Austrian Hospitality in the Alps of Whistler
By Chris McBeath
Erika Durlacher knows a thing or two about breakfasts. Whether it's for powder hungry skiers or alpine hikers, cyclists and kayakers, Erika's culinary fare is legendary. We soon found out why. The best thing about Erika's breakfasts is that she just keeps cooking ...skillets of Kaiserschmarren - a sweet raisin pancake that's baked in the skillet then fork torn into small pieces and dusted with confectioners sugar; dishes of crepes with apple, cinnamon, yogurt and fresh blueberries; egg frittata, authentic home-made muesli, fresh baked breads, home made jams and on it goes until finally, we could eat no more.
It's an epic affair.
And it's all part of the home-spun hospitality that has made Durlacher Hof one of Whistler's most sought after pensions. The inn is a Tyrolean style jewel amidst the 'alps' of Whistler and everything exudes an Austrian Willkomen that's far more than a simple welcome. It starts the moment you enter when shoes are doffed in favour of a pair of pure wool Austrian hut slippers - a Durlacher Hof tradition. But there's something to be said for padding around a house in a pair of slippers, it makes you feel at home. Other trademarks that add to the ambience include colourful paintings on the chalet's exterior and interior walls, the expansive carved wooden balcony and furniture, and the traditional Kachelofen (a tile oven) in the bauernstude, (farmer's lounge) where guests quickly become friends. The real charm of Durlacher Hof is that it combines all the warmth of an upmarket bed and breakfast with the facilities of a boutique hotel - eight cosy rooms with private bath, jacuzzi, tub or shower all stocked with quality spa products, goose down duvets and pillows that are folded to look like mountain peaks, and after a day on the mountains, the sauna and outdoor whirlpool are heaven sent.
After an "Erika breakfast", we were fueled to the gunnels, ready to take on what Whistler has to offer and if you've not been this way in a while, you'll be surprised. Whistler grows by the year, with new luxury hotels, designer shops and action-packed itineraries that turn this winter playground into a summer resort without missing a beat. As North America's number one ski mountain, Whistler hosts princes and rock stars but when the temperatures rise, it's a wilderness of unparalleled beauty offering everything from golf and fishing to paragliding.
We opted for a day with Whistler River Adventures, an outfit that organized a paddle and saddle itinerary. In the morning, a two hour trail ride through alpine meadows and forested groves paved the way to a poolside barbecue and then it was on to whitewater rafting.
We had rafted the gentle Green River before but the Birkenhead River waters promised much more. Armed with paddle, dinghy and a spitful of courage, our intrepid troupe took to the rapids, swirling into the spray and hanging on to ropes at every sudden dip - in awe that each of us was still afloat as we paddled and splashed our way through the churning waters. Even the old hands on deck were enjoying the ride.
By the time we returned to Durlacher Hof, the entire house was filled with the smell of baking. Erika was cooking again with delicious "apresËs mountain" treats. The trays of cookies kept coming until we could eat no more. But the evening was young, and Erika can't help but promote Whistler's night-life and terrific restaurants. We opted for a couple of Irish brews (complete with bawdy ballads) at the foot of the lift before going on to the new wine bar adjoining the Barefoot Restaurant. Widely regarded as the finest eatery in Whistler, is a must). The village takes on a different mantel at night from the bawdy Irish..... pub at the foot of the lift to romantic patio dining overlooking the square.
But after a day of alpine air, we could do little but surrender to an early night. We yearned for our hut slippers and the comforts of 'home' where we were soon dreaming of the "Erika breakfast" to come.
If You Go:
7055 Nesters Road
Whistler, BC V0N lB0
Web site: www.durlacherhof.com
From the city of Vancouver BC: North on Highway # 1 to Upper Levels
Follow signs to Whistler via Sea to Sky
Look for the Nesters sign opposite the North entrance to Whistler Village
For our State-side neighbors: Either through Sumas, taking Highway #1 north to Vancouver...or
Through Blaine, north on Highway 99, pass through Vancouver to Upper Levels
Approximately one and a half hours from Vancouver
Whistler Adventures: www.whistler-river-adv.com
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