Whistler: A Winter Wonderland
The Xplor, Inc. team met Alison Staley from Tourism Whistler Canada and Bobby Brousseau from the Westin when they attended IMEX in Las Vegas recently (click here for the IMEX recap), which resulted in an invite to the FAM trip (travel speak for familiarization trip) to Whistler, BC in Canada. Kathleen Sanders was the lucky team member who got to head to Canada for four days! Her report is below, packed with exciting details and stunning photos.
Day 1 - Thursday
I arrived in Vancouver on a Thursday morning flight from Tampa. I was greeted at the airport, by Matt, COO at Cantrav, the Canadian DMC. We enjoyed a quick lunch at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport while waiting for the rest of the group. After a comfy two-hour ride north, we arrived in Whistler and checked in at the Westin Resort & Spa Whistler. The Westin Whistler is an all-suite hotel, built with local stone and wood, and designed so that the metal work is angled to look like mountaintops.
Our first activity of the day was to transfer over to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for a site tour, including a welcome drink of gin and lavender! The group also walked over to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre which was amazing!! This is a description of the centre from their website:
The Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation have coexisted respectfully as neighbors since time immemorial. We have thrived on the bounty of the ocean, the rivers, and the land — living in close relationship with the world around us. Our cultures are grounded in rich, ancient traditions, and continue to grow and evolve in a modern world.
We have built the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) to share our cultural knowledge to inspire understanding and respect amongst all people, and we know that by visiting our Cultural Centre, that you will embrace this vision and live by it.
Upon arrival, we were welcomed with drumming and singing before a tour of the property. Afterwards, we sat down for an amazing dinner catered by the Fairmont. The first course was all seafood (the best way to start off a Northwestern Pacific weekend!) before rounding out the meal with one delicious plate after another. We finished the evening by breaking into our spirit animal groups. I was in the eagle group, so we sang a tribal song and did an eagle dance. It was a fun and entertaining evening, as well as the perfect way to connect with the local community.
Day 2 – Friday
On Friday, I walked over to the Whistler Conference Centre to have breakfast with the other attendees. Sales managers from hotels around Whistler joined us. We also were able to do a site inspection of the conference center.
Next, we enjoyed a walking tour with a scavenger hunt. Our quest took us to the Audain Art Museum, the Olympic rings, and a few favorite local spots in the village that provided some of the scavenger hunt items, such as a Whistler Christmas ornament, maple syrup, and a chocolate peanut cluster.
Afterwards, we rode the gondola up Whistler Mountain, and then took the peak-to-peak gondola over to Blackcomb Mountain. This was incredible. The views from the tops of the mountains were absolutely breathtaking. You could see all the tiny skiers and snowboarders going down the mountain and the entire village. If you were lucky, you could spot a bear. Most bears on the mountain were already in hibernation, but some down by the hotels and residences are not hibernating yet since they still have a food source (people’s garbage). Fun fact: bears don’t hibernate because of the weather; they hibernate because of their food source availability.
We took the peak-to-peak back to Whistler for lunch at the Roundhouse with views of the mountain and Inukshuk statue.
After lunch, we hopped on the Whistler gondola down to the area where we prepared for our zipline adventure. I was pretty nervous since I’m a huge chicken when it comes to anything like this, but it was an exhilarating experience. We zipped through a few trees then completely into the open over the valley.
To recover from our zipline experience, the group headed to the Longhorn Saloon for Apres! There was a DJ and beers flowing everywhere. Whistler sure knows how to party at 3:00 in the afternoon! We were then on our own for the rest of the afternoon, so I spent the time shopping at the Roots store before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the night.
The Four Seasons Resort Whistler was our destination for the evening entertainment. As we entered the hotel, we were offered a classic Canadian cocktail—the Caesar, which is similar to a Bloody Mary. We enjoyed a site tour of the hotel before being ushered to dinner. The Four Season staff had prepared a literal four-seasons themed dinner, including a section of the table for each season. It was an elegant and creative presentation!
We finished the dinner with a Tipsy Snowman, a drink comprised of hot chocolate and maple whisky, with a marshmallow snowman on top!
Following our meal, we visited the Bearfoot Bistro, home of the Kettle One Ice Room. This was a very “cool” experience, pun intended! Everyone picked out a Canada Goose parka to wear while trying vodka shots in a -25F room! The evening ended with a trip downstairs to the wine cellar for a champagne sabering. What an exciting and beauty-filled day!
Day 3 – Saturday
The morning started with a breakfast of waffles and Canadian maple syrup before heading out for a jam-packed, adventurous, and exhilarating day. It also had started to snow, which was what we had all been waiting for! The group transferred over to Callaghan Valley and rode ATVs through the snow. Afterwards, we ate lunch at the Caboose and enjoyed hot chocolate in the snow by the fire. We were gifted beautiful red Canadian toques (a knitted winter hat) and best of all, meet some cute and friendly snow dogs!
Our next stop was the Whistler Olympic Park to learn about the biathlon. Everyone in the group had the opportunity to shoot at the targets. I had never held or used any type of gun before, and I managed to hit all five targets on my first try. It was truly a unique experience!
We also had the opportunity to visit the Whistler Sliding Centre to experience the thrill of riding in a bobsled! We were organized into teams of four and went down to the halfway point of the bobsled track that they used in the Olympics. We were in REAL Olympic bobsleds. This was terrifying but still an experience that everyone needs to try. I was just pumped that I made it out alive!
Our final evening began with a Whistler Winter Wonderland reception at the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa. Then it was back to the Westin for a site tour of the hotel and dinner. During our dinner, a slideshow played with pictures from the weekend. As our meal ended, a surprise member of the “ski patrol” entertained us. My team, dubbed the Whistler-puffs, won a game and were named honorary Whistler Canadian, along with receiving a “Canada, eh” ornament.
On our final day, we headed to the Vancouver airport for our flights home. All of us were exhausted but enchanted with our time in Canada, and excited to bring our clients back with us next time!
This was a phenomenal weekend. I already absolutely love Canada, and this made me love it even more. Whistler is the perfect incentive group destination for anyone. Even if you are not an adventurous person, there are plenty of museums, shopping, spas, and relaxing activities to do. I highly advise for everyone to try the zipline though. I think that was my favorite part of the trip. I completely went outside of my comfort zone during my time in Whistler and I loved it. The views are breathtaking, and the locals are beyond friendly and love their jobs. The sponsors did an absolutely amazing job at putting this entire forum together. I can’t wait to head back to Whistler with an incentive group soon!
Xplor, Inc. was invited on this trip to familiarize the team with the opportunities for our clients to plan trips to the Whistler area. Thank you to all of the incredible sponsors who helped make this trip possible: