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by Colleen Friesen
(for Travel Writers' Tales)

There are many different kinds of silences; the holy quiet of cathedrals, the soothing wash of waves on a sandy beach, or the reverent quiet discovered while looking up at a star-pierced sky.

But there is another type of peace; the frozen quiet found in the fragile world of snow.

Walking into my room at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, BC, I enter that kind of solid silence. The door slips shut behind me and I look across the room to a view of swirling white. Stepping out onto the deck, I feel my thoughts replaced by a woolly calm.

The trees are dark and green, the snow just starting to stick to the branches after the previous day's melt. They loom out of the foggy air, sentries around the edge of the frozen lake, the surrounding ground buried under a cashmere quilt.

It is barely 4:00 pm, but it is all I can do to shut the door, crawl under the duvet and let the weight of all that silence push me into a deep sleep.

I wake a couple of hours later. It's dark, except for the flickering glow from the living room fireplace. I don't want to disturb my cocoon of quiet but I'm ravenous and excited to try the new Aura Restaurant downstairs.

The chef, Tim Cuff, is formerly of the West and, as any self-respecting Vancouver foodie knows, that restaurant has a deserved reputation for some of the tastiest food in the city…except, now he's here.

I join my colleagues. We're seated at a table by the restaurant's fireplace. Snow continues floating down outside. We toast our good fortune with champagne.

Some hours, and several courses paired with perfect wines later, we finally quit our constant and delighted moaning. We look at each other, slightly stunned by the gastronomical experience.

The starter of risotto with Yellow Foot mushrooms, accompanied by a crispy fried risotto ball finely dusted with Parmesan, forced me to eat slowly, afraid it would be over too soon.

And the alder-smoked Sable fish…well, I love Sable fish at the best of times, but the smoky flavour ramped it up several notches. It was served with chimichurri Pearl couscous; perfect round bursts of flavour. Did I mention the homemade sour-cream ice cream? Heaven.

(Later I wonder if I was unduly influenced by the aforementioned generous wine pairings. But I discover that food critic, Mia Stainsby, had included Aura in her list for 2011's top ten restaurants, calling it, "…an exciting new addition to Whistler.")

But the next morning, as I begin to sweat at the Innovative Fitness gym, I start thinking perhaps I should not have enjoyed myself quite so much.

Our fearless leader tells us his name is Mark Coates, and then, "Okay. Let's start running up and down these stairs!" Mark is a keener. You know the kind. The can-do optimistic guy, the amazingly fit guy that you wish you could hate, except …he's actually a great guy.

Nita Lake Lodge has paired up with Innovative Fitness to help their guests realize some of their fitness dreams. I should have told them I only have fitness nightmares…or at least, that's what the morning starts to resemble.

And then, mercifully, we're done.

I feel like I've accomplished something remarkable. After a workout like that, I'm good for the day. No. Wait. I'm good for the week.

Mark breaks through my self-congratulatory reverie, "Okay. We'll see you all back here in an hour for our snowshoe excursion!" We groan in unison. Snowshoeing had sounded like such a good idea when it was booked.

It's a quick trip to the nearby trailhead and we're soon crunching down a trail beside the roaring Cheakamus River. The moss hangs in glowing greens. The air is bright with super-oxygenated air; the kind of air where I swear you can see glowing molecules. This is my kind of fitness; the kind that is as a by-product from doing something fun outdoors. Snowshoeing, with its Great White Northiness, feels so uber-Canadian and Mark, with his faithful dog Sitka, is the consummate host.

But our winter getaway is about to get better. I'm booked for a 75-minute massage at the Ashram Spa. Lying in the dim light of the massage room is another kind of quiet altogether…broken only by my contented sighs.

Who needs skis? This is my kind of Whistler.


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PHOTOS by Colleen Friesen

1. Welcome to Nita Lake Lodge
2. Mark and Sitka
3. Snowshoeing
4. Hot Chocolate anyone?
5. Entrance to the Ashram Spa


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