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The 2009 World Cup events for bobsled, luge, and skeleton, made it official: the course at the Whistler Sliding Centre is the fastest in the world. Designed by Germany’s Udo Gurgel, the world authority on such matters who also developed the sliding facility for the 2002 Winter Games in Torino, the course consists of 1,450 metres of ice-covered concrete including 152 metres of vertical drop. Canadian skeleton racer Melissa Hollingsworth puts it this way: “You either win, or you will crash.” These events are not for the faint of heart, nor is the viewing: spectators will walk 40 minutes from the spectator plaza to the upper start house.
Olympic Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton Whistler Sliding Centre is home to medal and non-medal Olympic skeleton, bobsleigh, and luge. See a schedule of Olympic skeleton, Olympic bobsleigh, and Olympic luge here.
Pricey retail rents mean most shops in Whistler Village are familiar. Our favourites combine warmth and practical style (when in Rome…). There’s Lululemon, the Vancouver-headquartered yogawear phenom. Aritzia and TNA are from another Vancouver-based company; TNA has the comfort wear, Aritzia the style. For quality Canadiana-inspired apparel for the whole clan—safe plaids, classic leather goods—head to Roots. Lululemon: 118-4154 Village Gr. Lululemon.com. Aritzia: 8-4222 Village Sq., 604-905-5442. TNA: 4154 Village Gr., 604-905-4691. Aritizia.ca. Roots: 100-4154 Village Gr., 604-938-0058. Usa.roots.com
At the Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop tweens drop $20 on jelly beans. Candy’s the thing (Pop Rocks! Charleston Chews! Gummies by the pound!), but don’t overlook the slim bars of Whistler Pocket Chocolate. Made locally with smooth organic chocolate, they come in milk or dark, and in almond, hazelnut, and orange flavours ($4.95 each). 115-4350 Lorimer Rd., 604-935-1076
Two great places to grab a quick bite. Hot Buns Bakery has a full-service espresso bar, flaky croissants, croque monsieurs, and crepes—the house specialty—prepared six ways (the banana nut with Nutella is sure to get your blood sugar rushing, $6.25). Breakfast served from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ingrid’s Village Café is a local institution, serving simple, inexpensive breakfasts from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. At lunchtime, Bavarian influenced sandwiches take over (chicken schnitzel, bratwurst on baguette). Hot Buns: 4232 Village Stroll (look for the blue awnings), 604-932-6883. Hotbuns.moonfruit.com. Ingrids: 102-4305 Skier’s Approach, 604-932-7000. Ingridswhistler.com
Whistler’s foremost fine-dining restaurant, Araxi, shot to fame last year as the new home of the chefly winner of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen Season Six. We’ve always loved it for intensely local food that tastes of its place. Try seared red tuna with caponata or one of half a dozen B.C. oyster varieties. The Queen Charlotte halibut with light Dungeness crab and coconut broth and the Fraser Valley rabbit saddle draped in Nantes carrot purée are also excellent choices. The wine list is deep and broad, having been carefully nurtured since 1981. 4222 Village Square, 604-932-4540. Araxi.com
Up an industrial road minutes north of Whistler Village, find Le Scandinave Spa, a Nordic-inspired oasis tucked beside Lost Lake. Their focus is thermotherapy, a three-staged process that begins with a eucalyptus steam bath or dry sauna, followed by a plunge in their outdoor waterfalls and connecting pools, amid spectacularly landscaped grounds. Step three is the “relaxation” phase; some guests follow up with a massage, others just lounge by one of the stone fireplaces. Book off at least three hours. 8010 Mons Rd., 604-935-2424. Scandinavewhistler.com
Whistler Medals Plaza is your basic outdoor amphitheatre with standing room for 8,000 spectators willing to brave the elements to partake in nightly medals presentations. It’s also where the closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games will take place. Medal ceremonies are scheduled to take place nightly at 7 p.m., with free concerts starting at 7:30 p.m. (best of which include Feist, Stars, and The Roots). By day, Olympic events will be broadcast live on video screens. The plaza will also act as a hub for the various Whistler Live! concerts—all heavy on the Canadian content—and CTV-hosted broadcasts happening throughout Whistler Village. Highlight: Blue Rodeo performs in Village Square on February 28.
Whistler Public Library is another new project by Vancouver architecture firm Hughes Condon Marler (see also: Vancouver Olympic Centre), and it is, without question, Whistler’s finest building. Envisioned as a bridge between the town and the area’s natural elements beyond, it features a sloped green roof, with striking prefabricated wood panels that draw your eye up and away. 4329 Main St., 604-935-8433. Whistlerlibrary.ca
Newly unveiled Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre explores the local histories and cultures of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations (the building design itself draws from Squamish longhouses and Lil’wat pit houses). Inside, look for the stunning 40-foot-long canoe by Ray Natrall. Carved from a single cedar tree, it’s part of a permanent exhibit that looks at canoe carving history and design. Onsite gift shop is the place to pick up First Nations arts and crafts interpreted in the exhibition galleries, like exquisite wool weavings, and carved cedar. 4584 Blackcomb Way, 866-441-7522. Slcc.ca
Olympic bus network provides transportation from metro Vancouver to Whistler venues, but only for Olympic event ticket holders. Those without tickets can opt for motor coaches or trains to get up the mountain.
Bus services in the Sea-to-Sky corridor and Whistler have been expanded expressly for the Olympic games, effective Feb 1 to Feb 28.