Passport to Pleasure: A Relaxing Retreat to Whistler
You don’t have to race down mountains on skis or a bike to enjoy Whistler. You and your loved one can enjoy the outdoors and other activities in a more relaxing, romantic way. Here are ideas for a memorable day in Whistler, where we stamp this week’s Passport to Pleasure—a hedonistic quest for great food and good times for two, from nibbles to naughtiness.
LEARNING IS FUN AT THE CULTURAL CENTRE
The best place to start in Whistler is, of course, at the beginning: learning about Whistler’s aboriginal history. You can now do that at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. The 30,400 square foot complex is a cooperative venture by the Squamish and Lil’wat people designed to share their living cultures with the world.
You’ll watch an introductory movie in the theater, and then take time to explore the exhibits, including the hard-carved totem poles and cedar canoes. The handwoven baskets and textile-work are especially fascinating. Outdoors, don’t forget the forest walk and examples of living quarters: the Squamish longhouse and the Lil’wat istken—a traditional underground pit house that looks like a cozy retreat.
Hungry for lunch? You can stay on-site for lighter, less expensive fare at SLCC’s Café. Lil’wat venison chili with bannock (like fry bread) is a special treat, or try the bison and wild boar smokey, pictured below. For finer dining, you can’t beat Araxi. (See more about Araxi here.)
PEAK-TO-PEAK, WITH A PEEK AT CHRISTINE’S
Next, it’s time to take to the sky. Head over to the Whistler Village Gondola, which will take the two of you up nearly 6,000 feet to connect to the Peak 2 Peak alpine experience. Choose your Peak 2 Peak gondola correctly, and not only do you have a 360-degree, panoramic view from as high as 1,430 feet from the valley floor, but you might also have floor windows that allow you to look straight to the ground. This 2-and-3/4 mile journey is a great way to get a feel for the majesty of the recent Winter Olympics venue, and a sense of awe in the marvel of construction of the peak-to-peak cable connection. Completion of Peak 2 Peak broke records for longest unsupported span, highest lift of its kind, and longest continuous lift system on the planet.
There are great hiking, biking, and skiing opportunities at both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Or you can simply go to Christine’s, an idyllic spot for a drink and maybe a small snack on the fabulous patio, or one of the window-side tables inside. When you’re ready, you can descend down an open-air lift to the Blackcomb base in the Upper Village.
SOAKING AT SCANDINAVE SPA
Now it’s time for relaxation, hydrotherapy style, at Scandinave Spa. Regardless of the season, you can luxuriate in refreshing Scandinavian baths spread over three acres in a spectacular outdoor setting. Think Japanese onsen, but with the advantage that you can now be with your partner regardless of gender (Japanese onsens tend to be same-sex only), though unlike the Japanese experience, you’ll need a bathing suit.
Take in the three-stage bathing process: First, heat your body in the eucalyptus steam bath, hot baths, or wood-burning Finnish sauna. Next, cool your body quickly in the Nordic waterfalls, cold baths, or shower. Finally, relax in the solariums, hammocks, on a terrace, or by the outdoor fireplace. Repeat to your heart’s delight, with increased benefit if you can stay for a few hours. This will surely be special time together.
LOUNGING AT NITA LAKE LODGE
Your final stop (perhaps) for the day is Nita Lake Lodge. Start at Cure Lounge & Patio, where you can snuggle together on a couch and indulge in some whimsical cocktails and house-made charcuterie. Hailey Pasemko is the Commander and Chief of Beverage, and she uses fruits, chocolates, and fresh herbs (the Lodge has its own rooftop garden) in her concoctions. There are even food pairings to go with some of them, so you can stretch your time, perhaps moving out to the lakeside patio where there’s music many nights.
With drinks like “Taco Flavoured Kisses” (made with Cazadores Tequila, passion fruit, lime, tabasco, and chocolate) to “Half Asleep In Frog Pyjamas” (with Juniper Green Organic Gin, Giffard Manzana, cucumber, and watercress), you’ll surely find a perfect fit—and a social lubricant in the process. (My personal favorite is “Trust Me,” pictured above, made with Stoli Blueberi, chocolate liqueur, Chartreuse, Ricard Pastis, strawberry/fig balsamic reduction, and a garnish of fermented black garlic. Trust me: It’s amazing.)
After drinks, saunter into Aura restaurant, with a menu inspired by seasonal vegetables. But it’s not just the local farmers who shine; Aura also sources ingredients from local foragers, ranchers, and fisheries. Look for dishes like steelhead salmon with sweet corn and rooftop chard, or partridge with fondant potatoes, beetroot, cauliflower and cauliflower puree. And for dessert, how about something your server will likely call “Sex on a Plate”: chocolate with lavender ganache that is caramel-like and sure to be stimulating. (Pictured below are a fresh salad with beets, juniper berries, coriander, pumpkin seeds, and bresaola; halibut with Israeli cous cous; and the aforementioned “Sex on a Plate.”)
At this point, if you don’t feel like driving anywhere (and who can blame you), consider staying overnight. Nita Lake Lodge has 77 suites, with fireplaces and outdoor patios sure to make your stay simply luxurious.
Add to that a visit to the Ashram Spa, offering Canada’s only authentic Ayurvedic experience. Here you can have holistic health consultation, spa treatments, and a yoga session in a 2,800 square foot studio with breathtaking views of Whistler Mountain. Owner Ram Tumuluri says the whole Nita Lake Lodge concept is based on wellness, and that “everything you don’t think about in a hotel is us.”
THE PLEASURE OF POUTINE
If you stay up really late and need a midnight snack, Zog’s Dogs is there for you, open until at least 2am weekend nights. Some say you have to be drunk to appreciate the poutine; being high on life might suffice. Poutine is French fries, gravy, and cheese curds—and Zog’s puts its own spin with various options. Go basic, or try to figure out what the “Asian poutine” is all about. And then go back and try to burn a few of the calories with that special someone!
- Whistler highway sign courtesy of Kirsten Skipp, Skipp Designs
- Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre exterior courtesy of Gary Fiegehen, Gary Fiegehen Photography
- Great hall at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre courtesy of Robin O’Neill, Robin O’Neill Photography
- Scandinave Spa courtesy of Scandinave Spa
- Non-food photos of Nita Lake Lodge courtesy of Nita Lake Lodge