While it’s best known for its expansive terrain, amazing snow and high-speed lifts, Whistler is unlike your typical ski resort. And as winter comes to an end, and the snow starts to melt, there is still plenty to see and do – and if you’re looking to have a day off the slopes, or aren’t the keenest skier or boarder, here are five ways to still have an incredible time in the mountains:
1. SPA IN THE SNOW
Soothe those aching muscles at the picturesque Scandinave Spa, an outdoor spa that employs the principles of hydrotherapy (a process that is designed to improve wellness and promote relaxation). The experience involves three stages – heat, cool and relax.
Begin by heating the body in the hot baths and eucalyptus steam room, sauna and/or thermal waterfalls and then cool down in the Nordic waterfalls, cold baths or outdoor shower (don’t be put off by this one just because you’re in a ski resort). The final stage will see you relax at one of the spa’s many facilities – choose to lay back in a hammock, sit by the outdoor fireplace and more. The process is designed to be repeated a handful of times, and its important not to talk. Cost is CAD $58.
There are also specialised treatments on offer at the spa, such as the Deep Tissue package (CAD $158), which includes bath access and a 60-minute deep tissue style massage, as well as the Serenity Package (CAD $179) an all-encompassing option that includes bath access, a 60-minute Swedish massage, lunch, stainless steel water bottle and more.
2. UPDATE YOUR GEAR
Whistler is complete with a number of ski and board shops, and they stock a broad range of brands and styles – there really is something for everyone. Here, three stores you need to check out.
Can-Ski stores are conveniently located throughout the resort, including Creekside. Expect to find a range of top brands including Oakley (great for googles), Canada Goose (their jackets are incredibly warm and the hoods are lined with fur),Bogner (the brand for those who like their ski wear a little extravagant) as well as Rossignol, Head and Atomic for skis, to name a few. They also stock all those smaller necessities including helmets, gloves and thermals.
If you’re looking to purchase your very own pair of ski boots (we all know how uncomfortable those generic hire boots can be), make a beeline for Surefoot Whistler – manager Sam McDonald and his team of friendly staff specialise in the art of custom boot fitting. They help you to select the right boot based on your needs and ability, as well as the computer-generated measurements they take of your feet (the insole scan measures feet in 538 different places).
From here, they create your unique boot insole (similar to an orthotic) and then go about the foam fitting service, whereby the selected boots are specifically moulded to your feet. Surefoot also offers a fit guarantee, so if the boots cause you any pain or discomfort you can head back in to any store and have adjustments made free of charge.
If you’re a snowboarder or prefer snowboard gear, then Showcase is the place to go. The store stocks countless styles from top brands like Burton, WESC, Bonfire, Volcom, Hurley, Obey, Insight, Ride Snowboards, Anon, Skullcandy (we all need great music while we ride, right?!) and many more. The range is extensive and includes boards, jackets, pants, gloves, goggles, helmets, beanies and street wear, too.
3. EMBRACE APRES
Just because you’ve had a day off the mountain, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of Whistler’s top après spots – these places generally start to pack out from 2pm, so get in early and reserve a spot for your friends.
Situated in The Hilton, this hidden gem offers different food and drink specials each day of the week, from jugs of Canadianbeer (CAD $17.25) and Pulled Pork Sandwiches (CAD $10) on a Wednesday through to Red Bull Slushies (CAD $6.25) andExtreme Hot Wings (CAD $10) every Saturday. There’s also an all day menu complete with things like pizza, burgers, nachos and Canadian specialty, poutine.
THE GARIBALDI LIFT CO (GLC)
You can literally ski up to The GLC for a well-deserved drink at the end of the day – its located right next to the base of the Whistler gondola. This particular venue is renowned for its live music (popular local act The Hairfarmers are regulars) and Canadian classic, the Caesar (there are four varieties to choose from) – if you’re not sure what it is, think Bloody Mary but with Clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce and other interesting ingredients.
DUBH LINN GATE IRISH PUB
For a touch of Ireland in the heart of Whistler, head to The Dubh Linn Gate, which is located right at the base of the Blackcomb gondola. The bar boasts Whistler’s most extensive craft beer selection, as well as a number of Irish beers. There are popular Irish dishes on the menu, such as a Guinness Burger (CAD $17) and Steak and Guinness Pie (CAD $19), along with nachos, chicken wings, chicken schnitzel and soups.
This famous bar and pub right at the base of Blackcomb mountain is complete with patio seating, making it perfect for those warm spring days. Inside, you’ll find two levels and a dance floor for when après continue well into the night. The menu includes all the pub food classics, such as burgers, tacos, onion rings and yam fries (sweet potato chips), Caesar salad and chilli.
4. LIVE ON THE EDGE
Head to The Whistler Sliding Centre and take a bobsleigh or skeleton ride down part of the 1,450 metre long ice track that was used by competitors during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The four-man bobsleds reach speeds of at least 125 km/h, and the course covers a total of 10 turns. If you’re brave enough to tackle the track head first (literally), then give skeleton a try – you’ll reach around 100 km/h and complete a total of six corners. Price is CAD $169.
5. TAKE A NIGHT TOUR
Canadian Wilderness Adventures operate tours to Crystal Hut at the top of Blackcomb’s Crystal Chair at night. Here, guests ride their own snowmobiles up to the hut and tuck into a three-course fondue dinner complete with wine and freshly baked fruit pie for dessert. The tour lasts four hours and cost is CAD $199 per person sharing or $239 for single riders.
Crystal Hut is also famous for it’s freshly made Belgian Waffles (CAD $12.50), which are served with all the trimmings including berry compote, whipped cream, maple syrup and chocolate chips. If you’re a competent skier or boarder, take a ride up Crystal Chair during the day and sample the waffles for yourself.
All prices were correct at the time this article was originally printed in 2015.