Pre- or post-Alaska cruise: Whistler, B.C., makes a great getaway


We send a number of clients to Whistler, British Columbia, to ski. It is, after all, one of the premier ski areas in North America and one of the hosts for the 2010 Winter Games. And while most know Whistler as a great ski area, it’s catching on as a hugely popular summer destination as well, and a great getaway before or after an Alaska cruise. Yes, Canada is an exciting summer destination!

With the expansion of the highway from Vancouver, which has shaved a half hour off the drive time, Whistler is closer to a two-hour drive from Vancouver Airport, depending on traffic. A relatively newer option is the Whistler Mountaineer, a luxury train that departs from North Vancouver and takes about three hours, allowing passengers to enjoy the stunning scenery en route along with a fine meal. (When booking your trip to Whistler, we can set up your rail or private transfer service from Vancouver, as well as other options.)

What options? Just about any outdoor activity is readily available in Whistler. One of the newest and perhaps most popular attractions is the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that now connects Whistler Mountain with Blackcomb Mountain: 2.73 miles across, it’s the world’s highest and longest unsupported span for lift of this kind, and takes 11 minutes to get across.

For mountain biking, Whistler is now a premier world renowned destination. There were hundreds of bikers of all nationalities and all ages availing themselves of the various routes available, coded as Easiest, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. Beyond careening down Whistler’s rugged terrain, there are numerous less treacherous trails one can enjoy off the mountain, and plenty of locations at which equipment can be rented.

For those less inclined, other popular activities one can book include ATV trips and Hummer tours that head out on rugged logging roads. ATV tours are also available from atop the mountain. Looking for bears is popular, as a number reside in the area. Another popular activity is ziplining, and there are two outfits operating: one features tandem lines (two cables side by side so couples can zip together). ZipTrek Ecotours, the one I experienced, offers three different route options, and combines ziplining through the forest above Fitzimmons Creek with a bit of commentary along the way about the environment. Of course, there are lots of wonderful hiking opportunities about the area or on the mountains, and horseback riding is also available in nearby Pemberton. Golfers will delight in four championship courses in the area.

Water based activities can include river rafting, canoeing or kayaking, fishing and parasailing in Squamish, while airborne activities can include parasailing. Rock climbers will thrill to the opportunities available as well. Kids are thoroughly entertained with a variety of options, too, not least of which is the Adventure Zone set up a the base of Blackcomb Mountain, or the primal fun and games of Wild Play.

Canada is coming into its own for fine dining and locally-produced wine. There are over 100 wineries in the Okanagan Valley alone, and it’s fun to pair local vintages with local game or seafood at a number of fine restaurants. A new culinary activity is the Whistler Tasting Tours, operating daily. Whether for your private group or you can join others, you’ll enjoy a progressive dinner as you visit four or five different dining venues and enjoy a course at each, paired with wine. Beyond being a great way to sample cuisine at some of the better restaurants along with local wines, the company’s escorts make it quite fun as well. Our experience included meeting one of the executive chefs to discuss his preparation techniques, having appetizers in the basement wine cellar of another as we learned to slice open a champagne bottle with a knife, a tradition dating back to Napoleon’s day. The Whistler Tasting Tours are popular and book up, so it’s best to book early, and of course, we can make arrangements for you in advance. As an added value, participants receive a coupon card providing discounts on select restaurants and activities. Otherwise, the Rimrock Cafe is excellent for seafood and game, and a favorite with local.

On the culture side, there are several art galleries of note worth visiting, as well as the Aboriginal Cultural Centre + Museum, also known as the Squamish Lilwat Cultural Center, where you can learn about the fascinating native American culture and crafts of the two nations that reside(d) here.

As for the Winter Games, if you’re heading that way, contact us for lodging arrangements and tickets (which we have some access to while available).