One of our very own Sassy Mamas gives us the insider guide to Whistler. Whether you’re there in the winter to ski, or there for the beautiful summer months, you simply cannot go without checking Kelly’s guide out!
Describe Whistler in 3 words.
Gorgeous, adventurous, friendly.
Best hotel/place to stay in Whistler when travelling with kids?
Westin Hotel, Whistler Village. While it’s not the nicest hotel in town, it was one of the first major hotels there and it houses the Whistler Kids day care. Other bonuses is that it is right next to ski school drop off, has a great kids program and seems to be packed with families, so no one is looking at you sideways when your exhausted three year old is throwing a tantrum on the way home from ski school.
For a parents-only getaway, I recommend either the Four Seasons or Nita Lake Lodge.
Your favourite place to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Why?
Breakfast: Southside Diner, Creekside. A real old diner, with huge breakfasts and endless coffee. Enjoy the local flavor with the true ski bums who live in the hostel above the restaurant. An absolute must, this tiny place is always packed.
Lunch: In the Village go to ‘The Tratt’ – Trattoria di Umberto – a local legend for homemade Italian. This is the place to eat a late lunch when you just can’t be bothered to go up for another run and would prefer to tuck into some vino!
On the mountain: Steeps Grill (Tel: 604-905-2379) inside the Roundhouse on top of Whistler mountain and Christine’s (Tel: 604-938-7437) on the top of Blackcomb mountain. These are the only two places to have a proper (translation Euro) lunch on the mountain. Delicious local food and wine served in beautiful room. But reserve early, both restaurants are fully booked most days during peak times.
Dinner: With kids: Creekbread Pizza, Creekside. Incredible homemade organic oven fired pizza in a fabulous family-friendly setting (the kids draw the menu covers). The staff couldn’t be more inviting and the pizza is simply divine. A true gem of a place.
Without kids: Hy’s Steakhouse in the Village. This of course is coloured by the fact that I grew up in Oklahoma and love a good steak! You can sit at the bar and watch a hockey game, the staff are amazing, the beef is fabulous and the sides are family style! People who prefer seafood would say Rim Rock Cafe, Creekside as it’s routinely voted the best restaurant in Whistler and sometimes in the whole of B.C. While it is fabulous and highly recommended, I prefer a steak.
Après: This is a tie between Dusty’s Bar and Grill if you are coming down Creekside, GLC if you are coming down Whistler side and the Chateau if you are coming down Blackcomb.
Honourable mention: Roland’s next to Nita Lake Lodge located just down from Creekbread and Southside Diner. This pub is voted the best BBQ in Canada every year by the Great Canadian BBQ Cook off. I feel the same way about their BBQ as I do about Hy’s steak and Creekbread pizza. A near religious experience in yummy fattening ‘Damn I am glad I skied all day to earn this’ food!
What is your favourite thing to do with kids in Whistler?
Winter: Ski, tube park, dog-sledding, horse-drawn carriage and fondue at the Chateau.
Need a day without the kids?
Heli-skiing or experience the legendary pow-pow that is not for the faint of heart.
Summer: Biking as the whole of Whistler is connected by a huge biking trail that allows you to go everywhere on your feet or wheels, hiking, watching the insane mountain bikers from the GLC terrace, taking a zip line through the forest and horseback riding at the Blackcomb base. Be sure to check out the Meadow Park pool, Alpha Lake beach and look to enroll the kids in the Whistler Tennis Center Camp, which is rated in the top 15 camps in North America every year. Their Pro is among the best of the best. And if you are still looking for stuff to do my family loves Alpha Lake beach, berry picking at North Arm Farm in Pemberton, the bear-watching tours and just taking a walk around Lost Lake.
Kid friendly location?
The whole of Whistler is one big family friendly zone. The most important things to remember are: the temperature never drops that low, the altitude isn’t too high which means jet lag is easier to deal with and both adults and kids avoid the pounding headaches often associated with trips to other popular ski resorts.
Best places to eat with kids?
Everywhere in Whistler is family-friendly, but these are my own kids’ favorites: Creekbread, Roland’s, Southside Diner, Caramba, The Brewhouse where an amazing train goes all the way around the restaurant, kids live for it (Tel: 604-905-2739) and, of course, The Great Glass Elevator Candy Company and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (conveniently located next to ski school pick-up, just trying saying no to the little ones…)
Best outdoor activity?
Personal favorite: Scandinave Spa. Located in the forest, this is a collection of baths, saunas and massage rooms all outdoors. A not to be missed experience.
Traditional Spa: Four Seasons. No question.
Best place to rent gear?
Summit Sports in the Village. They have everything and a nice knowledgeable staff to boot.
I get my hair done at…
Um, nobody bothers in a ski town…
The three shops I can’t live without are…
Creekside Market, IGA, Lululemon – I spend my life there either buying food to eat or buying clothes to encourage me to exercise off the food I have just cooked.
Who I have on my Whistler speed dial and why…
All of the above mentioned restaurants.
Best place for yoga
Neoalpine Yoga. The concept for Pure Yoga was born in this tiny strip mall studio. Patrick (of Pure Yoga fame) came from there, as have most of the Pure Yoga instructors in HK, ignore the strip mall, this is nearly perfect yoga.
Your favourite souvenirs
Broken bones and torn ligaments doing really, really fun activities!
An unforgettable moment?
Seeing my four and seven year old sons rip through the trees with grins a mile long, not a cloud in the sky, yelling a big “Mom, look at uuuussssss!” Berry picking with a glider going overhead, insane mountains in the background and my HK kids learning where food actually comes from…
Can’t live without…
Lululemon, Neoalpine and Creekbread.
The Peak to Peak gondola. It’s the world’s longest gondola and it is really a true experience. If you have a strong stomach, wait for the glass bottom car.
Favourite time of year in Whistler, why and what do you love to do?
Summer. Winter is, of course, amazing. But there is nothing better than the mountains in the summer.
What advice would you give families visiting Whistler?
Winter: Book ski school early (if you do it before September there are huge discounts), book gear and passes online, book restaurants before you go, especially if you are going during the peak times (Christmas, CNY, Spring Break) as people book tables months in advance.
Summer: Just go. It is simply the best holiday with your family.
Tell us one thing about Whistler we don’t know.
When a local tells you there is heavy snow, they mean it is pissing rain.
*Canada allows all helpers and nannies in with one small application process.
*Pure Bread Bakery in Function Junction has sublime baked goods. And if you’re going in the summer, check them out at the farmer’s market.
*Family gym nights at Oros Whistler Gymnastics in Cheakamus Crossing are complete with a trampoline, gym, and private coach (drop-in-able).
Nesters – shop “where the locals shop.”
*For the active: go biking, hiking and swimming at Lost Lake Park in the summer, or cross-country skiing in the winter. Whatever you choose to do at the Park, it’ll be a breathtaking experience.
*Hike to Cheakamus Lake old growth trees, a family friendly hike along a gently rolling trail through Garibaldi Provincial Park, that ends at the glacier fed lake – picture perfect.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is a must-go if you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience for the whole family.
*Be sure to dine in the summer alpine – there’s nothing quite like it.
MORE THINGS WE LOVE IN WHISTLER
*Rock climbing, especially the guided outdoor sessions.
*On the waters: fishing and rafting
*Thrilling Jeep ATV and Hummer Tours
*Whistler Tube Park – you’ll have a grand time here whether it’s summer or winter.
*Whistler Bounce – a free-for-all trampoline experience. Kids can literally bounce off the walls!
*The Legendary Turkey Sale and Whistler Mountain Ski and Snowboard Swap – a great Thanksgiving event!
Summer Glacier Camps
The Range at Whistler Golf Club
The Air Dome: an indoor bike jump zone. Warning: not for the faint-hearted!
*The Olympic Park is home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Nordic sports. It has an impressive list of summer activities, including mountain bike rides, bike biathlons and running races. Superb winter activities for children include chariot child carriers, toboggans/sleds and even helmets for tobogganing. A wonderful place to enjoy the scenery and breath the freshest air.
Kelly was born and raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. After graduating with a B.A. in Economics and History from Vanderbilt University, she moved to New York City where she worked in investment banking for both Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank. In 2002 she moved to Hong Kong where she ran marketing for GaveKal Research. She left the finance business in 2005 to concentrate on raising her four children, Henri (6), Georges (4), Carol-Lynn (2) and her new baby Charlotte. She lives in Tai Tam with her husband, Louis-Vincent, and their four children.