By Lisa Pulsifer
Whistler is a high end, world-class ski resort, but it doesn’t have to put a dent in your wallet. The picture-perfect, international destination is much more than gondolas and lifts – the whole municipality spans over seven and a half miles in a lush valley with five lakes, miles of hiking trails and singletrack, breweries, hostels and more.
In autumn, the town of Whistler quiets down and there are some great deals to be found. Take advantage of the season and plan an inexpensive shoulder-season trip to Whistler.
If you’re looking for a modern, clean and comfortable place to stay, check out the HI Whistler hostel. Located near the south end of Whistler, this large hostel was a part of Whistler’s Olympic Village in 2010. It offers four-person dorms as well as single rooms and it has a large communal kitchen, on-site cafe and welcoming gathering spaces.
Hoping for something with a bit more charm? Spend a couple nights at the Whistler Lodge Hostel. This 42-bed historic hostel was originally built and managed by the University of British Columbia’s Varsity Outdoor Club. Recently updated and under new management, the hostel offers small dorms and private three bedroom suites. Meet your fellow hostellers as you enjoy the lounge and kitchen, the woodsy deck or the sauna.
If you’d prefer to be close to all the action, reserve a bed at the new Pangea Pod Hotel. This unique boutique hotel is located in the heart of Whistler Village, steps from shops, restaurants, bars and the Whistler gondola. All of the “pods” – think small, bed-sized rooms – have a double bed and most of the amenities you’d expect in a regular hotel room. It’s like an upscale hostel with more privacy. Pangea also has a shared living room, gear storage and rooftop patio.
Whistler is home to some world-class restaurants featuring creative flavors and ingredients. On weekdays in the shoulder season many of the restaurants in Whistler Village offer a three-course set price meal. Stay away from the wine list and you can enjoy a fine dining experience for under $50.
For cheaper eats in the Village visit El Furniture Warehouse where, every tasty food item on the menu is amazingly priced at $5.95 (Canadian). The southern neighborhood of Function Junction is home to a couple of casual breakfast and lunch cafes, as well as the location of two award-winning craft breweries. Another inexpensive option is to pick up some ready-made meals from one of the handful of grocery markets sprinkled throughout Whistler.
For the ultimate low-cost meals, book a room in a hostel or rental unit that has a kitchen so that you can meal plan. Bring pre-packaged foods from home, but wait to buy produce, fresh dairy or meat until you’re in Whistler.
Yes, Whistler’s about skiing, but once the snow’s melted the gondolas continue to run, whisking passengers to the peaks of both Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. This alpine experience is worth the price of admission. Pre-purchase your one- or two-day ticket online before traveling to Whistler to get the best deal. The summer gondola ticket gives you access to three gondolas and two chairlifts, including a ride on the record breaking Peak-2-Peak Gondola, which connects the two mountains. On both peaks you’ll find a lodge, a chairlift to the summit and a network of alpine hiking trails.
For those looking for some two-wheeled fun, you can hang your bike on a chairlift and challenge the downhill trails from high on Whistler Mountain. But if you want to save some cash, head out onto the miles of single track in and around the Whistler Valley. You can cruise the network of trails around Lost Lake, ride along the Cheakamus River or challenge yourself to a climb into the high alpine. Most of the bike trails are hiker friendly too, so be courteous to other users.
Ready to chill? Bring a picnic to the shores of one of the five lakes in the valley and hang out at a picnic table in a pleasant beach park. Canoe and stand up paddleboard rentals are available at Alta Lake and Green Lake or you could pack along a pool float from home. These two lakes also have some of the best views of the surrounding mountains.
Photos by Kristin Siemion.
Lisa Pulsifer is a freelance writer who is passionate about hiking and backpacking and recently completed the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington. She lives in Vancouver, B.C.