We were met at the airport by a chauffeur with a gleaming limousine – a wonderful way to start our trip! The journey from Vancouver to Whistler along the new ‘Sea to Sky Highway’ was a smooth and comfortable ride and we were in resort and checked in to the Four Seasons Resort and Residences within two hours. My first impressions of Whistler? I LOVED it! Exactly what I thought and hoped it would be – snow everywhere, with a very cute village centre surrounded by forest and spectacular mountain scenery.
The Four Seasons Resort and Residences had a friendly and intimate feel - very much like a ski lodge - with lots of Canadian art displayed in the lobby accompanied by an art gallery in an annexe to the side. We stayed in an Executive Suite, spacious and complete with lounge area, dressing area and balcony leading off the bedroom. That evening we dined in Sidecut, the modern steakhouse restaurant, named after both the ski slope and the cut of beef. The atmosphere was fantastic - lively, buzzy and full even on a Tuesday night. And the food, well it was great! To start with we sampled a taster board before I devoured my rack of lamb which was cooked to tender perfection; the accompanying sides were sublime and particularly the mashed potato.
After our transatlantic journey and Canadian steakhouse meal, we were ready to recharge our batteries in preparation for the days of skiing ahead. I've only ever snowboarded before so I had booked on to the MAX4 lessons; the day of ski tuition includes lift passes and ski rental. The MAX4 concept is perfect for beginners - as the name suggests there are only ever four people in the group, which means that you receive adequate one to one time with the instructor ensuring that you progress as quickly as possible. On the first day we started out on the nursery slopes getting used to our skis and then progressing to the Magic Carpet - a convenient travellator-style lift that transports you to the top of the gentle slope - once we had mastered the basics.
After our exertions on the piste, we returned to the hotel to enjoy the complimentary après ski hot chocolate and cookies and decided to rest our weary bones in the heated outdoor pool. The deck surrounding the pool area is also heated so there isn't any chance of slipping on snow and ice. In addition, there is an outdoor cabana to enjoy drinks whilst watching the lights of the piste-bashers moving up and down the mountainside, grooming the slopes for the next day of skiing.
What a second day of skiing we had! Our instructor, David, took us up the Peak2Peak - the world's longest free span gondola at 3.03 kilometres, standing at 436 metres above the ground at the highest point. It barely needs to be said, but the views here are, of course, absolutely spectacular. The gondola joins the Roundhouse Lodge in Whistler with the Rendezvous Restaurant on Blackcomb, which makes it a great way to get across the two mountains and be able to ski the whole area.
That night we were staying in The Fairmont Chateau Whistler. After a full day skiing we were happy to leave our skis, poles and boots with the hotel's Ski Concierge whilst we indulged in the now-customary hot chocolate and cookies before heading back up to the hotel and an après ski drink in the Mallard Bar. In my opinion, this is the bar with the best atmosphere in Whistler! The drinks are delicious and the house speciality - 'Buttered Rum' - is absolutely divine. We decided to stay here in the bar for dinner and the food was just as pleasing.
This hotel is far and away my favourite hotel in the resort. The location is fantastic; nestled in upper Whistler Village and with ski-in, ski-out onto the base of Blackcomb Mountain - perfect for more experienced skiers, whilst Whistler Mountain is easily accessible for beginners. The lobby of the hotel is spacious with a very friendly feel and, as the bar and restaurant lead off the lobby, there is always a wonderful atmosphere. Live entertainment is available from 3.30pm in the Mallard Bar for après ski - only serving to add to the great ambience! The rooms here are decorated in a 'cosy alpine chic' style - lots of antique wood and furniture, fireplace and snug fabrics which makes for a gorgeous rustic chalet feel. And, although this is a big hotel, it never feels overwhelmingly so - and I feel this is largely thanks to the décor.
The importance of breakfast cannot be underestimated on a ski holiday, so I was very impressed with the breakfast buffet that was laid out in the beautiful Wild Flowers restaurant. I can genuinely say that I enjoyed the best omelette I have ever had here! And I needed all of my energy for my third day of skiing which saw me brave the Olympic chair lift and then the Olympic Run. Although I do not think I will be challenging for a spot on Team GB for the next Winter Olympics, I was very proud that I made it down this piste - albeit with a fall or a tumble at pretty much every turn!
I can happily say that leaving Whistler, my first impressions still rang true - I love this resort and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to experience the exceptional winter and ski experiences that this part of Canada has to offer.