Visit Whistler: British Columbia's ALL-Season Wellness Getaway

by Brandon Schultz

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday September 7, 2022
Originally published on July 18, 2022

Whistler may be British Columbia's premiere ski destination, but Canada's Pacific Coast is well worth your attention in other seasons, too. While it may attract fewer U.S. guests when the slopes are closed, Canadians take full advantage of Whistler's energetic atmosphere year round, so this is no case of a sleeping giant offseason; there is no off-season, and you're certainly not going to find an abandoned town with nothing to do. What you will find, however, is lower hotel rates and a lot more green than white, offering an ideal atmosphere for a long weekend of wellness and adventure in the great outdoors, however soft or serious you prefer that adventure to be. Here's how to maximize a few days of Whistler wellness outside of winter.

Take a Night

From most origins, you'll fly first to Vancouver before making your way north to Whistler and, though it's only around two hours onward by car, it's worth spending at least one night in the city to refresh, especially if you've come from far. The Douglas Hotel is a waterside property in buzzy Yaletown with a boutique vibe, despite its 188-key size, and, though it's decidedly urban and alive, the hotel simultaneously offers a serene space ideally suited to segue into a weekend of wellness in BC. Expect nature-forward contemporary art, wide windows, and neutral tones in well-appointed rooms with cloud-quality bedding and luxury bathrooms outfitted with spa amenities.

Treat yourself to a kickoff dinner at neighboring The Victor, an upscale steak and seafood house with a cocktail list as exciting as the menu, located inside connecting Parq Vancouver. Before setting off in the morning, pop into Honey Salt for a breakfast of sophisticated comfort in one of several chic spaces throughout. Whatever you decide for yourself, be sure to snag an order of monkey bread for the table.

Hit the Road to Whistler

Even if you're not behind the wheel, you don't want to sleep through this drive, so grab a coffee to go and make your way north to Whistler. The Sea to Sky Highway will take between 1.5 - 2 hours, typically, but you won't even mind if it stretches toward the longer side. Any time of year, in all weather, this scenic stunner dazzles with mystical mountain views on the winding drive along Howe Sound, almost a destination itself rather than a mere route. Once in Whistler, head straight to the heart of the village and check in to one of two Pan Pacific Whistler properties right here in the center of the action.

Nine-time "best ski hotel in Canada" winner, Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside is located directly at the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain gondolas for the ultimate ski-in experience in winter, but it's equally convenient in other seasons, too. Whether you'll take advantage of the hotel's complimentary bike concierge services or are ready to hit the hiking trails atop the mountains, you'll certainly ride the gondolas one way or another, even if only for the views. And speaking of views, a trip across the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, connecting the Whistler to Blackcomb isn't just a world record-breaking gift to skiers, but offers a can't-miss sightseeing experience for all visitors to the area. Don't miss it, and consider waiting in the longer line for a glass-bottom cabin. Alternatively, you can check in to Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre, just a three-minute walk from Mountainside and home to Whistler Day Spa (more on that below). You'll also find some seriously large suites here, in case you're in need of even more space, but both Pan Pacific Whistler properties are home to Whistler's largest suites, and each comes with a heated saltwater pool and pair of hot tubs.

Taste the Region

Let's be honest: Regardless of your reason for travel, whether it's wellness, partying, or even business, we all want to find the best food wherever we go. There's plenty to eat and drink around Whistler, and you'll definitely want to treat your tastebuds to top spots around the village, but there are a couple of spots within the Pan Pacific properties you don't want to miss. At Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, have lunch at Dubh Linn Gate, accessible from behind the hotel lobby or directly at the bottom of the mountain (in winter, you can ski right up). This popular pub offers indoor and outdoor seating with 25 beers on tap (and plenty to drink beyond) alongside a menu highlighted by Guinness-spiked favorites like Steak & Guinness Pie and the juicy Guinness Burger (it's in the cheese).

If you're a fan of nachos, the presentation here shouldn't be missed. Consider yourself officially warned to order smaller than you think you should. At Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre, visit The Raven Room for an evening to remember. Best loved for its innovative bar program overflowing with creative cocktails, the dining menu at The Raven Room deserves equal attention, packed with local ingredients and seasonally-inspired dishes as gorgeous and Instagrammable as the drinks. Prepare for bites like sockeye salmon tartare with whipped confit lemon yogurt, duck leg confit and foie gras ravioli with creamy cognac sauce and sweet onion jam, and filet mignon with oyster mushrooms and strawberry port wine reduction.

Elsewhere in Whistler, the region's favorite sushi, sashimi, and maki are served at Sushi Village. Request a private Japanese booth and prepare to remove your shoes and sit on low cushions around your cozy table (it's worth waiting extra). For special occasions, or just because you deserve it, Whistler's most celebrated chef and farm-to-table pioneer, James Walt, presents white-cloth dining at Araxi. There, the James Beard House-invited chef (whose first cookbook was additionally James Beard-nominated) serves a curated menu derived from local farmers, growers, and fisherman to present dishes like ginger-braised pork belly and scallop with roasted carrots and grilled maitake mushrooms, miso-marinated sablefish with braised daikon, and red deer venison loin with orange-braised endive and morel mushrooms. The seafood towers and oyster list are legendary, and the Vancouver Aquarium recognizes Araxi for ocean-friendly sourcing.

Explore and Unwind

Believe it or not, Whistler receives more visitors in warm weather than during its famed ski season. The vibe is festive year-round, and sunnier skies open the area to plenty of activities not available when snow covers the ground. You can certainly spend several full days hiking and biking among the magnificent natural scenery, but there are some less obvious ways to spend time among the landscapes here, and they're all worth checking out. Among these, canoeing the "River of Golden Dreams" beyond Alta Lake provides one of the most unique views of the region so often viewed from above. Canadian Whistler Adventures leaves directly from the village and offers canoeing instruction (no, it's not the same as kayaking, but it's entirely doable for beginners) before setting off down the winding waterways for a couple hours of genuine adventure off your feet (hopefully). Returning to greater heights, Super Fly Zip Lines offers some of Canada's longest zip lines, reaching heights over 650 feet as you soar above the treetops at speeds up to 60 mph. An inspiring experience unique even to those who have zipped plenty, this course is equally accessible to new zip liners, offering no-effort trolleys that control the experience almost independently. By night, return to the same base camp for a nighttime walk that's anything but ordinary. Vallea Lumina presents an astonishing multimedia experience in the mountain woods, illuminated by thousands of lights and enhanced by an enchanting soundtrack that guides visitors through the scenes of a mysterious tale told through holograms and shadow. Book an early reservation and arrive even earlier — it's self-guided and go-at-your-pace, so the earlier you arrive, the slower you can go (and the fewer people will be ahead of you).

Don't forget the other side of wellness, though. While physical activity, especially in nature, is invaluable for your wellbeing, your body also requires some rest and rejuvenation, so hit the spas. Within Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre, Whistler Day Spa offers instant access to massage treatments, including those targeted for recovery from a day of exertion, too much stress, or even just general relaxation. Facials and cosmetic treatments are also available. If you have more time to spare, head to Scandinave Spa for a total escape with unbeatable views. This 20,000-square-foot outdoor spa is set among cedar forest with mountain views, and offers the full Nordic spa experience. Among landscaped layers of hot tubs, cold plunges, rain showers, and waterfalls, the solariums, fire pits, and sky-high hammock deck offer quiet areas that complete the hot-cold-relax circuit offered here. There's no talking, and the cell-phone ban is strictly enforced, so prepare to completely disconnect and focus on yourself. You deserve it.

Brandon Schultz is the author of 6 travel and lifestyle books, and his work regularly appears in Forbes, Fodor's, Global Traveler, and Thrillist, with contributions to dozens of others including OUT, Out Traveler, and The Advocate. He lives in New York City.