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Give the gift of a Whistler experience

Meaningful memories will make the best presents this winter

How much is a memory worth?

When it comes time to work your way through the wish lists this winter season, maybe you should prioritize the memories you create rather than the material presents you purchase—and there’s nowhere better to share a meaningful experience than Whistler.

“Whistler is a place that inspires people to explore their passions and step outside their comfort zones, so it is the perfect place to give the gift of experience,” says Lauren Everest, senior manager of communications and membership for Tourism Whistler.

“My husband lived in Whistler for about six months before I moved out to join him. That Christmas I came to visit him, and as a gift he took me bungee jumping with Whistler Bungee! I had never done anything like that before, so I was terrified. But it was so fun and an incredible bonding experience.” 

Now that Everest is a local, she knows many of the choicest Whistler-area destinations to share with her loved ones—whether that means going for a snowy mountain hike, slaloming down the ski slope, or enjoying a hot chocolate with friends in a remote lodge. And each of these expeditions can be personalized with everything from a personal photographer to a playful scavenger hunt.

The nice thing about sharing experiences is they don’t have to cost anything except your time, according to Everest. Many of the best gifts are completely free.

“Taking someone to one of Whistler’s free outdoor concerts in Celebration Plaza would be a great shared experience to give someone. Bring a blanket and a little picnic to make the experience extra special,” she says.

“One of my favourite experiences in Whistler is hiking the High Note Trail in the Whistler Blackcomb alpine. It’s challenging, but not too challenging, and the views you get on the trail are so iconically Whistler. Bonus points if you plan your hike when the wildflowers are in bloom.”

Permission to create

One way to impact the person you’re giving the gift of experience to is helping them learn about themselves, and develop their skills. Giving someone the opportunity to unlock their creative energy through artistic expression is a gift that will keep giving long-term. 

Andrea Mueller is an artist from Whistler who hosts routine paint nights, events, and classes that all have the same goal—giving participants permission to explore their skill set and embrace their inner artist. 

“That’s why I do the classes,” she says.

“For me, being in Whistler, which is a sports-centric town, there is a need to continue to advocate for the arts, in my opinion, so I like to share. I’m always taking workshops myself and constantly learning, and I want to bring that back to the community.”

Mueller’s events are offered under the brand Andrea Likes Art at her gallery venue ART POP, and include everything from regular programming for kids to private events, paint nights (often themed around depicting beloved pets), and printmaking workshops. 

Her website says art makes “life more vivid” and asserts that having an artistic practice in your life helps with mindfulness, stress relief, self-esteem, and connectivity. Her most cherished moment during each class is when she invites the class to stand up and look at what they’ve created.

“Everyone says, ‘oh, yours is so good,’ or, ‘look at the colour there,’ and many of them are so self-conscious when they’re creating, but when they stand back and see what they’ve done, even with their own work they’ll say, ‘I can’t believe I did that,’” Mueller says.

When her students explore their creativity, she adds, they’re engaging in a similar pursuit to all the rabid mountain climbers in Whistler.

“You’re doing it because you want to overcome something and get to the next level, do the new thing, and it’s the same when we create,” she says. “You’re learning and problem-solving as you go, and even if you don’t become a professional artist you can take those skills and apply them to your life.”

Mueller believes giving somebody an artistic experience as a present will impact them longer term than buying them a traditional gift.

“Sparking creativity is important to our well-being. You’re giving wellness to somebody. Experiences are something you can never take away,” she says.

“You never lose them.” 

A culinary adventure

Koji Chiba has dreamed of becoming a sushi chef since he was 10 years old.

And though he’s travelled all over the world to share his carefully constructed cuisine, personally serving the emperor of Japan and the king of Sweden, it’s now this Whistler culinary artist’s mission to share intimate experiences with discerning sushi-lovers from the comfort of their own homes—an experience that’s sure to create lasting memories. 

“I think it’s an amazing idea to gift a private chef experience to somebody,” Chiba says.

“We set up your kitchen as a real sushi counter with a long cutting board, a wooden showcase—so sushi ingredients, Japanese knives, antique Japanese dishes, table-setting with origami, and all the cooking wares and sake glasses, which you can pick your favourite colour or shape.”

The ambience of the experience is almost as important as the taste of the food, with participants getting the opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and Chiba’s unique approach. His multi-course meals feature traditional Japanese techniques married to North American presentation. As an accomplished fisherman, he often sources his own ingredients. 

“We cook all the dishes and sushi in your kitchen as a live cooking experience that can be best experienced if you are sitting at the counter seat,” he says. 

“The menu is made by hearing my client’s requests (kids, pescatarian, vegan and other dietary restrictions) and depends on the style they want (full-course dinner, standing party, cocktail party). We provide our dishes fresh with live cooking.”

‘The stories they carry’

Learning about our history is an essential part of being human.

At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, there are hourly guided tours, as well as workshops and events geared at sharing the stories of the past. According to cultural leader Georgina Dan, sharing these opportunities can be a powerful experience for someone keen to learn about the Whistler area’s cultural heritage.

“What makes these tours truly memorable is the authenticity woven into every aspect of the experience. The ambassadors at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) are not just guides; they are the living embodiments of their cultural heritage,” says Dan.

“Their passion, connection, and first-hand experiences infuse each tour with depth and authenticity that resonate long after the visit.”

She feels it’s a powerful way to broaden someone’s worldview. During the tours, participants will see carved canoes, house posts, bold artwork, weaving, and artifacts. 

“Giving the gift of a First Nations cultural experience over a material item allows for a connection to the people, and the stories they carry. It promotes understanding, respect, and appreciation for a culture through immersive learning, creating lasting memories, supporting local communities, minimizing environmental impact, and fostering personal growth,” she says.

“This experience-based gift goes beyond material possessions, offering a deeper connection and understanding of a rich cultural legacy.”

Besides the guided tours, the centre features special offerings such as a dreamcatcher-building tutorial, medicine bag craft workshop, drumming circles, and special events for National Indigenous Peoples Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which are immersive and educational. 

“Participating in tours, events or workshops can expand one’s perspective, fostering empathy, respect for diverse cultures, and a deeper understanding of Indigenous ancestral knowledge,” Dan says.

“It encourages personal growth by challenging preconceptions and promoting inclusivity, creating opportunities for connections and a more open-minded outlook on the world.”

People gifted an experience at the SLCC may choose to stay involved, and there are many opportunities to engage, Dan adds.

“Becoming a member and supporting Indigenous causes through advocacy allows individuals to strengthen their connection to the SLCC and the people of this land,” she says. “Additionally, many find comfort and personal reflection within the centre’s space, using it as a hub to appreciate and contribute to the preservation of Indigenous ways of knowing and being.”

Giving the gift of wellness

Many people struggle with seasonal depression, which is often exacerbated by the holiday period. 

That’s why giving a gift that allows your loved ones to engage in experiences that impact their wellness is one of the best ways to positively influence their life.

Sea to Sky psychotherapist Bernd Mueller says staying engaged socially and committing to remaining physically active throughout the winter months are two of the best ways to ward off negative feelings during the winter months.

“Approximately 30 per cent of North Americans reported in 2023 that they have been diagnosed with depression during their lifetime. The percentage of undiagnosed occurrences of low mood or depression is even higher,” he says. 

“So low mood or depression, be it seasonal or more persistent, is a very common experience in our  society and needs to be taken seriously.”

Giving the gift of a membership to Yogacara Whistler, Opus Athletics CrossFit gym, or Meadow Park Sports Centre will ensure that your loved one will not just have one positive experience, but many. Physical activity has a profound effect on our brains. Research studies have found that our neurons are born during physical activity, and existing neurons both live longer and show increased connectivity in those who are regularly active. 

“At the same time, physical activity also increases the production of the neurotransmitter endorphin. The endorphin chemicals do not only occur as a ‘runner’s high’; any activity involving absorbing and transporting oxygen in our body can contribute to this same feeling: a brisk walk, body workout exercises, a swim etc.,” Mueller says.

“You can start simple. Daily 10-minute exercises are a good enough start. A run, a walk through the neighbourhood or even your apartment: movement is movement.” 

By encouraging someone to embrace healthy living, your gift will be the way they feel. And keeping them active is just another way you can ensure they’ll have positive memories ahead of them for years to come. 

10 awesome experiences to share with your loved ones this year:

#1. Take a scenic family snowmobile tour

#2. Build a dreamcatcher at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

#3. Paint your pet at ART POP

#4. Hike the High Note Trail at Whistler Blackcomb

#5. Host a private sushi dinner with Koji Chiba

#6. Try cross-country skiing at Whistler Olympic Park

#7. Attend the Fire & Ice Show in Skier’s Plaza

#8. Take photos by the rings from the 2010 Winter Olympics

#9. Go to the Bubly Tube Park

#10. Go skiing or snowboarding at Blackcomb