About a 2-hour drive from Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler was home to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Though the elevation and rugged mountain terrain make it an ideal setting for winter sports, this village nestled in the Canadian Rockies is so much more than a ski town: It’s also a mountain biking, paddleboarding and yoga hot spot. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-packed getaway or a relaxing spa trip, plan your perfect vacation with these 10 outdoor adventures in Whistler.
For the ultimate R & R, check out Scandinave Spa, a 20,000-square-foot outdoor space spread across 3 woodsy acres and set on the edge of Whistler’s famous Lost Lake. Try some hydrotherapy courtesy of the Scandinavian baths, which include a eucalyptus steam treatment, wood-burning Finnish sauna and outdoor thermal waterfalls that boost circulation and release toxins. The spa also offers massages to ease sore muscles from all those outdoor adventures you’re sure to have in Whistler.
Hundreds of trails crisscross Whistler’s alpine meadows, old-growth forests and glacial-covered peaks. Start your trek from the village itself or take a gondola to the beginning of the Overlord Trail, a challenging ridge climb that takes about 4 1/2 hours to complete.
Mountain biking is as popular as skiing and boarding in Whistler, thanks to the lift-serviced pathways that offer riders 5,000 feet of vertical trails. Wednesdays in the summer are all-female drop-in nights: The ladies can grab drinks and enter to win prizes post-ride at the mountaintop bar, the Garibaldi Lift Co. (Whistler is kind of famous for its après, of finishing off a day on the mountain with drinks and a hearty meal). Another bonus: If you’re a devoted rider -- or if you just want to see the world’s top free-ride athletes compete with gravity-defying displays -- don’t miss the 10-day Crankworx festival.
Whistler’s stunning natural setting and fresh mountain air have attracted yogis from around the world to the annual Whistler Yoga Conference. That’s not Whistler’s only event for yoga lovers. In 2012, the town was home to the first-ever international Wanderlust Festival, which combines live music concerts with daily yoga classes, hiking, organic food and wine, and inspirational speakers such as Deepak Chopra, all set in Whistler’s great outdoors.
The new Peak 2 Peak Gondola connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It’s not only the highest lift in the world, with an elevation of 1,427 feet, but also the longest unsupported lift span on the planet. Wait for one of the silver, glass-bottom rides for an even more spectacular view of Whistler’s peaks and glaciers -- and possibly some grizzlies!
Whistler has the longest ski season in North America, running from November to July. Skiing ops span 8,171 acres of terrain and 38 lifts. All of which explains why Whistler attracts all levels of skiers and snowboarders. To really explore the powdery backcountry, sign up for a heliskiing adventure with a certified guide . A helicopter transports you into the wilderness so you can carve out your own trail in virgin powder. Heliskiing season runs from Dec. 1 to April 21.
Averaging more than 33 feet of snow a year, Whistler is home to stunning powder bowls and glacial lakes that can be explored on foot. Whistler Olympic Park has more than 43 miles of groomed trails, or you can shoe your way over to Lost Lake, on the edge of town, to traverse the almost 20-mile trail network. Crunching through fresh-fallen snow and old-growth forests can be one of the ultimate Zen-like experiences for an outdoors lover.
Sign up for the Mountaintop Fondue Tour and ride a snowmobile (or “sled,” as the locals like to call ’em) above the village to Blackcomb Mountain, at 6,000 feet. The 4-hour tour includes a candlelit fondue dinner, with wine and entertainment from local musicians.
Watch bears from the safety of above as you zip through treetops secured snugly in a harness. Thrill seekers will love flying between ancient cedars and over rushing whitewater. A year-round activity at Whistler, it's an experience that is completely different depending on the season.
Holly C. Corbett is a part of a trio of female travelers known as The Lost Girls and a regular Girl Getaway contributor to TravelChannel.com. She has written for digital and print publications including USA Today, Redbook.com, Shape, Budget Travel, MensFitness.com and CondeNastTraveler.com. She's happiest when she's getting lost in a new place, diving with sharks in Belize or Borneo, and training for Runaway Bridesmaids—a charity race she founded that raises money to fight sex trafficking.