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Luxury and local secrets in Whistler
Luxury and local secrets in Whistler
Forget the snow and follow Whistler locals to Russet Lake
Venture to an alpine lake that just begs to be plunged into.
Why non-skiers will love a ski resort holiday
Gone are the days when Canadian ski resorts meant hitting the slopes and not much more. From Scandinavian spas to fondue fountains, here we reveal the best off-piste pastimes at Canada’s major ski resorts, for a suitably entertaining ski-free holiday.
How to have the best white Christmas in Canada
With snowflakes and sleigh bells, ski slopes and skating rinks, Canada is the ultimate holiday destination for a white Christmas. Ski with Santa in Whistler You don't have to go to the North Pole to get into the Yuletide spirit with jolly Saint Nick. He’s just over at British Columbia’s world-renowned Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. [caption id="attachment_23762" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Ski with Santa in Whistler: The day officially kicks off the holiday season in the resort, and is a great way to start your ultimate white Christmas holiday in Canada.[/caption] In fact, if you head there the week before December 25, you'll get to meet plenty of Santa ‘trainees’, who’ll be skiing and snowboarding down the slopes as part of Santa Day. The annual event takes place the Saturday before Christmas, and the first 100 people to arrive in full Santa or Mrs Claus attire get a free day lift ticket. The day officially kicks off the holiday season in the resort, and is a great way to start your ultimate white Christmas holiday in Canada. To be involved, arrive at Garibaldi Lift Company, at the base of Whistler Mountain, in your full Santa-esque ensemble. Ice skate around Lake Louise It's been hailed "the world's best skating rink", and when you arrive at Lake Louise in Alberta, it's easy to see why. Location is everything – the frozen lake sits glistening on the doorstep of the enchanting Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. [caption id="attachment_23764" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Ice skate around Lake Louise in Alberta.[/caption] Add a castle made of ice bricks, and hot cups of cocoa to warm the soul, and you've got one memorable Christmas experience. Skating is available from mid-December to mid-April, and skates can be rented from The Fairmont for C$15 for two hours or C$25 for a full day. Ride in a horse-drawn sleigh in Sun Peaks Explore one of Canada's most popular family-friendly ski resorts, Sun Peaks, while huddled under a blanket on a horse-drawn sleigh. [caption id="attachment_23761" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Ride in a horse-drawn sleigh in Sun Peaks.[/caption] Gentle draft horses take passengers on daytime, sunset and evening tours through the village, and into the open for views of the surrounding valley and mountains. The price of tours starts at C$30 for adults, C$24 for children and no charge for toddlers. Go mushing in the Yukon Prepare to get your heart racing on a quintessential Canadian adventure, with your very own team of huskies. [caption id="attachment_23757" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Go mushing in the Yukon with your very own team of huskies.[/caption] At Sky High Wilderness Ranch in Yukon Territory, you can learn how to mush through a winter wilderness. As the dogs pull you down narrow, snowy tracks and around pine trees, you'll discover just how much they love to run, and how addictive dog sledding can be. It's a great hands-on activity for intrepid couples and kids alike, as you learn how to communicate with the dogs and steer the sleds, and about the important role dog sledding has played in Canada's northern communities. A one-hour mushing tour costs C$99 for one person. Stay at Hotel de Glace in Quebec City Sleeping in a room made of ice isn't as crazy as it sounds when it looks like the suites on offer at Canada's famous Hotel de Glace. [caption id="attachment_23758" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Stay at Canada's famous Hotel de Glace.[/caption] Just 10 minutes from downtown Quebec City, this ice hotel is the stuff of snowbunny dreams. A popular spot for weddings, it's the perfect place for couples to rekindle their romance in its 44 rooms and suites, some with ice sculptures and even fireplaces. Kids will feel like they've escaped to their very own Narnia – it’s a fantastical Christmas experience they'll cherish for years to come. It's worth extending your Christmas holiday into January just to experience the magic of the hotel. The hotel is open between January until the end of March. Ride The Canadian train The Canadian train travels from Vancouver all the way to Toronto, but the best leg of the journey is undoubtedly through the stunning valleys of British Columbia. [caption id="attachment_23760" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Ride The Canadian train through the stunning valleys of British Columbia.[/caption] Visit in winter and you'll find it difficult to draw yourself away from the glass-domed viewing carriages. You'll spend hours watching frozen waterfalls, aqua lakes and mountain peaks pass your window. All up, you'll spend about 19 hours on board, disembarking in the pretty mountain village of Jasper, Alberta, where you can hire skis and head to Marmot Basin resort. The Vancouver to Jasper leg for two people in a cabin costs from C$1465.80 (including taxes and meals). Sing Christmas carols in the decorated Butchart Gardens Join traditional Christmas carolers among hundreds of fairy lights in the ever-popular Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. [caption id="attachment_23756" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Sing Christmas carols in the decorated Butchart Gardens.[/caption] During December, the gardens undergo a festive transformation, with Twelve Days of Christmas displays that feature two turtle doves, three French hens, and, well, you get the picture. Adding to the festive cheer, children are encouraged to exchange homemade paper snowflakes for a hot chocolate in the coffee shop. The Magic of Christmas theme runs throughout December, with the gardens open until 10pm between Dec 1 and Jan 6. Entry into the gardens costs C$27.40 for adults, C$13.70 for youth and C$3 for children. See the Christmas lights of Quebec City Quebec City is aglow with Christmas lights from the beginning of December, making it a magical place to explore at night. [caption id="attachment_23759" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Wander down Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of Canada's prettiest winter streets.[/caption] Go on a self-guided walking tour (don't forget to pack some warm boots), stopping at Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Place Royale. Make sure you also wander down Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of Canada's prettiest winter streets. Young children will also be able to meet Santa in the Petit Champlain District or at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, in Old Quebec. Don't forget to check out the toboggan run on nearby Dufferin Terrace, as well. You can download a map of the best Christmas sites around the city via quebecregion.com/en. The toboggan run is open from mid-December to mid-March. Watch the aurora borealis in the Yukon A Christmas in Canada wouldn't be complete without spending an evening watching the aurora borealis dance across the sky. The best places to view the natural light show are in Canada's northern regions, and Yukon is one of the most accessible. For travellers short on time, Northern Tales offers one-night Northern Lights viewing experiences, about 25 minutes from Whitehorse. Couples can snuggle around a campfire as they watch greens and purples ripple above, while children can stay warm inside a heated wall tent or log cabin as they wait for the show to start. The one-night guided tours cost C$125 per person and include transfers, hot drinks and snacks. The tours start around August and continue until April the following year. If you like the look of a Canadian getaway, make sure you check out our Canada travel guide, so you can ensure you read up on the very best the region has to offer!
Fly in ultimate style to Canada’s famous Whistler
Fly over wonderful BC scenery (and many miles of traffic) as you travel from Vancouver to Whistler.
Learn how to howl with wolves in Canadian wilderness
Get in touch with the dog in you while you howl at the moon.
Whistler sans snow: Why summer may just be the best time to visit
We all know Whistler Blackcomb is synonymous with snow and slopes, but what happens to Canada’s best-known winter wonderland once the ice melts? Three million — that’s more than the entire population of Brisbane, but still less than the number of visitors who frequent Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb resort every year. While North America’s number one ski resort sees a similar share of this gargantuan figure across winter and summer, it’s taken a while for Australians to appreciate the appeal of British Columbia’s world-renowned slopes sans snow. That is, until now. Summer is where it's at “Compared to 10 years ago, the number of Australian visitors in the summer has quadrupled, while winter has more than doubled,” says Tourism Whistler’s Director of Market Development, Shawna Lang, as we follow the snaking path through Whistler Village. [caption id="attachment_33894" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Hiking through ancient cedars to Cheakamus Lake — another popular Whistler activity during summer (photo: Mike Crane).[/caption] “Now, of the annual Australian room nights [that’s industry speak for local accommodation booked by Aussies], 40 per cent are during the summer and 60 per cent are during the ski season,” she adds, as I look around a distinctly different Whistler. Where I’m accustomed to seeing bars brimming with beanie-wearing snow bunnies and icicled racks crammed with snowboards and skis, are now tanned travellers and robust mountain bikes, both glistening in the hot sun. As Shawna points out, it’s these throngs of mountain bikers that now make up the bulk of Aussies visiting this time of year. Follow the bike trails [caption id="attachment_33892" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Whistler Bike Park, which is seeing an increasing number of younger Australian visitors coming to hit the bike trails (photo: Justa Jeskova).[/caption] “While we see many retirees on tour in summer, there are an increasing number of younger Australian visitors coming here to hit the bike trails.” As neither a retiree nor a daredevil nut job (seriously, some of the descents on Whistler’s many bike trails are horrifying), what is there to do here in summer for those who don’t fit into either category? Well, as I find out over the coming days, lots. Adventure, plus To begin my Whistler summer experience, today I’ve opted for one of the resort’s more mellow adventure activities; ziplining. I say mellow because there’s no degree of skill required (unlike biking), but it does still entail a helmet and adrenaline rush as we arrive atop Cougar Mountain for the first leap of faith into this aerial tree course. Run by The Adventure Group, Superfly Ziplines is merely one of a dozen outdoor pursuits offered here throughout summer, alongside whitewater rafting, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, jet boating, quad biking, bungee jumping... But back to ziplining; strapped into a harness and an unnervingly simple metal contraption that sits over a kilometre-long line, our guide counts down from three before pushing the harness forward, launching me more than 150 metres above a sea of ancient cedars, spiking up from below. [caption id="attachment_33891" align="alignnone" width="1500"] A stunning alpine hike on Whistler Mountain — one of many popular activities during summer (photo: Mike Crane).[/caption] Remind me, why didn’t I choose to chill out at the Scandinave Spa instead (which, by the way, is open year-round)? Initial stomach flips and screams out of the way, the ride quickly proves a thrilling way to see Whistler’s dense backcountry, to inhale that crisp mountain air, to feel the summer sun on your skin, all with minimal exertion. Happily, it’s only the first of four different ziplines included in the tour (each varying in length, height, and speed), connected by a network of short walks and boardwalks. Riding high As soon as we’re back on land again, we’re swiftly suspended in the air again, taking in brilliant 360-degree views from the iconic Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Connecting the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, this glass-walled capsule carries travellers over four kilometres between summits, making for an incomprehensively scenic transfer to the newly renovated Rendezvous Lodge atop Blackcomb. While the lodge houses an array of lunch options, we walk through to the sophisticated Christine’s on Blackcomb restaurant. Think wide glass windows, tasteful timber and copper details, and a contemporary Canadian menu that’s focused on ethically sourced ingredients. But it’s not just the perfectly seared scallops that diners come for — here you’re also treated to front row seats to see marmots sunbathing on the rocks below. In fact, it was the whistling calls that these furry little guys make to one another that inspired the name of the resort back in the 1960s. Wildlife a-plenty [caption id="attachment_33893" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Marmots aren’t the only local wildlife to come out and play this time of year; summer is also prime time to spot black bears. Unlike winter when they’re in the deep depths of hibernation, summer sees these beautiful beasts saunter out of the alpine woods to feed on grasses and wildflowers that blanket Whistler’s would-be ski runs (photo: Brad Doerksen and Whistler Photo Safaris).[/caption] Marmots aren’t the only local wildlife to come out and play this time of year; summer is also prime time to spot black bears. Unlike winter when they’re in the depths of hibernation, summer sees these beautiful beasts saunter out of the alpine woods to feed on grasses and wildflowers that blanket Whistler’s would-be ski runs. There are a number of operators that offer bear-watching experiences in the area, but our pick is Whistler Photo Safaris — taking animal lovers on personalised safaris around the otherwise inaccessible, Whistler Olympic Park. Fresh, clean eats After lunching on divine shareables from barbecued duck salad to beef short ribs (which, FYI, were charred for a casual 48 hours), this still isn’t even the pinnacle of Whistler’s food scene. Well, at least not in the physical sense. The afternoon is spent making our way to a distinctly Whistler dinner experience by the name of Salmon Bake. Run by Canadian Wilderness Adventures, the venture takes you on an ATV (quad bike) tour a couple of kilometres up Blackcomb to Crystal Hut; perfectly positioned to take in what are arguably the best views of British Columbia’s most iconic mountaintops. Then to top it off, you’re served maple glazed wild BC salmon (alongside local vegetables). And if that wasn’t Whistler enough, the return ride back includes a cameo appearance of a black bear, perched on a grassy knoll we drive past, nonchalantly munching on wildflowers. Oh Canada! Covered in dust, filled with salmon, and high on alpine air, I retire to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, joining a growing number of Aussies choosing summer over winter in Whistler. And for good reason. var axel = Math.random() + ""; var a = axel * 10000000000000; document.write('');
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