Whistler was the last place we visited on our round the world family holiday and it was certainly the most special because we were spending two weeks over Christmas there and were also meeting the rest of our family to celebrate. There were 12 of us in Whistler and we LOVED staying at the Fairmont Chateau.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of the best hotels in the region and caters really well for families. I was familiar with the Fairmont group of hotels from a previous visit to Canada with the TV show I host on Channel 9, Postcards, so I knew they were great. I really liked the ‘old world’ charm of the hotel and thought its style and family offering would be perfect for a Christmas holiday. I also loved that it had ski in, ski out facilities and a ski valet service. To be honest, what really ‘sold’ me on the Fairmont was the Christmas program it offered and the fact that we could have our own Christmas tree in our room which we could decorate. When you have young children, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree so the fact we could have our own to put our presents beneath, and to gather around on Christmas day really pleased me.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler also has incredible service. I think Canadians in general are just sooooo nice and that Canadian ‘way’ really filters through all of its staff (who come from all over the world including heaps of Aussies too). Every day we would be treated to Christmas goodies delivered to our room from gingerbread men, to macarons, handmade chocolates, caramel popcorn, flowers and handmade soap. It was so exciting to receive these gifts and the ultimate was opening our doors on Christmas day to find Santa had left stockings full of toys, chocolates and fruit (ha!) for every guest in the hotel. Seeing those stocking lined up along the doors of the hallways and corridors was so exciting for the kids, “Santa’s been here and here and here and here and EVERYWHERE mummy!”
In terms of Christmas spirit, I don’t know if anywhere could top the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The entire property was decked out in enormous trees, glittering with baubles. There was hot apple cider in the lobby and beautiful carollers sang out through the hotel delivering all of our favourite Christmas tunes. There were activities such as gingerbread house decorating, wreath making, cooking demonstrations, lantern making and two of the most insane kids’ playrooms you’ve ever seen!
The first was for the little kids and called ‘The Little Elves Playroom.’ Complete with jumping castle, every toy imaginable, books, art stations and healthy food, snacks and drinks, Billie and Oscar went MAD for this place. It really was the perfect playroom and was more akin to an indoor amusement park!
The other playroom for older kids featured video games, table tennis, air hockey, a self serve popcorn machine (exciting) plus more, and it was jam packed with kids burning off extra energy after a day on the slopes.
On Christmas Day we spent the morning opening presents. We then had a buffet breakfast and skied for the morning. It was so special hitting the gorgeous snow on the most magical day of the year. We then came back, had a hot spa and then headed off to our pre-booked evening at the Wildflower Restaurant for a delicious and traditional Christmas family dinner. It was really yummy and the best bit? No cleaning up!
Our entire holiday in Whistler pretty much went like this: Wake up, eat, ski, eat, ski, spa, eat, sleep, repeat.
Being a novice skier, my goal when arriving in Whistler was to leave a proper skier and I’m happy to report that goal was met. With the help of a couple of private lessons I can now confidently parallel ski difficult blue runs (more like easy blacks in Australia) and found myself looking for the trickiest way down a slope instead of the easiest way which I was doing at the start of the trip (can you imagine a mountain goat stuck on the edge of a cliff not wanting to go down? Yep that was me on day 1). By the end of our trip my sister and I were skiing bumpy runs and dropping in on jumps (small ones)- it was AMAZING. I am now so addicted and already planning our next snow trip. I’m thinking a Mt Buller trip and possibly Queenstown this southern hemisphere winter.
Oscar loved ski school. He’d never seen snow before and by the end of our trip he was skiing down the beginner runs by himself. It was so good not only for his physical development but his social development too, especially when so many of his classmates didn’t speak very good English. Oscar, being 3, doesn’t have the best English himself yet so you could imagine how challenge communicating would have been for him!
So a few of my favourite restaurants and things to do in Whistler:
– Bearfoot Bistro: best dinner in Whistler
– Araxi: second best dinner in Whistler
– Purebread: best coffee and cakes
– Valetin Toba: if you want to progress from the old snow plough skiing technique to proper parallel skiing then our instructor, Valentin, is a gun. They’re actually ALL amazing but Valentin is really cool.
– Fresh Tracks Mountain top breakfast: There is nothing more magical than heading up to the top of the mountain for breakfast and then skiing the runs FIRST. That’s right- you get the powder or the corduroy all to yourself. We did this on Christmas Eve morning and it was incredible. You need to get up really early and head up there in the gondola when it’s pitch black but once the sun rises and they ring the bell to signal “Mountain Open,” the freshest tracks are yours for making.
– Skiing is an expensive sport. From ski gear, clothing, lift tickets and lessons, the figures really start to add up. One thing that we did to help trim the costs was to book everything in advance so we got early bird pricing which probably saved us around 30-40%. If you’re planning a snow trip and you’re staying at a hotel then ask your concierge (who are geniuses) in advance for the best deals on everything- that’s what we did. For ski school for kids, try and book them into more of a camp program (Oscar did the Adventure Camp) which runs Monday to Friday instead of paying for lessons day by day. This way you save about 30% and they learn exactly the same things but have the same teacher for the week so its more consistent.
– If you’re heading anywhere for a white Christmas then you can guarantee it will be one of the busiest times of the year. If you’re in a group you’ll need to book your restaurants in advance to avoid disappointment. Even if you’re a couple and want to go to one of the more popular places, you’ll certainly need to book early to secure a table. Through our concierge, I booked all of our restaurants way back in October and we managed to get reservations everywhere we wanted.
– Ski early. The best skiing is done in the morning when the light is good and the snow is freshest. Don’t dilly dally, get out there and get going. You can hot spa and drink mulled wine in the afternoon when the light fades (which is early!).
To book the Fairmont Chateau Whistler head to www.fairmont.com/whistler