To relieve my pent-up frustration at not being able to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, I booked a trip to Whistler in August for some mountain golf and other alpine pleasures. Whistler kicked up its already world-class reputation when it co-hosted (with Vancouver) the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
In early 1960s, most folks opined that developing Whistler as a ski resort was ridiculous—too stormy, too isolated, no services or road links. The list went on. But Whistler had remarkable terrain—voluptuous slopes that dropped nearly a vertical mile to the valley floor, hundreds of acres of old growth forest—and a plethora of snow.
Franz Wilhelmsen and a cohort of mountain enthusiasts ignored the naysayers and carved a network of ski trails out of the bush. Today, Whistler is considered one of the premier mountain resort destinations in the world with two mile-high peaks (Whistler and Blackcomb) linked via a pedestrian-only village. It has become four-season success story by which now most others in North America are judged and often modelled upon.
Set into the skyscraping mountains of the Coast Range, the town has an irrepressible spirit that matches its surroundings. Things have changed quite a bit since the early days when what is now the centre of Whistler Village was a garbage dump where the bears foraged. The bears are still there but those early days when skiers swigged beer out of their ski boots have changed considerably. Whistler, the top ski, snowboarding and mountain biking resort in North America has also ascended to the heights of one of Canada’s best golf destinations
Going for Gold
While Olympians in Tokyo were going for Gold, I was too, but my Gold involved the super perks and pampering offered to guests in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Gold level. Fairmont spent more than $14 million, creating a boutique hotel within its existing property. Guests receive all sorts of extra benefits starting with concierge check-in at the totally renovated eighth-floor Gold Lounge. There’s an outdoor patio, perfect for sipping your morning cappuccino and enjoying the breakfast offerings created by Chef Isabel Chung. Chef makes her jams from BC fruit and honey comes from the hotel’s rooftop hives. Breakfast offerings include charcuterie, cheese, smoked salmon, yogurt, fruit, warm from-the-oven pastries, and daily hot specials served in Covid-friendly individual sized serving dishes.
Tea, finger sandwiches and pastries are served mid-afternoon and from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. guests may indulge in gourmet hors d’oeuvres, an assortment of cheeses and charcuterie and more sweet treats. The honour bar well-stocked martini and gin-and-tonic stations. The lounge with its overstuffed leather couches makes a comfortable extension to the guest rooms, each with electric fireplace, soaker tub and a sensory aromatherapy experience with Skinjay, an all-natural essential oil pod that diffuses through the showerhead. Choose your scent according to your mood: sleep, detox (after too many martinis!), party or play.
I chose “play.” First on my hit list was the Chateau Whistler Golf Club, where unlike the other Whistler area courses, you really do climb up and down 400 feet of dramatic alpine terrain.
“We listened to the land and harmonized with nature,” says its creator, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. An engineering marvel, the course, carved out of the bench lands of Blackcomb Mountain, traverses “Billy goat” steep ledges, gushing glacier-fed streams, massive granite outcroppings and mighty Douglas firs.
The first five holes present an uphill battle with several creeks transecting the fairways. Try to concentrate on your swing but you will be distracted by the spectacular mountain views, possible bear sightings and giddying alpine air. The eighth signature hole plays downhill to a green set off by a crystal-clear lake and a massive granite cliff. The Chateau Whistler course is a true beauty queen with outstanding views in every direction.
Smack dab in the centre of the village, The Whistler Golf Club, built in 1983, is the granddaddy of the Whistler area courses. It was also Arnold Palmer’s first Canadian design.
“It’s a Palmer design with a Whistler attitude, “remarks sales manager, Ro Davies. Indeed, classic rock music piped from the clubhouse, the high five you’ll get from the starter and marshals who will help you find errant balls are all part of the Whistler G.C. vibe.
The 6,700-yard, par-71 course is set amongst ancient cedars, majestic fir trees, winding streams and nine lakes. The Club received the designation of Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, in part for staff’s extensive environmental initiatives. Their efforts have had a direct impact on both the Crabapple Creek trout population and local bear population through enhancements of their wildlife habitats, outreach and education and chemical use reduction. You might spy a small cub taking a stroll around the patio.
The signature 16th hole, called The Gallery, is a knockout with elevated tees and a carry over a sparkling lake and then a winding river. In the spring of 2021, The Gallery was expanded to provide seating for joggers, walkers and cyclists on nearby trails to enjoy the views and applaud good tee shots.
Just down the road, Nicklaus North, designed by the Golden Bear himself, meanders alongside glacier-fed Green Lake. Jack Nicklaus deliberately designed it to be fun, with roomy fairways and enormous greens. That said, there are over 50 bunkers and water on 15 holes to be avoided. The par-threes here are very strong, especially the signature 17th that plays alongside Green Lake. Although Nicklaus ‘s company has built almost 300 courses in 40 countries, only four are Nicklaus Signature tracts and one of those is Nicklaus North.
Après Golf Food and Fun
R&R at the Spa
Scandinave Spas are designed so guests may relax and rejuvenate. The prescribed routine: spend about ten minutes warming your body in a sauna, eucalyptus-scented steam bath, hot tub or thermal waterfall. Heating the body increases blood circulation, which, in turn, cleanses by promoting the elimination of toxins. Then it’s time to close the skin’s pores by cooling off beneath a bracing Nordic waterfall or a dip in a cold tub. The third part of Scandinave’s routine is chill-out time. Snooze in the solarium, swing in a hammock or cozy up by the outdoor fire with a good book and a cup of organic tea.
The One & Only Bearfoot
Where else can you saber a bottle of Champagne and drink it with a platter of freshly shucked oysters? Wait, the fun has just begun. Don a parka and sample four exotic vodkas from a choice of 50 from around the globe in the Ketel One Ice Room where the temperature is ideal for savouring the clear liquor. An evening at Bearfoot Bistro is never dull. Their latest creation may just be the world’s best martini. With no apologies to James Bond, their Vesper cocktail is neither shaken nor stirred, but made in a copper pot with liquid nitrogen. It’s so cold its almost viscous, but the booze has not been diluted with ice. Now sample some of the finest and most innovative cuisine in Whistler from Chef Melissa Craig. Finish the night off with a tableside preparation of ‘nitro” ice cream—the best molecular cuisine you’ll ever taste.
Ready to Go?
Stay and play golf/hotel packages
All about Whistler
First published at Travel Industry Today