It's no secret that ski vacations are becoming something only the very wealthy can afford. Those willing to put up with a frigid #VanLife scenario or stay in economy hotels that require long drives to the ski area can still swing ski vacays on the cheap, but those who want to stay in the actual ski resort or even in slopeside accommodations—well, that remains a far-fetched dream for many ski tourists.
But a new pod hotel in Whistler Village aims to change that. The Pangea Pod Hotel, which opened in the summer of 2018, is located a mere 600 feet from the Whistler gondola. Surrounded by four- and five-star hotels, dozens of fine restaurants, and the best après ski scene in the world, the Pangea takes up the second and third floors of a normal village building, and it’s easy to miss.
As you might guess from the name, calling the Pangea a "hotel" might be a stretch. The “pods” are big enough to sleep in, store one large suitcase, and maybe Netflix and chill (we do really just mean "chill"). The double-sized beds are plenty comfortable, but the pods themselves can feel just a touch small, at least at first. But there’s a reason for the size of the pods, as well as every single aspect of the Pangea.
“We made the pod designers sleep here,” says owner and founder Russell Kling, who spent three years working with Vancouver-based interior designers Bricault Design to create the hotel. Actually spending time in the pods helped the designers better understand the challenges of pod hotels, and also helped make the space as efficient—and as comfortable—as possible.
The pods are reminiscent of a high-end European hostel, but with more privacy, comfort, and higher standards of cleanliness. Each pod ranges in size from 32 to 41 square feet and comes stocked with a fan for both white noise and air circulation, USB charging ports, a lockable cabinet, blackout curtain, and space for a suitcase. There are also free ear plugs available at the front desk. “The biggest concern was that people could sleep,” says Kling. “And that hasn’t been a problem.”
Considering rates can be as low at $50 CAD a night, it’s easily the most inexpensive stay in Whistler Village. With a bed to sleep in, a fantastic restaurant in the common area—known as The Living Room—on the second floor, and ample secured gear storage, the Pangea Pod hotel has everything a skier needs to sleep, eat, get out into the mountains, and repeat. After all, people don’t go to places like Whistler Blackcomb to spend all day in a hotel room, no matter how big or small it might be.
And the Pangea Pod is literally on the doorstep of some of the best skiing and mountain biking in the world, all of which can now be enjoyed without blowing the entire trip budget on a hotel room.
Sitting in The Living Room's lounge/café/social area, it’s easy to see who he’s talking about. The majority of the guests are between the ages of 20 and 40, traveling solo or with a few friends, and are enjoying British Columbian craft beer or signature cocktails while typing on Macbooks or telling stories about their adventures outside.
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The Living Room functions as a co-working space, bar, and restaurant all at the same time. The grub is perfect—different types of Eggs Benedict in the morning and flatbread pizza choices in the evening—and is made from locally sourced ingredients. Above The Living Room is a rooftop patio perfect for sunny days and offering a much tamer setting than some of the other notorious village après spots.
The Toy Box, also on the second floor, is where you'll find lockable ski racks and numbered lockers that correspond with the pod number guests have been assigned. In the summer, the 96 ski racks convert to bike racks, just one example of the kind of attention to detail and industrial design that went into every element of the Pangea Pod Hotel.
At first, it’s easy to mistake the Pangea for a hostel. The sleeping situation could be mistakenly compared to the Jackson Hole Hostel or the dorms at the Alta Peruvian. But considering the modern feel, cleanliness, privacy, incredibly fast internet, and snazzy dining options, it really hits the mark as a modern, affordable hotel for those who don't want to stay in an actual hostel, but can't afford a costly ski village hotel room.
Smart industrial design aside, what makes the Pangea such a great option is its perfect location. Walking from hotel room to the gondola every morning is an incredible luxury that keeps getting more difficult for the average skier to afford, but it’s attainable when staying at the Pangea.
Will Kling take this concept to other ski towns and beyond? “We have a short list of 100,” he says with a smile. “But not just ski areas. There are lots of places with this gap in the market.”
Until they expand, Kling will continue to refine the Pangea Pod Hotel to adapt and become even better. “This is our incubator, so to speak,” he says. As they perfect the Whistler location, they plan to roll out a second location in the near future.
And, for most budget-savvy skiers, it can’t come soon enough.