What's new in Whistler

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      A highway that was under construction and Olympic crowds made many Lower Mainland residents avoid Whistler in the past year. This summer, it’s time to reclaim the town.

      “One of the draws for locals is the great value,” says Tourism Whistler spokesperson Breton Murphy. He notes that accommodation deals on Tourism Whistler’s Web site run as low as $79 per night. Plus, the widened highway, which was completed in November, makes the two-hour drive from Vancouver “much more enjoyable”.

      Murphy says the Peak 2 Peak Gondola is still a draw for those who haven’t yet climbed aboard since its December 2008 debut. Linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the line provides greater access to alpine hiking trails, some of them new.

      Families might also want to check out WildPlay Whistler, which opened almost a year ago on Cougar Mountain. In addition to ziplines, the facility includes an aerial, tree-to-tree obstacle course.

      Those looking for less exertion might head to the Whistler Brewing Company. The brewery and taphouse, which opened in December in the Function Junction area south of Whistler, offers tours.

      Scandinave Spa Whistler came on the spa scene in February. In the outdoor area framed by spruce and cedar woods, guests can take their time alternating between the hot and cold baths, the saunas, and more.

      According to Murphy, many of the Olympic venues will be ready to tour by mid to late summer. These include the Whistler Sliding Centre and the Whistler Olympic Park.

      Following its closure for the Olympics, the Whistler Golf Club’s driving range is scheduled to reopen on July 15. (The rest of the golf course is operating normally.) The driving range is being completely upgraded with a new chipping and putting green.

      Foodies can look forward to FarmFolk/CityFolk’s Feast in the Mountains, taking place on August 1, where guests will graze on local chefs’ fare in Rebagliati Park. Nearby Pemberton’s Slow Food Cycle Sunday is back on August 15, after being cancelled last year due to wildfires.

      Whistler’s version of Dine Out Vancouver, called Dine in Whistler, is on now. It features three-course meals at $25, $35, and $45 per person until June 30; participating restaurants include Bearfoot Bistro and Rimrock Café.

      And you might want to start training now for Canada’s first-ever GranFondo event, which happens on September 11. Italian for “big ride”, one lane of the Sea-to-Sky Highway will be blocked off for up to 4,000 cyclists to ride the 120 kilometres from Vancouver to Whistler. For details on other Whistler activities and accommodation, see www.whistler.com/. If you book through whistlerblackcomb.com/ by June 30, your third night is free at many hotels for stays through October.