by Steve Jermanok
On July 2, 2003, thousands of locals gathered in Whistler’s Village Square to hear the International Olympic Committee’s official announcement of the 2010 host city. When it was announced that the Winter and Paralympic Games would finally be coming to Whistler, a cheer went up in the air that could be heard on the opposite shores of Alta Lake. Whistler welcomed the world in 2010 and presented all of the alpine skiing, nordic, and sliding events perfectly. Head there this season and you’ll understand why Skiing Magazine has rated Whistler the top ski resort on the continent for the past decade. The yearly average of 30 feet of powder doesn’t hurt either!
And don’t for a second believe that Whistler is only a one-season resort. The town is popular in the summer and fall months for families who crave the active travel lifestyle. You can mountain bike down the ski trails, take a gondola and hike up atop the snow-capped peak, canoe with eagles down a serpentine river, try the longest zipline in North America, or simply lounge in that exquisite outdoor pool at the Four Seasons.
There are many upscale choices to choose from in town, like the Fairmont and Westin, but it’s hard to top this sybaritic retreat in the Upper Village, about a 15-minute walk to all the restaurants and shops in the center of town. One step inside the limestone and granite lobby, with its tall ceilings, and you’ve been transported to a state of Zen-like bliss. The tall flowers in vases are always freshly cut, cranberry lemonade in summer and hot chocolate in winter are handed to you upon arrival, and service is at its finest.
Outside, the resort’s two buildings are separated by a wide courtyard and pool that highlights its view of the peaks. Walkways lead to the base of Blackcomb where you can be catching the morning runs in a matter of minutes. Yet, like most Four Seasons, the best feature of this hotel is those spacious rooms for families, many with requisite views of the mountain. Expect mattresses that suck in your weary body after a day outdoors and then spit you out in the morning ready and rearin’ to do it all over again.
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- All-season activities
- Pampering and top-notch service
- Fireplaces and private balconies
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
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This being the Four Seasons, expect the 273 guestrooms, suites, and townhouses to have more than enough elbow room. All rooms feature gas-burning fireplaces and most rooms have private balconies with views of the mountains, forest, valley, pool, or courtyard. Then there's the oversized bathroom, with deep soaking tub, separate shower, double vanity, and the finest accessories from L'Occitane. Whatever room you choose, you can be certain of a good night's sleep with that heavenly mattress and the 400 thread count on the sheets. In fact, you'll probably be pleading with the kids to please not wake you up!
Worth the splurge is the Two-Bedroom Executive Suite, offering a dining area with full kitchen and entertainment centers in both rooms. Grab groceries and you can wake up to breakfast on the patio with exquisite views of the summit. Premium Wi-Fi is available for unlimited devices.
More affordable are the Superior Rooms, with two twin beds or a king bed. A sleeper sofa and DVD player can also be found in the guestrooms. Standard Wi-Fi is available for two devices.
There's also a larger three-bedroom resort residence that has a gourmet kitchen and a dining area for eight guests, if you have a large family.
Service and amenities were a standout for this property considering it is a larger chain. The base-mountain and in hotel ski/board service is more convenient than anything I have experienced at any of the Colorado or Utah resorts. Rooms are in-line with other 4-5 star chains but have a mountain resort feel and were on the modern side, the amenities are the standout ~ health and spa facilities, unique pool grounds and very "boutique-like" beverage cart in the afternoons that offers cocktails and complimentary hot chocolate and s'mores by the fire pit. Resort shuttle to-and-from town was nice. Was great to travel to BC in March, we got lucky with some 50 degree blue sky days and historically march is their powder month fyi.
This is a beautiful resort nestled in whistler valley. The staff is most polite and helpful. The view from the room is incomparable and room itself is very comfortable. They also have wine tasting everyday of the week. It’s minutes away from lost lake and whistler marketplace. We didn’t take the facility of pick up and drop but it’s provided for. They also have an awesome gym with group exercise routine. Spa is also beautiful. All in all it’s totally worth it. An unforgettable experience.
Four Seasons Whistler takes their recreation very seriously, asking families to fill out an Adventure Profile before you arrive. That way, a Base Camp Activity Consultant can help set up a schedule for your stay. The list of activities is mind-boggling.
In summer, you can learn to ride an ATV on a hidden valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain, go on a bear viewing tour in the expansive hemlock-cedar forest that rises above Whistler Village, try your luck glacial hiking with ax and crampons, horseback ride on shaded paths around hidden lakes, rock climb in nearby Cal-Cheak, raft down a river, even ski and snowboard at Horstman Glacier, open June through August.
Families can spend time hiking, ziplining and paddling. Take a gondola ride to the mountain's Roundhouse Grill, where you can enjoy lunch on a patio surrounded by the snowcapped peaks. Mountain bikers zip by, dressed in helmets, knee and elbow pads, ready to do battle with the trails. Another chairlift, the Peak Adventure, takes families to the summit, where you walk on a rocky path down 1,000 feet back to the restaurant. It was mid-August and snow was still on the ground when we visited, so we had a snowball fight.
Try the longest zipline on the continent or canoe the River of Golden Dreams, where you may spot a bald eagle overhead as you let the current take you down the eastern end of Alta Lake with Whistler standing tall in the backdrop.
It is nice to relax in the large heated outdoor pool and soak muscles in the Jacuzzi after a long day of exploring.
Most of us think of this British Columbian resort as a skiing destination, so let's talk about winter. First there's the Ski Lite program, where guests need not worry if they forget to pack their parka and skies. Pick the latest designer wear from Prada and Spyder at the Whistler Blackcomb Mountain Products store located on the lower level of the lobby. Your waxed skis and pre-warmed boots will be waiting at the hotel's Ski Concierge Shop at the base of Blackcomb each morning.
The sophisticated hotel also features a Ski Elite Program with one-on-one instruction for skiers. There's also a teenage concierge who grew up on the mountain catering solely to teenagers. He'll set your child up on a dogsledding trip with Alaskan Huskies through the Soo Valley Wildlife Preserve, book a spot on the zipline trek, which is open year-round, and, of course, give the goods on the best ski trails the mountain offers for your ability. Be sure to ask about the Fresh Tracks Breakfast. For an additional fee, you get to head up the mountain an hour before it officially opens, grab breakfast at the summit lodge, and get two to three good runs in before the masses arrive.
The hotel's signature restaurant is SIDECUT Modern Steak and Bar, named for the curvature on the side of a ski or snowboard. The restaurant features excellent views of Whistler and Backcomb mountains and the warmer months offer outdoor fine dining. But in the winter, the kids will love to roast S'mores by the fire pit.
There's an a la carte menu for breakfast featuring homemade granola with yogurt and poached eggs. Or, go for broke and choose the buffet. Fresh fruit, cereal, pastries, smoked salmon, cheeses, eggs, sausage, bacon, pancakes and roasted potatoes are all offered. Dinner takes advantage of British Columbia's bounty of seafood and cattle. You'll find a kids menu featuring the usual assortment of burger and fries, mac and cheese, and quesadillas.
For casual fare in the Town Plaza, try Caramba. Kids will enjoy the pizzas and macaroni smothered in three cheeses, while mom and dad can devour a plate of their signature dish, grilled calamari. Also in town, Elements is a popular breakfast joint, known for their eggs benedict and veggie-strewn frittatas, all washed down with mammoth-sized cups of coffee.
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All About the Extras
Service has always been the Four Seasons forte, and Whistler is no exception. With a concierge that caters to teenagers and a base camp activity consultant to help schedule all activities, you can rest assured that when you reach the resort, you can begin to play. The Ski Elite Program offers guests the opportunity of a private ski and snowboard instructor to shake off the rust and build confidence on that first day. A Ski Concierge is available to simplify your day on the mountain, providing rentals and helping you get to trails that best fit your ability. The regular concierge is also excellent, recommending and making reservations at restaurants for the week, giving us directions to various activities, even offering us a car service to reach our float plane flight to Victoria.
The Art of Smart Timing
Whistler is a year-round destination. Ski season in the winter is also very popular. But summer is a wonderful time to visit. Prices at hotels are significantly reduced and you can spot bear, paddle down lonely rivers with eagles, hike in the snow, even go skiing.
The two-hour drive from Vancouver to Whistler is on Highway 99, otherwise known as the Sea to Sky Highway. Take your time and savor the exquisite scenery as you ride along the quiet shores of Howe Sound and then up into the high peaks. A good rest stop is Shannon Falls, where you can watch ice climbers pick their way up the iced-over falls with ax and crampons.
The village is a short walk or drive from the hotel.
For Mom and Dad
That happy-to-help concierge can also find you a babysitter, more than likely someone that teaches kids how to ski in the day time. For a romantic dinner for two, it's hard to top Araxi. The restaurant house more than 12,000 bottles of wine, including rare British Columbia selections, and features the best of Pacific Northwest cuisine. Start with the locally farmed beets and mozzarella salad or oysters on the half shell, and then move on to the miso-glazed sablefish, a BC specialty.
Or simply throw a DVD into the entertainment center of your room and go downstairs to the spa for an 80 minute Couples Massage. They'll perform any massage you like, including the sea-to-sky treatment, in a specially designed room for two. That's my kind of date!