I’m still trying this word on for size: “mother.” So, embarking on my first winter with a kid, I turned to my Council of Wisdom for advice. Facebook, I beseeched, How the heck does one juggle parenthood and après in Whistler?
Here’s what I gleaned from my expert panel of Whistler parents, all veterans of multi-generational après sessions and progenitors of snow culture – after screening out the responses that called for More Wine, More Vodka, and Babysitters (all of which are valid responses, IMO. But then, I didn’t need a panel of experts to come up with those.)
5 Ways to Tell If You’re Doing Apres Right (with the Kids in Tow) – According to Whistler Experts
1. You’re there.
With or without an extra diaper in the back pocket and some crayons, toys or snacks in your bag, you have overcome the first hurdle. You’ve made it to the bar. Without kids, après-ski can be random, spontaneous, debaucherous, an all-day –all-night affair, or e. any or all of the above. With kidlets tagging along, après (just like the ski day that preceded it) becomes a mission.
Whistler boasts 120 local licenced establishments and a reputation for a legendary après-scene and nightlife, (see SKI magazine, Freeskier, Transworld SNOWboarding, OnTheSnow.com) but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do with tiny charges. Some places don’t accommodate the under 19s at all.
BC’s liquor licensing rules are currently under review, in part, because of the hurdles they put in front of families, which can come across as quite - comment tu dis?- Draconian, especially to European guests. There are two different categories of licence, various permutations and combinations of said licences, and exceptions to every rule, so the best bet is to ask ahead, and know that in general 8pm is the Hour of the Pumpkin for the kidlets – ie when family-friendly apres bars segue to Big Kids Only.
Top spots in Whistler Village, as recommended by Those Who Have Gone Before Me, include Black’s at the base of Whistler, the Brewhouse with its chicken wings, thin crust pizzas and choo-choo train, or Cinnamon Bear Grille in the Hilton (rated highly by one family for the free snack bowls, TVs, pool tables and just beyond the bar, a massive hallway, giant carved namesake bear and piano for running around and hiding under).
Kid props go to Nita Lake Lodge’s Cure Lounge and Patio at Creekside. (It’s a little out of the way, across the highway from Creekside, but runs a free shuttle bus all year around.) The Cure Lounge rolls out a Winter Welcome Mat for the Munchkins in the shape of an outdoor firepit and heated patio with s’mores station (matched by a great cocktail and microbrew selection for the grown-ups, and great deals on sliders and share plates.)
Merlin’s, the GLC and Dusty’s also boast the most primo slopeside locations on Blackcomb, Whistler and Creekside, guaranteeing a good vibe, and usually, a patio-side pile of snow for playing in.
2. The Hairfarmers are there.
Something else that Whistler Blackcomb gets right is the live music. Kids love the long-haired, long-bearded Duo of Good Times, Greg Reamsbottom and Guitar Doug, as much as grown-ups do.
3. The kids are under the table.
As one mama told me, “My kids are usually well-behaved as long as they can hide under the chairs.” Dodging ski boots and scarfing nachos chips will probably set them in good stead if they ever decide on a career in the ski industry, too.
4. Some of your 19 + year old friends are under the table with them.
(A cool fort is just too cool for some to resist, even if there are nachos on top of the table.)
5. FOR THE WIN: You’re all still playing together outside when dark falls.
(I’d like to suggest that the real measure of this is that you’re swigging on something that warms you from the inside-out from a discrete hip flash, but those Liquor Laws prohibit imbibing alcohol in public places and I wouldn’t want to bring on the heat from By-Law enforcement.)
Family Apres, hosted by the Resort Municipality of Whistler at the Whistler Olympic Plaza, is new this winter, and takes place from 4:30 – 6:30pm on Mondays and Wednesdays until the end of March. The aim? Officially, to indoctrinate the young’uns in all manner of Canadian fun – from sledding, to hot chocolate, snowman contests, fire spinning, storytelling and outdoor skating.
Unofficially? It’s to wear the kids out, so they fall asleep early and you can enjoy your adults-only après back at the Lodge. Right? After all, it’s the 29th Truth of Parenthood. All of your life gets crammed into the hour between the kids’ bedtime and when you go to sleep.
The Callaghan Valley/Whistler Olympic Park, the home of biathlon, ski jumping, Wednesday night skiing, awesome toboggan runs, and Wednesday Bonfire Nights from 5 – 9pm, also rates highly for families.
As I’ve discovered, Parenthood does come with a Manual. It’s just in a million tiny pieces, stored amongst all your friends and colleagues. So ask around. And if you have any tips to share, post them in the comments section. We’d love to hear.
With thanks to Mike Varrin, Steph Reesor, Janet Ouchterlony, Tina Symko, Christine Cogger, Dave McCord, Kerry Chalmers, Matt Mohr, Dave McCord, Janalee Budge, Pam Barnsley, Rebecca Wood Barrett, Andy Bethune, Penny LaFrance, Tanya Richman, Sarah Reynolds, Casey Vandden Heuvel, Perrine Stevan, Laisha Rosnau, Caroline Bagnall and Lindsay Burch for their tips.
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