Skiing? Sure. But Don't Forget Whistler's Ice Caves.

Spring for an extravagant backcountry adventure amid Canada’s peaks.

By Rachel Ritchie February 23, 2016 Published in the March 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Amy Martin

Most travelers venture to Whistler for the skiing—and rightly so. With more than 8,000 acres and 200 trails through wildly varied terrain on two side-by-side mountains, it’s no wonder Ski Magazine ranked Whistler Blackcomb 2016’s best overall resort in North America. And then there’s positively charming Whistler Village, a slopeside hamlet where you can tuck into world-class après-ski cuisine and sip fine wines from the Okanagan Valley, and everybody seems to have an exotic accent. Tucked in the Fitzsimmons coastal range less than two hours north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler is a truly international destination—and everyone who visits is in grave danger of permanently unpacking and leaving life as they know it behind. (Go ahead: ask a local how they ended up here.)

On that day off from skiing, though, one experience up this way stands in a different realm—that category of things you probably never imagined you’d do. It all starts in your unlikely chariot for the day: a crimson-red AStar helicopter. Indeed, Head-Line Mountain Holidays’ “Wilderness Wellness” trip, a super-luxurious collaboration with Four Seasons, is breathtaking from the beginning. First, your private helicopter weaves between peaks and over the Pemberton Ice Cap, British Columbia’s largest ice field, on its way to the remote Meager Creek Hot Springs. Once you land, your own spa therapist guides you through a regimen of soaking and massage treatment before you enjoy a gourmet lunch (with spirits, of course) prepared by a private chef.

When you’re done bathing and sipping, you don’t just return the way you came. Instead, you head for the glaciers, where your pilot drops you off for an afternoon expedition into an ice cave—a labyrinthine chamber containing halls of natural spires, flows, and sculptures, all of it glowing a milky, ambient blue. Hot tip: a camera might come in handy.

Whistler Must-Dos

Pan Pacific Mountainside: You can practically ski into your hotel room at the Pan Pacific, not to mention swim laps in the rooftop pool or jig to some live, après-ski Celtic tunes at the Dubh Linn Gate pub in the ground floor.

Araxi: James Beard nominee James Walt helms Araxi, a vast but cozy local favorite serving vivid seasonal plates and one epic oyster happy hour.

Ski with an Olympian: Home to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Whistler boasts a gaggle of local Olympians. In a special Snow School program, 11 of the pros are available for an afternoon of skiing or riding.

Bearfoot Bistro: Champagne-sabering, an ice vodka tasting room (!), and artful modern plates blend for a surreal and theatrical meal

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