Eight Memorable Whistler Moments

From fresh tracks to fois gras

image by lara kroeker

We’d like to introduce Toque & Canoe’s first “guest” blogger – our Webby-award winning West Coast friend Lara Kroeker. She hung out in Whistler, B.C. over the spring break and emerged – lucky for us – with her most memorable Whistler moments. Enjoy!

1. Sea to Sky Highway

The Sea to Sky Highway – which takes you to Whistler from Vancouver – has been rated as one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world. One side of the highway features the steep shoreline of Howe Sound and the other side is flanked by the Coast Mountains that extend all the way to Alaska. After a two hour drive, my daughter and husband were ready to spring out of the car and cut loose in Whistler. But I had to sit for a moment and bask in the glow of a great ride.

2. Fresh Tracks

I’m not easily motivated to get up at the crack of dawn. But Fresh Tracks – a program where you get breakfast on the mountain top and the opportunity to ski before anyone else hits the hill – is worth the pain. Bleary-eyed, we stared at each other like zombies in the gondola as we climbed over 6,000 feet to the top of the mountain. When we arrived, the snow was glistening, the sun was shining and the wind was manic. With a warm breakfast in our bellies, we surfed – free as the wind – down the snowy slopes. I couldn’t help but feel as if I OWNED the mountain.

3. Horstman Hut

Located at the top of 7th Heaven Express, Horstman Hut is Blackcomb Mountain’s European-themed restaurant. Just as my daughter was starting to complain about her tootsies getting cold, we brought her here for a yummy hot meat pie. We had the same – with the added benefit of washing ours down with a frosty German beer. Then we were ready and re-fuelled for another few hours of snowboarding.

4. Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre

A cultural centre in the heart of “adventureland” is a hard thing to convince your family to do, but well worth the effort. The Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre was built to help preserve cultures indigenous to the Whistler area. This place buzzes with activity and the bannock and venison pemmican in the cafeteria are scrumptious. Later, as you zoom down the mountains through towering trees, it’s hard not to think of these cultures and their powerful relationship to the land.

5. Skating

Almost everyone who goes to Whistler has had their picture taken inside the Olympic Rings so you might as well join the fun. They’re on the south side of Whistler Olympic Plaza which features a free skating rink during the winter months. While you’re there, why not bring along your blades and boogie under the disco ball for the added enjoyment of humiliating your teen?

6. Function Junction

Drive south of Whistler Village for 10 minutes to Function Junction and you’ll find local art galleries, antique shops, second hand stores and design studios. It’s gritty and underdeveloped and feels a world away from Whistler mostly because everything doesn’t match. Just after the turn-off, you’ll find two places conveniently located next to each other, Bounce, a trampoline and foam-pit training centre and The Whistler Brewing Company. So while your kids are bouncing off the walls and learning trickster moves, you get to saunter next door to sip on tasters and tour the brewery. Civilized. You don’t even have to pick up your kids. They just find find you when they are done.

7. Il Caminetto

O.K., if you’re going to splurge one night on dinner, I promise you’ll leave Il Caminetto – which features fine Tuscan cuisine – feeling like your money was well spent. Angus beef shortribs with a creamy herb polenta. Fois gras with delicious cherry accents. Stewed rabbit. Tiramisu. What’s more, the staff are unpretentious so if you forget all your foodie terms no worries, the waitress won’t make you feel like a country bumpkin.

8. Zip-Lining

It was family month in Whistler during the month of March and zip-lining was free for the kids so I got tickets from Cougar Mountain’s Tag Adventure Group (even though my husband is terrified of heights.) The deal was, I would happily watch the hockey game at the bar afterwards if he strapped on the harness and jumped. Traveling through the tree tops at over 100 km per hour? Dreamy. Seeing my husband conquer his fear of heights? Awesome. Watching the hockey game later? Torture.

Lara Kroeker is the co-founder of www.randomlink.com – an interactive storytelling company in Vancouver. She’s also the executive producer of the Webby award-winning travel family series www.hittheroad.tv.

Now it’s your turn. Comment on this story and tell us what you think. What ONE thing does someone visiting Whistler (no matter what the season) absolutely have to experience? Tell us why. Best comment wins AWESOME swag bag from Tourism Whistler. Contest ends April 11, 2012 at midnight.

Contest update: Congrats to Lynn for her amusing Whistler anecdote and recommendation. Your package from Tourism Whistler is in the mail!

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  1. Gillian @OneGiantStep commented:

    I’ve only ever visited Whistler in the summer. As an avid mountain biker I would say the ONE thing everyone should do is bring their bike (or rent a skookum one at the hill) and drop in at the Whistler Bike Park. There is something for everyone; from Easy Does It to Angry Pirate (my fave!) and Goat’s Gully (I’ll do it one day!). Top it all off with a cold one at one of the pubs facing the hill at the end of the day. Perfection.


  2. Lynn commented:

    Whistler/Blackcomb is my one of my favorite ski resorts. Bar none! If you’re lucky enough to get a clear day, you see across the coastal mountains all the way to the ocean. It is the most spectacular vision a ski hill can offer.
    So not too long ago, just following my 40th b-day (after being newly separated), I joined a good friend at her Whistler condo along with a bunch of other 40 Somethings. I had a thing or two to prove.
    We skied hard the first day and the whole time I prodded my friends to join me on a run called the Sudan Couloir (French for “suddenly steep”). No takers the first day, so I coaxed and cajoled on day 2 but still no takers. Last run of the day I figured it was just me, myself and I so I headed up the series of chairs to get to Seventh Heaven. I had a bit of an adrenalin rush going. You get to 40 and you start to realize that you might be a little less invincible.
    I was a bit worried, as I hadn’t skied it the Sudan for more than 10 years. I’m living in Kelowna now so I don’t get to ski Whistler/Blackcomb as often as I’d like. I wondered if I could still jump into that shoot and pull it off like I could in my late 20’s.
    Unfortunately, with nerves on edge and a full bladder from bevvies at lunch, I realized I needed to use the ladies room before my launch. “You can do this Lynn,” I kept saying to myself. “You may be 40 but you still got it. It’s just a shoot and some turns and you’ll be done.”
    Skis off and walking to the bathroom in ski boots at Seventh (there’s actually an outhouse perched up on a cliff), I turned the corner, hit ice on the wooden deck and completely canned it.
    Ouch. I manage to wipe out good enough to gather a group of concerned skiers. “Are you ok?” “Do you need some help?” “You kinda hit your head and knee hard – you OK?” Mostly hurting from the embarrassment of wiping out in front of an audience, I managed to limp to the ladies. Then it was off to the Sudan.
    I confess I skied it beautifully. It was the BEST feeling; heart beating hard, the slope is steep is enough so that the snow seems to not be there between turns and then your skis land and you keep the rhythm going to the next turn.
    Then, before you know it’s over. You’re in a great big bowl of snow. My day happened to be sunny skies and fresh snow. It doesn’t get better.
    The frosting on this snowy cake was getting back to the condo. The girls were all waiting and wondering when I’d get back and if I was OK. It was late. I limped in because the unfortunate wipe out on the way to the can left my knee swollen and stiff. They were all concerned but sadly I had to admit that no, it wasn’t the Sudan that took me out, just some ice on a deck on the way to the loo.
    40 Something and I still had it, well sort of. Now looking at 50 I’m hoping I can do it again and this time with a little more grace…
    Do I recommend the Sudan? You bet I do.


  3. Jen commented:

    One of the things I would highly recommend doing in Whistler is snowshoeing around Lost Lake! The snow capped trees, frozen lake and warming hut….along with the friendly locals and tourists alike you will meet along the trail makes it all a great workout and a unique way to experience one of Whistler’s attractions!


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