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Fabulous resort that is now the biggest in North America - and many say the best

The first lift at the stupendous Canadian resort of Whistler started rolling just 50 years ago this season - and from the very start it was a ski destination that thought big.

The aim then was to create a resort capable of hosting a Winter Olympic Games - a dream that was eventually realised in 2010. And the resort that we should now call Whistler-Blackcomb boasts North America's largest ski area (with 254 kms of runs) and, in the opinion of many, the best too.

Its history is intriguing, because for many years Whistler and Blackcomb, inhabiting different mountains, were not only completely separate resorts but were also deadly enemies. They fought tooth and nail, each coming up with innovations to win customers. At last in 1996 they joined forces under a common banner - and the advances since have been even more massive. Lift systems on both mountains have been constantly upgraded - with the crowning glory being the mind-boggling Peak to Peak gondola that opened in 2008 to join Whistler and Blackcomb and at the same time break about every record going for such a lift, longest single span, fastest, highest, you name it.

Whistler and Blackcomb combined offers skiing on a huge scale - high bowls, glaciers, tree-skiing, bump runs, untold miles of motorway cruising and dedicated beginners' areas. Experts will be hard put to better the challenges all over the mountain here - and the terrain is so vast that intermediates will find it a paradise too.

Thanks to the comprehensive lift system, particularly the Peak to Peak, each of the main centres, Whistler Village, Upper Village and Creekside are all equally good choices. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is ski-in, ski-out, and the Pan Pacific and Westin Resort and Spa are both sheer luxury.

It is purpose-built, but a proper tastefully-designed ski village, full of bars and restaurants such as the Garibaldi Lift Company and Longhorn. It also has some of the best restaurants you'll find in any ski resort - such as Araxi (ah, the seafood tower!), the renowned Bearfoot Bistro and Rimrock Cafe, a little out of town.

Cordée des Alpes

Bearfoot Bistro

For an evening full of new experiences, the Bearfoot Bistro is certain to deliver on all fronts as you embark on a culinary journey and beyond.

Headed up by the husband and wife team of Andre Saint Jacques and award-winning Executive Chef Melissa Craig, the Bearfoot Bistro is your chance to sabre a bottle of Champagne, or to visit the Ketel One Ice Room, the coldest vodka tasting room in the world. Alternatively, treat yourself to a front row seat and a tasting menu at the chef’s table to witness the workings of the kitchen at first hand.

Even these opportunities play second fiddle to the sensational menu, which combines the exceptional seafood and wild game found in British Columbia with tastes from around the world to create dishes of pure inspiration and innovation. From Wagyu beef, to Perigord truffles, you’re guaranteed to be sampling something new here. Enjoy the perfect wine to compliment your dish, as selected by the resident wine director, before treating yourself to some nitro ice cream which is prepared tableside.

Hotel Farinet

Merlin’s Bar and Grill

Perched at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, where the Wizard Chair rises up, Merlin’s has a magnetic homely feel to it which makes for thoroughly enjoyable après ski sessions, with people you’ll feel like you’ve known for ages. This is a venue where the welcome is always warm and the vibe is always chilled.

Debate the day’s best run with a hard-earned pint of the slopeside patio, enjoy a spot of people watching on the mezzanine level and refuel with a mountain of Merlin’s famous nachos and satisfying bar grub . Once you’re rested up, it’s time to get the party started with a bang! Try some of the signature cocktails and join in the bar-side table-dancing as you get into the spirit of Merlin’s, where a late-night conga line is never too far away.

In the summer, get involved with jam sessions on the sunsoaked patio and try more adventurous and daring drink concoctions, with ingredients bought fresh from the Farmers’ Market.