Whistler Satisfies More Than Your Appetite For Snow

3 May 2015

Great ski resorts seldom offer great food. Skiers are too tired and hungry at day’s end to really care, the theory goes: they just want to fuel up on hearty pork chops and fried potatoes, or arm-length hotdogs smothered in chilli con carne.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to make you salivate, and Whistler leads the way in resorts that have realised visitors aren’t there just to ski but to have a rounded holiday experience.

If that includes good food, then loosen your belt. The Canadian ski town has over 100 restaurants, some headed by talented, inventive young chefs who’ve helped give Whistler a sterling reputation for great nosh.

 Enter Whistler's village for delectable dining and great shopping (Image: David McColm)

Even better, of course, is that North America’s largest ski area (more lifts, more terrain, more vertical metres than any other) provides ample opportunity to work up an appetite.

After all, it’s ranked as one of the world’s best ski resorts and has two separate mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, linked by the impressive Peak 2 Peak Gondola.

The relative merits of the two mountains will inspire plenty of restaurant conversation.

Whistler gets more sun and attracts beginners and intermediate-level skiers. Blackcomb doesn’t get sunny until late morning and its runs are steeper, narrower and have a tendency to ice, favouring more accomplished skiers.

But plenty of people mix and match, with many experts considering that nothing beats Whistler for powder runs on a good day.

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Notable Nibbles For Hungry Powder Hounds

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It says a lot about the Whistler food scene that its more informal eateries offer notable nibbles: even the outdoor stalls at the bottom of the slopes tempt with mighty fine hotdogs.

Crystal Hut on Blackcomb’s slopes pops out wood oven-baked lunches and Belgian waffles, and is popular with stomach-rumbling boarders, who have a preference for Blackcomb mountain’s fewer traverses and more fall-line runs.

Garibaldi Lift Co is right above Whistler base gondola, making it a good spot to watch the last skiers (or in summer, mountain bikers) straggling down at day’s end.

For pub-style lunches or an afternoon off the slopes, Garibaldi’s is laid back and features spectacular snowboarding and skiing videos on its TV screens. Later in the evening, it revs up with live bands and reggae.

 Just one of the alfresco dining options at Whistler

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For light meals in the village, head to Ingrid’s Cafe, which does a great chicken schnitzel and lots of tasty vegetarian snacks such as a couscous-based falafel roll smothered in garlicky sauce.

The organic salads and cold-pressed juices at Green Moustache are also excellent, though admittedly more suitable to summer.

Late-afternoon munchies will be satisfied with the impressive range of authentic enchiladas, tacos, and quesadillas at Mexican Corner, whose margaritas can kick off the start of a mellow evening.

Spanish restaurant Caramba is great for traditional tapas such as sizzling planchas of calamari, or meatballs in tomato sauce.

No surprise that ski-hungry carnivores are well served in Whistler.

The adventurous should order up elk tartare at Alta Bistro, while the old-school can order prime steaks with gargantuan sides at Hy’s Steakhouse, a high-end chain restaurant.

Dusty’s Bar & Grill at the base of Creekside Gondola has finger-licking barbecued meats and notable nightlife.

Another popular apres-ski spot, the Irish pub Dubh Linn Gate, has slow-cooked meats marinated in whiskey or beer, though you’ll have to endure (or enjoy) Celtic fiddling as you eat.

For more sophisticated dining, Il Caminetto serves upmarket Tuscan fare such as a rich Milanese osso buco or gnocchi with sausage.

 The deservedly famous Bearfoot Bistro

Bearfoot Bistro is lauded as one of Canada’s best restaurants, and also has a top wine cellar with some 20,000 bottles, as well as laying claim to the world’s coldest vodka-tasting room at -40C.

Aussie lamb, rabbit loin or Japanese wagyu (at a wince inducing $C100) hit the spot after a day’s exercise in the snow. Bearfoot Bistro’s seafood is also impeccable, from smoked salmon and potato blinis for entree to charred octopus or black cod afterwards.

Bearfoot Bistro is one of a top trio of restaurants in Whistler. Another is Rim Rock Cafe, where customers are happily sandwiched between the huge, roaring log fires set at each end of the rustic dining space.

Though the menu does have some game (the venison tenderloin with foie gras is mighty tasty), the real reason to come is terrific seafood, including oysters, mussels, grilled lobster and seared ahi tuna.

 Dining out in Whistler is as much a treat as the slopes (Image: Amy McDermid)

If you’re going to blow the budget, do so at Araxi, a perennially popular, romantic restaurant in the main square. It serves high-quality British Columbian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, with bread and pastries made in-house and much of the meat, fish and cheeses sourced from the nearby Pemberton Valley.

The menu is very seasonal and ever-changing, but start off at the oyster bar and then try smoked Arctic char (a local fish) or pan‑roasted duck breast.

Consult the sommelier about a British Columbian ice wine for dessert afterwards: it will send you straight to heaven, though perhaps minus an arm and a leg.

Brian Johnston

Born in Nigeria of Irish parents, Brian Johnston has lived in Switzerland,the UK and China, and now calls Sydney home. The widely-published freelance writer and author is a two-time Australian Travel Writer of the Year.