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| by KATE POCOCK|
Family Travel Ink
Whistler/Blackcomb: The Mountain Capital of Cool for Teens
Ask your teenagers about their dream vacation destination and I bet they won’t choose somewhere under the palm trees. If yours are like mine, they’ll be pitching for Whistler—home to the country’s longest snow play season (boarders are still cruising Blackcomb Glacier in July), the continent’s highest vertical drop (1500 metres plus), the most runs (200 plus) and one of the best-known places on the planet for young energetic hipness. No surprise that youth from Australia, Britain and beyond are drawn to play and work at the four-season resort that’s also known as the Mountain Capital of Cool.
It seems that parents who love snowy winter vacations think so too. Hundreds of readers of the Family Travel Files Web site (www.thefamilytravelfiles.com) rated Whistler/Blackcomb as the Number One best family Snow Place in North America. What did these travelling moms and dads like so much? They raved about the many choices of lodging, friendly staff, family eateries within walking distance and the pedestrian-only Whistler Village at the base of the mountains. Teens could roam safely within the bustling and confined space. Parents with toddlers in tow also liked the no-traffic shopping. The other unique feature? Families could easily travel the scenic 120-kilometre Sea to Sky highway (Highway 99) from Vancouver by rental car, airport shuttle or even hop the train.
So why aren’t we rushing out there with our two skiers and snowboarder, especially considering that another foot of snow is expected this week? Well, it’s expensive. Though lift tickets may pale in comparison to U.S. resorts, they don’t come cheap. Three days of skiing start at about $186 for adult, $158 for youth 13 to 18 and $93 for children seven to 12; lessons run about $100 for a full day.
So in the interest of other parents, whose offspring are pushing for a trip westward this year, here are some ways to nurture the bank account and still dream about the ultimate winter vacation:
GO EARLY OR STAY LATE: Discount periods extend from opening day until December 20 and then after March. With an average 30-foot snowfall, there’s usually enough snow until May. And you’ll save. A five-night package during March break for instance with SkiCan (www.skican.com), in a deluxe one-bedroom suite at the slopeside Westin Whistler Resort and Spa, costs $1965 for adults, $795 for teens (including flight from Toronto, transfers to Whistler, lift tickets and taxes). Wait a month and the price drops $600 for adults. Opt for one of the popular Tantalus Lodge condos, and you’ll be paying only $835 (each of four in a two-bedroom condo).
PLAN FOR OTHER ACTIVITIES: If your knees are like mine, they can’t handle seven days of downhill. So opt for a five-day package and plan non-skiing (in other words, non-lift-ticket) interludes. Take a snowshoe tour with Outdoor Adventures. Their introductory bird-feeding tour with hot apple cider and trail treats costs $55 (wool socks and equipment included). Or, rent a pair of the lightweight Atlas aluminum snow shoes for you and the teens for $15. If they want to set out on their own, there’s an evening Kids Only snow shoe adventure games, pizza and pop for kids ages six to 15. Visit www.outdooradventures.com.
Cross-country skiing is not cool, but perhaps the kids could be won over with a moonlit glide through the trees. Some 32 kilometres of trails wind around Lost Lake Park and the surrounding forest. An evening trail pass is only $4, and after 4 pm, rentals are $16 for adults and teens. A family ticket pass for two adults (kids ski free) costs about $20. Or, offer a guided daytime trek with Cross Country Connection (www.crosscountryconnection.com) to the Warming Hut: a two-hour “training” adventure costs $49 for you and $35 for your teen (equipment included). One guarantee: they’ll not party too late that night.
BUNK IN AT REASONABLE PRICES: With some 115 hotels, condos and bed and breakfasts, you can opt for less than what Brad Pitt or Reese Witherspoon paid to lay their luscious locks. At the Holiday Inn SunSpree, for example, rooms this week are $159; kids 19 and under stay free. Call the official Central Reservations service for other properties and more details at 1-800-WHISTLER (800-944-7853). If by any chance Mother Nature does not cooperate, the resort’s Snow Guarantee ensures that if less than 2500 vertical feet of skiing or boarding is available, you’ll receive a refund on lifts and lodging.
FOR MORE INFO: visit www.tourismwhistler.com, www.mywhistler.com or www.whistlerblackcomb.com (If you do book rentals or ski school programs online here, you’ll save 20 percent on lift tickets.)
For ski packages, call 1-888-403-4727. Or contact Skican, who run regular trips to Whistler, 1-888-475-4226 or www.skican.com. Their special spring package with Air Canada flights, transfers, five nights at the Coast Whistler Hotel, complimentary breakfast, and lift tickets would be $1045 for my 18-year-old snowboarder and $1065 for me. Now if I could just get Santa to leave this for free under the tree!
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