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Put Your Luxury Tastes to the Test in Whistler

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A Porsche Cayenne Turbo S uses its self-drive function to descend a hill on an off-road obstacle course in Whistler. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

You know about going downhill on skis in Whistler, but how about in a Porsche?

The luxury automobile company has partnered with Four Seasons Whistler and Canadian Wilderness Adventures to offer a ticklish thrill ride on the backroads southwest of the resort village. 

Porsche knows its client base and the Four Seasons guests would be among those keen to see the breadth of its vehicles’ performance abilities. Participants get behind the smart wheel of a Porsche Cayenne S Turbo and drive to the off-road terrain in Callahan Valley to take on an obstacle course typically used by all-terrain vehicles that look like they came from a Mad Max film. 

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Canadian Wilderness Adventures’ Porsche Experience includes magnificent photo-ops amid the Coastal Mountains surrounding Whistler. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Each obstacle tests — and shows off — an aspect of the SUV’s engineering. Guides give instructions and stand outside to direct the driver. On my tour, the fleet of eight white Cayenne S Turbos manoeuvred through the obstacles one by one. 

An initial challenge is to drive up an incline on the driver side, dipping the passenger door so far down its side mirror nearly touches the dusty earth. Another test urges the driver to bend the car so far to the left that the two passenger side tires rise off the ground. Most impressively is the self-drive feature that exactly manages to negotiate steep inclines. The hardest part for the driver is to rein in the instinct to put a foot on the pedals. Instead, you need to take a breath and let the car do its thing as it sinks down the hill at the optimum speed while steering at the correct point to complete a smooth decline.

As with so much in Whistler, there is an adrenaline rush that makes you want to go again once you’ve completed the course. 

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Bartender Rory Baker uses an infuser to add applewood smoke to the Volcano en Fuego cocktail at Sidecut, the flagship restaurant of the Four Seasons Whistler. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

The Porsche Experience is a recent addition to the already world-class luxury offerings in North America’s premier ski resort destination. When you’ve returned the car keys at the hotel, the Four Seasons Whistler gives you many reasons to stick around the property. Its upgraded cocktail list is a wonder. Bartender Rory Baker has helped develop a program inspired by travels to a few of the leading cocktail bars in the world, including the Old Man and the Sea in Hong Kong. 

The Spirit of the Mountains cocktail list at the Four Seasons’ Sidecut restaurant elevates the dining experience on the property. Delights include the Volcano en Fuego, a rum-and-sherry concoction that’s served in a glass box with a porthole. The drink is placed within the box and a hose called a longbone is attached, sending a flood of applewood smoke into the container called a porthole infuser. A second drink inspired by Easter Island is served in a container that looks like one of the famous statues on the island. The Lady of the Mountain contains whiskey and black tea, and can be served hot or cold. It arrives in an ornate tea pot evocative of Asia. 

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Sidecut’s Spirit of the Mountains cocktail menu is as thoughtfully designed as the drinks in it. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Enjoy the drinks with your steak or salmon on the Sidecut patio or in the dining room. Pair your dinner with wine from Fort Berens, a winery located northeast of Whistler in Lillooet. The winery has created an Artist Label blend of red grapes (merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc) for Sidecut that features the work of local talent Karen Love.

Finish with a dessert around the campfire, served from a refurbished camper. 

And complete your night with a stay in one of the Four Seasons Whistler’s elegant guest rooms. 

Heavenly Experiences All Around Whistler

To next level your luxury getaway, fly, don’t drive, from Vancouver. Harbour Air’s seaplanes provide an epic journey alongside the peaks of the Coastal Mountain range. Black Tusk, the prominent monolith known for its jagged top and deep, dark granite colour, will linger in your mind. It’s an attention-grabbing mountain from the ground and a truly gorgeous sight when seen from eye level. 

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Black Tusk will captivate Harbour Air passengers who take a float plane between Vancouver and Whistler. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Any luxury vacation should also include an exploration of sophisticated art. Fortunately, Whistler’s Audain is a marvellous museum to explore. Holder of the largest collection of British Columbia art in the world, the Audain is set to launch a special exhibit on the work of one of Canada’s most renowned artists. “Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing – French Modernism and the West Coast” runs from September 21 to January 19, showcasing Carr’s early use of colours during the time she studied Impressionistic techniques in France.

Axe-Throwing Scores in Whistler

If you’d like to balance the luxury pursuits with something more brutish, then axe-throwing should culminate your itinerary. Forged launched a couple of years ago and has become a go-to hangout for residents and visitors seeking entertainment, fun competition and beer. Teams or individuals challenge each other to games where a bull’s-eye is the target and a lumberjack’s tool is the playing piece. Two people at a time stand in separate cages next to each other and hurl axes at their respective targets, which are about 10 feet from the throw-line.

 

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Forged does an excellent job with explaining the game, providing lessons and enticing return visits through tournaments and league play. A one-hour session ranges from $37-$42 per person (depending on the day of the week that’s booked) and includes useful coaching tips. You’ll also learn that axe-throwing is a fast-growing thing. The sport started more than a decade ago in a backyard in Toronto and has steadily expanded throughout North America.

Axe-throwing on your holiday might sound bizarre and you might think there’s no way you could get into it, but it’s a good time and it’s also as perfectly Whistler as taking a $100,000 Porsche through a rugged obstacle course. Whistler is about extremes, after all. No matter your taste, if you like a bit of craziness and a lot of adrenaline, you’ll find activities that will delightfully please while you settle into the vastness of these mountains that seem to always find ways to beckon us for more fun.

MORE ABOUT VISITING WHISTLER

The Porsche Experience: Canadian Wilderness Tours charges $399 for a driver and vehicle for a four-hour tour in the Cayenne Turbo S. Check the company’s website for details and reservation info.

Four Seasons Whistler: Nightly rates for a weekend stay in October start at $390, according to a recent search on the hotel’s booking engine.

Harbour Air: Flights from Vancouver to Whistler resume on May 4, 2020. The flight path through the Coastal Mountains can be turbulent, though exhilarating. The float plane lands in Whistler’s Green Lake and a free shuttle delivers passengers to their hotels or the Village Square.

Food & Drink: To experience Whistler’s fantastic culinary scene, participate in the annual Cornucopia festival (November 7-17). The festival includes winemaker dinners at exceptional restaurants as well as a variety of seminars on food, wine, beer, and spirits. Ticket prices to individual events vary. Check the event website for full details. Recommended 2019 Events: Nomad Cook’s Brunch at Nourish (November 9); Araxi “Big Guns” Dinner (November 9); Seminar on Oregon’s Willamette Valley (November 9); Seminar on BC Varietals (November 10); and Il Caminetto’s Winery Dinner featuring Checkmate Winery (November 15);

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.