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Whistler

Time to blog about the vacation. Going to break it up into two parts: Whistler and Vancouver. Let’s get started and see how long this winds up.

Overview

With the exception of one tour, everything was booked through the official site. This worked really well and we got a fantastic deal. Highly recommended.

Transportation

We flew American. Nothing great to say about them, but nothing horrendous. I do not know why, but they had so many flights delayed it was unreal. Never had that problem with Southwest. Also, SWA employees are excellent and friendly from the ticket counter to the flight attendants. Not so much with American. Actual flight time was very good. I’ve had a few people ask if we flew in to Seattle first. No, we flew from Austin to DFW to Vancouver. Flying into Seattle will add a few hours of travel time.

While on the plane, you are given a sheet to fill out for customs. This was new to me. After we landed in Vancouver, we then had to go through customs. There were probably a few hundred of us at most and it went fairly quickly, even at 10pm.

Since we missed our original flight, I rebooked the bus via cell phone. I didn’t have the number with me (and you have to pay for wireless in the airport), so I used Google 411. I wasn’t sure it would work for international but it did. Awesome!

And yes, it was dirt cheap to fly in. $300/person roundtrip, minus fees. That deal was not always there on some days, so it took some refreshing to find it. Also, you might consider not booking the last flight out. If you miss it, you’re in for a long wait.

Bus t o Whistler was scheduled through the site. Not cheap, about $50/person via Pacific Coach Lines. A cheaper option would be Whistler Direct Shuttle. The prices may look the same, but the latter prices in CAD, so you’ll save money. The downside of taking a bus is that you can’t stop at any of the scenic places along the route. After the road construction is complete for the 2010 Olympics, it will be more car friendly. Right now, I’d be a bit wary driving it in the winter.

Once in Whistler, all you need is your feet!

On the way back, we booked a Greyhound instead, as it stops in downtown not toooo far from our Vancouver hotel. The Greyhound makes a few quick stops and one longer stop in Squamish, but for half the price the extra minutes are more than acceptable. If you can plan in advance, order your tickets online instead of purchasing at the ticket counter.

Lodging

We stayed at the Fairmont Chateau (this is the hotel you see in the pictures everywhere). Again, excellent deal. This was by far the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in and I would stay there again in a heartbeat. It’s located at the base of Blackcomb. The only negative is that we walked over to Whistler Village once a day, sometimes twice. That does get old. But we discovered shorter routes, which made it much more pleasing. Next time I would consider staying in the Village to save time, if there is a hotel as nice. It’s hard to go back to ‘average’. Everyone at the Chateau was wonderful. We were treated like royalty the entire time and I think we even got a free room upgrade. The sauna was excellent. The outdoor pool was not as hot as I would like. The steam room was very weird, as it smells like menthol. It takes awhile to get used to. Free newspapers. Be sure to sign up for their President’s Club before you go (it’s free).

Food

There are many places to eat. Prices are simliar to US prices, but again, since it’s in CAD, we saved 20-25%. I only got to eat on the mountain once, and I believe the prices were cheaper than any other ski resort I’ve been too. Quick overview of where we ate:

The Wildflower – In the Chateau. Not cheap, so we only ate there once. I LOVED the fish (halibut) and chips.

Zogs Dogs – Located in the Upper Village. Zog burger/hotdog means they add meat sauce. Yummy.

Monk’s Grill – Steakhouse next to the Chateau. Good, but pricey.

Mongolie Grill – Yes, another variation on make your own stir fry. Very crowded, but very good.

Portobello – Deli-type place in the Chateau. I wasn’t all that impressed, especially with their prices. But it wasn’t bad.

Rendezvous – Halfway up Blackcomb. Standard mountain food, although they do have poutine. But, so does Burger King in Canada.

Ciao-Thyme Bistro – Actually they were full, so we ate next door at The Fitzsimmons Pub, which serves food from the Bistro. This was a bit much for me, where you get small portions of expensive looking food (presentation). I was sick at the time, but not someplace I’m longing to go back to.

I think that’s it. Doris got to eat at a couple of places I did not. I definitely did not get to try all the places I wanted. Next time!

Snowboarding

Due to Whistler’s big vertical height, there’s a big weather difference between the bottom, middle, and top. They had not gotten much snow, which hampered things. And the valley really wasn’t cold enough. I’m dying to go again, but I would not go later than early March. I greatly enjoyed it even though I did not get to do much. I definitely prefer this over Snowbird. Doris said her all-day snowboarding lesson was excellent.

Other Activities

Oodles of shopping, though alot of it is your standard souvenier shops. Of all the winter activities, the only one we wound up doing was a backcountry tour. We did the Private Wintry Waterfall 4×4 and Snowshoe Adventure. Because we did not schedule the tour until we got there, I booked it directly through their site. If you do the same, be sure to call and confirm after you order. While I did enjoy it, I think I would not recommend this particular tour. There are simliar tours that seem much better, but you have to time it right, as not all tours are open all year. The people who run the company were great. The highlight of the tour is Alexandra Falls. The ski jumps in Olympic Park are pretty neat, too.

Most/all of the other tours on the Whistler seem to actually go through Canadian Outback, fyi.

Currency

As always, the question is how much money to bring. This is even trickier since you need Canadian money. My boss mentioned the best thing to do is get money from an ATM in Canada. Assuming you have a good card, that’s what I would recommend. Currency exchange in DFW is very expensive. Exchanging at the Vancouver is much more reasonable, but you will still get charged a fee. But for the most part, I charged everything.

We lucked out seriously, as the majority of the trip costs were booked near the peak of USD/CAD rate (1.28). After that the rate dropped, but not much and our rate for the rest trip was about 1.24. The current rate is 1.18.

Definitely recommend Whistler. I plan on going back again, both in the summer and the winter.

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