Santa Claus is coming to town — to the town of Whistler, that is, in British Columbia. He’s making a list and checking it twice so as not to miss any of the action-packed activities and après ski excitement awaiting him in this winter paradise.
Nestled at the base of Blackcomb and Whistler mountain ranges, this well-planned village — and it is indeed a village — is considered North American’s finest ski resort. More than 2 million lift tickets are sold each winter, with little worry about overcrowding since Whistler boasts one of the largest ski areas on the continent.
Ski junkies from all over the world flock to this mecca of well-groomed cross-country trails, snowmobiles, hundreds of marked ski runs, heli-skiing (no thank you!) and short waits for lifts. From November to July, fun in the snow awaits, making it the longest skiing season in North America.
A recent travelogue had this to say: “Ragged peaks, high cliffs and impossibly blue lakes overlaid by snowy blankets that dazzle in the bright sunlight.” No hyperbole here — and I wish that I had said that.
The pedestrian Village Stroll is a shopper and gourmet’s delight, with more than 200 shops, 90 restaurants, and 30 bars and pubs for soothing those aching muscles after a full day on the slopes.
High on Santa’s list will be Edgewater Lodge, a charming and delicious dining experience lakeside; Araxi, right in the village for formal dining featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine at its finest; Rim Rock Café, a 20-year Whistler favorite — try the trio of halibut, ahi tuna and grilled prawns; Bearfoot Bistro, wonderful and formal; the Keg Steakhouse & Bar; and for après-ski, Dusty’s Bar and BBQ and Garibaldi Lift Co. for late-night reveling and dancing.
There is a plethora of marvelous hotels, inns, condos and resorts to choose from, and it’s not easy to select just one, but I have it on high authority that Santa will be bringing Mrs. Claus to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler this December. A dog- and kid-friendly, ski-in-ski-out resort, it defines mountain luxury. With four outstanding dining venues, the Chateau offers the finest selections from elegant dining in The Wildflower and Mallard Lounge to more informal fare in the Grill Room and Portobello Market. I particularly liked the European, deli-style of Portobello; great for soups, sandwiches, coffee and fresh pastries.
The famed Willow Stream Spa is a must, and for a break from mountain powder, there’s a lovely heated lap pool with underwater music. Mrs. Claus will have a hard time leaving such relaxing amenities and getting Santa back to the North Pole in time for Christmas Eve deliveries.
As grand as all the amenities and edifices are in Whistler — and believe me, they’re grand — nothing can compare to the magnificence of what Mother Nature has to offer. Standing atop snow-covered Blackcomb Mountain, surrounded by whiteness and quiet, I thought of these lines by Robert William Service in his powerful poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew:
“Were you ever out in the Great Alone,
When the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in
With a silence you most could hear.”
I wish I’d said that, too.