WHISTLER, British Columbia — You don't have to be a savvy skier or skilled snowboarder to enjoy Whistler, B.C.
Part of experiencing the Whistler ski resort — or any place for that matter — is to dine at the restaurants and mingle with the locals.
Whistler is aptly named a village — with hotels, restaurants and shops nestled at the bottom of the mountains. In the pedestrian-oriented village, all amenities are within easy walking distance.
But this winter you'll need to make additional preparations before you trek north. If you'll be in Whistler during the Olympic Games — the resort will host downhill and cross-country skiing, luge and more — make reservations at restaurants as soon as possible. Many restaurants are already near capacity and others have extended their hours of food service.
There are plenty of places to splurge in Whistler, but there are a couple ways to save money, too, such as buying food at one of the grocery stores. If you want to get groceries before you settle in, stop at Whistler's Creekside Market on Highway 99, just south of the village. You can also shop at The Grocery Store near Village Square or at the larger Whistler Market Place IGA.
Many hotel rooms in Whistler have kitchenettes so it's easy to cook meals. Take advantage of Whistler's apres-ski — also known as happy hour. Pick up a local newspaper and a village map to check out food and drink specials that start as early as 3 p.m. at restaurants and bars.
Here are a couple spots worth enjoying after a fun day on the slopes:
If you are looking for a memorable ambience, step inside Bearfoot's recently opened vodka room.
Owner Andre Saint-Jacques just opened the icy vodka room — the first of its kind in Canada. Customers donned in coats, scarves and hats can sample vodkas in ice glasses in the subfreezing room, he said. There are about 100 vodkas to select from the icy shelves.
Saint-Jacques said they are extending their hours during the Olympics to handle the crowds, serving their three- and five-course tasting menus from lunch until 1 a.m. (www.bearfootbistro.com)
Both Bearfoot and Araxi, another favorite for many visiting Whistler, have extensive wine lists.
Araxi emphasizes local ingredients and has a wide selection of seafood, including a raw bar.
But foodies will get an extra bonus in the kitchen this winter. The winner of the Fox television show "Hell's Kitchen" (season 6) is now a chef at Araxi. Dave Levey, who grew up in New Jersey, will show off his skills and creativity under Executive Chef James Walt. (www.araxi.com)
Get more information on Whistler at www.tourismwhistler.com or www.whistlerblackcomb.com