Western Canada’s capital of health and happiness thinks you should get out of the house for a bit
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Grant Harder
DAY TWO | You wake to a rare sight: It is snowing in Vancouver. Down here, where Pacific currents temper the weather, snowfall is generally confined to a few flurries, so it’s safe to say that, up in the mountains two hours north of town, the powder must be gangbusters. You’ve got to get up there. And you will. But first: supplies.
You take a cab to the edge of False Creek, the inlet that separates downtown from the foodie shopping destination of Granville Island, and climb into a rainbow-colored Aquabus ferry, which looks like a large bath toy. Still, you figure it can handle the five-minute trip to Granville. Heck, you can see it from here. This tiny peninsula is known for its covetable produce, and a quick snoop around the Public Market and the food stores that surround it reveals why. You stuff your bag with flawless fruit, reindeer sausage, tangy smoked salmon candy (basically sweet salmon jerky) and salted caramel peanut butter. You also make a concession to your immediate hunger and buy a creamy clam chowder pot pie to eat on the spot. It’s fantastic.
Larder stocked, you’re on your way north to the mountains—specifically, to Whistler. The drive takes you on one of the most scenic roads in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe one of the most scenic roads anywhere. You navigate northward on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, a ribbon of road that marks the extreme western edge of North America. To your left is the water, as thick and clear as vodka straight from the freezer. To your right are soft smudges of pine. Eagles hang in the sky. Even the mist is cinematic. You could be hurtling through a still from a nature documentary.
Eventually, the water gives way to snowy mountains. Nearly every car on the road is a four-wheel-drive stacked with equipment. The skiers are coming. Before joining them on the slopes, you make a turn for Whistler Olympic Park, where you’ll be trying your hand at biathlon: cross-country skiing followed by shooting at targets followed by more cross-country skiing. In the Olympics, the event doesn’t look particularly hard; in real life, it’s impossible. After a half hour of trying to find your snow legs in a set of parallel tracks, you move to a shooting range, where you race around a track, occasionally flopping down to shoot an air rifle at a target the size of a plum. With your heart rattling around like a shoe in a dryer, you hit exactly none of them.
Sweaty and spent, you finish the drive to the Four Seasons Whistler and stroll into a hunting lodge of a reception layered with Native American rugs. You’re ready for a pre-dinner nap, but your body is in knots. The concierge has a solution. A short drive from your hotel is an outdoor thermal bath called Scandinave Spa, where visitors perform repeated cycles of hot, cold and rest. Do this three or four times, he says, and you’ll be as relaxed as if you’d been on vacation for a month. You’re in.
You find the spa in a glittering pine glade that could be home to a wood nymph in a Disney movie. The most obvious place to start is the hot tub, so you hop in. Then it’s a cold plunge pool and 15 minutes in a hammock. That was pleasant, but you think you can beat it. By your final round, you have found the perfect cycle: 20 minutes in a Finnish wood-burning sauna followed by a quick Nordic shower and a solid half hour curled up in a ball next to an outdoor fireplace. Someone with a nightstick might have to force you to leave this place.
It’s then that you remember the meat. You’ve got a reservation at Sidecut, the Four Seasons’ sleek steakhouse. With a pang of regret (mitigated by a pang of hunger), you leave the spa and make your way to the restaurant, where you order a sushi roll made out of rare steak, avocado and dried tomato (the restaurant logo is etched into the wasabi); a 12-ounce ribeye served with house-made steak sauce; and roasted mushrooms and mashed potatoes. Sated, and with your eyes at half mast, you retire to your room to find another fireplace.
Your porch overlooks a teal puddle of swimming pool. The lights illuminate a row of icicles thick as your forearm. You flop face down on your bed. Now, if this were an Olympic event…