On the prime village corner spot where the Whistler View time share used to be, welcome to Whistler’s chicest new budget-conscious sleep
I couldn’t understand why a friend didn’t share my excitement about being one of the first guests at Pangea, the only pod hotel of its kind in Canada. “Who wants to sleep in a coffin?” he said, nonplussed. I guess I do—because the experience turned out to be anything but deadly. Right from entering off a busy village stroll, splashy wall murals and bright colours give the hotel’s blond-wood decor the feel of a hip but cozy cabin. This is a world away from the capsule Japanese and airport hotels where I’ve stayed in the past.
From bedroom accommodations to bathroom amenities, here's everything you need to know about Whistler's new pod hotel...
1. Registered lobbyists
Though I was checked in by a friendly human, guests can enter with a couple of swipes of an iPad screen and card terminal—even making a walk-in reservation on the spot (subject to availability, of course). You can extend your stay, pay room charges or request a late checkout right on screen. Located at the top of a short staircase from street level, the 24/7-staffed front desk responds to guest texts at all hours—and has a bird’s-eye view of not only who’s coming and going, but the huge, secure storage area to one side. With wall-mounted lock-down storage for bikes, skis and boards, and large lockers for other outdoor equipment or bulky traveller belongings (all BYO locks), this hotel lobby is quintessentially Whistler.
2. Checking the boxes
My wrist bracelet unlocks suite E, one of the larger rooms on the upper floor containing 18 pods in total. (Other suites have six, eight, 10 or 12 pods: great family or group-getaway potential.) They’re stacked two-high, like grown-up bunk beds. I’m on the room’s mezzanine, a loft-like perch with a clear view out of the room’s long, glassed balcony. It’s only later that I discover my pod is the smallest configuration (and cheapest: from $59–$99, depending on timing): aside from a landing strip of soft fuchsia carpet less than a foot deep, it’s the exact snug size of the memory foam double mattress. Slightly roomier, slightly more expensive (typically $129–$159) pods have more non-bed space, or a horizontal configuration where you enter at the side of the bed.
Sturdy leather straps and metal grips hoist me to the foot of the bed in a top pod, not unlike the bunk-bed situation I craved as a kid. I can sit up easily in the pod, where there’s a large circular mirror, two roomy shelves and an outlet for devices and charging. There’s even a tiny “closet” area with a few hangers, plus handy towel hooks. I could use the supplied chain to secure my luggage, but it’s better off in the roomy storage locker at floor level. A cute infographic poster explains all the pod’s features, which ingeniously include a fan for air circulation and white-noise production. Pod dwelling is fun, like inhabiting a playhouse at adult summer camp.
3. Deconstructing the bathroom
The nastiest part of any hostel stay is schlepping and toting to a shared, inevitably peak-time crowded, bathroom hub. Smart design eliminates that here: The eight suites have their own separate and enclosed full-height change rooms, showers and toilets, plus wash stations with sink and mirror (BYO towel): Suite E had three of each. Even in a roomful of women, there was always enough space for everyone. Everything was sparkling clean, and designed with durable materials and simple construction to stay that way. Showers are equipped with soap dispensers, but if you forgot toothpaste, a razor or sunscreen you can buy many little amenities cheaply at the front desk.
4. Living the room
Let’s face it, you’re not going to spend a ton of time in your pod, though with fast Wi-Fi, earbuds and the half-door closed and curtain drawn, a quiet Netflix night is possible. The communal living room to one side of the lobby is more than an all-day bar and kitchen: a cluster of café tables and two long communal ones with bench-style seating make it feel organic to chat with fellow guests while you nosh on a squash or spicy-sausage flatbread and sip a cocktail made with Sons of Vancouver vodka. Big windows look down as the swarms walk by in the village. From a bar stool at the ledge of the compact, boomerang-shaped roof bar and deck one floor up you will feel snug and smug, indeed.
5. The pod couple
Owners Russell and Jelena Kling met while living out of backpacks and globe-hopped for three years, cherry-picking the design and safety features and creature comforts that set their favourite cheap hotel stays apart. The couple paid an insane amount of attention to detail during the five-year gestation process of Pangea—even sleeping overnight in a beta-test pod built in the South Vancouver warehouse of modular-construction pros Seagull Enterprises. They’re heavily invested enough here to plan to expand the Pangea concept in other markets.
6. The cost of a good sleep
For a light sleeper who requires custom-made earplugs, an impenetrable eye shade, a white-noise machine and the velvet hammer of melatonin to sleep on a quiet Vancouver street, I was skeptical I’d get any winks in close quarters with others, and a couple stories up from a raucous Whistler summer night. Wrong! The white-noise of my pod’s whirring fan lulled me to sleep, and although I admittedly woke up overheated in the wee hours, I could have prevented that by keeping my pod’s half-curtain open all night: there was an efficient AC vent in the ceiling right in front of my pod that cooled things down quickly.
There’s no late-riser option here, though: you’ll hear voices, water in the pipes and the patter of your pod-mates feet on the stairs as soon as they’re up. Still, I managed a solid seven-plus hours, which is what I typically get at home.
7. Keeping house
One quirk of the stay is that daily linen service is not included: you can request a daily changing of sheets for a small (think: $10ish) charge, and switch dirty towels for fresh yourself at any time. “We’re not wanting to charge for anything we don’t need to,” says Russell Kling, of deciding not to add daily housekeeping costs to the room rate. “And who really changes their sheets at home every day?”
4333 Sunrise Alley, Whistler, pangeapod.com