A Ski-free Weekend in Whistler

Enjoy the very best Whistler has to offer without strapping on your skis

Enjoy the very best Whistler has to offer without strapping on your skis

The engine roars to life and I’m already gripping the handle bars as if my very life depends on it. I’m ready to take off on my Canadian Wilderness Adventures journey from the base of Blackcomb Mountain through the pristine Callaghan Valley to the historic Northair mine site. The giant snowflakes are making the scene feel even more like a fairy tale adventure.

As I blaze along trails of pine trees draped in snow, I’m hoping I won’t tip the snowmobile, which is exactly what happened the previous winter when I was a passenger. Thankfully, I stay upright and am thrilled at how the terrain glows. Crystal beams glisten on the branches as I revel in the sheer adrenaline rush of it all.

A weekend getaway in Whistler doesn’t have to involve strapping on skis. My ski-free adventure showcased other forms of outdoor activities and a world-class culinary scene.

Glide peak to peak

For a high-octane summit rush, I rode the 4.4-kilometre Peak to Peak Gondola. Connecting the two mountain peaks of Blackcomb and Whistler, the experience rewarded me with sweeping 360-degree mountaintop views of the surrounding splendour.

Another good reason to glide through the air on the highest and longest unsupported gondola lift in the world is dining at Christine’s on Blackcomb Mountain. After all, how often can you fuel up at 6,000 feet? This sleek stunner of an eatery offers fresh, light, sophisticated city-style dining in a place where you least expect it. The Indian tater tots and pumpkin soup tantalized my palate with rich, deep and spicy flavours.

Simply spa-ing

My idea of a holiday involves things like facials, massages and lying about in a hot tub rather than perfecting parallel turns and conquering black diamond slopes. I slipped on my robe and found my way to The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge to indulge in a 60-minute Heaven and Earth massage. As its moniker implies, I was soon transported into a blissful state, in which I’m pretty sure I let out one or two unfeminine sounds.

Overnight right

Perched on the edge of a glacier-fed lake and boasting impossibly comfortable rustic-chic chalet-style suites, Nita Lake Lodge was the perfect retreat after wining and dining my way through this alpine village oasis.

Voted one of the top 25 hotels in Canada by Trip Advisor, it also offers an essential part of ski culture: the hot tub. Not one, in fact, but two. Overlooking the lake, you can drink without being burdened by your heavy winter apparel. It’s a win-win.

Culinary delights

On the first evening, I dined at the lodge’s Aura Restaurant. With a brand new contemporary look, Aura honours its alpine surroundings and Canadian heritage with wide-plank wood flooring, solid wood beams and whimsical art, such as the seven deer in mid-gallop hanging on the wall.

The decor is only outdone by its superbly executed dishes. Executive Chef James Olberg—formerly of Niagara’s Queen’s Landing Hotel and the opening chef at Toronto brasserie La Société—serves up innovative dishes using local and ethically sourced ingredients. Candlelight, a stunning location and fine wines set the atmosphere for a superb dining experience.

Hankering for some bona fide Mexican fare the following night, I feasted at The Mexican Corner. Here, Mexican cuisine isn’t just about tacos and tamales. From gastronomy to ambience, it provides Whistler with an authentic Mexican experience… without the expense of an airline ticket. Whether you want Tuna Tostaditas, Chile Relleno—roasted poblano pepper stuffed with braised beef and ground pork—or some down-home street food, like Cochinita 3 Tacos, one thing’s for sure: you’ll never be short of options.

Lace up those boots

Under a clear, blue sky, I slipped into my boots and journeyed onto the Valley Trail behind the hotel, right on the edge of Nita Lake. The trail connects 40 kilometres of paved trail and boardwalks, uniting major hubs, neighbourhoods, glacier-fed lakes and parks. It’s about a 45-minute brisk stroll into Whistler Village, and a fabulous way to walk off a late-night dinner. For those more inclined to recline, Nita Lake Lodge offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the village.

Then, like any indulging sojourn, there was time to unwind, by curling up fireside at Cure Lounge and Patio, the hotel’s resident lounge. With elegant worn-leather couches, wood-burning fireplace and country-style tables, it was the perfect resting place for a glass of wine or signature cocktail and a house-made charcuterie platter.

Après ski at Araxi

You don’t have to don skis to enjoy the lively après ski scene at Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar. This ultra-chic eatery draws quite a crowd of skiers and boarders. Many are enticed to join for a couple of reasons: the oyster platter and cheese fondue. I was surrounded by people partaking in the fondue, a classic dish of Gruyère and white wine. It’s a molten cheese nirvana that can even snare those watching their waistlines. I also challenge you to try to resist the fresh-shucked oysters. They wash down wonderfully with any of more than 1,000 different wines on-site.