North America’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb, is a beloved winter destination for many reasons. With two mountains cradled by the snow-capped pinnacles of the coastal range, more than 8,000 acres of terrain with 200 runs and 16 alpine bowls, and a buzzing après scene, it’s synonymous with winter sports. But there’s plenty to discover off the slopes for the less vertically inclined.
In fact, just drive the dramatic Sea to Sky Highway that goes from Vancouver to Pemberton, hugged by the shimmering Pacific Ocean on one side and the Coast Mountains on the other, and you’ll be on the Cultural Journey, a route dotted with seven sites of cultural and historic importance to British Columbia’s Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.
From luxury hotels and thermal spas to lauded restaurants and world-class art galleries, Whistler is as rich in culture as it is in thrills. Here’s how to savor the natural beauty and culture of Whistler on a weekend getaway.
Where to stay in Whistler
A luxury stay: Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Book now: Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Skirting the base of Blackcomb Mountain, the elegant Fairmont Chateau Whistler treats guests to ski-in/ski-out access, a valet who takes care of wet gear at the end of the day, and a private gear shop. Other little luxuries set this haven apart, like an on-site art gallery (it also hosts an artist-in-residence program), live music at the Mallard Lounge, and luxe personalized service on the treetop-view Gold floors. The Fairmont Gold upgrade comes with a private concierge, a chic lounge that rolls out small warm plates and snacks by executive chef Isabel Chung around the clock--and there’s also an Aperol spritz and craft gin bar.
A natural escape: Nita Lake Lodge
Book now: Nita Lake Lodge
Perched on the shores of a glacier lake in the village of Creekside, Nita Lake Lodge is a romantic, luxurious retreat immersed in nature. Spacious suites in soothing earth tones come with flickering basalt fireplaces and views of the water. After a eucalyptus steam and massage, linger in one of the award-winning spa’s mountain-view, rooftop hot tubs.
A fun, budget-friendly option: Summit Lodge
Book now: Summit Lodge
Tucked away on a quiet, forested sliver of Whistler Village, Summit Lodge is a quirky boutique hotel with graphic accents and bright pops of color. This cozy option won’t break the bank, and perhaps more importantly, the hotel prioritizes the guest of honor: your pooch, offering dog sitting and walking services, plus a concierge who can recommend pup-friendly adventures. The lodge even has an Instagram account dedicated to canine guests.
Where to eat and drink in Whistler
Indulge in celebrated cuisine
Raise a glass at Il Caminetto. This restaurant in the heart of Whistler Village marries modern Italian cuisine with local, seasonal flavors. The long-standing favorite with locals got a major facelift and a new culinary team four years ago. The new space is sleek and sexy thanks to New York’s Rockwell Group, of Nobu and Tao fame, and the service is suave. Executive chef Mark Mcloughlin works closely with farm-to-table trailblazer James Walt to create hearty yet elegant plates, like melt-in-your-mouth wagyu meatballs and pasta crafted in-house, including saffron and lobster linguine.
Walt also oversees Araxi restaurant, which consistently appears on best restaurant lists. Foodies can savor a two-tiered chilled seafood tower followed by miso and shitake mushroom sablefish in the dining room. At Bar Oso, you are treated to a parade of Spanish-inspired tapas and house-made charcuterie alongside craft cocktails. New to the scene in 2022 is seafood spot Wild Blue—which follows a set of environmental sustainability standards.
Follow a craft brewery or dessert trail
A day spent in crisp alpine air calls for a pint of craft beer--start your frothy adventure in the village at Hunter Gather, a tap house and eatery, then stop in at the Brewhouse, which pours five flagship beers brewed on-site by High Mountain Brewing Co.
For those who prefer a confectionary treat to beer, there’s a Sweet Treats trail that takes dessert lovers to 10 different spots where they can enjoy an après maple ice cream cone, honey-almond crepe, or a strawberry-rhubarb ‘doissant’ (a croissant-donut hybrid).
Pack a picnic
Planning a weekend of exploring often means grabbing food on the go. A short drive south of Whistler Village is Function Junction, a small neighborhood that’s grown into a hub for independent local businesses, including Purebread Bakery. Pick up fresh sourdough for sandwiches or cupcakes and cookies, then drop by Camp for coffee.
Back in the village, Picnic Whistler has a new storefront location, the Deli, where adventurers can stock up on artfully designed charcuterie boxes, sandwiches, and other local provisions for a picnic near Lost Lake.
Things to do in Whistler
Check out scenic locales in the summer
In the summer, the Whistler area is a hiker’s dream, carved with multi-day backcountry trails as well as easy-going walks perfect for exploring with a family. The 481,000-acre Garibaldi Provincial Park is home to some of the best backcountry treks, which wind through fragrant cedar and pine forests up to glittering aquamarine glacial lakes. Wedgemount Lake is arguably the most strenuous day hike, while Garibaldi Lake offers a more approachable but still challenging route.
Go hard on the winter activities
It would be impossible to exhaust the runs on Whistler Blackcomb, but if winter enthusiasts find themselves wanting more, there are alternative snowy escapades. Thrill-seekers can head into the backcountry on a heli-skiing adventure--where a helicopter drops skiers off on a powdery peak for an off-trail run--or explore a luminescent blue ice cave. For those looking for a slower pace, a snowshoe tour takes hikers along trails through an old-growth cedar forest.
Take the leisurely route
For a more leisurely stroll that’s dog and toddler friendly, the Train Wreck hike--near the Cheakamus River, just south of Whistler--follows a well-maintained trail to the site of a 1956 train wreck, where the abandoned cars have morphed into canvases for graffiti art.
Go on a cultural crawl
Whistler’s art galleries and cultural centers are hubs for some of British Columbia’s most renowned artists, including Emily Carr, Jack Shadbolt, and Rodney Graham. “This environment moves people to create,” says Maureen Douglas, executive director at Arts Whistler. Using the new Go Whistler Tours app, you can embark on a self-guided walk along Whistler’s Cultural Connector. The pathway winds through Whistler’s creative heart, stopping at six cultural pillars.
Along the way, you’ll discover the Audain Art Museum, designed by internationally renowned firm Patkau Architects. The museum houses the private collection of philanthropist Michael Audain, including iconic works of coastal First Nations art, such as hereditary Haida Chief James Hart’s The Dance Screen. At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, you can immerse yourself in First Nations culture, learning about everything from traditional handicrafts to plant medicine.
In the summer, creatives gather annually along the shores of Alta Lake for Art on the Lake to view a floating art gallery and watch painters at work, all set to live music. The Cloudraker Skybridge and Raven’s Eye lookout on the top of Whistler Mountain reopens in summer 2022 with new interpretive signage enlivened by the artwork of Squamish Nation artist James Harry.
Rest and unwind at Scandinave Spa Whistler
Whether you get your steps in on the trails or on a gallery hop, take an afternoon to decompress at the Scandinave Spa Whistler. Ensconced in the forest, guests follow a hydrotherapy circuit through an outdoor oasis of hot and cold pools, saunas, and relaxation rooms before or after a massage.