Getting to Whistler took a little longer than anticipated. We arrived in Squamish (40 minutes later) to be informed that instead of the expected 1 hour drive from Squamish to Whistler, the road was blocked indefinitely, due to an accident blocking the highway. Six hours later we arrived in Whistler, after joining the ‘Whistler Crawl’ about 5km out. Without any exaggeration, it was like arriving in a magical wonderland. There were Christmas lights twinkling in almost every tree, and the snow sparkled under the street lights. Let the fairy-tale begin.
Where to stay
I would recommend anyone and everyone stay at the HI-Whistler. Home to the Olympic Athletes back in 2010, it was modern, clean, spacious and private. There were two bunks in my room, each with an individual shelf, power socket and locker. The bathroom facilities were shared with next door (so another four people) and the shower, toilet and sink were all contained in different rooms. The main disadvantage is that it’s not right in the town centre, however jump on bus #15 or #2 (so long as it isn’t bound for Whistler Creek) and it will take you from outside the hostel, right into town (stops at both the shops and the chairlift).
What to do
- You mean besides ski? I would have to say walk. The whole of Whistler Village is entirely walkable. Everything is close together, people are a plenty, and snow is everywhere. Words can’t describe how magical this place was – it was peaceful and sleepy, yet so alive. It got dark so early, but it was still so colourful.
- Skiing /snowboarding is the obvious reason why one visits Whistler in the winter. With two enormous ski fields, it would be entirely possible to do a new run every time, all day long. The bus drops you right at the bottom of the chairlift, which is right next to the ticket office, and also adjacent to the gear rental and ski-schools. It cost me $125 for a one-day pass, and $65 for skis and boots. Once kitted up, I jumped into the fully-enclosed gondola, and settled in for a 35minute ride up the mountain. There were powder-junkies everywhere – I quickly learnt that turning was much harder than back in NZ – I ate snow a few times! Aside from the powder, the main difference was that in Whistler you are skiing amongst trees – my favourite run was called the ‘Enchanted Forest’. The two ski fields are connected by a gondola called “Peak 2 Peak” which is the highest and longest in the world. A few of the gondolas have a glass bottom, so you can see the trees in the distance below – spectacular, but eerie. A complete run from the top to bottom of the mountain took almost an hour, which is incredible given it takes about 5 minutes in New Zealand.
- The Whistler Public Library is just off the town centre; it is a snuggly place to cuddle up with a book and pass the afternoon away. Next door is the Whistler Museum (admission by donation) which illustrates the Olympic history of the township.
- Garfinkels. The place to go, the place to be seen at. Especially after 11pm.
- Whistler Creek Athletic Club is a great place for a work-out or a spa and sauna on that day off from the slopes ($11.50). There is also a cosy wood-fired pizza place next door.
Where to eat
- El Furniture Warehouse. It doesn’t sell furniture, and it should be number one on everyone’s list. With a queue out the door (yes, we waited approximately 20 minutes in the cold) the place is pumping from about lunchtime. One of the main reasons – every single thing on the menu is $4.95. From nachos, to salads, to burgers to drinks – it has everything. And everything is delicious (and of a normal sized portion).
- Naked Sprout. Delicious treats, smoothies and salads, it’s located right in the village centre. I ended up being a repeat offender, despite my intentions to always eat somewhere new. The place is modern, healthy and has great Wi-Fi, which is always a bonus! I can highly recommend the Date Smoothie (with dates, banana, almond milk and ginger).
- Green Moustache. Not far from the IGA, it is another café specialising in vegan and organic food. I had beetroot soup, and it was one of the best soups I have ever had in my life. Attached is a gift shop, which has lots of handmade arts and crafts.
- Supermarkets – there is a super expensive mini-supermarket right in town, which usually wins out because of its absolute convenience, however there is an IGA on the outskirts of town (a massive chain supermarket).