Whistler, Canada: what it’s like to slide down the world’s fastest bobsled track

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Looking down the barrel of what can only be described as a giant slide made of ice, locked in on all sides, the fear finally begins to set in.

We’re crammed into a tub-shaped piece of fiberglass, gripping the sides with white knuckles. Someone snaps the visor of my helmet and wishes me good luck.

It seems there is only one proper answer at this time.

“Get up, it’s bobsleigh time!”

Do you dare to try the bobsleigh?

Whistler Sliding Center

Do you dare to try the bobsleigh?

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It was my husband who let him go, albeit discreetly, but it was only a matter of time. We are, after all, sitting in a bobsleigh atop the fastest track in the world, with a former Olympian at the helm about to send us on this thing at 125 kilometers per hour.

The Whistler Sliding Center in British Columbia, Canada sits on the lower slopes of Blackcomb <a class=Mountain.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Ashleigh Stewart / Stuff

The Whistler Sliding Center in British Columbia, Canada sits on the lower slopes of Blackcomb Mountain.

We know we’re not the first to quote Cool Runnings right now (an eye-roll from one of our pushers confirms this), but that seems fair.

The Whistler Sliding Center in British Columbia, Canada sits on the lower slopes of Blackcomb Mountain, one of two peaks that make up the famous Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, one of the largest ski destinations in the world. ‘North America. The Sliding Center and Whistler Blackcomb were both centerpieces of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics – a legacy that became a tourist sellout a decade later.

Whistler itself was founded on Olympic aspirations. Whistler Mountain (the other of two peaks that make up the ski resort), located in the Fitzsimmons Range about two hours from Vancouver, was originally designed as part of a bid to host the Olympic Games in winter of 1968.

We know we're not the first to quote Cool Runnings.

Ashleigh Stewart / Stuff

We know we’re not the first to quote Cool Runnings.

Although this bid fell through, construction began on the site anyway, and the Whistler resort opened in 1966, with Blackcomb Mountain opening 14 years later. The two mountains enjoyed two decades of fierce rivalry before merging their operations in 2003. Five years later, the $52 million Peak 2 Peak Gondola opened to connect the two mountains, becoming a tourist attraction in itself.

With a reputation as one of the best ski resorts in the world under its belt, Whistler Blackcomb was the centerpiece of a renewed and ultimately successful bid for Vancouver to host the 2010 Winter Olympics ( Whistler hosted the sliding and alpine skiing events). Reminders of his time in the spotlight remain littered around the village – the central Olympic plaza features a monolithic five-ringed statue, as does one of the main vantage points of Whistler Mountain.

Snowboarding in Whistler.  It has the reputation of being one of the best ski resorts in the world

Ashleigh Stewart / Stuff

Snowboarding in Whistler. It has the reputation of being one of the best ski resorts in the world

The base of the mountain, the buzzing village of Whistler, supports the ski resort, but is also a destination in itself.

On a Friday evening in early April, the bars and restaurants at the foot of the mountain bustle with life. People are sitting at tables still dressed in their ski gear, sipping a drink, having slid off one of the slopes just a few feet away. Nearby, dozens of others, dressed in neon, carry skis and snowboards under their arms through the city center, to the point that the whole village looks like a kind of giant lodge base.

Whistler hosted the sliding and alpine <a class=skiing events at the 2010 Winter Olympics.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Ashleigh Stewart / Stuff

Whistler hosted the sliding and alpine skiing events at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whistler now attracts an average of 2 million visitors a year to its nearly 3,300 acres of trails or, for those who don’t ski or snowboard, to its party town vibe. It’s also a year-round destination: in summer, the snow melts to reveal a verdant landscape crisscrossed with hiking trails.

But for those who don’t like the idea of ​​hurtling down a hill on a plank or two of wood, the city offers a surprising amount of non-snow fun.

The bobsleigh, for starters (or the anxiety-inducing skeleton), is not to be missed. Not only because the Whistler Sliding Center is a non-profit organization, meaning all proceeds go to training young athletes, but also because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

There are only 18 such tracks in the world and with a top speed record of 157 km/h, it is the fastest. It might all be over in about 40 seconds, but where else can you feel an acceleration of up to 5 g-forces? Where else can you take part in such an adrenaline-filled, high-level sport? Where else can you quote Cool Runnings when the situation calls for it 100%?

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of the best lodging options in the village, nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain.

Ashley Stewart

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of the best lodging options in the village, nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain.

After a long day of Olympic sports and après-ski, finding a comfortable bed is not difficult, but you will have to be prepared to pay for it. Although Whistler offers a range of accommodation options, hostels aren’t much of an economical choice here, at around $100 per night, and even mid-range options will often set you back several hundred dollars per night.

So why not just go all out and splurge on one of the many five-star options? The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, for example, is the best accommodation in the village – for good reason.

The towering 519-room property, nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, is a mainstay on “Canada’s Best Hotels” lists and is the epitome of ski-in, ski-out opulence. The traditional ski lodge design features warm wooden furnishings and roaring fireplaces, and many rooms look directly out to the Blackcomb Gondola and Main House.

The hotel’s health club has two indoor and three outdoor hot tubs, for a muscle soak after a hard day on the slopes, or as an alternative for those who aren’t there for the skiing. The scene after here, although away from the main street, is lively; at 5 p.m., its bars and restaurants are buzzing with people, a vibe that continues late into the night. The Mallard Lounge, with its roaring fireplaces and extensive cocktail list, is always a popular choice.

Whistler is about two hours from Vancouver.

Ashleigh Stewart / Stuff

Whistler is about two hours from Vancouver.

The village itself is home to a range of local and internationally inspired restaurants, from cult-favorite wood-fired pizzas to white linen fine dining. But for dinner and a show, Bearfoot Bistro should be on your list. Not only is the food sublime – locally sourced ingredients, innovative twists and hearty dishes – but wander through the underground wine cellar and, if you’re up for it, you’ll be handed a saber and asked to slice a bottle of champagne.

The restaurant is also home to the Ketel One Ice Room, where you’ll be swaddled in a giant jacket and led through a room set to -29°C and offered shots of very cold, very viscous vodka in various flavors. Just like the Minus 5 Ice Bar in Queenstown – only 24 degrees colder.

Although Whistler bears more than a passing resemblance to New Zealand’s first winter resort town, it’s a distinctly different experience. While Whistler Blackcomb exists on such a monumental scale, the village below is almost a well-kept secret.

As you leave, you’ll almost feel like you’ve been invited to something special.

The author was hosted by Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Flying creates carbon emissions. To reduce your impact, consider other modes of travel, combine your journeys and when you have to fly, consider offsetting emissions.

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