I moved to Seattle in 1999, and, until this past December, I never visited Whistler, British Columbia. Seems absurd, I know. But when my friends would pile into their cars to drive north of the border, I declined for one simple reason: I don’t ski. What else could I possibly do in Whistler?
A lot, it turns out.
A recent FAM trip to B.C., proved to me that this four-season resort is not just for groups headed for the slopes. If you’ve balked at bringing a meeting or incentive group to the resort in fear that you’d alienate the nonskiers in your group, fear no more.
What to Do
During ski season, those in your group who don’t ski can try snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding and, my personal favorite, zip lining (seriously, how could I have made it five decades plus on this planet and not zip lined?). While I was strapped into my zip line harnesses, courtesy of Ziptrek Ecotours Zipline and Superfly Ziplines (I loved it so much, I went two days in a row), other attendees who opted out of skiing were trying out the bobsled at the Whistler Sliding Centre or their mad biathlon skills at Whistler Olympic Park.
Spring, summer and fall are also prime times for hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, river rafting, paddleboarding, wildlifeviewing and golfing. Because the snow on the ground in the valley was light when I was there (I missed it by mere days), I went off-roading on a RZR Backcountry Tour, which is also available in the warmer months.
Is your group not interested in working up a sweat? No worries. Whistler has plenty of nonsport activities as well. Take time for a souvenir-shopping excursion in Whistler Village, tour the arts and cultural museums such as Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and the Audain Art Museum, or take a nighttime stroll through the Vallea Lumina. Open late June through mid-October, it’s a multimedia night walk through the forests of Cougar Mountain. And of course, there’s always the option of spending time at one of the resort’s spas for pampering and relaxing after a long day and an even longer agenda.
At night, immerse yourself in Whistler’s nightlife. Your team can head to Bearfoot Bistro for a frosty flight of vodka in its subzero Ketel One Ice Room or try a brewery tour and tasting at High Mountain Brewing Co.
Dave Murphy, Whistler’s regional director of marketing and sales for Cantrav Services— one of our hosts of the FAM trip—has developed all-inclusive seasonal programs for meeting and incentive groups, starting from $795 (U.S.) per person for a five-day, four-night program. “We would then customize the program to match the vision and requirements of a particular client,” he notes.
Where to Stay and Meet
If you hope to get some work done (“hope” being the operative word), Whistler has a diverse selection of venues, ranging in size, amenities and experiences and able to accommodate a variety of budgets. Four full-service hotels have 10,000-plus square feet of meeting space: Four Seasons Resort Whistler (11,410 square feet), Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa (10,406 square feet), Westin Resort and Spa (20,000 square feet) and Fairmont Chateau Whistler (32,000 square feet). Also, the hamlet has a convention center with 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space and a variety of nongeneric spaces. You can even choose a mountaintop perch for your event at the Roundhouse Lodge or a VIP gathering at one of the resort’s Olympic venues, such as the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Tourism Whistler recently launched a microsite aimed at assisting meeting and event planners. The site makes it easier for planners to access information on event spaces, teambuilding activities, dining options and accommodations. It also features an online RFP form planners can complete to receive a more personalized quote from a member of Tourism Whistler’s conference sales team.