We started skiing Whistler a couple of years ago. After being a ski trip every year person for a couple of decades, I had stopped going for years as my wife and I raised small children together. Finally, with a 4 year old son and a 6 year old daughter, it was time to take the first family ski trip.
My first instinct was Vail. Of all the ski resorts I had been to by that time, which included Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Winter Park, Taos, Park City, Deer Valley, and Alta, Vail was my favorite. I liked the raw size and variety of it. Check out this video about the village:
But when we went to book the trip the prices seemed a bit out of control. Although Aspen is known for being pricey, when comparing hotel rates to Vail, it looked to me like Vail was about 15% higher. It is not cheap.
Also it was late to be booking, so I had a choice between a $1,200 per night room just off the slopes, which I was not going to do, or a $300+ night per room in a place I did not recall, 2 1/2 blocks from the lifts, and with a picture that did not make it seem so appealing. It just wasn’t grabbing me. Nevertheless, I was booking it.
Just before hitting submit, however, I decided to take a quick look at Whistler. Years before, a buddy and I had almost gone, but I’d never actually made it. We had been, however, to Vancouver, a couple of times, and loved it.
When I looked online I was very impressed. First of all, I discovered (as I recall) that Whistler Blackcomb (the full name as it is really 2 mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb) was rated the #1 ski resort in the world by Ski Magazine for a few years in a row. Sounded good.
Then I started looking for rooms. I found that we could get a room about a half block away from the gondolas for under $200 per night, with a fireplace and a view of the mountains. Wow.
In addition, the lift tickets were less, and lessons for the kids were 50% off for the days we were going, which were in what they call Whistler Days, or something like that. Note that now they run an annual 40% off special during certain days.
We booked it. Thank God we checked at the last minute. This is now my favorite ski resort in the world, principally because it is substantive. Vail is substance, with hype and flash. Whister is just raw substance, and more of it in my opinion. It lacks pretentiousness, which we like.
Let me provide a few highlights of our trips so far:
Whistler Village Inn & Suites – This was our first ski hotel, and was a great experience. You walk out of the hotel, around another small hotel, and then between a couple of buildings, and your are in the main plaza with the gondolas. The rooms were nice, the people were great, and the views were awesome.
Executive Inn – This is the other hotel we stayed in. The location for this is better, as the back door takes you right out to the main plaza with the gondolas. However, we had a 1 bedroom with an additional loft bedroom, open to below. The problem with this is that the upper loft is always super warm, so much so that you can’t sleep. We had a similar problem in another hotel in Whistler during a summer visit. Beware the lofts. We’ll never stay in one again.
Kids Ski Adventure – We have now done this twice, and found it excellent overall. It is a Monday to Friday program. You drop your kids off around 8:15, then pick them up around 3, just in time to take a run or two together as a family. They ski, dine, and play together all day. In the end, of course, this is only as good as the luck of the draw with regard to the teacher, so some of these have been better than others. Regardless, even the weaker experiences were pretty good. They get nice Australians kids, for the most part, to teach these. We’re on the cautious side, as we live in one of America’s big crime infested cities, but always felt pretty comfortable leaving our kids with them
Mongolie Grill – We love this restaurant. With this unique concept, you walk around a set of attractive looking ingredients, meats, vegetables, and sauces, adding them to a metal bowl. When done, you walk up to the cooking area, where they cook them in front of your while you wait. Everyone gets what he wants, and as much of it as he wants. Very healthy. Super awesome.
Dubh Linn Gate – This is our other favorite dining establishment. Note, however, that it is a really a pub. They have a great breakfast in the morning, and in the evening they have live Irish music, a busy pub environment, and great fish and chips. Over time, we have learned to simply split our dinner between the Mongolie Grill and Dubh Linn Gate. We simply enjoy them too much to miss an evening during a short annual trip.
Garibaldis – This is at the base of the slopes next to the Whistler Gondola. The food here is pretty good.
Cow’s – This is an awesome ice cream place. Don’t miss it.
On the slopes the food choices are pretty good. Each is a bit different, but similar. We have found that the several larger restaurants give us all the options we need for lunch, while some of the little places, like the Chic Pea, offer a nice, warm, charming place for an afternoon coffee. The dining options in Whislter, on and off the slopes, are many and varied.
We were, however, disappointed with a few restaurants. Learn from our mistakes:
Avalance Pizza – The locals young people love this place, but I think only because it is cheap. We thought it was miserable. Avoid it.
Old Spaghetti Factory – We had a couple of shop workers recommend this place, but found ourselves disappointed.
Black’s Pub – We found the food wanting and the staff rude. Avoid this, as well.