|Chateau Whistler weaves around the mountains you can ski down. (GolfPublisher.com)|
WHISTLER, British Columbia — It can be 67 degrees and sunny at Chateau Whistler Golf Club, a perfect early May day, and you will see guys in the parking lot replacing their ski parkas with golf polos.
The parkas still have fresh powder on them too.
It's enough to make a first-time Whistler tourist feel like they've stumbled into the "Twilight Zone." Where did that snow come from? Did the guy jet in from Vail this morning?
To the staff at the golf courses of Whistler though, the sight is just par for the course.
Just another guy enjoying a Whistler Extreme Day. That's what the locals have dubbed the very Whistler phenomenon of skiing and golfing in the same day. At the same mountain.
Here's how it works: In the morning, you take the ski lift up the Blackcomb Mountains. There is plenty of good snow once you get a little higher up at this time of year. Then, after racing through it to your heart's content, you take the lift back down and play golf in near 70 degree weather at Blackcomb's base.
Who said having fun had to be complicated?
"Some guys really get into it," Whistler Golf Club Sales Manager Ro Davies said, laughing. "You'll see guys pulling up in a van who you don't expect to be golfers, throwing their ski stuff aside and pulling out their golf clubs.
"It just makes for a fun day."
Skier turned occasional golfer Zane Johnson argues, "It's something everyone has to do once."
"I'm not much of a golfer myself," Johnson said. "But after you've had a few good runs, it's great to come down here and chase the ball around in the sun. It relaxes you. It's two extremes."
It's also catching on. Whistler Extreme Days aren't really marketed yet. The packages touting the perfect combination of skiing and golf will undoubtedly come later. For now, it's more of an underground fetish, which makes it that much more alluring to some.
You're not part of the crowd. You're experiencing a new trend.
"It's cool because a lot of people still aren't doing it yet,'' golfer Scott Downing said. "You're here at a time of year when most people are afraid to come to Whistler."
And that only makes Whistler Extreme Days season cooler.
This is essentially shoulder season with plenty of caveats. Most skiers are certain it's going to be too warm to get anything but pathetic runs in by May in Whistler. Most golfers are convinced it will still be too chilled to do anything but simulate golf in Ireland. Or Seattle. During the rainy season.
In reality, your chances of good golf and ski weather are very good. In a TravelGolf.com May Whistler visit, the temperatures danced in the low 70s throughout the week on golf level, with only one overcast day. Meanwhile, up in the mountains, it was more than chilly enough.
Frost bite and sunburned in the same day? It's possible with Whistler's wacky extremes.
Being a little ingenious — or out there — has its advantages beyond the slopes and the fairways. The best time for Whistler extreme days just so happen to fall during times when every plush resort and expensive fine dining spot in the village is trying to draw customers.
And dropping prices to do it.
How low do things get?
Consider that the Chateau Fairmont Whistler's Wildflower restaurant — the only AAA Four Diamond restaurant in town — offers three-course tasting menus in the $30 range. Canadian dollars.
"We especially book our trips for this time of year to take advantage of the deals," Portland visitor Kathy Eriscon said. "I ski. Get real exercise. My husband golfs and calls it exercise and we each take one day do each other's thing. So we'll ski together one day and golf together one day."
Of course, there also may be unintended results for some Whistler Extreme Day followers. All that room at the inn and the bar can be great. If that's what you want. Those seeking Whistler the party town — and it definitely parties — will want to pick either heart of the winter for skiing or heart of the summer for golfing.
Whistler Mountain stays open until early June for skiing most seasons. It reaches as high as 7,160 feet and has over 100 trails, with the longest measuring in at seven miles.
You can get lost in your own powder world here. At this time of year, you will have spring ski conditions, meaning you want to probably get your runs in during the early, chilliest part of the day when the ice has come in overnight.
That will leave you plenty of time to hit a course in the afternoons.
Chateau Whistler Golf Club: This is a Robert Trent Jones II design, but good old Canadian nature steals the show much more than any celebrity golf architect ever could.
You climb up the mountain early in the round and get rushing creeks throughout. If you're lucky — or unlucky, depending on your point of view — you might even get to run into one of the black bears that make the woods you're weaving through home.
The bears keep their distance when they see golfers, but they are not above dropping some intimidating visual evidence near a tee box or two.
This is the perfect course for a ski nature nut.
Nicklaus North Golf Course: Jack works plenty of water into this 6,908 yard course. It's nestled between the River of Golden Dreams — where you may be if you're picturing a career round here — and Green Lake.
The mountains loom overhead, still snow covered toward the top this time of year, playing in sharp contrast with the very spring lake scene on the fairways. Towering Douglas Firs complete the postcard worthy hole framing.
Just as importantly, Jack gives you plenty of chances to go for it.
Whistler Golf Club: This Arnold Palmer design is considered the Whistler course of the people. It's the cheapest of the area's four high-profile tracks and the most forgiving too. It's also the perfect course to chill after some hellacious runs down a mountain.
Whistler Golf Club gives you nature in an easy-walk package. Its 6,676 yards are made for you to rediscover golf without seats. In fact, if you take out a cart, you're liable to feel foolish seeing everyone else easily and happily hoofing it.
"We have groups that walk the full 18, turn right around and walk it again, playing a second round,'' Director of Golf Alan Kristmanson said.
Just remember to clean off those skies first.
May 8, 2006
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Signature Vacations has mastered the "all-inclusive" vacation. The Canadian company, a division of the Sunwing Travel Group, has been flying snow-weary travelers to warm-weather destinations for more than 40 years, specializing in exotic locales in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
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