The View from the Top 

Penthouse rooms and luxury still have a place in Whistler

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Disclaimer: If you've never looked up on a stroll through the village and wondered what it's like in those top floor rooms with those big two-storey windows, then stop reading. But if you've watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, flipped through an issue of The Robb Report, or gazed longingly at a massive yacht anchored off an exotic beach, read on. There's little doubt that for many of us our curiosity gets the best of us when we see a feature somewhere about "Canada's Most Expensive Homes" or "The World's Most Expensive Hotel Rooms."

Pique decided to dip into that curiosity and visit a few of the luxurious and elegant spaces Whistler provides for the world's millionaires and billionaires, movie stars and musicians, kings and queens, moguls and mavericks. The one per cent we've heard so much about lately.

In recent years, Whistler's bread and butter has been regional visitors, people who love the experiences we provide, but watch every penny they spend. But it is still a resort that caters to the rich and famous even though global economic misfortunes have turned the fortunes of so many once upwardly mobile people upside down.

Whistler still pursues destination visitors and high-end clientele — it's in our DNA as one of the world's leading mountain resorts — and while things aren't like they used to be, there are signs that things are recovering. Luxury homes are being built on both sides of the valley, lots are being snapped up and developed.

And in the village, high-roller suites are being occupied once again, sometimes so consistently that it sometimes took weeks to find just a few unoccupied hours to fit in tours. Some tours were delayed by Christmas and the rooms are so busy that it will be spring — and Part II of this feature — before I'll be able to see them. Unless, of course, I win the lottery.

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of the only high-end accommodation in town, merely a starting point. In future issues we'll tour more hotel rooms, look at more homes and architecture and see Whistler from another side. It's not to glorify wealth (though it has its glorious side), but to recognize its importance in the Grand Scheme of Things — it exists and it's a vital part of this resort. It pays higher property taxes and hotel taxes that we use to make Whistler the vibrant place it is, with amenities no town of 10,000 permanent residents should be able to afford. It buys tickets to events like the Telus Winter Classic, then gets into bidding wars over auction items at those events that help pay for some of our amenities, underwrite our local charities and non-profits. Wealthy donors helped build the Jeff Harbers Adaptive Sports Centre, a key development for Whistler's Adaptive Sports Program.

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