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WAVEJourney Travels to Whistler Blackcomb – Day 1:
Whistler Blackcomb mountain resort (host of the 2010 Winter Olympics), is located in British Columbia, Canada’s Coast Mountain Range and is world renown for the excellent skiing and boarding options that are such a huge part of the winter scene at this popular destination. But, for a change of pace, we decided that during our 3-night winter getaway to the village we’d like to try some of the non-board activities. We quickly learned that when you get bored of your boards (pun intended), there is a plethora of other activities to inspire you!
Easily accessible from Vancouver via the 120 km/75-mile scenic drive along the Sea to Sky Highway, we arrived in Whistler Blackcomb and at our home away from home for three nights, the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside Hotel, in just under 2 hours.
The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside Hotel, with its ideal close-in location for quick access to Whistler Village, Excalibur Gondola and Whistler Gondola, is an upscale 4-star property that would be ideal for girlfriend getaways, a couple seeking a romantic weekend or a family vacation in one of North America’s top winter destinations.
Upon arrival and check-in, James (front desk clerk) gave us our room keys and instruction on using the parking garage (Use hotel room key to enter parking garage ($28/night). The very friendly doorman offered us help with our luggage, but as we like to travel light, we took care of it ourselves.
By 2 pm we were in our valley-view, one-bedroom suite (507) and getting settled. Initially we were surprised that the suite only had one queen bed, and there were grab bars in the bathroom – next to the toilet and in the shower/tub. Then the light bulb came on and we realized we must be in a handicapped room. The sofa in the living room was a pull-out bed and the front desk told us that turn down service could set it up for us each night as needed.
The view from our suite looked out over the Mountainside Lodge pool and hot tub area and the surrounding mountains in the background. This side of the hotel proved to be nice and quiet, but if you want to view the heated saltwater pool and whirlpools of the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside as well as Whistler Village and the skiers shushing down Whistler Mountain, the rooms on the other side would better suit your needs. Oh, and did we mention this is a non-smoking property? Score!
Our one-bedroom valley view suite featured:
As we were getting settled in for our stay, it started to snow heavily. With the snow enveloping the village in a fluffy white blanket, we decided that this would be an ideal time to bundle up and take a stroll through Whistler Village and do some shopping (grocery, liquor, clothing, gear, souvenir shops abound).
Returning from our afternoon wander through the village, we thawed out by the fireplace in our suite and relaxed with a glass of our favorite BC wine (Nk’Mip Cellars Pinot Noir – Pronounced in-ka-meep) – until it was time to go to dinner.
Deciding to dine at Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, located near the lobby of the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside was a very good idea. The atmosphere was active and lively, there was live Irish music (8pm-midnight), we could quaff our favorite Irish draft beers, and the food was delicious.
To start we shared an appetizer of Baked Stilton with baguette and tortilla chips ($14), which was rich and gooey yumminess. Jill’s beverage of choice was a 20 oz pint of Guinness draft beer ($9.25), and Viv thoroughly enjoyed her 20 oz pint of Murphy’s draft beer ($9.25).
Jill then ordered the Steak & Guinness Pie ($18) for her entree (although it was big enough for 2, she wasn’t keen to share), and Viv had the very tasty Cod Fish & Chips ($18) which was also a large portion – both excellent choices. To complete our meal we shared the mixed-berry crumble with vanilla ice cream ($10).
Our server, Robyn, did a splendid job (she even let us sample the featured German Dunkelweiss beer special), the food was excellent (we would make a trip to Whistler just to have the Steak and Guinness pie again), and there was a large variety of excellent Irish beers on tap.
As the food portions at Dubh Linn Gate were so generous, we took the leftovers back to our suite, and then went for a quick stroll around the village. The snow had stopped, the sky had cleared to show off illuminated stars, and we could see the outline of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains with the snow groomers out in force, prepping the mountains for the following day. We ended the night with high hopes that we would wake to a sunny day.
Day 2: For us, there is nothing nicer than to open up our hotel guest room door and discover a morning newspaper waiting there; and the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside had provided a Globe and Mail newspaper. What a great way to enjoy our morning coffee. Stepping out onto our suite balcony, we were thrilled to see a bluebird day, mountains covered in fresh powder, the sun coming over the top of Blackcomb, and find that it wasn’t terribly chilly ~ about -8C/17F in the village at 9 am.
The Adventure Group Whistler Snowshoeing – We had arranged a 10 am Natural Mystic snowshoe tour (approximately 1 hour of snowshoeing) on Whistler Mountain with TAG – The Adventure Group Whistler – and it only took us a few minutes to stroll over to their office in the Village from our hotel. We were required to sign a waiver (typical for these sorts of activities) while in their office, and then waited about 10 minutes for two others to arrive.
Once our guide, Simon (a young Aussie from Sydney), had the four of us women together (Maria from Vancouver & Vicky from Victoria – both snowshoeing virgins), we took the Whistler Gondola (15-minute ride) up to mid-station. After exiting the gondola at mid-station we walked about 50 feet to TAG’s yurt where we got geared up for our outing. For those that didn’t have enough winter gear with them for the occasion, there were Sorel boots, winter jackets and pants available for use. Simon fitted us with snowshoes (Atlas) and made sure we were ready for our escapade.
Once we were geared up, Simon walked us over to the nearby chair lift for a quick 7-minute ride further up the mountain. Upon exiting the chair lift, we put on our snowshoes and headed into the old growth forest. The forest was thick, and the snow was soft with lots of fresh powder. We spent about an hour snowshoeing downhill back to the yurt – mainly through the forest, occasionally with peek-a-boo views of the mountains, and at one point we stopped to take photos of the Village from an opening in the forest.
In one area, on a very steep section, Simon asked us if we all wanted to slide down on our butts – 3 of us said, “NO”. We weren’t interested in getting wet butts and preferred to walk rather than slide down the hill. We watched as Simon and Vicky slid down on their backsides while we snowshoed down with Maria – who was timid and not very comfortable with the steepness.
Although we enjoyed the short jaunt through the old growth forest, it might not be great terrain for anyone with knee issues or that isn’t OK with downhill slopes that can be icy. Back at the yurt, we bid farewell to our guide and fellow snowshoers and then continued on with our own mountain exploring.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola– After taking photos at mid-station, we then joined the Whistler Gondola on the uphill ride to the Roundhouse Lodge at the top. This is the place to come for spectacular views on a sunny day. The Roundhouse Lodge was packed with skiers, boarders and sightseers grabbing a bite to eat, stopping for a drink or just hanging out in the sun on the deck. We ate our lunch standing by the ski racks while people watching before making our way to the line for the Peak 2 Peak gondola ride across to Blackcomb Mountain.
The Peak 2 Peak takes about 20 minutes to get across, spans 4.4km/2.73miles, and is the highest of its kind in the world. There are 2 lines for the gondolas – one for regular cars and the other for the glass bottom cars. There are only a couple of glass bottom gondolas (it is only a 3’x4′ cutout that has railings around it – so you’re not standing on it) so the wait can be 11-19 minutes – while the regular cars are every minute or so. Our wait for the glass bottom only took 10 minutes and we were soon whisked over the valley to Blackcomb. The Peak 2 Peak gondola reaches the area on Blackcomb at the top of Solar Coaster and next to the Rendezvous Lodge. Again, we enjoyed stunning views from our vantage point and at one point, almost wished we were spending the day skiing too.
We decided to take the Peak 2 Peak gondola back to Whistler Mountain and again enjoyed the fantastic views of the mountains and the valley with Fitzsimmons Creek running below. Once we’d had our fill of hanging out and exploring the Roundhouse Lodge we then took the Whistler Gondola all the way back to the Village (about a 20-25 minute ride).
Whistler Tasting Tours– Our next activity was scheduled for late-afternoon and we met our hostess, Suzanne, with Whistler Tasting Tours for their Finer Things dine-around group tour. Upon arriving at the Firerock Lounge in the Westin Hotel, our bubbly and enthusiastic hostess asked us to confirm our entree selection for dinner (either salmon or veal scallopini – vegetarian dishes were also available), and gave us each a playing card and told us we’d all be playing a game (best poker hand) as we went along from restaurant to restaurant during the evening.
Once our fellow diners (11) met and introduced themselves we set off for our first stop at Bearfoot Bistro – down to their cellar with 20,000 bottles. Steve, the manager, showed us how to saber a bottle – the person with the highest playing card got to do the saber. As there wasn’t enough sparkling to go around, another bottle needed to be opened and Jill got to do it. Very cool! The saber was made by Lagiole in France, and Jill quickly and deftly sliced the bottle neck off in one clean swoop. The sparkling was a very nice Luis Pato pink brut espumante from Portugal. Steve explained the details behind champagne and then we had an amuse bouche of local beets and cheese.
Next we wandered through the Village to Hy’s Steakhouse for the appetizer course, and although the restaurant wasn’t yet open for regular service, they were awaiting our group’s arrival and seated us at a long table next to the bar. For those in our group that had included the wine pairing as part of the dining experience, we were served either a mystery red or a mystery white wine (a 3oz pour of wine per person with each course). The game was to guess the varietal correctly and receive an extra playing card to add to our poker hand. The mystery wines turned out to be a Sumac Ridge Gerwurtzeimer and a Pinot Noir (red), which nobody in our group guessed correctly! The appetizer was seared Ahi Tuna – perfectly prepared and delicious!
An easy stroll back through the Village found us at Umberto’s Trattoria at Mountainside Lodge. This was where we enjoyed an entree of either salmon with pickled cabbage, fingerling potatoes and vegetables or veal scallopini with garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables. Both entrees were beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. To accompany the meal we a choice of either Noble Ridge Meritage or a Painted Rock white – again, both lovely wines.
Our final stop for dessert was back at the Firerock Lounge in The Westin Hotel, and enroute we made an unscheduled stop at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory where we sampled some of their famous fudge and had time to make a purchase. Back at the Firerock Lounge each couple shared a small cheese plate featuring three local cheeses. As an accompaniment, we sipped on a 1 oz pour of Inniskillin Ice Wine – BC makes some of the world’s finest ice wines.
As our evening Whistler Tasting Tour drew to an end, Suzanne (who had continued to hand out poker cards during the tour), gave out a few prizes for the best poker hands. Of course, Jill had the straight flush – her win was a very cute and handy travel picnic utensil set. The next best hands each received a champagne stopper. By 7:30 pm we were finished with all of the tasting courses, and bid farewell to Suzanne and members of our group from various destinations around the world.
Exhausted after a very full and fun day, we were glad it was only a short stroll back to the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside where after a nightcap in Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, we called it a night. We could only dream that the weather gods would be so kind to us the following day!
Day 3: Ziptrek Ecotour – A Ziptrek Ecotour was on our agenda for noon, and our meeting point was just a moment away from our hotel in the basement of the Carleton Lodge. We were warmly greeted by a reservation clerk and given waivers to sign (typical sign your life away forms), and asked to have a seat on the nearby benches and wait for our guides, Mickael and Georgie.
We were excited to learn there would just be the two of us on our Bear Ecotour. Mickael, a jovial fellow from France, came to get us and take us to where Georgie was waiting to help us into the gear – harness and helmets.
Once we were geared up, we made our way to the first of 5 ziplines – this one a short walk past the Excaliber chairlift in the village. This short and simple zip ride was a perfect way to get over the jitters and make sure we were comfortable enough to go on to bigger and longer lines. A 10-minute ride in the waiting transport van took us to the first of our zipline rides in the forest. During the drive up (past the bobsled used for the Olympics), Georgie kept our attention with her vast knowledge of the fascinating geology and geography of the Whistler Blackcomb area.
We had 4 zipline rides to do in the forest, but Mickael called the head office on his radio and received authorization for us to do 2 more – cool! Georgie and Mickael both spent time explaining various sights in the forest – the lychen-covered trees, woodpecker life, bears, cougars, and the carbon footprint offsetting done by Ziptrek. We found this to be a great ecotour for anyone new to the area, and even fun and informative for those more familiar with the area.
To get from one zip line to another, we walked across small suspension bridges and through the snow-covered forest. Everything was super quiet except for when we were zipping through the air. The longest and our favorite ride was 1100′ – thrilling! The last zipline was where we went freestyle – attempting to hang upside down as we crossed back over Fitzsimmons Creek on our way back towards the pick-up point – and, where a photographer took photos of our upside down attempts.
Our guides were both excellent. The had tons of knowledge, a great sense of humor, but still remained very safety conscious and checked all our gear before each zip.
Whistler Tube Park– The Whistler Tube Park is actually located on Blackcomb, and after our Ziptrek experience we were game for more fun in the snow. So, we geared up, walked right out our hotel and straight on to the Excaliber gondola that took us up to the tube park within a matter of minutes.
Arriving at the tube park by 5:15pm, we got tickets for 2 hours ($29) – prices are: $20 = 1 hr; $29 = 2 hrs; twilight (6-8pm) = $18. It was a great time of day to go as the sun was starting to set, and the light bouncing off the surrounding mountains was beautiful. We had terrific fun with a variety of other people of all ages. Six of the eight tube runs were open and some were really fast – especially when we were going tandem – and, more than once we bust through the barriers at the end of the runs. Another awesome day filled with fun winter activities!
Our last day in Whistler Blackcomb had worn us out, and we were content to spend the rest of the evening relaxing in front of the fire in our Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside suite. All in all, our stay in the village was top-notch, and we left with a good appreciation for all the things there are to do during a winter visit to this world-class mountain resort. Most importantly, now we know what to do when you’re bored of your boards!
If you go:
View WJ Photos:
– Whistler Blackcomb Winter 2012
Available at Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside Hotel and various locations throughout the village.
Eats & Drinks:
Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub – Located at the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside in Whistler Village. Excellent Irish food and drink.
Nk’Mip Cellars Pinot Noir – Pronounced in-ka-meep. Excellent BC wines.
Winter Olympics 2010:
Thanks to Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside Hotel, Whistler Blackcomb Tourism, TAG Whistler, ZipTrek Ecotours Whistler, for their assistance with this trip.