THERE was a time when family après ski at Whistler meant getting back to the hotel for Bunny Pasta and SpongeBob Square Pants.
Beer, nachos and live music - forget it.
As much as I miss my kids being cute and in bed by 8, I now cherish having teenagers who can begin to appreciate après ski. Yes, their first question might be: "Does this place have wifi?" but ultimately, it's a pleasure to relax together as a family after skiing and boarding all day as a family.
At the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, my son Ryan reviews his day via iPhone and Whistler Blackcomb Live, the Telus Mobile app. The app clocks his runs using GPS, measuring distances, vertical shreds and maximum speeds. According to the app, he's boarded faster than some cars I've owned.
I try and overlook that and concentrate on a Guinness, a vital part of my preparation for tomorrow's skiing.
Compared to when we first began coming, Whistler Blackcomb has developed much for families, both on and off the slopes. On the mountains you'll find clearly designated family-friendly runs. The Whistler Kids Training Centre on Whistler Mountain features a larger skills zone and an improved race training zone.
Online at whistlerblackcomb.com/families you can download children's trail maps which highlight slower, more family friendly runs, plus the terrain park and Family Zone on Whistler Mountain. At 15, Ryan wouldn't be caught dead on a children's trail, which he describes as "pin" or "pinner" - the universal adjective favoured by high school students for weak, or feeble.
Not pinner were the Wonder Routes, the perfect selection of Whistler Blackcomb's best tours, trails, waypoints and stops for a family unsure of where to start. The Wonder Routes comprise six circuits, ranging from Top of The World and Steeps Sampler to Gold Medal Route and Family Certified.
Armed with the Wonder Routes trail map (also downloadable online, or pick one up at any chairlift), we took advantage of a free guided tour on Blackcomb one afternoon. Under endless blue skies, our guide Mary Lou showed us some of the best of Top of the World (including 7th Heaven on Blackcomb) and Family Certified (the Magic Castle - Ryan kept his thoughts to himself). Mary Lou pointed out enough along the way for us to make our own itinerary the following day. It began with waffles for breakfast at Mary Lou's favourite place, the Crystal Hut on Blackcomb.
Prince Charles brought William and Harry here as teenagers. According to Mary Lou, someone opted to dry the Royal princes' gloves in the microwave, destroying them in the process. In pouring rain, the call went out for new gloves "and every teenage girl in Whistler volunteered to bring them up!" recalls Mary Lou.
Off-mountain, March and April herald cheaper deals for families visiting Whistler, including Discover Whistler Days (Feb. 25 to March 8 and April 8-21), which offer 30 per cent off the price of snow school lessons. Subject to conditions, kids stay, ski, and rent free during April.
The World Ski and Snowboard Festival (April 12-21) offers 10 days of free entertainment and numerous deals and packages.
Call 1-888-403-4727 for more information, or visit whistlerblackcomb.com