Whistler, British Columbia, is known for its world-class skiing and snowboarding. Whistler Blackcomb, owned by Vail Resorts, is the largest ski resort in North America, with 8,171 skiable acres, 36 lifts, and over 200 runs. But there is so much more to the town of Whistler, especially if you are a non-skier.
Whistler Village is a walkable small town filled with resorts, restaurants, shopping, art galleries, museums, and bars perfect for après ski.
I visit Whistler every Thanksgiving with my family. My husband and son love to ski. As a non-skier, I find plenty to see and do while they hit the slopes. Here are some of my favorite things to do while staying in Whistler.
1. Audain Art Museum
This beautiful museum highlights the art of British Columbia from the late 18th century to the present. The Audain Art Museum was founded by philanthropist Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa. The longtime collectors of British Columbia art donated their collection to the public. The 56,000-square-foot museum was designed by Patkau Architects and is situated on the shared, unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation and Lil̓wat7úl (Lil’wat) Nation. The design of the building with floor-to-ceiling windows brings the surrounding forest almost inside and it becomes a work of art as well. It is stunning walking down an illuminated hallway, especially in the winter, as the forest takes on a magical appearance in the falling snow.
The permanent collection showcases artworks from the late 18th century to the present. One of the highlights of the collection is The Dance Screen (The Scream Too) by hereditary Haida Chief James Hart. The screen covers a whole wall and it is carved out of cedar. It is such an incredible visual piece and due to its size, it takes some time to absorb everything you are seeing.
2. Explore Whistler Village
Sections of Whistler Village are car free, making it a perfect pedestrian village. The main path through town is the Village Stroll, which is such a great name for a place to walk. There are more than 200 shops and stores offering the best in ski and snowboard gear, high-end jewelry stores, and fashion. Feast your eyes on a variety of artistic works at more than eight art galleries in the village. Local artisans and First Nations people craft jewelry, hand-woven baskets, pottery, paintings, and other collectibles.
Live music can be heard throughout the village from the many pubs and eateries. Don’t miss Whistler Olympic Plaza and the Olympic Medals Pavilion for the great photo opportunity with the Olympic Rings. There is also a small ice-skating rink.
3. Take a Self-Guided Tour Of Whistler
Download the mobile app Go Whistler Tours, available for both Apple or Android devices. These curated tours are brought to you by Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler and provide fun options for both in the village and the surrounding areas.
I was able to try a few on my visit. The app provides directions and plenty of information on each stop. Whistler’s Cultural Connector took me on a paved trail marked with yellow and grey diamond-shaped markers through beautiful surroundings to six different cultural institutions in the area. I learned about the First Nations culture, pioneer history, and so much more. I also had to do the Sweet Treats tour, which took me to a variety of sweet shops, and Crepe Montagne, where I enjoyed a crepe flambé. Other tours include the Fitzsimmons Creek Accessible Nature Trail, Natural Wonders, History & Heritage, Craft Beer, Fall Biking, and the new Festive Lights Tour.
This is such a great way to explore Whistler. I plan to do the rest of the tours on my next visit.
4. Scandinave Spa Whistler
This is a must-stop whenever I visit. This is such a beautiful destination. The mood is set as you walk from the parking lot to the trail that leads through a pristine forest and over a bridge to the entrance of the spa. The fresh smell of evergreen firs and the rushing sounds of a small waterfall set the mood before you even walk in the front door. Once you check in and change (bathing suits mandatory), head outdoors to begin this incredible experience. Silence is required and the peace and quiet are what make it so unique and relaxing. The 20,000 square foot outdoor spa grounds are set within a spruce and cedar forest. In the winter months, the snowfall blankets the grounds and trees add to the experience.
Plan to spend a few hours and bring a book (no electronics allowed) to enjoy in the solariums. You follow a cycle of hot, cold, and relaxing. Hot takes place in a Finnish wood-burning sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, or outdoor hot baths. The cold cycles are frigid and an important part of the hydrotherapy. Try a Nordic waterfall, ice-cold rain shower, or a plunge into a cold pool. Then head to a relaxation area that includes solariums, an outdoor fire pit, or a quiet room with a fireplace. You will be completely relaxed by the time you leave.
Pro Tip: You can book a massage or take time to have a beverage or snack at the small café overlooking the outdoor spa.
5. Go Gourmet
Whistler Village has some excellent restaurants but one of the first and arguably the best is Araxi. Located in the heart of Whistler Village, its reputation for excellence has spread far and wide and could be seen with diners from all over the world the night I visited. Many were repeat visitors and after eating there I can see why. I will be a repeat visitor. Executive Chef James Walt’s seasonally focused menus turn the best ingredients from nearby fields, pastures, and the pristine waters into culinary masterpieces. The dishes were so beautifully presented I took a moment with each to appreciate the presentation. Walt was an early pioneer of farm-to-table dining and he has developed and established meaningful relationships with local purveyors including farmers, fishers, and ranchers. He has also been known to forage for the freshest ingredients. These partnerships show the outstanding quality of the ingredients used at Araxi.
One of the things I liked most about the restaurant was that though it is a very high-end, white tablecloth type of meal it was one of the most comfortable and welcoming places I have enjoyed this type of experience. It wasn’t stuffy at all and many tables the evening I was there had children dining. It is so rare as a parent to be able to enjoy fine dining with your children. I tried a variety of fresh seafood, small and large plates. As a travel writer, the chef will often send out extra things to try. I highly recommend trying things outside of your comfort zone. When our waiter placed a bowl of crushed ice topped with three types of raw fish: salmon, tuna, and toro, that was presented with ginger and a delicious sauce, I was concerned as I had never tried something like this before. Wow is all I can say. When you have the best fresh ingredients, you really don’t need to do much to it. I was surprised how good it was and so glad I tried it.
Two items on the menu really stood out for me. The first was the Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar Souffle. I have the opportunity to eat at a lot of great restaurants and I have to say this makes my Top 10 of anything I have ever eaten. The twice-baked souffle is placed atop aged cheddar fonduta (An Italian term for a thick sauce or dip) and then topped with arugula lightly tossed in a lemon vinaigrette and sprinkled with perfectly toasted caramel color and thinly sliced almonds. Perfection! The flavors were complementary with a bite of the light and fluffy souffle swirled in the cheddar fonduta and picking up a bit of arugula and the almonds a joy to indulge in. My husband ordered the Red Deer Venison Loin which was black pepper crusted with goat cheese and toasted walnut agnolotti and served with roasted Pemberton squash, confit fennel, and sauce diable. I had a bite and was amazed at how the meat was like beef tenderloin and was almost fork tender.
6. The Champagne Nail Bar At Nita Lake Lodge
You can pop into the Champagne Nail Bar located in the Spa at Nita Lake Lodge to enjoy a Champagne Manicure which includes either the Nita Manicure or the OPI Gel Color Manicure and a chilled bottle of Moet et Chandon Imperial Brut Mini (200ml). I opted for the Gel Manicure, and I was amazed at how quickly and hard the polish dried. I am hard on my nails, and even a week later they still look freshly manicured. The hand massage was so relaxing.
If you want to spend more time relaxing, head upstairs to the stunning rooftop hot tubs with mountain views, the relaxation room or enjoy the eucalyptus steam room. There is also a complete spa menu that offers the latest in technology and wellness treatments.
7. High Adventure
Visit the Whistler Blackcomb website to learn more about winter activities offered in Whistler. There are so many fun, outdoor activities to try, including snowmobiling, snowshoe tours, and dog sledding. Ziplining was a little too high speed for me so I opted to try the Treetrek Tour. The ancient rainforest surrounding Whistler is stunning, especially in the winter months. This tour takes you up into the treetops of magnificent cedars, hemlocks, and firs. Learn about ecology and sustainability on your guided tour up into the trees and across swaying suspension bridges. Lots of climbing and walking in the snow so this tour is not a good fit if you have mobility issues.
We stayed at the Westin Resort & Spa because of its location with easy access to the gondolas to the ski area and that it is steps away from the Village Stroll, restaurants, and shops. Park your car once and you can walk everywhere. Tucked into the side of Whistler Mountain, the grounds are lovely. The resort is all-suite and filled with the full-service amenities you expect in a luxury resort. Rooms have fireplaces and fully equipped mini-kitchens that just add to the comfort. We booked a one-bedroom suite that had a fireplace and a small kitchen which was perfect for a multi-day stay.
Skiers or non-skiers should check out these articles:
- The Complete Ski Gear Packing List
- 10 Winter Resorts And Towns Even Non-Skiers Will Love
- Fantastic Ski Resorts To Enjoy No Matter Where You Live (Plus The Best Ski Gear Of 2021)