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Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Experience luxury Whistler on a budget

The delicious fresh beet salad at the Firerock Lounge in the Westin. This is the first stop on the self-guided lunch tour offered by Whistler Tasting Tours. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Do you have champagne wishes and caviar dreams, as Robin Leach used to say at the end of his Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous TV show? Whistler, British Columbia, is one of the top ski resorts in North America -- and has the price tag to go with it. Deals can still be found, though. To truly experience the high life, stay in the village. Think having a cup of coffee at a luxury hotel to enjoy the ambience versus staying there. The exchange rate for U.S. currency is very favorable. As of press time, the exchange rate was 78 cents U.S. for every Canadian dollar -- meaning you can save 25-30 percent (depending on the rate). For example, a $200 Canadian hotel room will run about $155 U.S.

One of the most luxurious places to stay in Whistler is the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. A basic room will set you back well more than $400 Canadian. Instead, drop in to the Mallard Lounge, an iconic Whistler destination famed for its après ski cocktails and chocolate bar.  Enjoy chocolate fondue for two with coffee for less than $50 Canadian. This is an economical way to enjoy fondue. A classic cheese fondue experience in Whistler can run $199 Canadian per person.

After finishing your fondue, work off the calories by window-shopping on the concourse level of the Fairmont Chateau. Take your time enjoying the work of local artists at a high-end art gallery. Peruse Canadian diamonds at a jewelry store. There is also a designer boutique, top-of-the-line ski shop and more. The best part: It doesn't cost anything to look.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler, daily (check website for hours of specific venues), 4599 Chateau Blvd., Whistler, BC, 604.938.8000,

If you find yourself sore after a day of skiing, visit the Scandinave Spa Whistler for a luxury hydrotherapy experience. Forgo a massage and visit the baths for $70 Canadian. It is a splurge that is well worth it at much less the cost of a daily lift ticket at Whistler-Blackcomb. The spa offers a traditional Scandinavian bath experience utilizing hydrotherapy in a rustic setting with views including the woods of Lost Lake Park and panoramic views of the mountains. Enjoy the series of hot and cold baths followed by a relaxation period, all in complete silence. It is interesting how the silence itself is almost a treatment and aids in finding total relaxation.  Many Canadian Olympic athletes use the facility as part of their training.

Scandinave Spa Whistler, daily, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., 8010 Mons Rd., Whistler, BC, 604.935.2424,

Dining can be very pricey in the Whistler Village. One way to enjoy upscale venues is to take a tasting tour. The Whistler Tasting Tours company offers a variety of tours, but the best deal is the self-guided lunch tour, which includes pairings of wine or beer at three of the six stops at just under $50 U.S., including gratuities. On the dinner tours, the wine pairing is an additional fee. The self-guided lunch tour takes you from one end of Whistler Village to the other, and the portions are full-sized, not just a taste. It was so much food, I ended up taking home the meal from the last stop. The tour starts at the Firerock Lounge at the Westin. The venue is surprisingly cozy for a large hotel. I enjoyed a fresh beet salad with a pairing of Prospect Chardonnay from the Okanagan Valley, BC. With five more stops, allow about three hours for the tour. The company can work with food allergies or preferences with advance notice.

Whistler Tasting Tours, daily by appointment, 4111 Golfers Approach, Whistler, BC, 604.902.8687,

For more information about Whistler, visit, the official destination website or for skiing and mountain reports.

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