Life Travel

Vancouver-Whistler trip combines best of both worlds

By Jane Stevenson, Postmedia Network

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Canada's West Coast is best summed up by the "sea to sky" experience, if you ask this transplanted Vancouverite living in Toronto.

In other words, you can be walking around the city's seawall in the morning, and be skiing on the slopes of world-renowned Whistler Blackcomb resort in the afternoon. It's really that easy, with only about a 90-minute drive separating the two stunningly picturesque and adventurous locations.

A recent trip to my hometown reinforced my love of both places.

This visit begins with a two-night stay at the Fairmont Waterfont in downtown Vancouver opposite Coal Harbour, where seaplanes take off and land all day long, and the seawall hugs the water inviting a stroll, particularly in the morning and afternoon.

If you're into virtual flight-ride technology, Fly Over Canada is a short walk away. Groups of up to 60 people are strapped into seats, elevated and taken on a journey of Canada that unfolds on a 20-metre-high spherical screen.

The hotel itself boasts amazing water views, an outdoor pool, indoor jacuzzi and -- for our travel party -- a fun oyster-shucking lesson with executive chef Dana Hauser, during which we handled such delicious local varieties as Fanny Bay and Kumamoto.

For dinner, we headed across the street to Miku, a Japanese restaurant known for its Aburi-style sushi (marinated and lightly seared).

During the day we are treated to "The World's Best Food Truck Tour," which requires a big appetite. With the help of our guide Andrew, we visited five food trucks serving everything from Japadog's 10 types of yummy sausages to Soho Road's exquisite butter chicken.

My advice: Just try a little at each stop.

Our most mind-blowing dinner was consumed among Beluga whales at the Vancouver Aquarium, where we dined on an OceanWise meal of sustainable seafood while the large white sea creatures swam around us.

The aquarium has family sleepover nights, too. (Next trip!) Visitors can even adopt a Beluga and help support its care and feeding.

After such a super-natural B.C. experience it was hard to leave for the "sky" portion of our trip. (Don't EVER ask me to pick ocean over mountains or vice versa. I grew up skiing at Whistler, among other B.C. locales.)

We headed up to the ski-in, ski-out Fairmont Chateau Whistler at the base of Blackcomb Mountain for some major slope time and apres fun. Activities included taking the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which enables you to ski both Blackcomb and Whistler or just take in the awesome alpine views (highly recommended) and a much needed massage, eucalyptus steam, fireside sit, and a soak in one of the many outdoor hot spring pools at Scandinave Spa Whistler.

About a 15-minute drive from the hotel, Scandinave's enormous and stunning outdoor nature spa sits in a spruce and cedar forest, so not only are the views alone worth the price of admission but it smells good, too. It's very soothing to stare at mountains and trees while immersed in hot water, and a no-talking policy means it's also very quiet, unlike many spas. If you're brave enough, the outdoor cold-plunge pool is great for circulation but some people prefer to just roll around in the snow.

If you can't fathom leaving Chateau Whistler after you've put in a hard day on the hill, the hotel has its own stunning outdoor springs at the base of the mountain, where you can watch skiers make their way down or have a good muscle-relaxing steam inside.

Or you can retire to the Fairmont's Mallard Lounge, where we sampled specialities from Vancouver Island's Qualicum Cheeseworks and an unusual cocktail of house-made Lillet -- honey from the hotel's rooftop bees and yellow mustard.

When my feet became sore from skiing, I sought out the on-site Vida Spa, where a therapist took good care of my tired tootsies.

We were treated royally during the Chef's dinner (by Chef Mitchell) in the hotel kitchen, where we drank red and white wines from the Okanagan region and filled our bellies with meat raised in nearby Pemberton -- everything from BBQ pork belly to lamb. This was followed by an apres-dinner shot of Pemberton Valley's Schramm organic potato vodka for good measure.

Up on Blackcomb the next day, we retreated to the Rendezvous for lunch at Christine's -- gourmet burger, fries and hot chocolate.

But nothing quite prepared us for the elaborate drinking rituals, which awaited that night at The Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler Village.

Imagine sabreing off the top of Champagne bottles in a 20,000-bottle wine cellar or donning white Canada Goose parkas (provided) for a visit to the Belvedere Ice Room -- the world's coldest vodka-tasting room! This restaurant can and does.

It's a rare indoor experience not to be missed in this outdoor mecca.

VANCOUVER

GREAT SLEEPS: The Fairmont Waterfront.

MUST EXPLORE: Vancouver Aquarium, Fly Over Canada, the sea wall.

GREAT EATS: Miku Restaurant, The World's Best Food Truck Tour.

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB

GREAT SLEEPS: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

MUST EXPLORE: Whister Blackcomb, where skiing continues well into the spring. Scandinave Spa, Whistler.

GREAT EATS: In Whistler Village, The Bearfoot Bistro. Atop Blackcomb, Christine's Restaurant.

MORE INFORMATION

For tourism information, visit Destination BC at hellobc.com.


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