When the 2010 Winter Olympics arrive in Vancouver, the nearby Whistler/Blackcomb ski resort — developed in a futile attempt to win the 1968 Olympics — will have made the most of a second chance. The mountains are hosting all skiing events, alpine and Nordic, and all sliding sports such as bobsled.
The resort is anchored by pedestrian-friendly Whistler Village, famous for its vibrant nightlife and teeming with shops, nearly 100 bars and restaurants, numerous condos, and recreational and entertainment facilities. Around this town core are residential neighborhoods, more hotels, athletic facilities and three golf courses, all within walking distance or a very short drive from the slopes.
The terrain is also world-class: The twin mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb, sitting side by side and sharing a common base area, are consistently rated the continent's No. 1 ski resort by both Ski and Skiing magazines. It is also one of the world's most popular destinations for snowboarders, and a glacier provides skiing even in midsummer.
Last year, the resort added the peak-to-peak gondola, which connects the two mountains for the first time. "People would typically ski one mountain for the day," says Andy Wirth, chief marketing officer for Intrawest, Whistler's owner. "The new gondola totally changed the way people now ski the resort." For the bold, two of the 28 gondola cars have glass floors.
Other major upgrades, courtesy of the Olympics, make Whistler even more attractive to second-home owners. These include Callahan Valley, a vast new Nordic skiing area, a luge/bobsled center open to the public, and a $650 million expansion of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which shortens the drive from the Vancouver airport to less than two hours.
According to Ray Longmuir, managing broker of Playground Real Estate, vacation properties comes in every conceivable price and size, from studio condos under $100,000 to luxury homes over $10 million. One new development here, Kadenwood, is the first in Canada with its own private gondola for residents. It has just 60 homes in the $7 million-$9 million range (kadenwoodhomes.com).
A look at three Whistler neighborhoods
• Creekside: The original Whistler mountain base area predates Whistler Village 4 miles away and is quieter and attractive to families. "Are you one of the people who staggers home from the bar at 2 a.m., or someone who is bothered by those staggering home? If you're the former, live in the village. If the latter, Creekside is for you," says broker Ray Longmuir. One-bedroom condos go from just under $300,000, and single-family homes are in the $650,000-$800,000 range.
• Village Center: The frenetic heart of the resort, with nearly 100 bars and restaurants, plus shops, condos and hotels. Whistler has two distinct zoning classes: Phase I with unlimited owner use, and Phase II, which restricts owner occupancy to 28 days in summer and 28 in winter but allows owners to generate rental income year-round. Phase I property begins around $275,000 for studios, while Phase II begins at well under $100,000.
• Benchlands: This neighborhood sits just west of the village at the base of Blackcomb mountain and around the Chateau Whistler golf course and Lost Lake. Almost entirely made up of second-home owners, it has more single-family homes and is geared toward summer use. Condos begin under $300,000, townhomes start around $400,000, and single-family homes are over $1 million.