Whistler Blackcomb may be heaven for snowbunnies and mountain bikers, but there’s a hell of a lot more to do there than just throwing yourself down a mountain.
Sure, I love snowboarding there in the winter, and one day I will learn how to ride downhill in the summer – it does look like damn, dangerous fun.
But for now, here’s how to spend a weekend in Whistler in summer without snow, without bikes, and without breaking any bones.
9 pm – Check in at Aava Whistler Hotel
I’ve stayed at Aava twice now, once as part of the Last Minute Whistler Hotel Deals; you get a lower rate, but you don’t find out where you’re staying until you’ve booked.
Like the deal, Aava is a hidden gem. Although it’s only a short walk from Whistler Village, you would never know it was there, nestling quietly on the other side of Whistler Way.
Inside, the rooms are chic, comfortable and quiet, the reception comes with a full espresso machine and there are complimentary Go Pros available to borrow.
Take advantage of the peaceful surroundings and get an early night. You’ll need it with so much to do on Saturday!
6 am – Go on a Whistler Bear Viewing Tour
Believe me, these bears are worth getting out of bed for.
There are at least 60 black bears which move through Whistler Blackcomb and bear dens are located all over the mountain, often in the forests either side of the ski runs.
Guides Michael Allen and Theresa Oswald run small tours three times a day, at 6 am, noon and 6 pm, to give you a chance of spotting bears and their cubs up close in the wild.
Make sure to take a long lens to capture that perfect bear photo. You never know, you may even see a rare caramel bear cub.
9:30 am – Breakfast at Purebread
You may know Purebread from its Gastown location in Vancouver, but it also has a bakery in Whistler Village, on Olympic Plaza.
Delicious coffee and tasty treats await, from crumbly, buttery scones to Nutella cream buns. Personally, I love the spinach feta brioche.
Noon – Catch the Peak 2 Peak Gondola
After bears and breakfast, it’s time to head up the mountain.
A Peak 2 Peak 360 Experience ticket gets you on all chairlifts and gondolas, including the Peak 2 Peak Gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
No matter how many times I ride the Peak 2 Peak, I’m always astounded as the gondola sweeps over coastal rainforests and the waters of Fitzsimmons Creek rush beneath us.
Even if you don’t feel like hiking, a ride on the Peak 2 Peak should still be on the agenda. It’s the world’s highest lift of its kind – and offers stunning views to match.
1:30 pm – Lunch at Rendezvous Lodge
Once you’ve run down your phone battery taking photos of the amazing scenery, you’ll need a bite to eat before heading out on the trails.
While the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain is a mainstay of any day snowboarding, for a summer alternative, I prefer the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb.
The Rendezvous isn’t as busy, so it’s far easier to find a spot with a good view. Just in one lunch stop, I’ve seen deer grazing here and whiskyjacks weaving in and out of the forest.
As for food, you can choose from South East Asian ramen and rice, Canadian poutine and chowder, Thai curry or Mexican burritos. And of course, beef burgers galore.
2:30 pm – Take an alpine hike
Summer is a gorgeous time to be hiking in the mountains, and on Blackcomb you don’t even have to walk uphill to enjoy breathtaking views and curious creatures.
The hiking trails that start at the Rendezvous are fairly easy; I took the Alpine Walk to the Overlord Trail then the Lakeside Loop to majestic Blackcomb Lake.
Along the route, blooming wildflowers bring a splash of colour as the last remaining snow melts away, and awesome vistas do well to distract you from all that hiking.
Be on the lookout for wildlife too, especially Whistler’s wonderful whiskyjacks, which happily land on your hand if you offer up some bread – and the elusive hoary marmot.
If you’re looking for something more challenging, there are more than 50 km of hiking and walking trails to choose from, including the new Blackcomb Ascent Trails.
Right now, these are Little Burn and Big Burn, an uphill climb along two trails from the base of Blackcomb Mountain to the top of the Wizard Express Chairlift.
A third trail – Heart Burn – is coming in summer 2017 to take you all the way to the top of the Solar Coaster Express, where even more astounding views await.
8 pm – Dinner and cocktails at Alta Bistro
After a day breathing fresh mountain air, you’ll deserve a hearty dinner. If you want to go classy, Alta Bistro in the Upper Village is the perfect place to keep things refined, but filling.
This is chef Nick Cassettari’s take on local food – sophisticated cuisine that supports local business, from farmers and fisheries to gin distilleries.
I loved the tantalizing elk tartar parfait, while the chorizo and smoked chicken cassoulet was as nourishing and tasty as it sounds.
Wash it all down with a Douglas Fir Sour, made with gin from Vancouver Island and foraged Douglas Fir syrup. Garnished, of course, with candied Douglas Fir tips. Luscious.
10 am – Relax at Scandinave Spa
Sunday is spa day! So get some much needed peace and quiet at Scandinave Spa, just a 10-minute drive up the Sea To Sky, but a world away from the crowds of Whistler.
The outdoor spa offers a trail of hot and cold hydrotherapy areas, including saunas, steam baths, warm waterfalls, and cold plunges, all surrounded by spruce and cedar forest.
Be warned – Scandinave has a total silence policy. This may seem mad, but trust me – you’ll enjoy having nothing to do but warm, refresh, relax and repeat, as chipmunks scurry by.