Whistler was my introduction to Canada. I landed in Vancouver late evening and headed straight to Whistler village. This route is famously called sea to sky as it takes you from coast to a hilltop. I will admire the beauty of this route on my return to Vancouver a couple of days later.
Late night I checked into my luxury resort – The Fairmont Chateau Whistler hotel, nestled in a perfect Alpine setting. In the morning, I woke up to the perfect snow setting. It was the beginning of winter and snowfall season in early November. As I sat down to have my breakfast, I remember the layer of soft snow on furniture and trees from the restaurant window. Like a picture postcard, the image would stay in my mind.
Etymology of Whistler
The village gets its name from the call of Hoary Marmot – a kind of large squirrel that is found here. The other contender for the name of this lovely valley was ‘London’. I like the name from a local species.
My first activity in Whistler was to go Ziplining. I walked to the town center, that had typical hill architecture with tall sloping wooden roofs, surrounded by snow as it was softly falling all around.
When I stood on top of the mountain with another hilltop across the river that was almost frozen, I was scared, to say the least. Thankfully, I had bought my International Travel Insurance Online for any emergency. However, that was would still not give me the courage to step into the air and zip across the mountain over a Gorge.
Read my detailed post on Ziplining in Canada
Having done it, I would always remember what I saw from the top. It was definitely worth it.
Peak to Peak Gondola Ride
An easier option to see the mountain tops is to take the Peak2Peak Gondola ride. You get wonderful views of the mountains around including the famous Blackcomb mountains. If you are lucky, you might spot some bears in the hills.
I had to choose between Ziplining and Gondola ride and I chose the former. I did see the Gondolas moving around from town.
Museums in Whistler Canada
You know I am a museum junkie. I knew there are two important museums I have to see in the village.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center
This cultural center celebrating the aboriginal culture of Squamish and Lilwat tribes that lived in the region is a delight. It introduces you to the aboriginal culture through different artifacts like masks, totem poles. costumes, boats, folk stories and music on a guided tour. Towards the end of the tour, you can get weave yourself a bracelet from Cedarwood.
Read More – Aboriginal Culture of British Columbia
This was my first introduction to the aboriginal or First Nations culture of Canada. More importantly, I learned about the efforts being done to keep the culture alive. I would keep discovering the different aspects of it throughout my trip to British Columbia. At the souvenir shop & café, I had my lunch, while admiring the range of souvenirs with aboriginal ethos woven into them.
Audain Art Museum
Audain Art Museum is a very modern museum in design, though its displays take you for a walk from the past to the near past. A guided tour of the Audain Art Museum introduced me the celebrated artist Emily Carr. Her works showcasing the totem poles were potentially the first triggers for the revival of First Nations art. I would later see her statue in Victoria BC.
A must see work here is a giant wooden screen with aboriginal motifs used for theatre performances. You also get to see contemporary expressions of the old motifs in this museum like a totem pole made with backpacks.
A pile of Copper glasses reminded me of the evolution of human civilization as the metals became available to us, becoming an integral part of our lives.
I picked up the first of my Canada Souvenirs from the museum shop – A colorful totem pole fridge magnet.
This is a rather small museum that focuses on things like sports connection of the village and the evolution of Ski here. The village, as you know, was the venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
It is a small museum but suits the size of the village it showcases.
Whistler Village Walk
I love walking around places. This is my way of being a participant observer, you see the outsiders interact with the locals and a kind of osmosis happening.
The village is a remarkably walkable village. There is really no need for any kind of transportation if the weather permits.
Libraries are another weakness. I spent a few precious minutes in the public library as I reached it tiptoeing through the snowfall all around. It is a lovely library – quite big for a small village. There are some displays around that you can see.
Whistler Ski Town
Now, the town is best known for being a Ski Town. In fact, it was discovered as a place to Ski and continues to be a favorite Ski destination. However, my timing for Ski was little offbeat as it has just started snowing. So, I could only see the mountains and slopes that bring Ski lovers here.
It reminded me of my trip to Poland on a Schengen travel countries schedule, I visited Zakopane, which is a popular Ski destination and I saw that too in the offseason for Ski. I came back admiring its architecture and cheese.
For more details on Skiing, check out the official tourism website.
Lost Lake Walk
Lost Lake is a lovely lake not too far from the village. I wanted to walk around the lake, having seen the lovely images of the same. However, the constant snowfall made it impossible for me to walk. I did manage to drive down to the lake and walk about 200 meters in the snow to see the lake that looked like a giant black spot surrounded by water.
I had my magical moments with snow all around – on trees, benches, around the lake as it was falling softly and settling down. It was like walking into a dream sequence with nothing but nature all around me.
During summers, the colors would be different and so would be the walk around the lost lake.
Spa in the Hills
Now, I am not new to spa experiences. However, this one at the village would leave me stunned. Imagine surrounded by snow all around and sitting in a hot water spring. Top it with a dip in the ice-cold water before you sit in a steam room surrounded by tall cedar trees. This is what I experienced one late evening at Scandinave Spa in Whistler which is one of the many Spas the village has.
I still remember walking into the Spa area with many big and small open pools. Most of these had reasonably hot water and few the ice-cold water that you could also call normal temperature in that weather.
Again, no photography is allowed but the experience is worth it after a long adventurous day. It helped me sleep well, despite my jet lag.
Events to look forward to
Being a tourist village is home to many events around the year. When I visited it in November, Whistler Cornucopia – a food and drinks festival was on. As a vegetarian Teetotaller, I skipped this festival. Rest of the year too, there are some event or the other ON to keep the visitors engaged. Do check out the schedule when you visit.
Hotels & Resorts
Whistler is a resort village. The shuttle buses from Vancouver or Vancouver airport would drop you at the doorstep of your hotel.
Most hotels are located close enough to the village to walk to the village. My hotel was about a kilometer away and they had a regular shuttle to pick and drop their guest from the town every 15 mins or so. They were also kind enough to give me a ride to the lost lake.
So, even when you do not Ski, there is a lot that you can do in this small Canadian village. I was all set to explore the rest of British Columbia with my next stops at Vancouver and Victoria BC.