By Katie Burrell
As we pulled into the grand entrance of the Westin Whistler Resort & Spa in my dusty and dented Dodge, Bruno slowly lowered the bag of chips and said, “they’re going to ask us if we’re lost.”
Perhaps the bellhop was humouring us, but he asked (bless him) with hand outstretched: “would we be needing valet parking?”
I have a hard time with questions like this for two reasons:
1. Nobody ever needs valet parking…
2. I always want valet parking.
Shamelessly, we valeted my truck. And with that, we were whisked into the arms of the Westin Whistler to begin a ski vacation that would result in all future vacations paling in comparison.
We know; we’ve heard – this is the lowest snowfall of any year in Whistler. The crusty retired guy that only skis mid-week says it’s the least snowfall that they’ve had since ’67. The boisterous Aussie likens it to Thredbare – sorry, Thredbo. The big mountain free skiers have all left for the interior and/or Japan. So yeah, we got the memo: Whistler doesn’t have a lot of snow. But guess what? There isn’t a ski vacation rulebook that says: “players may only enjoy themselves on ski vacation[s] if a storm has recently hit/is hitting/and/or epic conditions are epic.” Who says that there has to be snow to go on a ski vacation?
Our first re-vamped approach to the die-hard, powder-crazed ski vacationer was to hit Whistler Blackcomb’s Fresh Tracks – but not for the untracked deep stuff – for the breakfast buffet and the freshly groomed corduroy. Both the breakfast and the bombers were buttery, tasty and fast. While we sipped our coffee and stared out of the window, the sunrise played a silent symphony to accompany the promise of the day.
“When in Whistler” one has options for activities: a most pressing one being “ski iconic couloirs.” Husume is one of those famous lines. It’s so close to the “in-bounds” resort that you can self-propel there in less than an hour. These days, because of the “spring-like conditions” and “high pressure systems” (no snow); crevasses are exposed, boot packs are slick, entrances are sporty, light is flat, and skiing out into the apron will make you feel like an absolute freeskiing legend. So get out there. We did it, and we are tourists. More importantly, we loved it, and we came from the “powder capital” of BC (that means it’s really fun).
Needless to say, the food in Whistler is good. Like, go-hug-the-chefs-in-the-kitchen-after-the-meal good. While Sushi Village presented us Sake Margaritas and Hot Sake, the Westin’s Grill and Vine recommended us Pinot Noir from Ontario and Merlot from the Okanagan (we graciously accepted all offerings of friendship). From Ceviche Rolls and Spicy Ahi Poke to Gorgonzola-Stuffed Dates and Venison Chop, it’s a good thing that Whistler’s unbelievable dining is matched by its endless outdoor activities. The “snowball effect” couldn’t be more appropriate for any other location.
Coming highly recommended from ski vacationers all over the globe, ski touring is a wildly enjoyable way to work through the excessive, albeit irresistible, Gruyere and Gratin of the Whistler fare. And by wildly enjoyable, I mean: you manage your fear at the back of the pack while excessively sweating and trying to ration your snacks, but feeling your most alive and free and real because of the jaw-dropping scenery that you are surrounded, while your resting mind explodes with the sheer ecstasy of being truly present in this place because there is no cell service (Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale).
Thanks to Extremely Canadian and our guide, Chris, we skied three stunning self-propelled runs in the backcountry accessible from Blackcomb Glacier. Down a sugary bowl, across a frozen lake, up and over a saddle in the blazing sun; our legs carried us through a day of beautiful skiing. Yes, at times you may develop a phantom pressure point that almost ends your season on the spot. Yes, you may burn your lips because of the three way reflections of the intense sunshine. Yes, you will be thirsty for six hours. But there is nothing more rewarding than carrying yourself to a new place in the mountains and skiing an untracked run that you didn’t even know existed.
Did someone say that that you can’t ski this year? Well, the last two days have sure had me fooled.
What does vacation mean these days? With smartphones and androids, every email, text, call or message dings and beeps its way into your life, no matter where you are. Is a vacation truly a vacation if you’re sneakily answering emails on the chairlift or under the dinner table? I didn’t have the answer to this question until we were invited to the Scandinave Spa. While steam drifted up off the water into the tree-lined sky, white robes floated from sauna to steam room on barefoot feet and watermelon-infused ice water glinted in clear pitchers, I realized one thing: I need to chill.
The layman’s theory behind the treatment at the Scandinave Spa’s outdoor hydrotherapy is: shut your phone off, turn your brain off, close your mouth and let your body feel, your mind wander, your muscles relax and the water heal you. Or, in other words, pass out (in a nice way) in the steam room and then shock yourself (in a healing way) in the cold pool. The body is made up of some obscene percentage of water that nobody can ever properly remember (but is over 80 percent) and soothing, healing water on the outside of your skin can soothe and heal the water on the inside. At first, I lay in the sauna and concentrated very hard on smelling the eucalyptus; I thought things really fast in a psychotic-overachiever-answer-emails-under-the-table type of way. “Eucalyptus is really good for you. It heals joint pain and acne and aids in respiratory functions. Breathe it in. Breathe it in harder and more so you solve all of your problems,” went my head. Then, the heat took over. My brain reconnected to my body. I left the thoughts to whirl around incessantly on their own until they spiraled into oblivion. I went on a vacation from myself.
Plus, I had been skiing all day, and so again: maybe this year is a better year than ever to go on a ski vacation.
Read more at A #skiBC Getaway in Whistler – Part 2
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