Whistler – The other Australia

Whistler Village - Winter Wonderland

This is my last 'catch-up' blog post, so as the May sun licks your face cast your mind back to a colder time (apologies to those of you in baltic climes who are sinking into their third layer of coat).
Nearly ten years ago I made an attempt to ski in Whistler, but torrential rain shut the slopes. Once I’m prevented from doing something I have my heart set on, it goes straight onto my bucket list. Come hell or high water, I will move mountains, municipalities, motor vehicles and other things beginning with ‘m’ to make it happen, even if it’s a decade later. Some may call that a psychosis, I like to think of it as a charming determination :o)

The best way to get to Whistler is to fly into Vancouver and leave yourself time to see the city. It’s one of my world favourites (for stories of my Canadian backpacking days in Vancouver and beyond, start here). You can take a coach from various spots in Vancouver that will bring you to the famous ski resort in about 3 hours. Beat people out of the way to sit up the front of the bus (they allow that in Canada – have you seen their national sport!); the scenery is exceptional and you want the full widescreen windscreen view.


Whistler was the 3rd Winter Olympic village I’d been to in 2 months (Utah and Tahoe – take a bow) but it’s the 4th one I’ve been to overall (I appreciate that fact is of no interest to anyone, but it amuses me to think you might be filling with furious rage as I make it to Olympic village after village, decades after the events). Where was this 4th village, you cry? Well, as a teenager backpacking around Europe I made it to Innsbruck in Austria where we did a bobsleigh run around the Olympic bobsleigh course. Yes, it was awesome, you think Irish people can’t bobsleigh, three words- cool runnings dude!

Quick visit to the bank before I hit the slopes
The Whistler resort is in fact the combination of two resorts, so two mountains, yay. The Whistler and Blackcomb resorts merged in 1997. You can take a leisurely 4km gondola ride between the two peaks. It's something like the longest lift span in the world and the highest of its kind! If you're feeling brave wait for the bottomless cabin. It's not REALLY bottomless, that would be Japanese game show carry on, but it is made of glass so you can see the world go by 1,500 feet below.

Let’s get to the ski report. The runs in Whistler go on foooorever, which is a major plus (and Dom tells me this a big bonus for boarders). However, it is a very popular resort so the slopes are kinda full, not Europe full, but it was definitely a shock to the system after the wide open spaces of Utah. Also, things didn’t seem as efficient as Tahoe or Utah, a surprising number of the lift gates weren’t automatic so you’d have attendants running around with scanners trying to scan people in. It worked, but it was messy.
Sounded like a snorefest!
There were a large number of British tourists there but everyone else was Australian. The whole town is Australian, they work in every shop, bar, restaurant, hotel, ski store, on the slopes, did I say in the bars. Somebody told me the largest concentration of Australians outside of Australia is Whistler, I would well believe. I love Australians and their ‘strine’ accent so it was all good, but it’s remarkable to the point of warranting an investigation into cloning. Forget Dolly the sheep, some Aussie ate her and there’s now 8 of him, ha!
Don’t get me wrong, there are Canadians there too. I had a lovely chat with an older Canadian gent on a gondola all about his Irish heritage. Plus, ya gotta love the French Canadians, va-va-voom.
Taking a walk in the snow is good for your soul 
The Canadians we did encounter were very friendly and the village dusted in snow was so pretty (like most ski resorts). We spent ages in one woman’s jewellery shop just chatting, oh and buying Dom a wedding ring (he had lost the original in the Pacific ocean during a triathalon ...well how convenient). She said she had come to Whistler for a vacation 12 years ago but fell in love with the place so she never left! Hhmm ‘Ok, if you say so, Marie – IF that’s your real name’ (three words – witness protection plan).

Poutine - it's so bad, it's so good
She did recommend a great restaurant called the Bearfoot Bistro run by one of Canada’s best chefs. It was good but I had a reaction to the food (which was all me not the restaurant) so not my finest dining experience. Probably worth checking out if you’re in the area and a foodie, but watch out it’s very expensive. If you’re on a budget, firstly, what the hell are you doing on a ski holiday?!, secondly, there are lots of restaurant options especially Asian food which won’t break the bank. Hey, there’s always the traditional Canadian dish of poutine (chips with gravy and cheese) it’s goooood.
Now, finally, back to San Francisco (with some trips in the pipeline – Portland and Austin for starters)



  1. "....mountains, municipalities, motorcars and other things beginning with 'm'..." Lol...love it...Haven't thought of poutine in years. Delicious!


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