I've been to Whistler at least two dozen times and never once bombed down one of its mountains. Not on skis, or a snowboard, or a mountain bike. Am I missing out? I've never felt like it. That's because this haven for intense outdoor sports activities is also fabulous for soft-core warm-weather enjoyment, too, including golfing, hiking, zip lining, and cycling. On top of all that, it's simply immaculate. A beautiful part of the world that never bores. Whistler exhilarates, as it did on my most recent visit at the end of May.
During those four days, daring mountain bikers swarmed the village to take turns careening down one of nearly 50 trails, while skiers and snowboarders squeezed in their final runs of the season. A Great Canadian Weekend shouldn't be about putting yourself in position to suffer bodily harm, I figured. So I chose pursuits that were less dangerous and, for my tastes, even more satisfying than a thrill run down a steep and challenging hill.
DAY 1 IN WHISTLER
FRIDAY, 5 P.M. CHECK-IN, FAIRMONT CHATEAU WHISTLER
Address: 4599 Chateau Boulevard (at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain)
Driving distance from Vancouver: Whistler is an easy, breathtaking drive from downtown Vancouver. Take Highway 99 north, crossing over the Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park, and drive through the beautiful coastal route that runs along Howe Sound. It will take about 90 minutes to go the 125 kilometres between destinations.
What you should know: Chateau Whistler is the Fairmont property that most resembles the exquisite and revered Fairmont Lake Louise in Alberta. Its lobby is big, airy, and tastefully decorated, with accents of the Pacific coast. It has a bar that is spread out like a convention room, allowing for intimacy between couples or congenial gatherings of large groups. From housekeepers to bellhops to the concierge desk, the service is outstanding. Pleasant hellos and hands eager to help are what greet you. The rooms are generously sized, comfortable and luxurious. This hotel is a jewel of a brand whose properties can sometimes disappoint.
Cost: Rates start at $240 per night on most summer weekends. Visit the hotel's website to search for accommodations and special packages.
Bonus Feature: Complimentary shuttle service to spots in the village and to the Chateau Whistler golf course.
FRIDAY, 8 P.M. DINNER AT BEARFOOT BISTRO
Address: 4121 Village Green (at the Listel Hotel)
Distance from Chateau Whistler: An easy 12-minute walk
What you should know: A destination restaurant that lives up to its reputation, both for quality cuisine and fun times. The Champagne sabering in the magnificent wine cellar -- the largest in British Columbia, with 20,000 bottles -- is not to be passed up. You order a bottle or half-bottle of sparkling wine or Champagne and then you are escorted downstairs to chop off the neck of the bottle with a blade, just the way Napoleon and his army used to do. Chances are, you'll be surprised how well you accomplish the feat.
Cost: The five-course summer menu costs $64 -- a culinary deal. It features choices such as milk-fed veal carpaccio, salmon in béarnaise sauce, and oysters.
Reservations: Telephone 1-604-932-3433 or book online via OpenTable.
DAY 2 IN WHISTLER
SATURDAY, 9 A.M. TEE TIME AT CHATEAU WHISTLER GOLF CLUB
Address: 4612 Blackcomb Way
Distance from hotel: 1.2 kilometres. You can use the hotel's shuttle service for drop-off and pick-up after your round.
What you should know: For many visitors, the golf is secondary to the unusual residents on the course. About a half-dozen black bears, including a female named Alice and her two cubs, roam the grounds. The Today Show from Australia was recently in Whistler filming the black bears on the course. Phil Chambers, group coordinator at the Chateau Whistler course, told me that one bear, who has passed away, would even have fun swatting balls from the greens. Encounters can be entertaining and a bit nerve-wracking, although the bears are quite docile. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. in 1993, the par-72, 6,635-yard track rises 400 feet, a layout that gives players outstanding views of the mountains and the natural surroundings of the British Columbia coast.
Cost: $175 for greens fees from June 1 to September 30; $125 for twilight rates. A great golf deal is the Date Night offer on Thursdays in the summer that includes a round of golf and BBQ dinner for just $145 per couple.
You're only halfway through! Read Vacay.ca to discover the rest of your Great Canadian Weekend in Whistler -- including a mountain-top dining experience you won't forget.