Driving through the rain and mist along the Sea to Sky drive up to Whistler, my heart began to skip a beat. Soon we would be there, at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, a hotel I had heard about from friends and drooled over on Instagram, but had yet to actually visit. Would the hotel live up to the hype? Could it even try after over two years of building it up in my mind? Yes, yes it could and more.
As we pulled up to the valet stand to unload our bags we were greeted with smiles and enthusiasm. We were visiting in the low season at Whistler, late September, but conferences were still happening, bikers continued to fall down the mountain and hikers still headed to Lost Lake. It was a sleepier time to be in town, but certainly not dead, and the Fairmont didn’t drop their warm professional demeanor for a moment.
I have never met a Fairmont I didn’t like and the Chateau Whistler was no exception. Their staff is some of the kindest and most helpful you will find in the industry. They can help you with dinner reservations, point you toward the best hikes for kids and let you know about activities happening in the villages. And when your 5-year-old son asks the bell hops about the pool those bell hops will get just as excited about the inside/outside pool access as your kid.
We were camped out in the Jasper Suite, a room with a parlor. This room was huge. There was a half wall separating the bedroom from the living room. There were no doors separating the space, but at least our boys couldn’t see us. My husband and I, who were celebrating out 10th wedding anniversary, were able to lie in bed watching TV, eating our chocolate-covered strawberries and sipping champagne while our boys slept peacefully on the other side of the wall. The shower had three nozzles pointing at you, which did lead to a minor flood on the floor outside of the shower stall our first night, but we soon figured out which way to point all the nozzles to keep the water in the shower. The boys loved the massive Jacuzzi tub, especially my toddler who was able to turn the water on and off anytime he wanted, even if he wasn’t in the tub.
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Brunch at Wildflower is a definite must. They have a breakfast buffet, but I’d go for the a la carte menu just for the French toast. Now, you may all remember my love affair with French toast. It goes back to my early childhood days when my mom would force feed us lentils, and I would opt to make myself French toast instead. It was my fallback food; one I learned to make quickly and quite well. The Rooftop Honey French toast at the Wildflower made its way into my Top 5 French Toasts in the world, along with the French toast at Island Lava Java on Hawaii, the Big Island. The crème anglaise replaced the need for syrup, while the berries and oranges added a bit of sweet and tart to the flavors. It was perfection. Not too sweet and not too bland.
Pools: Once your kids hit a certain age you become a super hero when you book a hotel with a pool. We have reached that age. The Fairmont has an indoor pool with a plastic curtain for swimmers to pass through to the outside. The pool is heated, so you can use it day or night. There are also hot tubs outside and one large hot tub inside. One of the cooler features to the pool complex is a separate, dedicated lap pool with underwater speakers (it’s true, I tried it out). You can hear the same music that is playing outside under the water. You won’t find that at too many fitness centers across North America.
NOTE: life vests and pool toys are available to borrow free of charge from the desk near the inside pool. Towels are also available outside and in the locker rooms so you don’t have to worry about packing your own. Don’t miss the baby robes either. Kids from 12 months and up can have them waiting in their room or you can ask the pool desk if you can have one for your stay. And of course they are available for purchase as well.
Hiking: Before the snow hits, which might happen by Thanksgiving in the United States, you can enjoy quiet hikes around Whistler and Blackcomb. Families with younger children can easily tackle the hike around Lost Lake. It should only take you 30 minutes to an hour. If you have very slow movers who like to throw rocks you could fill up an entire morning. Bring water and snacks so you can sit on the beach for a bit and enjoy the last warm rays of sun for the season. The concierge can point you toward even more kid-friendly hikes if you are feeling adventurous.
Gold Level Rooms
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler surpasses all expectations on their Gold Level floors. Here you have your own personal concierge and check in desk. You also have access to the Gold Lounge where a full breakfast is served in the morning, cookies, coffee and tea are available all day long, and happy hour hors d’oeuvres are available in the evening. Although Gold level rooms are a little more expensive, these rooms could save you money or at least let you come out even in the end thanks to all of the extra amenities and food you have access to.
Breakfast is dubbed as a continental breakfast fare, but if you leave this breakfast hungry you aren’t doing it right. French toast, bread pudding, pancakes, eggs, cold meats, cheeses, bacon, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, yogurt and pastries are just a handful of the things your eyes will behold when you enter the lounge each morning. Considering breakfast can easily run families between $30 and $100 each morning. This is a steal.
Happy Hour hors d’oeuvres can fill up your kids before a late dinner and cut down on those bigger platters they may want to order since they are so hungry after a day filled with hiking. Vegetables, meats, smoked salmon, cheeses and even Waldorf salad are offered each night. Wine and cocktails are available for an added fee.
Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are available all day long. A server is always on hand to help with any special requests, like milk in kid cups or juice. The cappuccino machine became my best friend as my husband and I tried to keep up with our busy kids each day. The cookies were not unwelcome after a hike either.
Games are stashed in the cabinet just outside of the lounge and movies can be found under the TV in the lounge. Gold level guests can borrow everything. My boys were fascinated throughout happy hour by an Etch-a-sketch. I had no idea they hadn’t been exposed to one yet. It took the boys a few minutes to realize it was not a video game, but once they figured it out we had to go back for the second one to put an end to the fighting.
Was the four-hour drive from Seattle to Whistler worth it? Of course! On any given day that drive is worth it, but for a stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler it was extra sweet. Our stay exceeded the hype and I would expect nothing less. After all, this is the Fairmont we are talking about. It doesn’t get much better.
Top photo credit: Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Many thanks to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for hosting my family for three nights at the end of September 2014. As always, all opinions are my own; when they aren’t you will be the first to know.