Whistler beyond the ski hill

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hitting the hottest off-slope spots

There’s a silver lining to Vancouver, Canada’s rainy winters: snow on the mountains. When the rain hits hard in October, winter enthusiasts get stoked for snow as the surrounding mountaintops turn white. Come November, a storm of skiers head for the local hills and make the 90-minute pilgrimage to Whistler, consistently voted one of the top ski resorts in North America by a powder keg of publications.

Living in Vancouver, I’ve been visiting the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics since I snowplowed down the hill in pigtails and a neon pink snowsuit. If I found myself sipping hot chocolate in a hot tub at the end of the day, I was in heaven. This was my introduction to après-ski (French for after skiing).

Nowadays, my perfect start-to-finish ski day involves an early morning trip to 7th Heaven, one of the highest peaks at the resort, where I ski like hell. Mid-morning finds that same hot chocolate calling my name. When the clock strikes 1 p.m., I channel Lindsay Vonn and swish down the mountain to get a jump-start on Whistler’s adult après-ski scene – a series of activities as important as the ski day itself.

From 2 p.m. onwards, most of the mountain’s powder hounds congregate on mountain-view patios sipping beer, noshing nachos, and comparing notes at hot spots like Garibaldi Lift Co. (locals call it “GLC”), the Longhorn Saloon, and Merlin’s Bar. Word to the wise: going straight to these watering holes from the hill is part of the Whistler’s ski DNA.

There’s a quiet moment between the afternoon and evening après-ski sessions when locals head home and visitors head to their hotels. During this transition, it’s key for ski-vival to relax and rekindle your fire for the next round of off-slope activities. This is best accomplished at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, my local hotel crush graced with rooms spacious enough for an entourage, a Ski Concierge to wrangle gear, an on-site spa to soothe strained muscles, and a fleet of Mercedes-Benz SUVs to drop you at the next après address. Bonus: the lobby smells like a cedar forest infused with a hint of vanilla.

Viewfinder Tip: Order a bottle of bubbly at the Bearfoot Bistro and ask to saber it, Napoleon-style, in the restaurant’s 20,000-bottle wine cellar.

If flutes of sparkling speak to your ski soul more than beer and nachos, elevate your après experience at Whistler’s most iconic restaurant. Led by award-winning Chef Melissa Craig and bon vivant restaurateur, André Saint-Jacques, the Bearfoot Bistro delivers in both the splash and substance departments with palate and eye-pleasing seasonal tasting menus and a magic show dessert blending cream with liquid nitrogen to craft a smooth-as-silk sweet treat (read: nitro ice cream).


Belvedere Ice Room at the Bearfoot Bistro

Filled to the brim (and then some) from dinner, I’m wooed into a Canadian carpe diem moment and find myself in the Bearfoot’s -25 degree Fahrenheit Belvedere Ice Room (the world’s coldest vodka tasting room). Before entering, I’m handed a Canada Goose down jacket to ward off the chill, and waltz into the wintery-blue sanctum to toss back the clear-as-ice spirit. No future nightcap will ever compare.

A zen end (or daily enhancement) to any Whistler vacation involves a few hours at Scandinave Spa. Here, I trade my snowsuit for my bathing suit, and aches and pains for restoration, practicing a Nordic bathing ritual. Cycling through the hot-cold-relax sequence – a series of hot therapies, cold immersions, and relaxation spaces carved into the hillside – I’m completely smitten by my wellness wonderland lit by the stars and the glow of crackling fires. Add in an oh-so-Canadian snow-capped mountain view and a strict code of silence, and I consider skipping the hill tomorrow in favor of all-day après-ski.

What are your après-ski traditions?

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Trip Styler

Trish Friesen chose an unlikely profession given her fear of flying and propensity toward car, air, boat, train, and chairlift sickness. Thanks to Gravol, Sea-Bands, and cruise ship stabilizers, the reluctant—yet enthusiastic—jetsetter packs her bag once every two weeks to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef or to sample the latest libation in Portland. Trish unpacks her suitcase in Vancouver, Canada, Eh! where she’s the editor-in-chief of TripStyler.com, a travel lifestyle website for aspiring jetsetters. Find her moonlighting on Expedia, Fodor's, Jetsetter, and as a travel expert on TV while circumventing the globe with her entourage: a MacBook Air, an Olympus camera, and the biggest carry-on she can fit on the plane.

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