Whistler is perhaps North America’s best ski resort; certainly there is nowhere close for vertical drop, acreage of groomed runs and variety of expert terrain. However there is also a tremendous variety of rental accommodation, and before you make a choice it would be as well to be educated about the options and their implications.
Whistler properties vary along 3 key dimensions: size, quality/style and location. We don’t need to say much about size; there are properties on the rental market ranging from shoeboxes of 350 sq. ft to imposing chalets of 6000 sq. ft. or more. Quality is another question altogether. Much of the Whistler rental inventory was built in the 80s and 90s when the profile of the resort was lower and cost was the name of the game. Most developments were built with indifferent design, cheap materials, poor quality fixtures and fittings and décor that is unimaginative at best. You do not want to spend your vacation in a condo with a blue carpet, magnolia walls, formica countertops, shiny brass bathroom fittings and garishly-coloured sofas. So you need to seek out either one of the more recent developments, such as Taluswood, that were built to a much higher specification, or you need to find a unit that has been recently renovated (or ‘Whistlerized’, as the local term has it). ‘Whistlerization’ typically involves installing slate floors, granite countertops, stone fireplaces, wooden cupboards, beams and trim, and painting in earthy autumnal tones of café-au-lait, caramel and burgundy. These units have a much more mountain-cabin feel. The top-of-the-line properties in Whistler go a stage or three beyond this, with spectacular designs and extremely high-end finishes, although only a few of these properties are on the rental market.
Location is perhaps the key issue in choosing your Whistler rental. Although only a small town, there are many different areas you can choose for your vacation, and each of them has advantages and disadvantages.
The Village is the place for proximity to bars and restaurants, and for being a relatively short walk to the lifts. However most of the inventory in the Village is small, with one or two-bedrooms units dominant in the mix, and it was all built to a cheap standard. It is critical to find a unit that has received a recent quality renovation. There are also one or two units that are larger, but you may have to search hard to find them.
The Upper Village is on the lower slopes of Blackcomb Mountain. This is the location for ski-in, ski-out units that are also reasonably accessible to the Village. However, if you want ski-in, ski-out make sure that you check what this means. Some properties are actually on the slopes; others, still styling themselves ‘ski-in, ski-out’ may be up to 5 minutes walk away. Still others are ski-in, but not ski-out.
The second main location for ski-in, ski-out units is Taluswood on the lower slopes of Whistler Mountain. This is a very upscale area with a variety of accommodation, but all of a high quality standard using peeled logs, natural materials and quality décor. Access to the slopes is very easy, with no more than a 2 minute walk from most properties. However you need a vehicle to get to shops and restaurants, as this area is not served by either the free shuttle or by municipal buses.
The fourth location is Creekside, the original location of Whistler. This used to be a very downmarket area, but recent heavy investment has made it a decent alternative to the Village. The Creekside gondola is always less crowded than the lifts in the Village, and there is now a great selection of shops and restaurants in town. The quality of accommodation is very mixed, with many unattractive older properties and a few newer, luxury chalets that are equal to any in Whistler. You can walk to the lifts from most locations in Creekside.
Finally, there is a selection of other locations, including Blueberry Hill, Nicklaus North and Alpine Meadows. Here you will generally find larger homes, but they are not ski-in, ski-out and you will have to drive to the Village as well. However, you will get more for your money in terms of the quality and size of the property itself here.