Vancouver Whistler: A Gay Ski Week in a Northwest Paradise

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whistler peak

Answer Whistler’s Siren Call

Most people discover Whistler marshmallow white with winter. After all, Whistler Blackcomb (whistlerblackcomb.com) is the largest ski resort in North America with more than 8,000 acres and enough lifts and gondolas to send nearly 70,000 skiers heavenward every hour. Is it any wonder that Whistler was the site of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games?

And then, of course, there’s Gay Whistler (gaywhistler.com), the week-long Pride and Ski Festival that has been attracting legions of snow bunnies for more than 25 years. Each January, the hills are alive with a rainbow army of winter-loving LGBTs who scale the summits for skiing and snowboarding, bobsled and skeleton racing, and zip line tours — then party until dawn with the night owls and drag queens at events like Furrocious and Snowball.

With an annual snowfall of approximately 33 feet, it’s not surprising that the locals often say, ”I came for winter — but I stayed for summer.” Imagine the winter wonderland in full bloom with more than 30 miles of alpine hiking trails and a Guinness World Record-breaking gondola connecting the two mountaintops. This is when you grasp the magnitude of what’s known as “Sea to Sky Country.”

Whistler’s Breathtaking Beauty

For a bird’s-eye perspective, leave your acrophobia at the lodge and slip into one of the Peak 2 Peak glass-bottomed Sky Cabins. Opened in 2008, this engineering marvel revolutionized winter sports with the world’s longest and highest continuous lift system. For nearly three miles, you soar with the eagles through the clouds at an altitude of nearly 1,500 feet. And then you comprehend — surrounded by panoramic vistas of emerald-green forests above crystal blue lakes with the snow-capped peaks and an endless blue sky — why you wouldn’t want to leave, even if you came for the snow.

More than two million people visit Whistler annually, which partially explains why a mountain town of less than 10,000 permanent residents hosts numerous annual festivals and why such a walkable little village would be so packed with noteworthy cultural institutions. It’s all the more remarkable when you consider that the Whistler Valley, originally one of the main trading routes of the First Nations, was without water and electricity until the 1960s.

As the host mountain resort of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler was the first location of Pride House, the hospitality house dedicated to the support of LGBT athletes and their allies. The project’s success enabled the proliferation of Pride Houses throughout the world to better champion LGBT equality (especially important in gay-unfriendly locales such as Sochi, Russia). In keeping with Whistler’s ongoing support for all residents and visitors, the municipality recently dedicated two new rainbow crosswalks on Main Street — with a feather ceremony blessing from First Nations and the presence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Where to Stay at Whistler

Joerg Rodig, who is the General Manager of Four Seasons Resort & Residences Whistler (fourseasons.com/whistler) refers to Whistler as his “chosen home.” Born in Germany, Rodig maintains that Whistler is where he feels most comfortable — perfectly understandable once you’ve witnessed the alpine pleasures of Four Seasons Whistler. Situated in the Upper Village at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, the 273-room alpine resort epitomizes mountain lodge luxury with plush rooms that feature gas fireplaces, walk-in dressing rooms, and balconies large enough for breakfast for two.

The soaking tub in the oversized bathroom could also easily fit two, but there’s also a rainforest shower — all of which should make it easy for you and your partner to arrive in time for dinner at Sidecut (sidecutwhistler.com), the resort’s steakhouse with outdoor dining and a wood-burning fire pit.

Things to Do

While Whistler has a reputation for attracting athletes, aesthetes are equally welcome and especially at Audain Art Museum (audainartmuseum.com), which opened in 2016 to house the art collection of philanthropist Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko. Nestled in a grove of coniferous hybrids, the museum was designed to integrate with its surroundings — and the result is a restorative sanctuary. With a focus on indigenous art of the Northwest Coast, the collection also includes Vancouver photo-conceptualists and two dozen works by the aforementioned Emily Carr.

So much art and natural beauty merits a toast and where better than the Bearfoot Bistro (bearfootbistro.com) which has been entertaining locals and visitors since its founding in 1995 by impresario André Saint-Jacques. While Saint-Jacques currently holds the world record for Champagne sabering, you, too, can take a stab at sabering a bottle of bubbly from the 20,000-bottle wine cellar — or sip vodka in the Ketel One Ice Room, the coldest vodka tasting room in the world. Parkas are provided, but you bring your own party animal.

When morning breaks, take an alpine wildflower walk and head to the Green Moustache (greenmoustache.com): a perfect pit-stop for acai bowls and organic smoothies. Delicious food and classic Whistler atmosphere are also on tap at the Hunter Gather Eatery & Taphouse (huntergatherwhistler.com), but beware: the sticky toffee cake might make you never want to leave Whistler, whatever the season.

Last modified: March 13, 2018

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