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Letter: Learning to love the cold in Whistler

'I’m neither a skier nor a fan of being cold, so a snowy mountain resort is not my usual go-to holiday destination.'
Beatrix Clark tries out snowshoeing during a recent trip to Whistler.

I’m neither a skier nor a fan of being cold, so a snowy mountain resort is not my usual go-to holiday destination. I make an exception, however, for a child I haven’t seen for several months, and when our son—an avid skier who’s immune to the cold—left the U.K. last November to work the winter season in Whistler, I knew a visit would be on the cards.

We waited until April (less cold), I stocked up on thermals and with my husband—also a ski enthusiast—headed for B.C.

I had anticipated spending much of my time strolling around the village, relaxing in our cosy hotel and enjoying the odd massage—instead I found a wealth of opportunities on offer for non-skiers. A guided snow shoe tour in the Callaghan Valley beneath a canopy of ancient cedar and fir trees, learning about the medicinal properties of local plants and the difference between grizzly and black bears was an utter delight, as was hiking along the Valley Trail to Green Lake, the stunning scenery and fresh, clean air a balm for the soul. Snowmobiling along backcountry terrain sounded thrilling, if a bit scary, and is on my list for next time.

Unbeknownst to us, our son had purchased a cheap car and, mechanical issues thankfully resolved before we arrived, he drove us to Pemberton where a gentle climb took us to Nairn Falls, and to Squamish where we rode the Sea to Sky Gondola for the full mountain experience. Embracing the elements, we crossed the suspension bridge at the top in a blizzard and tramped along the snowy Panorama Trail; the views that day were sadly non-existent, but it was an exhilarating experience. 

Visiting so late in the season did have some cons. We hadn’t realized when booking that both Whistler Mountain and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola—which I’d been looking forward to—would be closing just before we arrived. On the plus side, as the advent of low season brings a raft of special offers, we were able to enjoy fine dining, complete with locally sourced oysters, at Araxi and Il Caminetto—two of Whistler’s finest—courtesy of their excellent spring prix fixe menus. In an area notorious for its high prices—our son had forewarned us that B.C. stands for “Bring Cash”—such deals proved most welcome.

If I had to name my holiday high point—not easy in a place so rich with natural beauty and fun activities—it would be the “Thermal Journey” and deep tissue massage at the Scandinave Spa. The place is instantly relaxing—rustic-looking saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools and waterfalls linked by heated wooden walkways and surrounded by forest and mountains. The thermal therapy process is explained on arrival along with a polite request to keep phones in lockers and observe silence. I never thought I’d go near a cold plunge pool let alone an outdoor one, but keen to try something new, I immersed myself for a full three minutes and emerged feeling suitably invigorated.

Six days flew by and, boarding the bus back to Vancouver airport, I felt sad to leave. I’m innately a lover of hot, sunny climes, but my Whistler experience taught me that in the right surroundings and with the right gear, cold can be fun too.

Beatrix Clark // United Kingdom