Hit the Slopes

Olympic hopefuls will want to get to Whistler before 2010

By: Anne Burke

This is the first Image
Clients may run into Olympic
hopefuls on the slopes.
Whistler Blackcomb’s bragging rights are formidable. The British Columbia ski and snowboard resort, located two hours north of Vancouver, boasts North America’s longest vertical drop (just short of a mile) and largest skiable terrain (8,171 acres, spread over two mountains). With average snowfall of 33 feet a year and low altitude that keeps temperatures warmish, the resort consistently tops lists of favorite North American ski destinations. If this isn’t already making the competition weep, Vancouver-Whistler emerged triumphant in its bid for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Whistler may owe its fame to its prodigious snowfall but it’s no longer all about the white stuff. Even clients convinced of the insanity of fastening strips of hard plastic to boots so as to slide down an icy mountain will find much to amuse here: dogsledding, hot-stone massages, golf, bungee jumping, mountain biking, nightclubs and enough shopping to break the bank.

When the railroad started bringing tourists to Whistler nearly a century ago, there was only one place to hang your hat the fishing lodge by the lake. Today, luxury hotels nearly outnumber the Douglas firs. The toniest include the Four Seasons, which lives up to its vaunted reputation for service even on the slopes. The ski concierge outfits guests in the latest Prada and Spyder skiwear, warms boots to toasty perfection and serves up hot chocolate at the base of the mountain. The Fairmont offers an 18-hole course that is carved into the slope of the mountain and a heated pool with underwater music.

Celebrities like Seal who proposed to Heidi Klum on a Whistler glacier check in at these five-star digs, but our group spent three nights at a smaller, but no less enjoyable, property. The Adara, a 41-room boutique hotel, eschews the ubiquitous rustic-lodge aesthetic in favor of a contemporary, shagadelic vibe that is delightfully all its own.

The Adara decor cleverly mixes natural materials from the Northwest with urban chic. The intimate, stone-walled lobby has facing, curved red sofas and a red-and-yellow rug that plays off the dancing flames in the gas-log fireplace.

Orange-resin deer antlers hang from the walls. On Fridays, the management spreads out complementary British Columbia wines and cheese on a communal log table. My roomy, one-bedroom suite had a fireplace and windows that looked out on Whistler Mountain. In the bedroom, a faux-mink throw contrasted with the crisp white of the plump comforter. An iPod docking station sat on the nightstand. (The front desk loans iPods and laptops free of charge.) Inside the bathroom is one of the most striking design elements in the hotel a cleverly rendered shower screen with a peep-show effect that fits the hotel’s provocative tagline: “style, unzipped.”

Out and About
The twin peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb are a hot-dogger’s heaven. But there’s no shame in snow plowing here. Thirty percent of runs are beginner; 40 percent are intermediate. We followed up our day on the slopes with an exhilarating ride through the snowy backcountry, propelled this time not by gravity but a team of rambunctious Alaskan racing huskies.

Playing in the snow, for me, is mere prelude to good food and drink. Fortunately, Whistler has become a gourmet haven. The Bearfoot Bistro, located across the street from the Adara, serves wonderfully inventive food in a theatrical atmosphere. Chef Melissa Craig’s staff appear as stage actors in the brightly lit show kitchen. Sommelier Daniel Robitaille lets diners (each braver than I) saber their own champagne bottles. A foursome of waiters balancing covered plates on their forearms arrived in unison at our table and revealed our entrees with a dramatic, “un, deux, trois voila!”

Part of the fun of skiing an Olympic venue in advance of the Winter Games is scoping the slopes for gold-medal hopefuls. At Whistler, clients can keep an eye out for hometown favorite Julia Murray. Murray’s father was the downhill skier Dave Murray, one of the “Crazy Canucks” who bested the Europeans in World Cup competition in the 1970s and ’80s. Julia was an infant when her dad died in 1990, but his legacy lives on. In 2010, Julia will make a run for the gold on the Dave Murray Downhill, a Whistler Mountain slope named after her father.


Adara Hotel

Bearfoot Bistro

Solarice Wellness Centre & Spa

Whistler Blackcomb

Whistler Dogsledding