Whistler, British Columbia, just north of Vancouver, is known for its skiing. People come from all over the world to experience Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Olympic Park was even a venue during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. But not everyone is interested in skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, and ski jumping. So what else is there to do in Whistler besides skiing?
Whistler Peak 2 Peak 360 Experience
Take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of Whistler Village, mountaintops, lakes, forests, and wildlife in the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. The tri-cable gondola links Whistler Mountain's Roundhouse Lodge and Blackcomb Mountain's Rendezvous Lodge to transport skiers in the winter as well as year-round sightseers. In the summer, the Peak 2 Peak lets guests access more than 31 miles of hiking, running, and walking trails.
The two-mile-long journey takes about 15 minutes over one thousand feet above the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb. Riders have a high likelihood of spotting bears, as there are approximately 60 black and brown bears that run wild in the area. The views are spectacular. The gondola ride is great. The view is amazing at the top. If you go to the peak, you can get a 360-degree view of all the mountains. I saw my first marmot at the top!
Every summer, Whistler Blackcomb uses the snow left over from the winter to carve the Whistler Snow Walls. This astonishing trail with breathtaking views towers above Pika's Traverse on Whistler Mountain and provides a unique hiking route to the alpine. The snow walls make the perfect backdrop for some unforgettable pictures, but they don’t last long. Depending on the amount of snowfall, the walls can reach up to 30 feet in height and typically last from May to June. The 4.3-mile round-trip hike takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes. It may seem like an easy hike, but that doesn’t mean your legs won’t feel the burn the next day.
The Train Wreck is several-abandoned box cars left from a crash in the 1950s. This must-visit spot is a hike, art museum, and mountain biking trail all in one. The attraction was technically off-limits (due to hikers walking on the railroad tracks) until 2016, when a suspension bridge for pedestrians was built.
The new(ish) bridge connects the wreck to the Sea to Sky Trail and other popular hikes in the Cheakamus Crossing area. Stare in awe at the roaring waters in the canyon below as you cross. Once you arrive at the Train Wreck, keep your eyes peeled for the artwork by local graffiti artists, photographers, trail runners, bikers, and hikers. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the bike ramps and boxcars that will blow your mind. The best part? This activity is free.
When it’s time to unplug and unwind, experience the ancient Finnish tradition of soaking in relaxing outdoor baths at Whistler’s most unique spa. There are strict no-talking, no-Wi-Fi, and no-kids-allowed policies at this spa. The Scandinave Spa Whistler offers a traditional Scandinavian baths experience based around nature. The spa is set against the backdrop of nature — nestled in the forest with pine trees, flowing water, and mountain views, all influenced by the season. The spa has eucalyptus steam baths, a wood-burning sauna, a Finnish sauna, hot baths, a Nordic waterfall, Nordic showers, cold plunge baths, solariums, hammocks, outdoor fireplaces, and even a yoga studio.
The Scandinave Spa Whistler is a big proponent of hydrotherapy. The staff recommends starting off with a hot bath for 10 to 15 minutes, followed by submerging yourself in an ice bath for 10 seconds, and then relaxing for another 10 to 15 minutes and repeating the cycle. How you experience each step is up to you. Start with either a hot steam room or sauna before the shock of submerging yourself in an ice bath or beneath an ice cold man-made waterfall. Finally, relax by sitting in front of a fire, swinging in a hammock, relaxing with a book, or getting your zen on in a yoga studio. Be prepared to lose track of time at the Scandinave Spa — then come out relaxed and ready to take on the world!
Some people throw darts for fun. Others go paintballing. But in Canada, it’s all about axe throwing! Forged Axe Throwing is Whistler’s first-ever indoor axe throwing venue for the quintessential Canadian experience. Located right next two popular local breweries (Coast Mountain Brewing and Whistler Brewing) in Whistler’s Function Junction neighborhood, axe-throwers can learn a new skill and then drink some of Whistler’s most popular microbrews.
Although North American First Nations have been throwing axes for thousands of years, co-founders Brett, James, and Matt have taken the sport to a new level in Whistler making it more fun and more accessible to those of all ages and abilities. And they are legit, too. Forged is part of the National Axe Throwing Federation. The guys coach each participant on how to throw an axe one-handed or two-handed, how to throw two axes at once, and even how to throw a super-sized axe. The sport makes for a great team building exercise as well. The session ends with participants competing with each other to win the title of Best Axe-Thrower. Now those are bragging rights to take to a brewery.
Stay and Eat
For those unsure about where to stay, Nita Lake Lodge is Whistler’s only lakeside property. Nestled on the shores of a glacier-fed lake, the property is only a five-minute ride from downtown and minutes away from popular tourist destinations like Whistler Mountain and the Creekside Gondola. It also doesn’t hurt that Nita Lake Lodge was named in the top ten resorts in Canada by both Travel + Leisure’s 2016 World’s Best Awards and Conde Nast Traveler’s 2016 Readers Choice Awards, as well as being named in the Top 25 Hotels in Canada by TripAdvisor.
Food-wise, Nita Lake Lodge’s executive chef Dean Hossack crafts a special that is worth trying for any foodie. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Hossack is featuring a “Best of Canada” menu that will take diners on a four-course culinary journey from coast to coast in Canada. Each dish is inspired by a different region of the country. Expect innovative, sustainable, and local dishes, from Nova Scotian lobster salad with radicchio, fiddleheads, tarragon emulsion, and yam chips to Quebec cheese mousse with Granny Smith apple sorbet, toasted hay anglaise, rhubarb jam, and maple walnut tulle. This four-course menu costs $59 per person and has a Canadian wine pairing option.