The Olympics are coming to Vancouver / Whistler B.C. in 2010. Even as you drive to the Rocky Mountain ski resort town of Whistler, you can feel the buzz. First, there is the massive construction endeavor underway to transform the slow, treacherous, two-way meandering Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler into a much safer, much faster route. Then, there is the town itself. Large hotels and convention centers are popping up everywhere on this prime land at the feet of majestic Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. But what’s most exciting about this expansion in preparation to welcome the world is how much care has been put into maintaining a certain elegant coziness. Landscape has been duly considered and worked with so that even a truly massive hotel like the brand new Four Seasons has the effect of “nestling into” its surroundings.
We stayed at the Four Seasons Whistler in October, 2004 and had the pleasure of getting to know it and its gorgeous mountain town inside and out. Though Whistler is known for two seasons – winter for its word class downhill skiing, and summer for hiking, camping, bear watching – we enjoyed the slower pace of the off-season. First, the hotel had an intimate, deserted feel which suited our mood perfectly. Strange as it may seem when you are talking about a resort acres large, we actually had trouble finding the hotel at first. Signage was poor and the ongoing construction projects all over town, including an expansion of the Four Seasons itself, made it a bit difficult to figure out where to go. When we did pull up to deliver our car to the valet, it was friendly, professional service from then onward.
The lobby is like the great room of a glorious log cabin dominated of course by an incredible fireplace. It appears thus far unused as the Four Seasons Whistler has not yet lived through a ski season. In fact, it’s as though there is a huge “new hotel scent” tag hanging somewhere over this grand place – everything is pristine, from the richly coloured carpets, to the cozy luxury “cottage” furnishings, to the intriguing artwork on the walls. Though elegant, the lobby is very inviting and even homey with plenty of plushy seating areas, including a den-like room just off the grand fireplace with classic games and a myriad of leather bound books.
On our way up to our room, we looked forward to the coziness of a gas fireplace and mountain view. We were not disappointed – and in fact, we were upgraded to an amazing suite that went on and on and on. Yes, it had a mountain view from a huge balcony, although you could not see the mountain initially for all the fog. And we had two fireplaces – one in the main room, a living room with a full dining room area, and one in the bedroom, which came equipped with its own balcony. The suite included a large, luxurious marble-floored master bathroom with a deep soaker tub and separate glass-doored shower as well as another spacious bathroom closer to the living room. Our trip itinerary included three nights in Whistler, and then three more in Vancouver. From the moment we stepped into our suite at the Four Seasons, we were mulling over the idea of remaining there the entire trip – plus another week or so!
The room made an impression on us not only due to its size and its obvious newness, but also in the tasteful and interesting décor. Colours were muted and neutral, and the furnishings were solid and inviting. Nothing, from the furnishings, lamps, and accessories appeared to belong to a cookie cutter set; rather, everything appeared chosen with the care one (with good design sense) would put into making a home attractive and comfortable. Perhaps that’s why, despite the many things to do and sights to see in Whistler, we were drawn back to lazy hours stretching out and reading by the fire. With our package, we had the option of taking breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant or in our room. Needless to say, we chose our room where we could spread out in comfort in the dining area, and then take our steaming mugs of coffee onto our balcony to watch the fog drift over the mountains.
In terms of dining, the main restaurant is the Fifty Two 80 Bistro, whose name derives from the elevation of Whistler’s Blackcomb mountain. The menu is centered upon seafood creatively prepared and served, although the non-seafood lover has a choice of many delicious items as well. The restaurant is, like the rest of the hotel, attractive in its newness and up-to-the-moment design. A large lounge area with fireplace opens onto the main dining area; it looked strangely empty in October, but we could just imagine the life and revelry here of après ski. There is a unique, entirely open stone fireplace at the heart of the restaurant as well. This and the soft lighting of Fifty-Two 80 make it a relaxing, end of the day destination.
When we were not lazing about in our magnificent room, we were strolling. Walking around the hotel grounds is a pleasant turnabout in itself taking in the large pool area with a main pool and several hot tubs, and manicured shrubbery weaving artfully hear and there. Just across the road is the head of a well-paved hiking trail that leads the short way to Lost Lake, a mountain lake that is a haven for fly fishing, or picnicking on the adjacent grassy lawn. The trail leads to several scenic views, and offers paths marked for different levels of difficulty. In keeping with our mood of relaxation, we took the easy path, crossing footbridges over babbling mountain brooks and walking breezily beside one of Whistler’s several stunning golf courses, even to the non-golfer.
Of course, most people come to Whistler to ski. One issue we’ve heard voiced about the Four Seasons at Whistler is that, unlike its equally large cousin neighbouring hotel, Fairmont’s Chateau Whistler, you don’t not have “backdoor” access to the slopes – there is a bit of a journey involved to the skiing action. With your cold weather gear and skis in tow, this may be a consideration. We must say though that, in our view, a room at the Four Seasons would be an ideal place to “come home to” after a day on the slopes.
The wonderful part of visiting a town like Whistler is that its natural beauty is more than enough to stir the heart. Pair that with a hotel stay as remarkable as our own at the Four Seasons, and you are well on your way to perfection.
The Four Seasons Whistler is located at 4591 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, British Columbia V0N 1B4. For more information, call (604) 935-3400.