(Who has registered and logged into)
Website : Official Site (Excellent Site)
Date: 7th December - 16th/17th December 2006
Our holiday: This was my first DIY trip. Two birds were being aimed at with this one stone: Firstly, to visit Whistler in the winter, having visited it in the summer years ago. Secondly, to take the CSIA Level 1 Instructor's Course (which I passed ). I was going to head to Soldeu for the course, but lack of snow lead me to head out Whistler way . (Terrible shame... ). I booked the flights about two weeks before departure, and the prices shot up a week later. I held off on the accommodation, and the prices plummeted just before I bought! I really lucked out. I then found the transfer via the official website (which, as I say is an excellent resource - you can book just about anything in Whistler on it). I went straight to Whistler Thursday evening, skied Friday through Saturday for nine days then went back late on Saturday. I spent Sunday in Vancouver meeting some distant relatives before catching my flight.
Basics : Whistler is in breathtaking BC (British Columbia), about two hours outside the world's most beautiful city (Vancouver). You may already be able to tell that this may not be the most unbiased report ever, as I have an affinity with Canada. Being coastal it gets tonnes of snow, and doesn't get bitingly cold like the interior. The flight from Heathrow is around the 9 hours mark, and I travelled with British Airways, having a good experience with them. There are numerous ways to get to Whistler, and if you want to hire a car (though I can't see the point), it couldn't be easier than following the Sea to Sky Highway (99) all the way from Vancouver to Whistler via Squamish. However I'd say the transfer bus is definitely the way for any sane-minded person to go (as the Village is fairly compact, and there are free-shuttles anyway).
Lift system : When compared with European resorts, the lift system looks very small. BUT, it is exceptionally well laid out, almost entirely detachable quads and gondolas and gives you so much vertical between having to catch lifts that it really makes up for it. Being (very) early season I can't comment on how it would cope with huge crowds, but it dealt with the numbers there quite satisfactorily.
The terrain : Okay, Whistler-Blackcomb is the biggest skiable area in North America, it's huge, even by European standards it's quite large. There is tonnes of good intermediate terrain, and there are advanced runs in abundance! I wouldn't really recommend it for beginners, but there are some nice areas if you really want to head there for your first tentative 'steps'. It helps if you like powder, as there's lots of it! If you can't ski it before you get to Whistler (a la moi), you'll certainly be able to at least link a few turns by the time you leave! Blackcomb (aka Mount Mogul for their complete lack of piste-bashing) contains the more advanced skiing, a gnarly mountain full of fall-line runs. Whistler on the other hand is aimed slightly more at the intermediate. The skiing from the Roundhouse and Rendezvous is fun and you can find some challenging terrain if you look, or if you prefer, you can put in quality laps on the Green and Red chairs on Whistler. However, the best stuff comes off Glacier Chair on Blackcomb and Peak Chair on Whistler.
The snow : It would probably be best not to mention the snow. Having seen the effect it has had on some people... I'll just refer to one night when 58 cms fell. (Okay, I'm in the dog house too...)
Off-piste : You name it, you can find it. Almost limitless. (But don't follow hels_t's snowboarder mates, you might end up in a hole... ).
The resort : A very nice ski village. Split into three main areas: Creekside (the most detached), the Village and Upper Village. Village and Upper Village are separated by some parking lots, but free shuttles or a short walk are all it takes to make it between the two. Most of the stuff is fairly centralised and the villages are easy to find your way around, whether you be looking for a burger, a beer or a balaclava.
Food : I'll start on the drinks. I'm afraid that the Canadians may in fact be even worse than the French when it comes to making a good cuppa. They really should hang their heads in shame... The beer isn't too bad, with a few coming in as a nice half-way house between an ale and a lager (like Whistler Ale or Kokanee Gold). There is a wide selection available for breakfast, shortbreads and the like in Merlins or you can head up to one of the on-mountain restaurants for breakfast. I missed breakfast on a few mornings, so it's not my strongest subject. Lunches up the mountain are excellent. The restaurants may lack the atmosphere, or culinary pazaz of one of their French or Italian counterparts, but the food is still very nice, with a good variety at excellent prices (and I mean fantastic prices, even before whacking it through on someone's season pass at 50% off...). Try the chili in a bread bowl with all the trimmings, and then liberally apply tabasco to a soup to go along with it. Mmmmm. Tasty and filling. At the end of the day, nachos or poutienne (sp?) at the GLC is a nice way to round off six hours of skiing. For dinner, burgers are available everywhere, and they appear to be the main option. I also tried some lovely quesadillas at my hotel, and they were very tasty. Big, club style sandwiches can also be picked up fairly readily.
Accommodation : I stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. I got a (very) good rate and a free upgrade, so I was happy all-round. The hotel has a ski storage/valet centre inside the hotel right at the base of Blackcomb mountain, so it is pretty much literally ski-in/ski-out. My room was very large and had a view of, um, well, trees... oh, and lots of snow! The only problem I had with the room was the fact that it took me about ten minutes to work out a ridiculously designed shower! The hotel has a bar, restaurant and deli-style restaurant (the latter due for opening any time soon). It also has a complimentary health-club, including pools, jacuzzi, sauna and gym. There is also a fairly pricey spa.
Costs: Okay, I splashed out a bit... all-together, including flights, transfers (at both ends), instructors course, lift passes and my night in Vancouver, the holiday came to about ¬£2000. This of couse includes all eating, and of course drinking costs.
Conclusion: Well, I got a qualification, I started linking turns in powder, I free-skied with eight people I had never met before (including two 'locals' I just started chatting to in my hotel's bar), met some snowheads (a first for me) and generally had a whale of a time. The long flight time, and overall cost, as far as I am concerned was well, well worth it. The question is, had I not met up with snowheads whilst out there, and been on my lonesome each evening, would it have been as good? I doubt it. Whistler may well become my first re-visited resort - Easter sound good!?
Whistler Resort Report Feedback Thread
A man should always have an even number of vices. That way they cancel each other out...