Home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, attracting approximately 2.1million visitors each year, Whistler has something to offer for just about everybody. Yes that’s right, you don’t have to be an avid skier/snowboarder, or even interested in skiing/snowboarding to have a good time in Whistler.
I stayed there for 1week at the end of January, skiing for 4days and the remaining 3days were for exploring. Even then I ran out of time to see/experience it all!
Located in Creekside (the original base of Whistler Mountain), just 7km outside Whistler Village and 500 metres from the Creekside Gondola, is Nita Lake Lodge…my base for the week. A cosy, timber framed lodge nestled on the shores of a stunning alpine lake and an escape from the hustle and bustle of Whistler’s hub. The hotel even runs a complimentary shuttle into the heart Whistler throughout the day.
I had the pleasure of staying in a very spacious lake view room with a balcony, a fireplace, large bathroom and a super comfortable bed. The rooftop hot tubs complete with an incredible view of the mountain were an added, blissful bonus!
As much as I liked the hotel itself, and the staff and their service for that matter, I would be lying if I recommended that you stay in Creekside. If I were to do it all over again, I would definitely want to be more central. Everywhere that you will want to be is in the heart of Whistler, with the exception of one or two restaurants. I had only been skiing a couple of times before, and so am very much still a novice. Come the end of the skiing day I was tired, hot, sweaty, sore……..my hair at the best of times struggles to behave itself, so taking off my ski-hat and sitting around feeling and looking disgusting was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to go back to my hotel room, freshen up, get ready for dinner and feel good about myself.
Staying in Creekside and having to wait for the hotel shuttle was just another obstacle that, frankly, I couldn’t be bothered with. By the time I got to the hotel the thought of having to go back on myself again for dinner proved to be too much of an effort at times. Long story short, I would have found the après ski experience a lot more appealing had I have been more central.
If, however, you prefer to be away from it all and decide to stay in Creekside you absolutely must have dinner at Creekbread. Home to the best, wood-fired pizza I’ve ever had!
They are known for their use of local and organic ingredients, including nitrate free meats, and only use fire to cook. So delicious that I ate there 3 times. Tell them how much you enjoyed it by leaving them a message on their blackboard before you leave.
They do not accept reservations, however they do recommend calling ahead 20minutes prior to arrival. This isn’t a reservation as such, but you do move up the seating list as you make your way down to the restaurant.
My three top eats in the heart of Whistler are:
The Mexican Corner – extremely popular and rightly so! A must visit if you, like me, love Mexican style food washed down with a tasty Margarita. They don’t accept reservations, but if you arrive and there are no tables they will put your name on the list and send you a text when your table is ready. That way you can go for a stroll and there is no need to wait in line.
Hys Steakhouse – second to none for high quality food and service! Reservations available.
Basalt Wine and Salumeria – an afternoon was very well spent here, nibbling on cheeses, breads, cured meats, olives, pate……I am salivating as I type this and relive the experience. Not to mention the amazing wine selection and cocktails on offer. We were lucky enough to nab a table outside beside one of their fires and just watched as the world went by. It was simply perfect!
Reservations, again, are available.
Aside from these favourites of mine there is no shortage of eateries in Whistler, some better than others. My best advice…ask the locals!
Now let’s get down to business. Less talk about my eating/drinking habits and more about some of the amazing activities Whistler has to offer.
There are multiple providers with whom you can organise excursions. I booked with Canadian Wilderness Adventures and opted for the 3 hour ‘Wilderness Run” tour. This particular tour is suitable for adventurous beginners and intermediate riders. However you can choose different tours to suit your skillset.
Don’t worry if you’ve never ridden a snowmobile before, it was a first for me. The guide will keep you right and teach you the tricks of the trade before embarking on the beautiful adventure through thickly forested trails, over frozen lakes and up Sproatt Mountain where we paused for photo opportunities and a stretch of the arms.
I have to say, I was surprised at just how much effort it took to steer these bad boys. I shamefully admit, however, that I am quite the weakling when it comes to upper body strength.
Aside from my aching arms the next day, I had an absolute blast snowmobiling and was very impressed with Canadian Wilderness Adventures as a tour provider.
The price at the time was $199 for a single rider or $159 per person sharing. The official destination website for Whistler details the various packages available and any offers that are running.
I would advise booking well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Before I begin to tell you how enjoyable this experience was, I first need to get a few points across.
Animal abuse is rife within tourism and lack of awareness among travellers is what keeps it going. You will never catch me on the back of an elephant being prodded by a man with a stick. Nor will you find me lying with a doped up tiger posing for pictures. My eyes have been opened in recent years to just how cruel people can be and for this reason, like many other people out there, I was very sceptical of the dogsledding industry. Having never seen nor experienced it first hand I had concerns for the dogs’ welfare. How are they treated? Do they actually enjoy this? Are they happy? Sadly there are bad people in every aspect of life, and dogsledding has had its fair share of bad press just like all other animal based tourism activities.
Before booking this tour I carefully reviewed websites and enquired about multiple tour providers. The general consensus was that Canadian Wilderness Adventures are simply the best when it comes to looking after their animals.
At first approach I saw some dogs already harnessed together in preparation for the run. This didn’t settle my initial nerves, as I hadn’t seen where they came from or how long they had been there. However, we then saw more dogs being led from their spacious enclosure to be prepped for the other sleds. Having seen their kennels and social space I instantly felt better.
Each dog is then examined for any issues with joints or paws before setting off, and some are given protective socks to wear depending on their sensitivity. We saw dogs being swapped out for others, which confirmed that the checks were genuine. That being said, this didn’t make the dogs being swapped out happy. The barks and howls of jealousy couldn’t be denied!
While the dogs are being geared up, their demeanour is very relaxed. As time goes on and the dogs’ sense that they are nearly ready to go, they get more and more excited and the howling gets louder and louder. When it comes to go time the noise is wild! These dogs are seriously raring to go! It really was quite amazing to witness how excited they were. It has to be seen to be believed.
On your marks……..set……..GO!
The dogs are suddenly at ease, running in unison, following their leader (each sled has an alpha dog who shows authority as natural pack animals do). From my point of view I could only see the dogs behind, but you can absolutely sense how happy they are. I was instantly brought to tears of happiness myself. This was so so special to be a part of.
We took multiple rest breaks along the way for the dogs’ benefits. They of course get hot running with all that fur, and so love to take every opportunity to roll around in the deep snow and cool off. But they don’t like to stop for long, because as soon as they are back on the harness they are howling again, eager as anything and waiting to feel you take your foot off that brake!
Once back at base we got to reward each of the dogs with a treat. They are then given a hearty meal of meat, veggies and kibble. We toured around the kennels and met all of the other dogs who were all just hanging out together. They were very sociable and affectionate.
Whilst I realise there are many sled-dogs that are mistreated in the world and taken advantage of……mark my words…….the Canadian Wilderness Adventures’ sled-dogs are not among them! At no stage did I see even the slightest sign of mistreatment.
This experience was so wonderfully memorable and I would recommend it all day long. Again, I would advise booking well in advance to avoid disappointment.
A special shout out to our guide Hal who was admiringly passionate, caring and knowledgeable when it came to the dogs and his work there.
If you get a clear day, this is an absolute must. The vistas are breath-taking! I would urge you to keep an eye on the weather when planning which day you are going to go up. The clearer the better.
You have the option to wait in a longer queue to travel in a glass bottomed gondola, but to be honest there is nothing special enough about it to warrant waiting that much longer than for a normal gondola. You’ll end up looking out the windows and barely looking down anyway. It’s also worth mentioning that the whole bottom isn’t glass, there is just a panel in the middle of the floor that is.
Allow yourself plenty of time to not only ride the gondola, but to also stop off for some hot chocolate whilst on the mountains and truly appreciate the views.
If you’re ever going to visit an ice bar, where better to do it than in a snowy location like Whistler?
The Bearfoot Bistro is an award winning, fine dining restaurant. It is also home to the coldest vodka tasting room in the world! It’s so cold that you are only allowed to be in the bar for a specified amount of time. I even witnessed icicles forming on my boyfriend’s beard! This temperature creates an optimal environment for sampling a vast selection of premium vodkas from around the world. They keep over 40 different vodkas in house.
A short but sweet, informative, quirky and very fun experience. The price at the time was $48 per person for the vodka tasting experience.
After all was said and done, we had explored and had skied until our hearts were content, there was only one thing left on the list…a much-needed massage! Nita Lake Lodge certainly took care of that.
Whistler proved to be a magical winter wonderland that truly got under my skin. I know I’ll be back someday.
Until the next time………..