I do not ski, which is not to say I do not enjoy ski vacations. Visiting spectacular mountain resorts, trying new restaurants, bars and art galleries, searching for wildlife while breathing fresh mountain air in a lonely forest keeps me plenty busy while my wife is “shredding” her blue runs.
I was especially excited about our trip to Whistler-Blackcomb. While the mountains there maintain good snow deep into spring, thanks to the unusual geographic conditions, the village and surrounding valley are free of snow with spring temperatures routinely in the 60s. I get spring, she gets winter and everyone is happy.
Long hikes without the hassles of snow shoes are a joy I am rarely provided on our ski vacations. Not only did I not need snow shoes on my many hikes around Whistler, I didn’t even pack a heavy winter coat for the trip. A sweater, fleece vest, light jacket and stocking cap kept me plenty warm.
I walked well over 20 miles during my stay on well-maintained and marked trails easily accessible on foot from both Blackcomb Upper Village and Whistler Village. The terrain on the hikes was only mildly physically challenging. I was hoping to find more strenuous, backcountry trails, but these offerings were at higher elevations still covered in snow.
I’m a birder.
Mountains in the early spring are not prime bird watching environments, but with only mild effort I was able to spot many species uncommon in the southeast where I live. The chesnut-backed chickadee, which is perfectly common there, I had never seen before which was a treat.
No offense to birds, but black bears steal the show. A 20 minute drive to the Whistler Olympic Park from the resort found a just-out-of-the-den male munching away at the grass less than 40 feet from the road. He couldn’t have been less concerned with the few cars passing by or those stopping to take pictures, as we did, for the better part of an hour.
I encountered another black bear on the Whistler Golf Course near sundown on a drizzly, raw evening. This male was enjoying the fresh grass of the rough and equally unconcerned with the small crowd gathered to observe him at a distance of no more than 100 feet.
When you see a bear in the wild, you have created a life-long memory. Savor these opportunities.
Whistler offers the full suite of restaurant options you’d expect from an upscale resort village. Our favorites were Pizzeria Antico for dinner and Wildflower inside the Fairmont for breakfast – it’s pricy, but worth the splurge. Purebread offers a pastry case which belongs in a fantasy. We also thoroughly enjoyed Crepe Montagne, The Brewhouse and Creekbread (pizza) – a more “local” hotspot in the small village of Creekside less than five miles from Whistler Village.
This is by no means a comprehensive list.
Bustling Dubh Linn (Dublin) Gate Irish Pub at the base of the Whistler ski runs does provide a near resemblance to authentic Irish pubs right down to the Tayto Crisp brand potato chips – or “crisps” in their vernacular – available at the bar. The bar’s house band, Ruckus Delux is a crowd pleaser.
It’s close to 40 minutes by car north on British Columbia Highway 99, but a visit to Pemberton Distillery is well worth the effort for connoisseurs of fine spirit, be they whisky, gin, vodka or absinthe.
Numerous art galleries provide hours of browsing. The stone sculptures of the Fathom Stone Art Gallery and Studios are not to be missed. The recently opened Audain Art Museum offers a fine collection of ceremonial masks from the local First People, although I found a tour of the Aboriginal Museum Gallery preferable in telling the story of the region’s natives. Both are located in the Village.