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Special ski holiday for grown up family

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Many thanks to all for your comments and suggestions.

We have decided to go to Whistler and have booked via Ski Safari who have been great and got us some really good savings - many thanks Andrea.

We did think seriously about Japan but in the end the family preferred Canada on this occasion.

Anyone please feel free to give recommendations on places to eat out and drink e.g. where is the best affordable selection of beers? Best food? What non skiing attractions are good?

Wallport
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Jonny Jones wrote:
You can do that just as well in a small uncrowded European resort for half the price with better food (albeit worse beer).


Not sure what you're talking about, it's virtually impossible to drink a bad beer in the Alps unless you go out of your way to find cheap brit, italian or spanish lager. That's not to say North America doesn't have great beer but beer quality are excellent in either side.

On the other hand, food is without a doubt superior in France and Italy by many miles, then I'd say Austria and Switzerland coming in second.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Fly to Salt Lake City [ direct flight with Delta ]

Ski Park City or Deer Valley 3/4 days

Ski Jackson Hole 3/4 days

Snowmobile trip into Yellowstone.
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I thought I'd do a writeup following our return so that anyone interested can benefit from our experiences. All views are my own and some will undoubtedly disagree. Apologies for the lack of brevity but I hope this will help someone and I consider it my payback for the advice given to me here!

A quick recap - we asked for advice for a special ski holiday to celebrate my retirement with my wife and two grown up sons. Many of you made suggestions and in the end it was between Canada and Japan and we chose to go to Whistler for 10 days with a few days after in Vancouver/Vancouver island. We booked through Ski Safari as suggested by several of those in this forum and I can wholeheartedly recommend them on service and on price. Thanks again to Andrea, Kathleen and Hannah.

We flew to Vancouver from LHR leaving at 14:30 and this timing was planned to try to ensure we were able to make the most of the first day at Whistler. It meant we arrived in Vancouver not long after 4pm local time and were up in Whistler, courtesy of the transfer coach, before 8pm leaving lots of time for sleep before the first day on the slopes. OK this isn't magic as 8pm was really 4am UK time but I thought it worked and everyone did rise early on the first day and went skiing as planned. What seemed to happen was that we stayed in-between time zones for several days as, much against the usual routine, all the family found themselves going to bed early and rising early. This fitted the lift opening times which were 08:30-4pm. Earlier than the European resorts we have frequented. I must say it did seem they closed the lifts unnecessarily early but with 10 days skiing this seemed less important to us and most days we had had enough before 4pm.

We stayed in Delta Suites - compared to the rough and ready accommodation I book in Europe (in my efforts to get two skiing holidays at minimum cost in a season), this was plush. We had two one bedroom suites with fully fitted kitchens (which for some reason was cheaper than sharing a two bedroom suite). My only slight downer on the Delta is the distance from the lifts - probably about 8 mins flat walk. Although there was a courtesy bus we never used it as we stored our equipment at Spicy Sports. Accomodation wise, the Delta was great and allowed us to eat in a few times (twice actually plus one take away pizza Happy to save a little money.

We hired equipment from Spicy Sports who are independent of the resort and were a very significant price saving (about 1/3). I would still say that equipment hire in Whistler is significantly more expensive than Europe. Spicy sports were great and accommodated our day off skiing - they just required us to store our skis there during the day off and didn't charge us (as prearranged). We tended to store our skis there each night to save carrying them most of the way to the lifts.

So to the skiing. The snow was great and better and more consistent than anything I personally have experienced in Europe. The grading of slopes is Green, Blue, Black and double black (no reds). As per anywhere else, this grading was inconsistent but there was plenty for intermediate skiers to enjoy. The biggest difference to the European resorts my family has frequented (mostly Andorra, Tignes, Les Arcs) was the sheer volume of trees. I found this made the resort much more beautiful and the boys in particular enjoyed ducking off into the trees from just about any run. It was necessary to watch which slopes were groomed each day unless you like the moguls. The Epic Mix App had this information and it was posted in some places around the mountain as well.

The cabin up Whistler mountain could take 25 mins to get up there which we thought was a bit OTT and the chairlift alternative which only goes part way up closes really early in the day for some unfathomable reason. The Peak to Peak Gondola journey between Whistler and Blackcomb is one to be undertaken for the experience alone even if you didn’t need to get between the mountains.

Lift passes were significantly more expensive than Europe. There were some early season discounts available which we missed.

Queue’s? What queues? We were there from Feb 26th to March 7th - there were some queues on the Saturday (we took the Sunday off) but in general there was nothing to note. One thing I do think it worth relating, as its so foreign to European resorts, when you do encounter a queue the courtesy is unbelievable. The queues join at many points and with no supervision at all, one set from one line and one set from the other is executed without any argument.

For those who don’t know, Whistler resort is based on just two mountains and most runs will bring you back down into the village. Anyone who fears getting lost will be at home here but anyone who likes skiing to different villages will be disappointed. The only other place you can end up is Creekside which you do need to be a little careful of later in the day. The lifts higher up the mountain close even earlier which is a little disappointing.

Whilstler’s mountain restaurants have nothing on those lovely little places which exist in Europe. Most are massive canteens with queues to match at lunchtime. The food was fine with a good selection and not especially expensive.

One of the doubts from the family was whether the skiing may become boring as we’d never done more than 6 days before. We had a 9 of 10 day lift pass but we booked a number of other activities to provide some variety.

We drove Snowmobiles in the Callaghan valley which was great. Much more difficult than you would think to make the cornering.

We also did the dog sledding. Although this was shorter than we would have liked, it was great to see that the dogs were well looked after.

Finally we did the Ziptrek Eagle tour (zipwires). This was thoroughly enjoyed by all the family.

Some of the other activities on offer: Cinema (only $8 on Tuesdays), escape room (we did “Pinball” which was excellent).

Whistler village is very pretty, particularly with snow on the trees. In some ways it reminds of Disney. I’m sure there are comparable places in Europe but I haven’t been there.

One word of caution which although applicable to all ski resorts, I think applies even more to Whistler. Don’t get caught needing to replace items of ski clothing. Just about everything is incredibly expensive!

Eating out in Whistler was not cheap but generally I was well researched on where to go. The places I would recommend would be Earls (we actually went twice and found booking was needed if you didn’t want a long wait), Dubh Linn Gate (Irish pub), Brickworks (pub attached to the Delta).

The places I wouldn’t recommend were the Indian (think it was the Royal) – bit strange offering all meals to be prepared from mild to hot strength and wasn’t the greatest for food or service. Also, the Mongolie Grill which I thought was well overpriced for what it was (mix your own for them to cook in front of you but priced by weight).

I would just say that the whole of Whistler resort is non-smoking and you don’t see many people smoking ordinary cigarettes (or vaping which for some reason is treated the same). However, you will smell weed absolutely everywhere including when riding the chair lifts up the mountain. It is everywhere in Whistler and despite not yet being legal in Canada, seems to be accepted and is even available for medicinal use from clinics. Very different to the UK where the courts won’t even allow it as a life or death matter.

We hired a car to travel back down to Vancouver at our own pace as it’s a very beautiful drive. We did a rafting trip at Squamish and saw some bald eagles and spent the final couple of days in Vancouver (where we tried Curling and visited the aquarium) and on Vancouver island where we met up with a family friend. The scenery is absolutely wonderful around Vancouver and Vancouver island although we were somewhat lucky with the weather for the time of year.

This trip was a complete success and thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family. Obviously, it didn’t come cheap but it was intended to be a once a lifetime trip. Anyone thinking of Whistler, I would definitely recommend it.

Hope that helps someone!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@wallport, great write-up, thanks!
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Quote:
However, you will smell weed absolutely everywhere including when riding the chair lifts up the mountain.


This is true, and likely to get worse when it is legalised which may well happen this year.

Quote:
it was great to see that the dogs were well looked after


Doubtful. Go watch the documentary sled dogs. Previously they had an ethically ran dog sledding outfit at whistler but they had to stop it as they couldn't make it profitable while maintaining standards.

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Eating out in Whistler was not cheap


El fernies is $5 per meal - hard to beat that price! Sphahetti factory is also reasonable. BC as a whole is expensive to eat out, you are looking at $12+ for burger and chips most places in bc. So it may be more a BC thing than whistler thing.

Quote:
As per anywhere else, this grading was inconsistent


Would be interested to hear which runs you thought were wrongly graded. Other than white light (blue but never groomed so usually huge bumps) and the saddle (blue but should be black) I can't think of any that are badly graded. Obviously conditions and grooming do effect things on a day to day basis.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
A US option would be San Francisco and Tahoe.

I'd go for Japan though
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Yes we looked to go to El Furniture warehouse several times as it was right opposite the Delta. Unfortunately there was always a queue and as I understand it they don't allow reservations.

As for the dogs - all I can say is that we saw no signs of any mistreatment, quite the opposite. Also the handlers seemed very passionate and this didn't seem like an act.

On grading of runs, sorry don't remember which but one black was indistinguishable from a blue.
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Quote:
On grading of runs, sorry don't remember which but one black was indistinguishable from a blue.


Could be Dave Murray downhill or raven. Both on the easy side for blacks, but both have some steep pitches so think grading is OK.

Quote:

As for the dogs - all I can say is that we saw no signs of any mistreatment, quite the opposite. Also the handlers seemed very passionate and this didn't seem like an act.


Well of course they have to put that on for the tourists. The dogs you saw were likely to be healthy - they shoot them once they can't pull sleds. I would encourage anyone to watch at least the sled dogs documentary trailer before considering doing it - https://m.youtube.com/results?q=sled%20dogs&sm=3 It was something I'd not given any thought about until I saw the film (ironically at the whistler film festival). After the film there was a short speech/question session featuring the woman that ran the ethical dog sledding at whistler (whistler dog sled company). The company was nonprofit and even with the help of many hours of free volunteering could not make enough money to cover costs of providing a decent quality of life to the dogs - which is difficult as the season is so short. http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/british-columbia/71-whistler-sled-dogs-up-for-adoption-after-business-fails-1.1403661
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