In 1999 I started college and made a friend who would entertain me with stories of his family’s winter ski vacation antics in Whistler. Fast forward ten years later and in December 2009 I had been married to this same friend (oh hi Bryan!) for three years and was about to embark on the same family ski vacation I had heard so much about a decade earlier. The only problem being, I didn’t ski.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Growing up I spent countless winter vacations in Montana as a child and in Oregon as a teenager. I’ve had the requisite number of lessons but finally gave it up after one cold day in Oregon. I had been struggling to ski down Mount Bachelor and thought to myself, why am I even doing this… I hate this. But I LOVE winter vacations. As soon as the in-laws extended an invitation to take us to Whistler I started planning out a million things to do. This was probably why Bryan looked confused when he asked how many days of lift tickets I needed and I gave an emphatic “zero!” response.
Who this blog post is for:
If you love to ski or would love to learn how to ski, Whistler is definitely the place. On this same vacation in 2009 Bryan’s five year old twin cousins started skiing lessons for the first time. They’ve returned every year since then and I now watch the most amazing video footage of them skiing backwards, zipping in and out of trees and having the time of their lives. If you love to ski or would love to learn how to ski, this post however, is NOT for you. But if you envision yourself curled up next to a toasty fire sipping on hot chocolate or something a little more potent, read on my friend.
- Fly from New York City to Vancouver, British Columbia
- Take a shuttle bus from Vancouver to Whistler (via Downtown Vancouver)
- Spend six nights at the Tantalus Lodge in Whistler
- Take shuttle bus back to Vancouver and fly back to New York City
Our home away from home was the Tantalus Lodge, a perfect place for the eight adults in our party. Bryan and I stayed in a two-bedroom suite with Bryan’s brother and wife. The room also came with a kitchen and a nice dining area. We all purchased groceries in town and the eight of us would meet up in one of our two rooms for breakfast together before everyone disbursed for their various daily activities. The only downside was that it was a 15-minute walk away from the lifts and the ski village. And that walk could get icy. As a twenty-something year old sans child, this was perfect for Bryan and myself. However, now that Emily is in the picture, I understand why Bryan’s aunt and uncle opted for much closer (albeit much more expensive) accommodations since they had their twin five-year-olds in tow.
Day 1 – Travel Day
We took a flight out of New York into Vancouver and then caught a bus up to Whistler. Everything either came right on time or early and so we made it to Whistler in record time. That being said, after a long day of traveling we had no crazy night plans and instead stopped in at the Marketplace IGA for groceries for the week, including Tim Tams! (My Australian former-boss had introduced them to me before they ever made it to a U.S. store so I was so excited to find them here.) With that, we kicked off our vacation with pâté, melba toast and ice wine before calling it a night.
Day 2 – Crepes
Our first full day in Whistler started with a plan to eat some legendary crepes at Crepe Montagne. Considering Whistler Village takes only around one hour to walk through, we got definitely got our exercise when we got lost and took three hours to find the place. While possibly not worth three hours to find, the crepes did turn out to be pretty delicious. I had non-dessert crepes before Crepe Montagne but eating a breakfast dish over a crepe was a novelty for me… the one pictured below included an egg, Canadian ham, and cheese.
Day 2 – Sightseeing around Whistler Village
We spent the rest of the day sight seeing around Whistler. We were visiting 56 days before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler. It was so interesting to see the future site of the Celebration Plaza (pictured below) as well as all the signs posted around the town stating that they had petitioned the British Columbia liquor commissioner (or whomever was in charge of alcohol in the area) to allow open liquor consumption in the area.
The other items plastered all around town were pictures of the 2010 Olympic mascots. From right to left in the pictures, there were Sumi the Animal Spirit, Miga the Sea Bear, Quatchi the Sasquatch, and Mukmuk the Marmot. Bryan and I were big fans of Mukmuk. We spent most of our vacation being irritated that he didn’t get as much face time as the other Mascots. Fast forward to the Olympics and we finally learned that Mukmuk was only a sidekick of the other 3 official mascots and not a mascot himself (that wasn’t explained very well while we were in Whistler).
And now that I’ve spent entirely too much time on here discussing cartoon characters…
One of our last stops of the day in the village was to Cows for their legendary ice cream. They also sold clothing and I bought this fabulous t-shirt.
It’s hard to see (possibly because I insisted on a full body pic so that I could get my Princess pajama bottoms in the shot as well) but the shirt says “Edward Cowllen” for Cows Ice Cream and Edward Cullen. The cow pictured has freaky hair and sparkly signs around him. Too much? Probably, but I was pretty obsessed with Twilight back in the day.
Day 3 – Peak 2 Peak and views from the top of the Mountain(s)
Day 3 in Whistler took us to the top of the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains for some sightseeing. While skiers would ride the open-air chair lifts up to the top of either Whistler or Blackcomb mountain, nonskiers could also make it to the top in a gondola. As a way to travel from one mountain peak to the other, skiers and non-skiers alike can ride the Peak 2 Peak, a gondola that opened in December 2008 as a way to link the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains together. I loved that there was an option for the nonskiers to enjoy the top of the mountains. Although in case you couldn’t tell by my face in the below pictures, it was FREEZING at the top!
Not the greatest picture… but we could see the gondolas full of sightseers and skiers making their way up the mountain as we traveled across the valley in the PEAK 2 PEAK.
As we made our way up to the viewing deck on Whistler Mountain we marveled at the amount of snowfall. The snow made it all the way up to my knee in some areas. And at 5’9″, I’m not a small person.
We finished up Day 2 in Whistler by enjoying poutine at Zog’s Dogs near the foot of the mountain. To the traditional poutine of fries, gravy and cheese curds, I ordered sausage… in case the first three items weren’t artery clogging enough.
Day 4 – Morning in Whistler Village
Day 4 kicked off by sharing a beavertail for breakfast at Zog’s Dog. Basically it’s a smooshed up malasada or churro. This trip did not result in any weight loss that’s for sure.
We watched Santa Claus come to town on the back of the town’s fire truck. The firefighters charged people to take their photo with Santa and then donated the proceeds to the burn victims unit of a nearby hospital. Such a cute idea to raise money for charity!
DAY 4 – SNOWMOBILING
The big activity for day 4 was snowmobiling. We spent about three hours driving through forest terrain, going up and down the mountain and stopping for photo breaks. The only downside was this one woman in our group that never really felt comfortable enough to go very fast. Since the group had to stick together we never got to go as fast as we wanted. Regardless of the slowed speeds it was still a lot of fun.
All the snowmobile tours advertised a stop at the “back country yurt” for soup. At the time of the booking, I wasn’t exactly sure what a yurt was but I was very excited to stop there. Turns out, I was not disappointed. It was so cute! We were fed bread and tomato soup as well as hot chocolate in a little tent room equipped with a fire.
When it was time to leave we headed out to a frozen late (which is what I was standing on in the picture below). Some tours got to take their snowmobiles out for a drive on the frozen lake, but our guide said it was too early in the season for us to try that. There were no complaints from me as I would like proof that the entire lake was completely frozen solid before driving on it with a 600 pound (+me) piece of machinery.
Next stop… Broadway
The last hour or so of the trek I found myself in the last position on our snowmobile tour. This suited me perfectly as I channeled my inner Celine Dion and belt out songs while we drove along. I did verify that no one else was able to hear or see me do this. I started with what I considered my snowmobile theme song, “The Sound of Music”. Get it? “The hills are alive, with the sound of music…” (I’ll be here all night folks.) After I made my way through the entire Sound of Music soundtrack I worked my way through the Wicked Soundtrack, Baby It’s Cold Outside, and The Christmas Shoes, before finishing up with another rendition of The Sound of Music. My apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein! I’m sure my off-key singing (I’m pretty much tone deaf) was not what they envisioned when they wrote the song.
While riding the gondola down from Whistler Mountain on the previous day, a girl we were riding with told us stories about her friend that went from living in the city to working in the Yukon where the only commuting option to some places was via dogsled. She told us that for fun her friend would build fires on the lake and just sit on the lake near the fire enjoying the solitude. Us city-dwellers were shocked and even the girl telling the story thought it was a little boring. But after the peacefulness of being out in the forest (and singing my head off to the trees) I could see how it would be fun to pack a picnic, get on your snowmobile and drive off into the middle of nowhere to hang around a campfire.
Day 5 – Ziplining
One of the coolest thing I’ve done was going Ziplining through the snowy trees of Whistler with Ziptrek Ecotours. On Day 5 we were bused up the mountain. We spent the next three hours ziplining from one mountain to the other until we were back at the base. It snowed pretty heavily all day, which added to the experience as the entire landscape was completely covered.
There were some stairs involved to get up to the platforms and I’m not going to lie I was huffing and puffing by the end of our trek (note to self: visit gym immediately), but it wasn’t too bad. I was worried we’d be climbing the entire mountain, which was not the case.
There were five ziplines in total. The first was at the base of Whistler Village. The guides set us up down at the base and taught us what to do. We learned after the tour was over that the first zipline was a test. If you freaked out during that test, they would suggest you not continue on as once you start ziplining in the forest there was no other easy way back down the mountain, except through the use of ziplines.
And yes, I think I was flailing about during all my zips.
This guy claims he’s scared of heights
Day 5 – High Tea
When we finished ziplining we headed over to the ultra luxurious Fairmont Chateau for afternoon high tea in their lounge. I know I had good things to say about Tantalus Lodge, but if money is no object to you definitely stay at the Fairmont Chateau instead, it was so beautiful.
Our day ended with a fire and ice show that we just sort of happened upon as we were making our way back to our hotel after dinner. I’ll admit this isn’t the greatest photo but snowboarders were taking turns jumping through this ring of fire right before the show ended with a fireworks display.
Day 6 – Do you want to build a snowman?
Or snowbear… Back during our first day in Whistler when we ventured into Marketplace IPA for sustenance I also stumbled upon a “build a bear” package. The package turned out to be instructions on how to make a bear out of snow. It also included a bunch of plastic add-ons to give the bear its special features. By 2009 I had been living on the east coast for 10 years, but since I was always a Hawaii kid at heart, I couldn’t get enough of playing in the snow. Bryan and I ended up spending all morning on our project.
Day 7 – Homeward bound
We left Whistler the same way we got there. The Vancouver-Whistler shuttle made its way back to the Vancouver International Airport. Once there, we caught our flight back to New York.
I had researched a lot of other things to do while in Whistler. However, since I had been pretty busy at work prior to this vacation I ended up deciding to taking it easy just enjoy the relaxation and just getting to walk around Whistler Village. However, if you are looking for a little more action the following activities are also offered in Whistler to entertain the non-skiers: