So much to do in Canada's Whistler - skis optional

By Tess Nichol

On a tour of British Columbia, Tess Nichol finds there's plenty to do in Whistler, even when you don't feel like hitting the slopes.

'The Dance Screen' by James Hart at the new Audain Art Museum in Whistler. Photo / Andrew Budreski
'The Dance Screen' by James Hart at the new Audain Art Museum in Whistler. Photo / Andrew Budreski

1. Have a shot-ski in the Ketel One ice room — The Listel Hotel, 4121 Village Green, Whistler.

Don a fur-lined puffer jacket and step into the blue-lit, -32C vodka ice room at the Bearfoot Bistro inside the Listel Hotel. A bartender will take you through the flavoured vodkas on offer and line up a row of shots on a specially carved-out ski for a group to shot from simultaneously. A novel way to launch a night out.

2. Have a bocadillo at Bar Oso — 150-4222 Village Square, Whistler.

Whistler Village has just had a revamp on the food and booze front and Bar Oso is an excellent example of just how far the adventure destination's hospitality scene has come. The Spanish-influenced menu features a range of bocadillos, or small sandwiches, on amazingly soft fresh bread with exceptionally tasty fillings all for less than $10.50.

The perfect carbo-load after a snowboarding session.

3. Go to happy hour at Basalt and have a cocktail and charcuterie board — 154 Village Green #13, Whistler.

The patio area outside Basalt is the perfect place to sit and people-watch on a chilly evening, cocktail in hand. Its happy hour deals are incredible, offering a perfectly executed martini for just $8.50 and glasses of wine or beer for even less. Unbelievable when you're used to Kiwi prices. Braziers, friendly staff and tasty platters make it an excellent spot to unwind for the day.

4. Ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola. and spot a bear — top of Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.

The peak to peak has revolutionised skiing in Whistler, linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountain so snowbunnies can pick and choose from any slope they like throughout the day. The gondola ride is an experience in itself however, and worth doing for the incredible views of the mountains that surround the area - and the chance to spot a black bear foraging among the trees below.

5. Go canoeing down the river of golden dreams.

Meandering down a river on a sunny afternoon is an excellent way to pass the time. We did it by kayak, but passed a group of locals on the way who had made a train of inflatable rafts and were floating down with their dog and several cases of beer. The river is flanked with lush, old growth forest and wildflower-lined banks. Just challenging enough to keep things interesting but not so hard it becomes stressful, the River of Golden Dreams would be a good activity for families looking to change things up for a day.

6. Check out the new Audain Art Museum — 4350 Blackcomb Way

The newly-opened gallery is beautiful inside and out and hung with a stunning collection of Canadian art. Indigenous masks by the Northwest Coast First Nations hang in the first gallery, followed by a huge number of works by the influential Canadian painter Emily Carr. The museum displays up to three temporary exhibitions a year. The moody British Columbia landscapes are very similar to early paintings of New Zealand. Contemporary indigenous art, made from sneakers and gold bags, was on display when we went, bookending the beginning of the gallery tour with the masks in the first. Tickets are $19, kids go free.

7. Go to the Scandinave Spa for an all-afternoon indulgence — 8010 Mons Rd, Whistler.

The strictly no-talking spa is a master class in Scandinavian relaxation. Wrap yourself in a robe and make your way for a Swedish massage before heading outside to engage in rounds of hydrotherapy, which is basically just moving from freezing cold to hot temperatures in 20-minute cycles. Starting in a hot mineral pool outdoors, gaze at the snowy mountains while you soak before jumping into a 13C plunge pool. You're supposed to last at least 30 seconds but I usually wussed out after 10. Then you move to a solarium area, a warm room with comfy sun loungers where you sit for 15 minutes in the quiet and try not to fall asleep. It's bliss, honestly. There are designated "shushers" whose job it is to quiet anyone engaging in a sneaky chat while they do their hydrotherapy.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies non-stop flights to Vancouver from Auckland.

Further information: See whistler.com and hellobc.com.

- NZ Herald

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