Whistler in the Winter for Non-Skiers

Whistler offers many winter activities for non-skiers, from shopping to dining to days spent at the spa

Whistler offers many winter activities for non-skiers, from shopping to dining to days spent at the spa

Two hours north of Vancouver, the mountain town of Whistler, B.C. is one of the world’s top ski resorts and one of the most accessible weekend getaway locations for Lower Mainland residents. But what if you don’t ski or snowboard? Is Whistler still a good winter vacation option? The answer is a resounding yes.

Here are just a few suggestions of where to eat, play, shop and relax in Whistler, even if you’re not planning on hitting the slopes…

Where to dine

Start your day with a coffee at Camp Lifestyle and Coffee Co., a mountain store and espresso bar. The name is an acronym for Coffee and Mindful Products; the cafe curates locally, ethically and sustainably sourced products while serving thoughtfully crafted third wave coffee that’s sure to please the modern coffee lover. 

For casual daytime bites, the Corner Deli is the newest fast-casual eatery in the village. Opened by four long-time Whistler residents, the locale claims to have the best sandwiches in Whistler–and we didn’t think the claim was far from the truth. Their saucy meatball sub is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter day, while their smoked meat sandwich is stacked generously with beef imported from Montreal. Meanwhile, Peaked Pies is known for Australian-inspired meat pies. Be sure to order the fully loaded “get peaked” version with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. It’s just not the same without the savoury topper!

For an eatery option where you’re encouraged to stay and linger, The Living Room Café at the newly-opened Pangea Pod Hotel offers flatbreads, craft beers and cocktails. If you’re waiting for friends to finish their last run on the slopes, there are also board games to pass the time.

For higher end dining, Rimrock Restaurant bills itself as “Whistler’s place for fish and game”, while Bar OSO offers Spanish-inspired small plates, tapas and house-made charcuterie, plus a fantastic selection of wine and hand-crafted cocktails. (The name means bear in Spanish, an homage to the region’s wildlife.)

Where to play

Snowshoeing is a winter activity that’s easy to pick up, and a leisurely way to enjoy Whistler’s winter scenery while doing something active outside that can even work up a sweat. For first timers, it’s best to go on a guided tour with Whistler Snowshoe or Canadian Wilderness Adventures.

Or bundle up and zipline over Whistler’s snow-topped canopy (on Canada’s longest zipline) with The Adventure Group. Hook your harness onto a kilometre-long wire 600 feet above the ground and soar over the treetops. Their parallel dual zipline setup also allows you to fly side-by-side with a friend. Snowmobiling with the same company is also a unique way to experience Whistler’s snowy winter terrain.

For those wanting to spend an hour or two indoors doing something completely different, unleash your inner lumberjack at Forged, Whistler’s only axe-throwing venue. The activity is surprisingly fun, and requires practiced aim to accurately hit wooden targets at the end of a lane.

Where to shop

Whistler Village is the main pedestrian-only walking strip along which you’ll find national chain brands, sports equipment and specialized apparel stores, along with the occasional souvenir shop. But look beyond the stores catering to sport enthusiasts and excited tourists, and a thriving local boutique shopping scene is on offer.

For stylish artisan goods, shop at 3 Singing Birds. They are “a gathering of small design companies that make beautiful products with a mindful and fair trade philosophy… with an emphasis on the creativity and unique lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest region.” From skincare to home goods to modern stationery, this is the boutique to shop if you’re dedicated to supporting local.

Sitka is a B.C.-based outdoor company that produces eco-minded lifestyle apparelor “uniforms for enjoying the outdoors”in North America. Aside from their original location in Victoria, Whistler is the only other city where they operate a brick-and-mortar retail boutique.For higher end apparel, Jonathan and Olivia is a multi-brand fashion and lifestyle boutique, carrying brands like Acne Studios, Yohji Yamamoto, Isabelle Marant Etoile, APC and Frame Denim. They launched this fall in the gallery row attached to the Hilton.

Where to relax

If you’re looking to experience a day of unique relaxation, Scandinave Spa is worth the drive up to Whistler all on its own.

This Nordic-inspired outdoor day spa is housed in the middle of a spruce and cedar forest and is open year-round… rain, shine, or snow! The spa contains 20,000 square feet of hot pools, cold waterfalls, eucalyptus steam rooms, saunas and relaxation areas. Guests of the spa are encouraged to go through several “hot”, “cold” and “relax” cycles, with the benefits of soothing tired muscles, eliminating toxins and stimulating blood circulation.

Note that the spa area is a silent zone–so no cellphones or gabbing with friends. Take this time instead to disconnect and unwind, soaking in the gorgeous views while literally soaking in a hot bath.