Michelle and I took the boys up to Whistler, British Columbia, over the Thanksgiving weekend and just got back. Our timing and luck were great. The resort got an early dump of snow, so the skiing was good as was the snow play. Plus, since it's early in the season, the place wasn't very full yet. The weather was decent the whole time, with warmish (20 degrees F) temps and mostly light winds. It snowed almost the whole time, limiting visibility, but making for lots of fresh powder.
Andrew (9) went to ski camp for two days to polish up his very rusty skiing skills from a few years back and then skied with me the last day. He's a demon, bombing straight down the hill. It was really fun to ski with him, actually, even though we stayed on the easy runs (mostly Olympic at Whistler). Michael (6) wanted nothing to do with skiing and was more than content playing the snow and hanging out watching TV (since we don't have TV at home).
I haven't skied for three years and am definitely out of ski shape, despite my recent exercise. I was dying the first day -- thighs on fire, feet in pain, and heart racing. It took a while to settle back into any kind of rhythm, but I started to enjoy myself once I did. This was the first time I skied Whistler. I skied Blackcomb the one other time I've been at the resort before, a sunny May weekend many years ago where I skied the top of Blackcomb in a t-shirt and jeans in the morning and then swam under 75 degree sunshine in the Village that afternoon. It was pretty much the last weekend of the season that year; this was basically the first weekend of the season this year. Despite the extremes of the seasons, in both cases, only the tops of the resorts were open; the bottom runs back down the village were closed for lack of sufficient snow. Maybe some day, I'll actually ski the bottoms of the resorts.
Off the slopes, Michael and I played in a snow covered field (really a golf driving range across from the hotel) where we built an igloo, complete with a roof. Despite having grown up in Minnesota, this may have been the first time I've built a covered igloo (I have dug them out of snow banks before, but that's entirely different). The snow the first day was perfect - just wet enough to stick together, but not so wet as to be messy or heavy (after the first day, the snow was too powdery for building, but superb for sking). Each day Andrew, Michael, and I revisited the field and made something new out of the pieces of the igloo (since invariably someone would come smash it). We had a few epic snowball fights as well. Good fun.
We stayed at the Westin Resort & Spa in Whistler. This is a good hotel in Whistler, and I highly recommend it. The location is superb, right at the base of the Whistler gondola and a stone's throw to the Blackcomb gondola. It has great access to Whistler Village (lots of shops and restaurants) and couldn't be easier to drop the kids off at Whistler Kids for ski lessons. The hotel itself is newish with all the amenities that I like about Westin (especially the Heavenly Beds). We had a one bedroom suite which included a full kitchen and a dining table - convenient. Michelle and I had considered the Four Seasons, but after checking it out, we were glad we didn't go there. While it was certainly posh and I'm certain quite nice, it's location was terrible. Not only is it in the less-convenient Upper Village, but it's tucked away from the village areas behind another resort. We also tried a bunch of restaurants, which I'll write about later, but the short version is that almost everything we tried was a bit disappointing, even the vaunted Araxi.
The drive home was a bit of an adventure since everywhere from Whistler through about Everett had gotten a pile of snow. We were crawling along at 15-30mph for a huge part of the drive, with an hour+ wait at the border. The total time was about nine hours; by contrast, the drive up took just over five hours. We saw dozens of cars and trucks in ditches, spun out, or just plain stuck. Fortunately, we were in our four-wheel drive Honda Element, which handled the slick conditions like a champ.
Anyway, the whole time we were up there, I kept wondering why we don't go up to Whistler more often. It's beautiful, fun, and pretty convenient from Seattle, especially for a world-class resort. Hopefully, we'll go back soon.