Whistler 2017 – November 19th - 26th 2017
Thanksgiving of 2017 we traveled to Whistler, BC. for a family vacation. Joining us were my wife, Julie’s, 2 sisters and their families as well as Julie’s parents who hosted us at the Embarc Whistler. Whistler is a town north of Vancouver, British Columbia, that’s home to Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. Besides skiing and snowboarding, the area offers snowshoeing, tobogganing and ski jumping at the Olympic Park, a venue for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The hub of Whistler is a compact, chalet-style pedestrian village at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It’s a place you have to experience. As a life-long skier, I just wish we were here later in the season to explore this epic mountain.
We flew into Vancouver with a layover in Seattle on Alaska Air. It’s a relatively easy flight from California. After clearing Customs, we had time to waste some tie waiting for Julie’s parents. So I thought it would be a perfect time to teach our 13 year old son some “Canadian”. Yes, this is a dad joke, but it was too awesome to pass up. Plus my kid is an amazing traveler and game for anything. I asked him to go over to the coffee cart and ask the nice lady how you say “No” in Canadian. After a chuckle and realizing he was set up (me crying laughing 20 feet away didn’t help), she politely told him “No”. He returned with a 2-word translation that roughly sounded like “Buck Brew”.
Julie’s parents arrived and we headed to pick up our rental car. We waited for our car with the French, Austrian, Norwegian and German Olympic bobsled teams. They were heading up to Whistler for the World Cup. As a former national team athlete (rowing) it brought back great memories of traveling with my team and meeting and competing against other countries. We grabbed our SUV and departed for what should have been an easy 1.5 hour up the mountain.
I grew up in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, so mountain driving is second nature to me. We headed into a major snowstorm, which for Tahoe is relatively easy to get through. This storm shut down Whistler without a single snowplow in sight. We made it to about 3 miles from town and proceeded to sit on the main road for more than 4 hours. Resort workers gave up waiting and started walking home. For a mountain town you would expect cars to have snow chains and drive like they had done this before. We were hit twice by people who had no business driving in the conditions we were in. We finally made it through, checked in and crashed.
First Full Day
Now that we have that out of our system we were greeted by the stunning view of fresh snow coating all of Whistler Village this morning. This scene is why this place is Bucket List worthy. CHECK!! We enjoyed the day simply walking all over the village and I grabbed some great photos of this amazing place. We enjoyed a coffee (Marcus learned Matcha Tea is not as good as it sounds), did a little shopping and finished the night with Marcus entertaining all the kids and the adults doing what they do best, drinking.
Whistler Experience - Day 3
Day 3 of our Whistler Adventure was another day in paradise. We spent the day taking a guided foodie tour of Whistler. Our first stop was at the Squamish Cultural Center. We started with trying Bannack bread which is an epically awesome fried bread – yes, you had me at fried bread. So good that we went back for more after the tour.
Our next stop was a cool little restaurant started by a husband and wife team from France. We enjoyed a sumptuous potato salad with locally sourced cold smoked salmon, corn and peppers and herbs. Marcus wanted everyone’s salmon.
A 10 minute walk from the upper Village was broken up by trying Indian Candy – a small hot smoked salmon morsel that is dried and caramelized. Marcus stole all the extras from the group. Love how he truly enjoys food from all over the world. We then headed to the central village bringing us to an awesome little pub. We enjoyed fresh buttery Pacific tuna pan seared with a spicy herb crust, shredded zucchini and radishes and shiitake mushrooms. It was served with a local Pinot Gris from Red Roost. Mmmmmmmm
Our next stop took us to a little pie spot started by an Australian Expat who came to Whistler on a student work visa, fell in love, married a Canadian and never left. They served us a Mental Lentle pie which was simply a gastronomic orgasm…
After all the dinner food it was time to move to dessert. Our first stop brought us to a drool worthy bakery in front of the Olympic rings where the medal ceremonies we performed during the 2010 Games. We enjoyed a layered brownie and something called Crack Cake. I can personally attest the name was worthy.
Our final stop took us to the oldest chocolatier in Canada, started in 1885 during the Klondike gold rush. The Winter Caramel Apple chocolate was an explosion of chocolaty goodness mixed with a tart granny Smith apple. It was the perfect finish to our gastronomic exploration. The evening headed the opposite direction of gourmet with lots of cocktails and ordering pizza with the whole family. Dominating Dominos is next and watching Christmas Vacation.
What a perfect day exploring and enjoying the moment.
Whistler Experience - Day 4
Day 4 of our Whistler Adventure was a low-key day. We started by listening to a timeshare speech and helped the new salesperson out with overcoming objections. No we didn’t buy, but did have a little fun with some sales training.
We explored the Village some more and saw where the Olympic medal ceremonies were held during the Games. What hallowed ground this is and shows how well this city has managed the assets built for the Games.
Cocktails were enjoyed with family and we even wore out the kids for a few minutes. I also found a great sale for 50% off TNA – who knew? (Sorry, the joke was too easy to pass up when I walked by the store)
The afternoon was capped off by watching Daddy’s Home 2 (meh). Walking back to our suite after the movie, we took in the lights as the Village prepares for opening day at Blackcomb tomorrow. It’s magical with all the lights glittering in the rain.
Whistler Experience - Day 5
Day 5 of our Whistler Adventure brings us to Thanksgiving Day. Started the day making blueberry pancakes with bacon and scrambled eggs. On a day that I normally cook a huge meal for the entire family, this was the only major cooking I would do today.
After breakfast we headed to the top of Whistler to experience the Peak to Peak gondola. This is the longest single span gondola in the world, and it is breathtaking – the views, the height, the engineering are all awe inspiring.
Thanksgiving dinner consisted of each family getting takeout from the restaurant if their choice and bringing it back to the resort to enjoy together. It was simple and perfect.
The finale was getting to teach my little nephew how to cook. He has some food allergies, so we made a special gluten free lava cake. The smile on his face getting to lick the spoon of his own creation was almost as big as mine.
Whistler Experience - Day 6
Today was a truly unique experience in life – we went dog sledding through the mountains. Yeah, it didn’t suck.
Each sled was led by a pack of 8 dogs. Most of the dogs are rescue dogs from kennels all over North America. Each one has a story and the organization was focused as much on the dog’s mental health as they were for their physical health. Today was the dogs first day back at work after playing all summer. They were so excited to get out and run. What amazing power 8 dogs working together has. Each one had a role to play in the pack and had to support each other to move forward. To make it even better this was the one thing “Poppy” (Julie Dad) wanted to do with his kids and grandkids. He was like a little kid, there’s a shot below with him smiling with one of the dogs that sums up the whole thing. Such a great experience.
Tonight we begin to say our goodbyes as most of the family returns home tomorrow. The girls went out for chocolate fondue and cousins running all over the hotel playing together is just a perfect end to our time together.
Whistler Experience - Day 7, The Final Day
For the final full of our adventure, the morning started with final family goodbyes and left us as the last ones in town. Since we had nothing to do, we decided to go zip lining. Yeah, we suck at relaxing and sitting still.
After getting geared up we headed up the Whistler gondola with our guides, Maria from Barcelona Spain and Nick from Brisbane Australia. After a long walk through the woods in the snow we arrived at our first line. This was the only dual line of the 5 lines we took down the mountain. Marcus and I decided to race – I smoked him! I may have had a bit of a weight advantage (Ok, ok, so I had a BIG weight advantage, but who’s counting). Marcus loved being the first to try each line, he had no fear. I got out on a couple of lines and got to flip upside down (That’s the 360 video) and enjoy the view from a whole new perspective. Halfway down we got a peek at the bobsled track where the World Cup finals were going on. The teams we met up with while getting our rental car at the start of our trip are out there somewhere. Very cool. Five lines and a few thousand feet down the mountain, brought us into Whistler Village at sunset. Après Ski was in full effect and the Village was alive with music, cocktails and friends sharing stories of conquering this big mountain. What a great finale.
As this adventure ends, I’m thankful for the time away from a busy life, thankful for family, and thankful for a chance to reflect on where I am and where I’m going.
Thank you for coming along for the virtual version of our adventure. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it and took something away from it for your own adventure. I look forward to seeing you all in the real world and sharing an adventure together.