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 THREE | There’s a knock on your door at 7a.m. Blearily, you open it to find a beaming room service attendant, who wheels in a tray of Bircher muesli and a creamy avocado, apple, spinach and strawberry smoothie. Healthy is as healthy does, and you’ve got miles of mountain to scream down over the course of the day.
You flick on the fire and lay out your gear to warm while you ponder your dilemma: Blackcomb or Whistler? Whistler or Blackcomb? At 8,171 acres, the Whistler Blackcomb complex is larger than Vail, Aspen, Big White or Mammoth. Your pass will allow you to ski either of the mountains, which are connected at the base and by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. But with only a single day to ski, it’s too big to take on all at once. You flip a loonie. Blackcomb it is.
You can handle almost any blue run with grace, but black runs leave you looking like a drunk in a log-rolling competition. With this in mind, you sign up for Max4 Group Ski Lessons at the Whistler Blackcomb Snow School, where you meet your instructor, Aniello Campagnuolo. After a quick diagnostic ski-off, he selects you and three similarly abled skiers, and leads you up the Wizard lift. On the next, the Solar Coaster, he points down at a few teenagers swooping in and out of trees on a black diamond below. “You ladies will be doing that later,” he says. You and your new friends make doubtful faces.
As the day goes on, the powder starts looking a little carved up—time to hit the moguls. But first, lunch. This is no time for gourmet aspirations: You grab a bowl of chili and a hot chocolate at Roundhouse Lodge on the mountain. Then you’re back on your skis, crisscrossing Blackcomb’s face, hitting progressively steeper pistes until, finally, you huck off a small hill onto a black diamond and make it down without a single anxiety attack. Campagnuolo points at a lift above your head, the one you were on earlier, back when you were afraid.
This calls for a drink. You stow your skis and meander over to the Whistler basecamp, where you can see a crowd already gathering outside the Garibaldi Lift Co. Inside, it’s a virtual nightclub—a roiling warehouse crammed with rosy-cheeked ski bums in ear warmers and fashion baselayers. You locate a spot at the bar and eavesdrop on two dudes in beanies who are swapping snowboarding war stories. Most of them end with a phrase like “…and that’s how I broke my other leg.” When the bartender comes by, you order the après specialty, the Great Canadian Caesar, a Canadian Bloody Mary with Clamato. Yours comes with a pickle, green olive, spicy green bean and a strip of bacon.
You find yourself focusing a little too intently on the garnishes, so after the drink you take a quick shower and head for dinner in Whistler Village, which is the size of a small town and looks like a hobbyist’s railroad set. Every corner you turn you find another Swiss-looking square and more young, smiling folks in sweatpants lounging on balconies. You pause on a little covered bridge over a bit of half-frozen stream. You wouldn’t be too surprised to hear jingling bells and a “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Finally, you arrive at Araxi, an oyster bar and high-end seafood restaurant that glows like a seaside pub in a storm. You have a seat at a corner table and submit to a succession of plates each more beautiful and local and healthy than the last. There are deep-cup Kusshi oysters and sockeye salmon sashimi and several glasses of excellent British Columbia pinot noir, but the star is a plate of rare venison loin with ruby-colored baby beets and a cheese ravioli. It’s as tasty as it is artfully composed.
Fully recovered from your exploits on the slopes, you slink out into the clear night, boots crunching on the snow. It’s chilly, but you are warmed by the amber glow of the windows, and the occasional burst of laughter echoing through the streets. Outside the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub you see a circle of people sitting around a low stone fireplace. Will they let you join them? Of course they will. This is Canada. You buy a round of stouts and sit mesmerized by the licking flames, the way people have since this place was wild. Conversation drifts upward like the sparks from the hearth, but you catch only snippets: “…magic double black diamond…” “…smells like cedar…”
“…isn’t this nice?”
Popular Mechanics senior editor Jacqueline Detwiler also dances like a drunk in a log-rolling competition.