Marilyn Monroe in Whistler Blackcomb: skiing, zipping, indulging

My husband wants me to be Marilyn Monroe. No, not for the obvious reason — I’m already blonde and, well, sort of voluptuous. It’s the attitude he’s after.

“Ever notice that ‘what the hell’ is always the right decision?” the legendary Monroe is quoted as once saying.

And so my husband Kent hopes I’ll cop the right attitude and agree to a decadent weekend at Whistler, staying at an out-of-our-price-range hotel and trying two out-of-my-comfort-zone adventures, one on the slopes, the other involving a full body harness and a single cable stretched high above a raging river.

Oh, what the hell.

The Place

When we drive up to the grand porte-cochere at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, I realize that some things in life are worth paying for. Like the valet who not only parks our car, but ensures our ski equipment is magically transported to a ski concierge room just steps from the Blackcomb Mountain lifts.

The Four Seasons Resort Whistler was the first new Canadian property in 28 years for the notoriously-luxurious Four Seasons empire. And when its doors opened, the Whistler property significantly upped the opulence quotient in this already swank town.

The resort is a 253-room contemporary lodge, inspired by both the Arts-and-Crafts movement and its natural setting at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. It is secluded yet close to everything — a five-minute stroll to the ski lifts through rustically landscaped grounds (think boulders, bushes and meandering paths) and past the main luxe competition, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler; it’s another eight minutes to the Village. Or you can hitch a ride in the resort’s shuttle, a Cadillac.

Walking in to the Four Seasons lobby through tall, carved-wood doors, I’m struck by how intimate the space feels. A fire’s crackling in the stone fireplace, handsome Australian eucalyptus paneling wraps the walls and subtle touches add warmth and texture: sumptuous rugs, delicate bronze screens resembling interwoven branches, a bowl of perfect apples at the reception desk. Checking in takes a nanosecond – these folks know how to balance North American efficiency with a Buddhist-like serenity – and we’re off to our room.

Do you ever open the door to a hotel room, gaze at the cramped space and shiny polyester bedspread and think, “Well, I suppose it’ll do?” There’s no danger of being underwhelmed at the Four Seasons Whistler. Here the rooms are thrillingly spacious, a minimum of 550 square feet, and filled with cherry-stained millwork, warm-toned couches and easy chairs, a gas fireplace and (in our room) a king-size bed with crisp white duvet.

The bathroom is bigger than my first apartment. I love its warm limestone tile floor; two sinks; glass-enclosed shower; deep, deep soaker tub and the toilet set discreetly in a separate alcove. I could disappear for hours in that tub. But adventure calls.

Slope side

You know that the ski resort you’re visiting has serious acreage when the trail map is called the “Mountain Atlas.” But of course this is our Whistler, site of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the largest ski area and greatest lift-serviced vertical on the continent. Like most locals, I tend to take Whistler for granted until I read that yet another snow magazine has named it the No. 1 ski resort in North America.

With that kind of awesome terrain waiting, you’d think we’d be first on the mountain for our day of skiing. But then you don’t know how comfortable the Four Seasons’ beds are, nor how many trips you can make to the breakfast buffet. When we do finally get to the ski concierge, everything is set — boots warmed, skis glistening, cheerful staff member Emma ready to help. “May I buckle your boots for you?” she asks. I begin to say no – really, this is a slippery slope to total decadence — then decide, what the hell. Another attendant hands me my skis and I purr, “I could so get used to this.”

Much to Kent’s disappointment and my relief, our first big adventure – hiking in to (and out of) the newly inbound area “Flute Bowl” to ski 700 acres of backcountry–style terrain – must wait for more snow. Still, we spend a great day cruising a fraction of the 200-plus trails that will open when the season’s in full swing.

By mid-afternoon, we’re toast and ask the ski concierge to schlep our equipment back to the hotel. We head straight for the Four Seasons outdoor pool and three whirlpools, an inviting oasis half-hidden behind curtains of swirling steam. I’m floating toward comatose when an attendant arrives, unbidden, with hot chocolate. “Perhaps you would like a marshmallow on top?” he asks. “Why not,” I reply.


I blame my “blonde moment” on the Frisky Bison at the Four Season’s Fifty Two 80 Bar.

Surely it’s the fault of these cheekily named martinis, potions of lemongrass-infused vodka and sour apple liquor that taste far too good, that I can’t figure out what “Fifty Two 80” in the bar and bistro name means. I sit at the bar nibbling tasty seafood morsels such as oysters on the half shell and Dungeness Crab shots and ponder the possibilities – are they the resort’s longitude and latitude? Its number of windows? When I finally admit to Kent I’m stumped, he gently reminds me that you can ski one vertical mile – 5,280 feet — on Blackcomb. Oh.

Luckily, when we shift to Sidecut for dinner, the only thing I must figure out is what to order. I settle on a rib eye with Yorkshire pudding and cream horseradish; Kent chooses the venison loin with red cabbage and Salt Spring goat cheese. Both are artfully presented and quickly devoured.

The restaurant manager stops by our table and we talk about the room’s interior design. “A number of people have called it Manhattan in Whistler,” he suggests. Certainly the small colored tiles above the rounded fireplace, the columns of warm, backlit onyx paneling and the patterned curtains that hang beside floor-to-ceiling windows give the restaurant a sophisticated, retro, undeniably hip look. But for me it’s the contemporary Canadian art on the walls, the warmth of the staff and the imaginative, healthful cuisine that stamps the restaurant coastal mountain cool.

Big air

I’m about to launch myself off the side of a coastal mountain when Nicole, my Ziptrek Ecotour guide, comes up with a cool idea. “How about going backwards?” she asks as she checks my full body harness and buckles my pulley to the steel cable that stretches across the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. This is my third of five crossings on the Bear Tour ziplines and I’m feeling the adrenaline rush, big time. “What the hell,” I say.

Ziptreking is the brainchild of Charles Steele and David Udow, entrepreneurs who wanted to introduce visitors to the magnificence of Whistler’s ancient coastal rainforest. “We felt people should learn about this incredible area,” says Steele, “but we knew no one was going to sign up for a 2 1/2-hour environmental education lesson.” Ah, but they will sign up, in the thousands, for a chance to zoom across steel cables stretching between cedar platforms, suspended 30-plus metres in the air, at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour.

Between flights, guides talk about Whistler’s ecology and the importance of living lightly on the earth. “I didn’t expect the environmental education,” admits Derek, manager of a hardwood flooring company and one of ten zip-ers on my tour. “I found it actually quite inspirational.”

Others find the whole experience quite terrifying. “Yes, every so often we must talk someone across or walk them out,” says Nicole when I ask if anyone ever freezes. For folks who fear flying, there’s a 90-minute Treetrek tour that takes them in to the forest’s canopy via a network of suspension bridges, boardwalk and trails – a still-thrilling experience in itself.

Say spa-ahhhh

After all this excitement I need calm, and I find it in the capable hands of Arni, my Four Seasons Spa therapist. I choose the Four Seasons Treatment, a two-hour affair that involves – you’ll sense a certain theme here – a journey through the four seasons.

I begin in fall with a pine-scented bath. The pulsing jets are hypnotic and the soak drains my energy, but in a good way. Once dried off and modestly covered, Arni administers a head-to-toe winter peppermint and honey scrub. Though tempted to lick my arm just to see if it’s really honey, I restrain myself and soon the Vichy shower has washed me clean. My spring fling is next, a glacial clay wrap, followed by a wildflowers-in-summer aromatherapy massage. By the end I feel – I can ‘t resist – well-seasoned.

Driving home later that day, Kent and I talk about all the things we didn’t do at Whistler: dog-sledding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing. He asks if I might consider returning to Whistler and the Four Seasons again soon to try some new adventures. I bet you can guess my answer.

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