It’s neither a hotel nor a hostel but something in between: Pangea is Whistler’s first “pod hotel".
The forthcoming accommodations come from a couple who figured out exactly how to serve that underserved middle niche after circumnavigating the globe together.
Russell and Jelena Kling first met in Prague in 2003. The two had a long-distance relationship for several years thereafter: he spent a decade on Wall Street, where he became a partner at a successful investment fund at a very young age; she obtained her graduate degree in biotechnology from Columbia University, and then pursued cholesterol research at the Columbia Medical Centre.
At what some may say was the height of their careers, they decided to take time off to pursue their passion for travel together.
“We initially thought we’d be gone for six months, but it turned into a three-year journey focused on visiting places our ‘more responsible future selves’ wouldn’t go to once we had kids and were responsible for other people’s lives,” Russell tells the Straight with a laugh. “We truly saw the world: North Korea, a train across the entirety of Russia, a truck through Africa, expeditions to both the Arctic and the Antarctic, Carnival in Rio, and the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland were some of the highlights. During the course of our travels the idea of Pangea was born.”
During their travels, the two learned about what kinds of accommodations they liked—and didn’t like.
“We knew we wanted to combine style, comfort, and a hip vibe with accessibility and affordability,” Jelena says.
Pangea (4333 Sunrise Alley) will have eight custom suites containing a total of 88 independent sleeping pods. At least one suite will be for women only.
Each private pod is lined in wood and has a double mattress, individually controlled LED lights, a lockable cabinet for valuables, hanging space for clothes, a storage area for luggage, plus artwork and mirrors.
The pods have been in design and prototyping for nearly three years.
One of the pod hotel’s features the Klings are especially excited about and proud of is the bathroom layout, which they designed themselves.
Each suite has its own set of bathrooms: “no more wrapping a towel around your waist and walking down a long corridor to a shared bank of washrooms, a la most hostels, capsule hotels, pod hotels or frankly any properties with shared washroom facilities”, Jelena says.
Each individual bathroom has been separated into four individually accessed components: A washroom with its own vanity; a shower with a changing area; a separate changing room (for getting dressed if you want to do so in a full-height space, since you can sit up, but not stand up, in your pod), and a stand-alone vanity with a large backlit mirror for brushing teeth, applying make-up, putting in contact lenses, and so on.
“All in all, we have more than 60 of these washroom components for a maximum of 88 guests, a ratio which is unheard of in the industry,” Jelena says. “We hope that the combination of making these bathrooms private to the suites, and putting so many of them in there that you never have to wait in line for one, makes them feel private, or at least a lot more private that what you would expect.”
What about noise?
Wherever possible, acoustic materials and “barriers” have been incorporated into the design. Each pod has an individually controlled, built-in fan, not just for air circulation, but also to create white noise to help mask any outside noise. Each pod also has a small door and a private curtain. You can also get free ear plugs if you need them.
“We have done and are continuing to do everything possible to ensure that a guest’s stay at Pangea is as peaceful as possible,” Jelena says. “Noise transfer has always been top of mind. Will they be 100-percent soundproof? No. But in a hostel bed you have zero acoustic privacy, and we’ve also stayed in plenty of hotels with such poor sound insulation in the walls that you can hear the conversation on the TV in the room next door.”
There are communal spaces for guests to relax, mingle, or grab something to eat or drink. The Living Room, which is Pangea's social hub, includes a cocktail bar, espresso bar, and cafe, while the Rooftop Patio offers a full bar and views of Village Square and beyond.
People will be able to put ski, snowboard, and bike gear in the Toy Box, a fully secure open-plan storage area opposite reception.
When the booking system opens this spring, rates will never be more than half the price of a comparably located hotel in the Village—and often will be far less.
“We want to ensure that solo travellers have the opportunity to experience all that Whistler has to offer without needing to take out a mortgage to do so,” Russell says.
A soft opening will be in late spring, with a grand opening to take place this summer, before Crankworx in August.
The two hope that the Whistler location is just the first of many.
“We’re constantly evaluating real estate for future openings,” Russell says. “It’s fair to assume our second location will be in B.C. as well.”More