Ultimate 72-hour Escapes: Whistler - Ski Mag

Ultimate 72-hour Escapes: Whistler

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72-hour 105

How to get there

Easiest access is from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle, but the key is a nonstop flight to B.C.'s Vancouver International Airport. The drive to Whistler is two and a half hours on the Sea to Sky Highway-longer if you hit Vancouver during rush hour, so don't. You won't need a car at the resort, so consider a private limousine service that will pick you up outside customs in a four-wheel-drive vehicle ($285 for seven people; Vancouver All Terrain Adventures; 888-754-5601; all-terrain.com/transportation/whistler.html).

Where to stay

Book a slopeside room at The Westin (888-634-5577; westinwhistler.com), the Pan Pacific (888-905-9995; panpacific.com) or the new, very roomy Sundial Boutique Hotel (800-661-2321; sundialhotel.com). Each has a great heart-of-the-village and foot-of-the-mountains location, and offers kitchenettes-crucial for time-shaving in the morning. Order breakfast food online in advance from Nesters Market (604-932-3545; nestersmarket.com/whistler.cfm), which will deliver to your hotel for $25.

How to ski the mountain

Day One

Early risers can track laps on the day's best snow before lift lines get clogged. Blackcomb is easier to navigate, so start there and get at it early. The ticket window under Whistler Village Gondola opens at 7 a.m., one hour before all other ticket outlets. Get in line for Blackcomb's Excalibur gondola between 8:15 and 8:45. Take the Accelerator chair, then cut over to Solar Coaster Express. Check the lightboard and ski warm-up laps on whatever has been groomed in the Solar zone. Then fan out to Seventh Heaven, Crystal Chair and the Glacier Express. For a taste of the high alpine, intermediates should try Seventh Heaven's Cloud Nine. Advanced skiers with powder skills will be awed by a wide-open cruise down the middle of Blackcomb Glacier. Experts will have their dance card booked with Couloir Extreme, Secret Chute, Pakalolo and the four big, steep bowls (Garnet, Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire) accessed via Spanky's Ladder. Lunch on Blackcomb is best eaten early (before 11:30) or late (after 1:15). Crystal Hut is the most charming. Or, make a reservation for white linen dining at Christine's in the Rendezvous (604-938-7437). Throughout the day, keep your eyes on the lightboards, and go wherever it's least crowded, making sure to avoid Seventh Heaven completely when lines are long.

Day Two

Again, ski early and rest later-you won't regret it.Today, it's Whistler Mountain. Take the Whistler Village gondola to the Roundhouse. Skate over to the lightboard to look at the daily grooming map. Take your first several runs off the Garbanzo, Emerald or Big Red chairs on whatever is freshly groomed. Intermediates who want to cruise should continue to explore the vast offerings in between the Roundhouse and Olympic Station. More adventurous skiers should head to Harmony (for intermediates and experts) or The Peak (experts only) to access Whistler's six high-alpine bowls. For lunch, ski to the Creekside base area via Franz's or take the new Peak to Creek runs and have lunch at Dusty's or Zen Sushi. After lunch, head up the Creekside Gondola, then the Big Red Chair. If the afternoon is bright, experts should head back into the high alpine. If the weather is bad, stay midmountain and ski the trees.

Day Three If it's a Monday, sleep late and don't worry about beating the crowds. Head back to Whistler and play in the bowls. West Bowl is a good bet for powder. Harmony's Horseshoes are for those who like to show off. Symphony Bowl is readily manageable by intermediates. Take your lunch and cocoa breaks at the Roundhouse Lodge or the Chic Pea.

Where to eat, drink and relax Whistler Village has no dearth of excellent dining: Araxi's innovative Italian fusion (604-932-4540), Bearfoot Bistro's indulgent French (604-932-3433), the Rimrock Cafe's fish and game (604-932-5565), Trattoria di Umberto's northern Itallian (604-932-5858) and Hy's steaks (604-905-5555) are considered some of the best. Make reservations when you get to town. Sushi aficionados have seven options, but Sushi Village (604-932-3330) remains most popular. Walk in and put your name on the list when the doors open at 5 p.m. Families should try Earl's (604-935-3222) or the Old Spaghetti Factory (604-938-1081). Après, hit the Garibaldi Lift Company at the base of Whistler Mountain or relax on the patio at Black's Pub or the Dubh Linn Gate. Those craving a massage should check out the spa at the new Four Seasons (888-935-2460).

Where to rent skis Reserve skis online from Summit Sports, 20 feet from the Whistler Village gondola. When you get to town, beeline to the shop's reservation pickup counter to beat the pack ($24-$36; 888-931-6225; summitsport.com). If you brought your own skis and want them tuned, call Profile Ski Services, the locals' best-kept secret, which will pick up and drop off at your hotel ($32; 604-935-2950).

Hassle-buster If you're planning a Sunday return, reconsider: The Sea to Sky Highway is jammed from 3 to 6 p.m. Book your return flight for Monday morning instead and sleep at the plush Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel (800-441-1414).

Contact Whistler/Blackcomb: 866-218-9690; whistlerblackcomb.com. Snow phone: 604-932-4211. Tourism Whistler: 877-991-9988; mywhistler.com

JANUARY 2005

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