10 things to love about Whistler


Although Whistler-Blackcomb is North America’s largest ski resort, it receives most of its visitors during the summer. Visitors enjoy mountain-top hikes loaded with views of the Coastal Mountains. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Story by Vacay.ca Staff

National Geographic has released what it calls the 50 Places of a Lifetime in Canada, a guide to the destinations in the country that must be on your bucket list. It has one glaring omission: Whistler, British Columbia.

The most popular ski resort in Canada and the largest in North America has done what few winter destinations have managed to accomplish: become an all-weather place to visit. In fact, of Whistler’s 2.3 million annual visitors, 56% of them arrive in the summer.

Whistler did not rank among the 2013 Top 20 Places to Visit in Canada, a list created by Vacay.ca‘s travel experts, and there was much deliberation about leaving it off. If not for some significant anniversaries in lesser-known destinations this year, Whistler would have made the list. How it is left off of a ranking of the 50 places to see in the nation in a lifetime is baffling to us.

Here are 10 reasons why we love Whistler and think you must put it on your wish list.

1. The Olympic Legacy

Just three years ago, Whistler was the focus of the world as the 2010 Winter Olympics co-host won over many visitors and earned raves from the media for its welcoming atmosphere. In the afterglow of the Winter Games, the village has expanded, attracted many more festivals, and began to build on its art and culinary offerings.

2. The Peak 2 Peak Experience

The  Peak 2 Peak Gondola is an extraordinary feat of engineering. It links you to the top of Blackcomb Mountain. The crossing opened prior to the  Olympics and is a marvel. It holds world records for longest unsupported span crossing (three kilometres, or 1.8 miles) and deepest vertical drop from a lift at 436 metres (1,430 feet). From Whistler Mountain, you can also access a chairlift, dubbed the 7th Heaven Lift, that drags you up a few hundred more feet to the very top of the mountain for additional hiking options and stunning views overlooking Fitzsimmons Valley.

3. The International Flavour

Whistler is a confluence of nations. Germans, Aussies, Brits, Brazilians, Japanese, Koreans, Italians, and French citizens are among the people you’re likely to encounter during your visit, either in the service industry or among your fellow travellers. This global feel in such a small village makes for a unique vibe within the town.

4. Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro

Long considered the two best restaurants in Whistler, Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro are also among the best in Canada. In 2012, both ranked in the top half of the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, and in 2013 Araxi ranked 25th. The Bearfoot is a favourite for its champagne sabering, an activity every guest should try once, Vacay.ca’s Adrian Brijbassi says.

5. Festivals and Night Life

Whistler is a party town. Go to Buffalo Bill’s and you’ll know what we mean. Add to the usual night life a growing list of outstanding festivals, including the annual World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and you’ve got a destination that is as much about fun as it is exhilaration.


6. Bears and Eagles and Cougars, Oh My

Whistler is full of wildlife and you’ll want to make sure you bring your cameras to capture the non-party animals you’re sure to spot.

7. The Golf


Whistler Golf Club is one of several highly regarded courses in the mountain town. (Courtesy of Whistler Golf Club)

Golf Digest has rated Whistler as one of the world’s Top 20 Golf Destinations — and for good reason. There are award-winning golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Arnold Palmer, and Robert Cupp. Also, Whistler has some exceptional golf deals — and, of course, those resident black bears that make for an unusual hazard on a number of courses.

8. Celebrations of the First Nations

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is the first such Canadian facility dedicated to the history and culture of a local aboriginal group. It is a light-filled building that provides a focused look at two important First Nations groups in the west coast.

9. Proximity to Vancouver

Whistler is 125 kilometres north of Vancouver, accessed through the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway. It takes about 90 minutes to make the drive, and you can also get to the Whistler Blackcomb mountains by bus and train. It’s a joy to be able to reach a mountain resort in such a short commute.

10. The Accommodations

Few cities in North America have the level of luxury accommodations Whistler has within its village. The Whistler Four Seasons has been award a CAA/AAA 5-Diamond Award. It is joined by the wonderful Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, the Westin, and Hilton as top-ranked properties. And there’s plenty more in the village, plus the excellent Nita Lake Lodge that offers lakeside accommodations five kilometres from the village.

One of the 50 places you should see in Canada? Whistler should make such a list of destinations in the Western Hemisphere.

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Vicky is the worldly publisher of Vacay.ca. Having graduated from McGill University in Montreal, she has set about building a talented team of travel experts to deliver to you words and images of the very best places to see and experience in Canada. Based in Yorkville in Toronto, Vicky regularly jet sets around Canada — be sure to catch up with her when she's in your part of the country.

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