Most people visit Whistler in the summertime for the activities — hiking and mountain biking, kayaking and canoeing, even skiing and snowboarding on the glacier. Not us. My friend and I went for R&R — resorts and restaurants.
I’m of that age when I need a good stretch after driving for 90 minutes (yep, that’s all it takes from Vancouver to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway, with a few extra minutes to stop and admire the spectacular glacier and mountain vistas.)
Right after checking into Nita Lake Lodge, just outside the village of Whistler, I assumed the downward dog pose at Loka Yoga next door, and the one-hour yoga class mainlined me into relaxation mode. And after a quick lunch at Fix, which is not to be missed because the baking is phenomenal, we booked a couple of massage treatments at the lodge’s spa just to make sure all the city’s traffic and tension was banished. I opted for a deep-tissue massage to work out all my remaining kinks and my friend had a Kundalini back massage, which delivered on its promise of being soothing and relaxing — she fell asleep on the table.
We glided back to our well-appointed suites, complete with gas fireplace and views of the lake. Nita Lake Lodge is the essence of laid-back luxury. The lodge was built around and drew inspiration from the Whistler train station, evidenced by its innovative wrought-iron decorative touches (check out the dining-room door made from old railway spikes). Most days of the week during the summer, you can step off the Rocky Mountaineer train from Vancouver and take a few steps into the lodge, which is also a short walk from Whistler’s Creekside gondola and the Valley Trail, right on the edge of Nita Lake and a brisk 45-minute walk to Whistler village. (Some weekend guests don’t even make it that far.)
As the sun dimmed, we sipped bubbly and slurped Sunshine Coast oysters on the lodge’s lakefront deck while ogling tourists playing with water toys (the lodge has complimentary kayaks and stand-up paddleboards), and our attentive server turned on the propane heaters and offered us blankets. We opted to move inside for dinner at Aura, the lodge’s restaurant, and spent the next few hours in culinary heaven, starting with a spring vegetable salad made with lettuces that screamed green, followed by organic lamb shoulder spiked with herbs picked from the lodge’s rooftop garden and ending with silky panna cotta.
After dinner, we waddled around the lake trail with my dog Lizzy, who was welcomed with a dog biscuit at the front desk when she checked in. Whistler’s mantra could be, “have dog, will travel.” Outside of Europe, you can’t get anywhere more dog-friendly than here. Heck, you can hitch your pooch to just about restaurant patio and the server will bring a bucket of water and a treat — and if your eyes prove to be bigger than your stomach, a doggie bag for your canine friend to enjoy later.
The next day, we left the lodge behind and headed into WhistlerVillage. At the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Lizzy got another royal welcome by becoming a member of the Furrmont Club, Fairmont’s dog-friendly program, which meant she got her own plush dog bed, bowls, treats and dog towels for paw scrubs after a walk.
We didn’t have much time to settle into our luxurious room because we decided to leave Lizzy with a dog-walker arranged through the hotel and inject a hit of adrenaline into our laid-back stay by trying out Superfly Ziplines, about 10 minutes north of the village in the CougarMountain area.
The attraction, which in late June added two new ziplines for a total of six, now boasts the longest tandem line in Canada at more than a kilometre, which gives you 80 seconds in the air from platform to platform. The braking system is also brand-new and hands-free, meaning that you don’t have to do anything except enjoy the thrill of flying 600 feet off the ground. The only hitch was that on a breezy day, the three kids in our group weren’t heavy enough to make it to the platform on their own steam and we had to wait a while for them to be hauled in by staff. It’s something parents of children close to the 60-pound minimum weight limit should be aware of.
If you can, try to get a table for dinner at Araxi in Whistler village. Chef James Walt never disappoints, so it’s no wonder the walls are adorned with “best of” awards for both cuisine and wine. If they’re still on the menu when you go, make sure to try the zucchini blossom stuffed with house-made ricotta, halibut with English pea puree and Yarrow Meadow duck breast with local potato and cheddar gratin. We couldn’t resist lemon tart with a glass of Elephant Island Framboise and chocolate tart with an amazing Banyuls Chapoutier dessert wine. Phew.
The next day, we fuelled up at the breakfast buffet at Wildflower restaurant in the Chateau Whistler, loading our plates with smoked salmon, French toast, ham carved to order and a huge array of fresh pastries.
Well fortified, we hopped on the three-kilometre Peak2Peak gondola, which is the longest unsupported gondola line in the world. It was only two degrees at the top and not much warmer on the way down, so plunging into one of the Chateau’s hot tubs was de rigueur after we were done.
There’s only one thing wrong with Whistler in the summer: you just want to stay longer.
If you go (be sure to check out mid-week accommodation deals):
Nita LakeLodge: http://www.nitalakelodge.com/
Chateau Fairmont Whistler: http://www.fairmont.com/whistler
Super-Fly Zip Lines: http://superflyziplines.com/