Host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb encompasses two cheek-to-cheek peaks located 75 miles north of Vancouver—about a two-hour drive. The bi-mountain behemoth extends over 8,171 skiable acres–more than Aspen, Vail, and Jackson Hole combined. Runs descend through 5,280 vertical feet (the biggest drop in North America) and multiple microclimates, from glaciers to coastal temperate rainforests.
The resort delivers the most Euro-style skiing and snowboarding on this continent, offering 12 above-the-tree-line bowls, three glaciers, and countless off-piste plunges. From vantage points such as the top of Blackcomb Glacier or Whistler Mountain’s Peak Lookout, snow-capped summits glisten all the way to the horizon.
Whistler Blackcomb brings home the gold when it comes to gourmet dining. Freshness is key. Many ingredients come from within a 100-mile radius on both land (agricultural Pemberton is just 20 miles up the road) and sea (fish and seafood from the Pacific Ocean). Since the resort attracts international visitors plus the cosmopolitan Vancouverites who consider this their home mountain, restaurants serve up cuisine from around the world. Even on-mountain food courts at Rendezvous and Roundhouse Lodges offer curries (Thai or Indian—take your pick), stir-fries, and pho, as well as hamburgers, sandwiches, and poutine.
Important: Make reservations in advance during ski season… and I mean like three months in advance. Whistler’s top restaurants book up early.
PEAK EATS IN WHISTLER
Araxi I’ll just say it: Araxi is the best restaurant in town. The restaurant showcases the bounty of the Northwest, with fresh catch like wild salmon and halibut from the ocean as well as earthy offerings like squash, cauliflower, and foraged mushrooms from nearby farms and forests.
Accented by contemporary art and oversize floral displays, the setting conveys a mountain-meets-metro vibe. The restaurant stocks 1,100 labels and 11,000 bottles, and the somms love suggesting food-and-wine pairings, especially those highlighting British Columbia labels. James Walt, culinary director, comes up with creative sides that enhance main-dish flavors, such as venison loin with beet ravioli and white turnip and peppercorn sauce.
For après-ski indulgence, the oyster bar shucks a half-dozen different bivalves spanning Canada from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island.
Il Caminetto Part of Toptable Group like Araxi—and also helmed by culinary director James Walt—Il Caminetto often ties with its sibling for “Best in Whistler” honors. This is 21st-century Italian cuisine elegantly presented amid white tablecloths and glistening crystal.
Walt perks up classic recipes with Coast Mountain and Salish Sea flavors, offering appetizers like B.C. albacore tuna crudo with tonnata sauce, apple, and fennel. There’s pretty much always a superb veal dish on the menu, such as a rack served with lemon-ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, shaved squash, and salsa verde.
The wine list follows a vine-to-table philosophy with a wide variety of B.C. vintages as well as deep delves into the major wine regions of Italy and must-try cocktails, such as a pecan and maple-syrup infused Old Fashioned.
21 Steps Kitchen + Bar Stylish in its second-story roost (yes, there are 21 steps), this restaurant brings class to comfort dishes. Wooden tables and the peaked ceiling create a welcoming, high-country atmosphere. Come hungry because portions are huge and fairly priced.
The constantly evolving menu might start off with black-bean soup or kale Caesar salad. For entrees, give in to hankerings for hearty dishes such as braised boneless beef short ribs with leek, shallot and red-wine demi sauce; or the roasted pork tenderloin with bacon-onion chutney. They offer a good selection of B.C. wines and craft beers.
Tip: The choicest tables adjoin the windows so you can spectate on the village scene. If you miss out on reservations, they serve the same menu at the bar (first come, first seated).
Caramba A favorite of locals (who’ll get mad at me for revealing the secret), Caramba is the closest Whistler comes to having good food at a reasonable price. The menu has a multifaceted personality, with burgers, pastas, and wood-oven pizza as well as Mediterranean-accented favorites such as calamari (grilled, not breaded) or a veal chop with creamed potatoes.
The serving staff is friendly and super-accommodating—one snowy night, they let us bring in a new pair of skis we’d just bought and prop them on the coat rack. Tables are tucked in nooks and crannies so there’s never a crowded feeling. Save room for the chocolate mousse or apple tarte tatin.
Bearfoot Bistro Try your hand at sabering—a tradition started by Napoleon—using a quick thrust with a sword to open champagne bottles. You’ll be trained by an expert since restaurant founder/host André Saint-Jacques broke the Guinness World Record for the most Champagne bottles (21) beheaded in a minute in 2005.
But the fizzy showmanship doesn’t upstage the restaurant’s 20,000-bottle wine cellar–or executive chef Melissa Craig’s inventive cuisine. “I…want an element of surprise—a familiar plate that tells a new story,” says Craig. That viewpoint shows in dishes like sashimi with kumquat marinade, jalapeño and puffed tapioca; and duck breast with star anise jus and a scallop-cilantro dumpling.
You can also chill—literally—at the Ketel One Ice room, kept at -25°F for optimal vodka tastings. The extreme temperature mellows the alcohol burn.
Alta Bistro Tucked away from the main Village Stroll hoopla, Alta Bistro feels like your own personal discovery, even if it’s wildly popular with both visitors and locals.
Executive chef Nick Cassettari worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants around the world before settling in Whistler because it meant he could both cook and snowboard. Cassettari uses his French culinary techniques to spotlight “modern seasonal alpine cuisine” that also weaves in locally sourced fish and seafood.
The high-altitude attitude shines in the game dishes such as the elk tartare or vibrant venison loin and sausage accompanied by preserved pumpkin jam, chevre, dukkah spice, and cayenne-pepper jus. For dessert, try spiced maple cake with buttermilk and lemon ice cream.
Christine’s After a busy morning carving the blues off Crystal Chair or plunging down 2,500-foot Couloir Extreme, you deserve some pampering, right? With panoramic views of the Coast Range peaks, Christine’s (on Blackcomb) offers the resort’s only on-mountain fine dining. There’s a particularly choice corner table that doubles your vistas. The menu caters to your quest for comfort (braised pork cheek in red-wine sauce) or the exotic (Keralan fish curry). Even familiar dishes like fried chicken gain new dimension when partnered with pickled shiitake, radish, and avocado. Service is great—the coat check is even geared to take care of snowy accoutrements like helmets and sodden mittens.
MORE TIPS FOR FOODIES
B.C. Wines It’s probably the best wine you don’t know about. While many people think of British Columbia as being way-up-there north, the Cascade and Coast Mountains create a rain shadow and a basin of warmth. Hotter and drier than California’s Napa Valley, the Okanagan Valley stretches more than 150 miles with four subregions.
The southernmost end is Canada’s only desert, getting less than ten inches of rain annually—this is Bordeaux-variety, red-wine country. In the north, lakes moderate the temperatures, ideal for cooler-climate grapes like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Noir.
Excellent wines also hail from B.C.’s Vancouver and Gulf Islands, where the short growing season favors varieties bred for northern and alpine Europe. For whites, that means Siegerrebe and Ortega, while top reds include Zweigelt (the most widely planted red grape in Austria) and Maréchal Foch.
Tip: If you want to mingle snowsports with wine tasting, consider a trip to Big White or SilverStar Resorts at the northern end of the Okanagan Valley, near Kelowna; or Apex Mountain Resort near Penticton.
First Nations Feast Two First Nations communities lived in the Whistler area, the Squamish and the Lil’wat. Learn more about their history and traditions at the First Nations Feast at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Located in Whistler’s Upper Village, the beautiful building evokes the form of a Squamish Longhouse and Lil’wat earthen dwelling, with modern touches like soaring windows.
Guests explore exhibits on a docent-led tour and then enjoy a cultural program where Nation members in regalia share songs and stories. The three-course meal highlights locally sourced ingredients and Indigenous-inspired plates such as cedar-plank Arctic char with maple butter, or red-wine-braised bison shank.