin with bliss. While a bevy of spas grace the mountain retreat’s slope-side resorts, the most magical locale to soothe your muscles is under the backdrop of snow-capped summits at Scandinave Spa. Borrowing a page from the Finnish relaxation tradition of hot-cold-relax-repeat, the 20,000-square-foot spa—equally popular with women and men—has created numerous enclaves of hot, cold, and calm with its cedar sauna to its cold plunges, relaxation rooms, and hot pools with cascading water. Best of all, you don’t just look at nature from a window, you’re in it as you walk under evergreen tree branches between plunges. (Suitable for all seasons.)
In wintertime, everyone from beginner ski bunnies to seasoned ski pros can find something to match their activity level in the diverse alpine terrain. Enter Whistler Blackcomb’s world-class downhill skiing and snowboarding, counting 37 chairlifts and gondolas, and upwards of 200 ski runs, all connected by PEAK 2 PEAK, a world record–holding gondola hanging 1,427 feet above the valley floor.
If you’re inclined to love activities with less slope, check out the cross-country skiing and snowshoeing around Lost Lake, both of which pair nicely with a post-ski vodka tasting at the Ketel One Ice Room, the coldest vodka-tasting room in the world, in the Bearfoot Bistro (my 2015 Expedia Viewfinder Pick for best restaurant).
In summertime, the apex of mountain chic does not lose any momentum. When the sun’s out, ski trails are replaced with an intricate network of bike and hiking paths ranging in difficulty from “hard as heck” to “easy rider,” and it’s the same stylish scene (except this time, it’s one’s finest sandals instead of snow boots).
When it comes to noshing, you’ll find a range of options suited to Whistler’s panorama of palates. For a taste of the local haul, from fishing line to field, secure a seat at Alta Bistro. When you arrive, don’t be fooled by the minimalist wood-and-mason-jar decorated environs—the jars aren’t just for show, but rather a working display where preserved provisions hint at the menu’s homegrown brilliance with dishes such as local oysters paired with a preserved berry granita and fresh lemon.
A few steps up the Whistler Village Stroll, find Bar Oso, Whistler’s hottest address for Spanish tapas, with a dedicated gin-and-tonic menu. Helmed by Madrid-raised chef Jorge Muñoz Santos, who sharpened his knife in his family’s restaurant before coming to Canada, its small plates like beef tartare and duck liver–topped toasts are significant enough to fill hungry tummies but petite enough to keep you wanting more. All this in a geometric, tile-clad space straight out of Barcelona, which gives your meal an urban upgrade.
Since brunch is a big deal during any getaway—especially ones that involve physical activity—I’d be remiss not to mention my favorite meal of the day. Whether you head to the hills or to the spa, start your day with a dose of comfort cuisine at Stonesedge Kitchen. Take a cue from the hungry locals who flock to the woodsy eatery for their hearty breakfast bowls of all four food groups anchored with eggs. Sporting deer decor throughout (figurines are even integrated into the crystal chandeliers), wood furniture, and purposely frayed linen napkins, it reminds you you’re in the heart of West Coast casual.
When it comes time to put a little mileage on your gold card, CAN-SKI Blackcomb, an upscale outdoor-clothing store offering gear of the Prada proclivity, has a personal shopping service available in case you don’t feel like lifting a finger.
At the opposite side of the spectrum, DIY shoppers and coffee lovers will love Camp Lifestyle + Coffee Co.—an outdoorsy-cool destination shop complete with a campfire and Adirondack chairs that’s a 10-minute drive from Whistler Village. Here, live-edge tables that look as though they came straight from a forest display goods such as clothing, totes, ceramics, beer growlers, pillows, canoe paddles, tents, and chocolate sourced and crafted nearby.
How do you design your alpine-styled getaways?
Whistler photos courtesy of Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane; spa photo courtesy of Scandinave Spa.