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North American Spring Skiing: Whistler Mountain

North American Spring Skiing: Whistler Mountain
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BY MARY JANE HORTON

A couple of years ago my family set out on what we thought would probably be the last family trip for a while at least–with an almost 20-year-old college student son, Zach, and a 16-year-old daughter, Chloe–my husband and I could see our family travel days coming to an end. My daughter, a weather-starved Los Angeles girl, had been craving a snow vacation. She had fond memories of winter vacations in Mammoth when she was younger. Whistler, British Columbia, fit the bill perfectly. It wasn’t too far from our Los Angeles home, and it was a foreign country to boot.

Easy Access and Sunny Days

After about a three-hour flight from Los Angeles, and a two-hour limo ride straight up, we arrived in Whistler in the afternoon. The sun was just setting, making the sky a dramatic blue, and the white snow glistening, it was simply heavenly. Whistler Blackcomb, the site of the 2010 Olympics, is nothing less than idyllic. The setting, with a walkable village full of great restaurants and shops, is perfect—you get out of your car and don’t have to get in it again until you leave. Everything, including the lifts, are a few minutes from most of the hotels.

This time of year, spring skiing is especially inviting. Not only are the prices lower than in the height of the winter, you can often ski in short sleeves (don’t forget the sunscreen!), the days are longer, crowds thinner, and you can enjoy après ski time on the patio of the lodge.  And there is currently 11 feet of snow on the ground with more on the way. What could be better?

Our experience, in the winter, was logistically the same as spring skiing. The only difference is that we probably wouldn’t have had to wait on the crazy-making lift lines, and our days would have been longer.

All the comforts of home and more

For us everything went without a hitch. We stayed at the Westin Resort and Spa, Whistler http://www.westinwhistler.com. This all-suite property is right on the slopes (which is true for many of the hotels), with all the comforts of home and more–a ski concierge to help you out and give you hot chocolate–on each floor–washers and dryers for all that après ski clothing care, an upscale restaurant, a more casual restaurant, and shops.         

Ski Bunnies

Our first day, and after day after was carefree and active. We had already ordered all of our ski equipment. Chloe and I were the only ones who were ready to commit to skiing every day. The “boys” were on their own. So we picked up our gear right in our hotel the night we arrived (so convenient). The next morning, Chloe and I ventured out into a crisp, dark morning (In the winter, unlike this time of year, it doesn’t get light until around 7:30 a.m.) to get her started with her teen snowboard class and buy lift tickets. I sent her off and took a moment to stop at one of the several independent coffee shops in town (yes, they have Starbucks too), and just drank in the atmosphere with my mocha. Then I made my way to the beginner slope (even though I have been skiing since I was a kid, I don’t stress myself anymore).

With over 8,000 acres of terrain on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, this is an impressive ski venue, and with its incredible new Peak to Peak Gondola that goes from the top of each mountain to the other in 11 minutes offering sweeping views, the setting is world class. Altogether the resorts offer Terrain Parks and Half Pipes, Tree forts, Kids Adventure Parks, 200 marked trails from beginner to advanced.

More than Skiing

But more than skiing, Whistler has ambiance. For me, a New York transplant to Los, Angles, who grew up skiing in Switzerland, the cozy mountain village just felt familiar and comfortable. Whistler felt more and more like Zermatt, where I skied as a child, than any other place I had ever been. Chloe loved her snowboard class, and met kids from Hong Kong, Australia, and England, while I brushed up on my skiing.

I took a daily walk in the village, sometimes with my husband and son, sometimes venturing out to the cross-country skiing area, Lost Lake, where you could still walk because it was early in the season (and late in the season it is the same – you can walk, cross-country ski, or snowshoe in this area). We went snowmobiling to the top of the mountain one evening—terrifying but exhilarating), ate raclette (a melted cheese dish from Switzerland), fondue and other great food. We didn’t have time for sleighing or dog-sledding on this trip.  But those activities are available as are: skating, zipline, bungee jumping sleigh riding and more.  We all bonded and had a terrific time. Whistler – for families, for singles, for couples – is the perfect venue for spring skiing with a European flair.

For further information on the tons of activities available, go to http://www.whistler.com/activities/winter/

Hotels

Besides the Westin, there are several slop-side choices. Here are a few:

Summit Lodge and Spa

Located on the edge of Village North, this property an intimate retreat with the luxuries of a first class hotel. Take a stroll through the Whistler Village, or enjoy the local fine dining. This convenient location puts you next door to shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and Whistler’s favorite entertainment spots. All this within ten minutes walking of both mountain gondolas.

Four Seasons Resort Whistler

The Four Seasons Resort Whistler is a true luxury resort hotel located in Whistler’s Upper Village. It has a full spa, heath club, pool, restaurant and bar and rooms include fireplaces and spacious, luxurious bathrooms. Also available, a ski valet you don’t have to carry your gear back and forth to the ski hill.

Crystal Lodge and Suites

Known for its amazing location in Whistler’s Village; The Crystal is steps away from both the Whistler and Blackcomb gondolas. The Crystal has 7 restaurants/lounges to choose from, 22 retail shops, outdoor pool and hot tub, complimentary ski valet at the mountain base and underground parking.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Voted #1 Resort for Leisure Facilities by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine, Whistler’s grand chateau, the landmark Fairmont Chateau Whistler, is nestled in the heart of the Upper Village at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. It features a ski-in, ski-out location, mountainside health club, Vida Wellness Spa, heated outdoor/indoor pools, hot tubs and slopeside restaurants and terrace.

Sundial Boutique Hotel/Carlton Lodge

In the heart of Whistler Village, this hotel offers spacious one and two-bedroom suites. Every suite includes a full kitchen, separate living area, gas fireplace and free high speed wireless internet. There are also four on-site restaurants.

For more information on hotel and condo options, visit: http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/accommodations/index.htm

Restaurants

The restaurants …. ahhh … the restaurants. You couldn’t ask for a more eclectic–and delicious–offering of high scale eateries anywhere.

Our family loved Crêpe Mantagne  http://www.crepemontagne.com/crepe-montagne/index.php and went back twice–once for Swiss Raclette and once for Fondue–both house specialities. European, charming and friendly, Crêpe Montagne is also popular for breakfast.

For great Italian food, we splurged at Il Caminetto,  http://www.ilcaminetto.ca.

Located in the heart of Whistler Village, this very authentic restaurant was warm and  hospitable and the food was outstanding. They offer a showcase of local and Italian products on a regionally-inspired menu.

Finally, for local Canadian cuisine, Araxi, http://www.araxi.com, in the village square, offers the freshest of fresh local ingredients.  Standouts are BC oysters and Vancouver Island octopus.

For more information on these and more restaurants, go to: www.whistler.com/dining.

Mary Jane Horton has been a writer/editor for 30 years. She has written for such magazines as Runner’s World, Fodor’s Guides, Time, Ms., Shape, Prevention, Living Fit, Woman’s Day special interest publications, to name a few, and worked as an editor for Fit Pregnancy magazine. Most recently she was editor in chief of Plum magazine, a health and lifestyle magazine for women over 35.

 

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