It’s been a long time coming but the sunny days of spring seem to have finally arrived (not that we will ever complain about the endless, bottomless winter we’ve had). And to celebrate the arrival of Whistler’s most festive season The Insider is taking another good hard look at one of this town’s most storied, honoured and favourite traditions: Après.
Après is that special block of time in between the day’s activities and the night’s festivities. It’s both a celebration of accomplishments and a preparation for success. How you après, where you après, and with whom you après can say a lot about a person and make or break any ski vacation.
With that in mind, here is The Insider’s Guide to Whistler Après for Spring 2017.
The New Kid – HandleBar
HandleBar, is a small spot at the base of Blackcomb in the Upper Village that flies a bit under the radar but has a loyal local following. There are no bottles in this joint, just beer (and wine) on tap and management has decided to do away with the ubiquitous flatscreen TVs that plague most every other public drinking space in North America. At the HandleBar, its all about human interaction—celebrating friendships, making connections and enjoying a frosty beverage or hot pretzel. They also have a pretty skookum patio space that has been underutilized…until now.
The Veteran – Dusty’s Bar & Grill, Creekside
Dusty’s has been hosting epic Whistler après since the first skis slid down the slopes and it always feels good to tap into that history with a group session at this historic Creekside spot. The Dusty’s Caesar (garnished with beef Jerky) is legendary and the BBQ nachos (piled with ribs and pulled pork) will refuel after even the most grueling top-to-bottom ski laps. Bonus points if you hit Dusty’s when Whistler legends The Hairfarmers are playing but every day is a party.
(Lesser known fact: Dusty was also the name of a stuffed horse that “lived” in the bar throughout most of the 1980s. You can still see Dusty on the bar’s logo.)
The Big Guns – GLC and The Longhorn
Hear music as you ski down to the Village? That’s the Garibaldi Lift Company and/or the Longhorn Saloon & Grill. These two places, located on the snow at the base of the Whistler and Blackcomb Gondolas, are the gold standard for North American après, no one does it better. Both recently renovated, these two patios make après dreams come true day after day after day after day. The drinks flow, the food nourishes, the music bumps, the staff are top notch and we literally know over 15 people who have met their husband/wife après-ing at one of these two spots. They each have their own flavour though, so try both and see which suits you best.
The Underdog – Merlin’s Bar & Grill
Technically only an underdog because it sits at the bottom of only one giant ski hill (Blackcomb, in the Upper Village), Merlin’s is off the beaten path enough that it might party harder than anyone. The Hairfarmers have a residency here, the DJ plays in a hanging gondola cabin, the whole joint is named after a Wizard…. and the patio is enormous. Special accolades to Merlin’s (and all Whistler Blackcomb bars) for doing away with plastic straws in every drink they serve. Plastic is a huge toxic pollution problem globally and by doing away with straws Merlin’s is hoping to keep 98,000 straws (or 20km/12 miles) worth of plastic out of our landfills and waterways each season. Kudos! (and if you really need a straw, staff will provide a compostable one on request).
The Out of the Way-ers
Après is arguably the best part of the day so the popular spots can get busy. Luckily, anyone seeking a mellower, quieter après experience need only walk a few steps further and explore Whistler Village. The Amsterdam hosts a fun après (not exactly quiet but it’s easier to find a seat), so does The Beacon Pub, The Brasserie (a local’s favourite), Earls, Stonesedge, and down in Creekside, The Southside Diner and Roland’s Creekside Pub. These joints will all offer a fully functional and enjoyable après, but it will be easier to get a table.
The Boutique Options
Après is universal in Whistler so you can customize the experience any way you like. The Dubh Linn Gate offers a live music and Irish twist, the Bearfoot Bistro serves oysters and cheese fondue in the Champagne Lounge, The Araxi cocktail bar is an upscale, central spot for civilized Après (they also have some of the best espresso in town). New to the après scene, Bar Oso by Araxi offers a pleasant après with windows facing the stroll so you can check out the latest mountain fashions strolling by (try the Powder Day cocktail, it’s all kinds of delicious). There are no rules with Whistler après, so choose your own adventure.
There’s a certain charm to a hotel lounge, a sense of style and class. At the base of Blackcomb, The Mallard (in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler) is well known for a sophisticated après featuring a big fireplace and some of the best mixed drinks in town. Down the street, Sidecut at the Four Seasons will often bring the party to their scene and get the Hairfarmers to play. And out at Nita Lake Lodge, Cure offers the only après in Whistler with lakeside views.
Swedish After Ski Après
Whistler’s most famous, and chaotic, après scene is an indoor/outdoor bash happening every Tuesday at the Cinnamon Bear in the Hilton Resort & Spa. Known for its banging music (DJs and Bands, often imported from Sweden), costumes, Swedish meatballs, drink specials and general silliness, this après is a must-hit. Get there early though, this après is popular and 2-hour line ups are not uncommon.
Who says you have to be in the valley to après? There are pretty incredible sundecks on at both the Whistler Roundhouse, Blackcomb’s Rendezvous and the Glacier Creek Lodge on Blackcomb (which will also often feature real DJs spinning 45rpm vinyl). Seppo’s, in the Roundhouse is a Whistler institution and the perfect place for “First Après.” As well, there is one more Winemaker Après Series event left this season. On Thursday April 13th, 2017 you can après the afternoon away from the luxury of Steeps Grill & Wine Bar in the Roundhouse with culinary delights and winemaker David Saysomsack from See Ya Later Ranch, a much-loved BC vineyard. (Just remember, never ski or ride impaired, the Whistler Gondola is always there for a safe download!)
Got you stoked for spring? It’s going to be a blast – come and join the fun. For more information on après check out the interactive map below, or visit Whistler.com for more après venues.