Four years ago Whistler was one of the locations for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and unlike other Olympic venues, it has not been forgotten. Its legacy is still strong, people still pose in-front of the Olympic rings, and a handful of local ski and snowboard athletes were selected for the Canadian Olympic team.
The small town, situated in the coastal mountains of British Columbia, has a vibrant scene both in summer and in winter – though it is in the latter when it truly comes alive.
When I visited Whistler in January, I had unknowingly booked my trip over a bank holiday weekend in the States. The Village – as it’s known locally – was full of people from Washington and Oregon, the two states close to the British Columbia boarder.
This made the nightlife interesting – as the Seattle Seahawks, the nearest NFL team to Whistler, made it to the Super Bowl. The Village was full of people wearing Seahawks jerseys and painted in their colours – and all shouting “Seahawks!”. The game was such a big deal that the information boards on the lifts all displayed when the game was playing. The game began at 3pm and the busy slopes began to get quiet from around 2pm.
I chose to stay at The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler, which is in an excellent location, right next to the mountain gondola, and next to the driving range of the golf course (the latter of which is obviously closed during winter). My room had a view over the driving range, and I could see the heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tub – perfect for gauging when to go down
The cosy room, reminiscent of a chalet, also had an oven, dishwasher and a large fridge – it’s aimed at people who stay for more than a few days. January is when the Australians have their summer holidays, and Whistler is a popular destination for families to decamp from the scorching hot weather.
The Westin is built for families – they have a kids’ club and the facilities are child-friendly. If you are a childless couple, or just want a kids-free holiday, maybe go for another hotel. In the evening most of the children can be found in the pool and hot tub area. Go after 9pm if you want a more adult environment.
The hotel has just opened the Grill and Vine restaurant, who specialise in west coast cuisine. The menu changes with the seasons and the executive chef Bradley Cummings, who is from Vancouver, is passionate about the food of this home. Seafood, red meat and vegetables grown in British Columbia are mainstays on his menus.
They also have a large selection of BC wine. We went for a glass of Burrowing Owl merlot and Blue Mountain pinot noir – both came highly recommended. They have a large number of wines by the glass due to an Enomatic wine preservation system.
For the first course I went for the beef carpaccio, and the boyfriend had the BC salmon taster. The serving was generous for a fine-dining restaurant – made for those who have been shredding up the slopes all day. Next came the wild boar lasagne for me, and the venison tenderloin for the boyfriend. I often find lasagne a little tasteless, but this was full of flavour, and the wild boar had been cooked like a pulled pork. Tender and delicious. The bread that came with it was so tasty that I couldn’t stop eating it, even though I was full.
For dessert I opted for the BC cheese flight, a cheese platter that celebrates the deliciousness of locally-made artisanal cheese. This is a dish that can be had on its own as a ski après with a wine pairing.
I enjoyed the restaurant. The staff were helpful and passionate about their food – but there is one thing I will never get used to about North America, no matter how long I live on this side of the world. By 10pm we were the only ones left in restaurants and the staff were clearing up around is. At home we would eat at around 8pm and take time over our dinner and wine – enjoying the conversation and pleasant surroundings. In North America people go to a restaurant sit, eat and leave usually they are done in a hour. There are some habits I still have from Europe that will die hard.