Every week Geont Tours is sharing with you adventures worldwide. Our Mission is to inspire the reader, challenge you to explore the unknown and follow the great minds around the world!
This time we will share an insider's guide to skiing in Whistler, Canada.
When the Peak2Peak gondola opened in Whistler in 2008, linking the two mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb across a vast valley, the resort truly came of age. Then, in 2010 the spotlight of the Winter Olympics broadcast it to the world, highlighting just how scenic and varied the region is: its jagged peaks, tumbling glaciers and deep, beautiful forests.
Boasting dramatic mountain scenery and a lively après scene, Whistler, on the west coast of Canada in British Columbia, is much more European in flavour than most North American resorts. When I first visited 20 years ago and met the man I married in the lobby of the Chateau Whistler hotel, it was more of a locals mountain than the top international resort it is now. But even though it’s grown, what made it so special to me then – sniffle stations, Belgian waffles on the mountain, pitchers of margaritas in resort and the sort of powder that makes you sing with joy – remain.
The resort's ski area is one of the largest in the world, with some 8,000 acres of pistes and 1,610m of vertical. Running from mid-November until May, its season enjoys an incredibly reliable average snowfall of 39ft, which is impressive even by North America's standards.
There are no cars in the centre of Whistler Village, the main hub of the resort, so it’s pleasant to stroll around, break for a cappuccino and window-shop at the ever-increasing number of boutiques and shops, offering everything from home furnishings to designer art.
Whistler is more cosmopolitan than many alpine resorts and a great destination even for non-skiers, with a strong selection of spas, restaurants and family activities on offer. The Scandinave Spa is a personal favourite of mine - a luxurious retreat set in stunning wilderness and boasting hots tubs at different temperatures, massages and other treatment options. Or take a scenic helicopter ride around the area, an experience rarely offered in resorts in Europe. There is also seemingly constant live music and concerts throughout the season.
As well as global recognition, the Winter Olympics also brought millions of dollars worth of expansion and improvements to both the town and the slopes. However, Whistler now suffers from lift queues, especially at weekends and peak times, but two new high-speed chairs opened last season should alleviate some pressure. It's especially busy around Christmas, New Year, public holidays and sunny weekends as it's only a couple hours drive from Vancouver and Seattle.
For UK visitors the exchange rate, fuel surcharges, lift passes and added taxes make Whistler an expensive destination. Hotels do not include breakfast as standard and half-board accommodation is rare. Taxes and service charge then add at least 20 per cent to your bill. But, compared to European resorts, the rooms are bigger, standards higher and manners are better.
Insider ratings (out of three)
Terrain parks ***
Snow reliability **
Off piste/Powder ***
Village charm **
Off slope activities/facilities ***