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Does getting to Whistler count as a thrill? You might think so on the iconic Sea to Sky Highway. Whistler is a spectacular two-hour drive from Vancouver, along indented coastlines into rugged mountains.
This vibrant alpine town is exciting for its outstanding skiing and snowboarding and other winter adventures, but you'll also be thrilled by its cultural scene, abundant family activities, sophisticated dining, and pumping nightlife.
Here are five ways to rekindle the joys of travel and get the whole family excited in Whistler this winter season.
Skiing & boarding
Whistler-Blackcomb is North America's most extensive ski field, with more runs and vertical metres than any other. Boarders favour Blackcomb for its fewer traverses and more fall-line runs, while accomplished skiers like its steeper, narrower trails. Beginner and intermediate skiers generally prefer Whistler, though even for experts nothing beats Whistler for powder runs.
The argument is academic: ski it all. The two mountains are connected midway by the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, a thrill in itself as one of the world's highest and longest such rides.
Meanwhile Whistler's backcountry features hundreds of unmarked trails draped over spectacular alpine landscapes. To really get the adrenaline going, heli-ski a glacier or vast open bowl where you can float through deep, untracked powder for an exhilarating day out.
Satisfy your need for speed on one of North America's most thrilling zipline courses. Photo: Ziptrek Ecotours
There are other ways to enjoy Whistler's great outdoors, including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snow tubing. You can also trek by snowmobile into backcountry. Ice-encrusted trees soar overhead, snow peaks loom, lakes have a frozen silver beauty, and all the ski-resort trappings are left far behind. Head out in the evening and you can enjoy fondue at Crystal Hut as the stars come out.
Ziplining also gets the adrenaline going. Prepare for a rush. The Sasquatch is North America's longest zipline at over two kilometres, and at times you're a dizzying 183 metres above the ground as you're hurtled over the Fitzsimmons Valley. Meanwhile, on Cougar Mountain a series of ziplines, one 1.3 kilometres long, sees you reach speeds of up to 100kph.
You don't have to be an adrenaline junkie to be thrilled by Whistler. The ski resort, with its icicles and twinkling lights, feels like walking through a snow globe, and its buzzing energy makes it feel as if every day is a celebration.
Take a twirl on the skating rink at Olympic Plaza, marvel at the Sunday evening Fire & Ice Show in which skiers and boarders flip through flaming hoops, or explore boutiques as you hunt for fashions, jewellery and souvenirs.
And don't worry: when you want to completely unwind, simply enjoy a massage or spa treatment at one of Whistler's many wellness retreats, a hot chocolate by a crackling fire, or a magical winter walk through crunching snow as moonlight shimmers overhead.
Kick off your après-ski festivities fireside in Whistler Village. Photo: Destination Canada/Grant Gunderson
Après-ski & dining
As the ski day winds down, Whistler's nightlife cranks up with many options to après mere steps from the slopes. Enjoy a winter warmer, then take your pick of energy-packed bars, a cosier whiskey lounge, craft brewery, the vodka-tasting Ice Room, dance clubs or live-music venues featuring punk, Irish, reggae and more.
Whistler isn't short of restaurants: in fact, it's a food destination in its own right, whether you're after a gourmet pub pie or fine-dining experience. Rimrock Café tempts with terrific seafood and oyster plates, and you can titillate the taste buds with contemporary Pacific Rim cuisine at Bearfoot Bistro. Meanwhile Araxi serves top-quality British Columbian cuisine with Italian and French influences, and has an extensive wine list for another taste adventure.
Arts & culture
At the heart of this winter wonderland is a thriving cultural community. As the snow falls, Whistler's vibrant arts scene flourishes with engaging exhibitions and rich indigenous culture. Check out Audain Art Museum, which showcases Canadian artists and also has changing exhibitions from world-class art institutions.
You can learn about the history of the ski resort at Whistler Museum. The award-winning Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre is devoted to local First Nations culture: see demonstrations of weaving and carving, and learn drumming and traditional crafts.
Don't miss the thrilling Vallea Lumina, an immersive light show on Cougar Mountain that takes you through the forest on a multimedia night walk that provides pure enchantment for the whole family with its giant video screens, laser lights and illuminations. Wonderful.
It hasn't been the same without you, Australia. Reconnect with friends & family, seek the adventure you've been craving, and start checking off that ultimate bucket list, in a place that delivers the thrills.
Book your winter vacation by August 31st to get the best deals of the season and save 45% on lodging. Visit whistler.com/winter for more details and start planning your trip today.