When you think of Whistler, British Columbia, you might recall the 2010 Winter Olympics and the area's prominence as a Canadian ski destination. But there's more to it than ski runs and après ski, as I learned on a recent trip. Whistler is about variety. It has Whistler Mountain Bike Park, a world-class, lift-accessed downhill bike park; what's billed as Canada's longest zip-line, opening this month; and great summer festivals, such as nearby Squamish Valley Music Festival (Aug. 7-9), considered the largest contemporary music festival in the Pacific Northwest. The tab: $375 for two nights at the Fairmont Château Whistler Resort, $85 for dinner for two at Araxi, and $12 for a tour for two at Pemberton Distillery. All that is just a three-hour flight from LAX to Vancouver, Canada (flights begin at $342), then a 90-minute drive to Whistler.
The Fairmont Château Whistler (4599 Château Blvd.;  938-8000, www.fairmont.com/whistler) is a classic ski-town hotel at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. In winter, the Fairmont's lobby and Mallard Lounge bustle with skiers and après-ski partakers, but it's just as happening in the summer, thanks in part to golfers and the resort's 18-hole course. The fairways also appeal to nature lovers; special evening tours of the course's flora and fauna are offered, followed by dinner in the clubhouse. Guest rooms range from the 300-square-foot standard room with mountain views to larger 800- to 1,200-square-foot suites for couples and families. The 4,250-square-foot Vida Spa features 15 treatment rooms. (All guests have complimentary access to the steam rooms, sauna and hot tubs.)
James Walt, the executive chef at Araxi (4222 Village Square;  932-4540, http://www.araxi.com), once cooked at the James Beard House in New York City. The focus at Araxi is on farm-to-table; many of the salad greens and vegetables come from organic farms in nearby Pemberton. I started with butternut squash soup and followed with pan-seared scallops, both with the freshness I've come to expect from Pacific Northwest cuisine but don't often find in ski towns.
Nearby Pemberton, population 2,400, supplies many of the restaurants and bars in Whistler and beyond. Pemberton Distillery (1954 Venture Place;  894-0222, http://www.pembertondistillery.ca; check website for hours and tour information), for example, features local grains and vegetables in its award-winning spirits, such as its organic potato vodka. It's in Pemberton too where on Sept. 5 Araxi will hold a 150-seat, long-table dinner at North Arm Farm; tickets cost about $128 (U.S.) per person at www.araxi.com.
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The lesson learned
One U.S. dollar will get you about $1.25 Canadian. Because Whistler is best known as a winter destination, prices are lowest in May and June.
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