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Best Things To Do in Whistler

AOL PICK from our Editors
The question in Whistler is not what to do, but how much can you manage? From May to the end of July, for example, it’s possible to ski in the morning, golf in the afternoon and fish in the evening. Or, you can haul your skis and your bike up the mountain and pursue both sports in one day. In winter, you can ski Nordic and Alpine styles, and ice skate all in one day. Add snowshoeing if you’re cosmically energetic. Horseback riding, hiking, swimming, rafting, canoeing, sailing, climbing, tubing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, wilderness exploring—and then apres ski, dinner, live music—there’s just very little time left for shopping in the European-style pedestrian village. Don’t be lazy, now.

Edgewater Lakeside Activity Centre

Neighborhood: Alpine Meadows
Green Lake, a 1.3 kilometer-long (.8 mile) sapphire mountain gem at the head of Whistler Valley, is the activity venue for this facility, situated next to the Edgewater Lodge. In winter, you can rent ice skates at the activity center ($10) and head out on the ice—for hours, literally. It’s a transformational experience for those whose skating has always been indoors. In summer (starting late May), canoes and kayaks are available for paddling the lake from the activity centre or the wonderfully named River of Golden Dreams that feeds into it. There is also a beach for hardy souls who like cold-water swimming, and two volleyball courts.

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Edgewater Lakeside Activity Centre  

Whistler/Blackcomb

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
“Who ever said size didn’t matter? Not us.” So went a cheeky ad campaign for this nonpareil ski area a few years back, and it aptly captures both the virtues and disadvantages of these two huge side-by-side mountains. First, the numbers: more than 8,000 acres of skiing, 200 runs, 38 lifts with an uphill capacity of more than 61,000 skiers, more than 17 alpine bowls, 5,280 feet (1,609 meters) vertical—ONE MILE, as the lift map puts it. For avid big-mountain skiers, this is the North American pinnacle. That said, Whistler/Blackcomb is so big it is intimidating for less-advanced skiers (beginners tend to look up and cringe), and the resort’s high-voltage rep draws hot-shots who gleefully disregard any semblance of safety for themselves and others. But if you want to ride up in a gondola with Russian, Australian, British, Mexican, Argentinean, Italian and Chinese skiers; then ski down an uninterrupted, challenging half-hour run, this is the place. Best suggestion for first-timers: Take advantage of a guided tour with the mountain hosts.

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Whistler/Blackcomb  

Peak to Peak Alpine Gondola

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
It’s the longest free-span inter-mountain conveyance on earth. Grandiose? Yes. Exhilarating? Surely. Practical? Actually, yes: Before Intrawest, the ski resort operator, strung this sensational $52 million gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in 2008, skiers who wished to switch from one to the other had to ski down (it’s a very long way) and then ride back up, a journey that could surpass an hour. Now it takes 11 minutes. Whether you are skiing, biking or simply sightseeing, riding the P2P is a Whistler essential. FYI, the free span is 3 kilometers (1.8 miles); which is longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, the highest point is 435 meters (1427 feet) above Fitzsimmons Creek; and the total length is 4.4 kilometers. Access is by riding up the Whistler Village Gondola. A ski or mountain-bike park pass, of course, includes a P2P ride. Or two, three, whatever. Enter outside Whistler Roundhouse Lodge or at Skiers Plaza, Main Village.

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Blackcomb Base Adventure Zone

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
Trampolines, go karts, ziplines, luge rides, climbing walls, gyroscopes and more at Blackcomb Base Adventure Zone is paradise for kids, but please don’t just stand there and watch the youngsters. If nothing else, get in the gyroscope and prove to your offspring that you weren’t lying when you said you never get dizzy. Right? Passes range from $44 to $144. Open summer only, mid-June through early September.

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Whistler Interpretive Forest

Neighborhood: Function Junction
The entire Whistler valley was once old-growth maritime forest. Little of that remains, but a small parcel here is juxtaposed with previously logged and replanted portions (called plantations) so visitors can observe how forestry is practiced in BC. The forest’s more than 7,000 acres offer six hiking trails, which bear south uphill along the Cheakamus River valley and by the aptly named Logger’s Lake.

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Whistler Interpretive Forest  

Scandinave Spa

Neighborhood: Lost Lake
As often as you hear the term “Finnish sauna” in North America, few places actually offer it. This lavish, large new complex comes close— wood-fired facilities where bathers warm themselves, then bathe, then relax. And then repeat, just as Finns do. Steam baths, sauna baths, hot soaking pools, cold plunge pools, waterfalls and more combine in a delightful indoor-outdoor setting. A day pass is $58, and various treatment packages range up to $210. Alas, unlike Scandinavia, bathing suits are required—this is Canada, eh?

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Scandinave Spa  

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Neighborhood: Upper Village
Built as a legacy project for the Olympics, this graceful glass and stone facility offers a compact look into the lifestyles and art of the indigenous inhabitants. A marvelous traditional carved cedar canoe is the centerpiece; cedar and salmon were and are the mainstays of life for the Squamish and Lil’wat peoples, and it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on that simplicity compared to the thousand-dollar-a-night extravagance of the resort hotels next door.

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Whistler Museum & Archives Society

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
It seemed crazy at first, this scheme to craft a world-class mountain resort in the Coast Range north of Vancouver, build it up and then host the Winter Olympics—and it all came true, in just 50 years. This compact museum explains how it came about, and describes the colorful personalities behind Whistler’s development. Yes, there are old-fashioned skis here; there are also thoughtful biographies of some of the area pioneers whose spirits still prowl the heights above.

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Whistler Bungee

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
Winter, summer, day, night—it’s all the same when you’re free-falling 160 feet (53 meters) through a chasm in the Cheakamus River canyon south of Whistler (reached by driving to the Function Junction area). Whistler Bungee claims to be the highest bungee jump in BC; unlike most other operations today, it is simply and solely bungee jumping. The cost is $130.

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Whistler Valley Trail

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
This 22-mile (35-kilometer) paved trail runs from the head to toe of Whistler Valley, passing by all three resort villages, as well as Green Lake, Nita Lake and Alta Lake—all the way down to Function Junction. In winter it’s for Nordic skiing, in summer biking, blading and walking; it’s a key facet of life here in Whistler, forming a commute conduit for residents and an easy access path for visitors to reach activity centers. The main access in Whistler Village is by Village Gate; in the Upper Village it’s on Lorimer Road.

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Whistler Valley Trail  

Whistler Mountain Bike Park

Neighborhood: Whistler Village
Virtually all ski resorts have figured out that their slopes are just as good for biking in summer as skiing in winter, but Whistler has something most don’t: Whistler Mountain. The immensity of it enables the resort to offer 124 miles (200 kilometers) of lift- and gondola-served riding, on trails that range from mild beginner greens to white-knuckle downhill faces for fully armored hardcore riders. The total vertical is 4,900 feet (1,493 meters); a one-day ticket is $53. There’s an indoor facility with a foam pit for death-defying teens, too.

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Whistler Mountain Bike Park  
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