Fairmont Chateau Whistler Alpine Suite Introduction
Brad and I visit Whistler a lot, and while we used to stay in vacation rentals outside of the village, both of us have come to appreciate the luxury resort offerings in Whistler, and instead now choose to stay at one of two properties. This Fairmont Chateau Whistler Alpine Suite review is part of a series looking at the best hotels in Whistler, with a review of the Four Seasons Resort coming tomorrow, followed by a comparison post presenting our top pick for accommodations in this world-class ski village.
We booked our stay through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts, and strategically booked a room category one under the Junior Suite level, hoping that our Platinum status in the Fairmont President’s Club combined with the Amex booking would basically guarantee an upgrade to a suite (the next level category). Rates in Whistler are highly variable, with off-peak nights costing anywhere between $200-$300/night, and peak ski seasons often exceeding $1,000 per night. While Whistler used to have a longer off-season, it has really become a year-round destination, with summer rates still demanding somewhat of a premium. We stayed at the beginning of fall, and rates were starting to drop before the hills opened up for the season.
While $333.78 isn’t exactly pocket change, keep in mind that it includes a $100USD food and beverage credit, in addition to daily breakfast and guaranteed late checkout (which I value tremendously on short one-night stays).
Brittany was also joining us for the weekend (though she was on a different reservation – more on that later), so we left Vancouver around noon for the 90-minute drive to Whistler.
The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is absolutely stunning, with beautiful ocean views between Vancouver and Squamish, followed by a climb up the mountain as you head towards Whistler. The drive takes about 90-minutes without traffic, and is one I never get bored of. Alternatively, guests can choose to fly (I think it takes about 20 minutes), which of course, is on my bucket list.
The hotel is located just outside of the main village in an area referred as the ‘Upper Village’. I actually prefer this location to the main village as it tends to be less crowded with tourists but is still walking distance to all of the shops and dining options.
The exterior of the hotel is… well…. dated, in my opinion. While once majestic, I feel it’s starting to look a bit like a 90’s castle, and maybe something Princess Peach would live in from Super Mario Brothers.
I was greeted by one of the friendly bell staff and directed inside for check-in. Brittany and I actually drove up together, with Brad meeting us later in the day when he was done work. On this trip, we were both travelling with our dogs, so we had a combined four (anxious) dogs in the car for the arrival process. We decided we would check-in separately while the other person stayed with the pooches.
The lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is beautiful, with soaring ceilings and rich wood accents. There is plenty of seating available, and the natural stone and wood create a welcoming alpine environment. I really appreciate a nice lobby, as it’s usually a good indicator of the overall hotel condition, and the first impression many guests will receive.
So far so good. There was a bit of a line in front of me but I was helped within about 10 minutes, which I consider acceptable given the size of the resort. While waiting, I heard multiple guests get the classic line:
‘housekeeping is just finishing up the final touches on your room, we will let you know as soon as the room becomes available’
So, it came as no surprise that when I checked in, the desk agent fed me the same line (it was around 2pm at this point, with normal check-in at 3pm). This is where things started to deteriorate.
Me: ‘I believe guaranteed early check-in is a benefit of Platinum status in The Fairmont President’s Club’
Agent: ‘No, early check-in is subject to availability. I’ll take you phone number and let you know as soon as it becomes available’
Me: ‘Hmmm I’m pretty sure it’s guaranteed noon check-in. Is there a a chance you’re confusing the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts benefit, which is indeed subject to availability?’
Agent: ‘No – it’s all subject to availability. We have no rooms right now.’
Starting a stay by arguing with the front desk agent about published benefits in the hotel loyalty program is never a good way to begin a trip. So instead of pushing, I politely asked if she could check with a supervisor, as I was pretty sure they would be able to accommodate us in a lesser room category. I explained that we just made a long drive, and the dogs were anxious to settle in (as were we). This front desk agent wasn’t very friendly, and actually almost a bit rude. Either way, I always find I get better results by keeping my cool and staying respectful, but firm. Sure enough, she came back and said they could put us in a Fairmont room until our Deluxe room became available (no suite upgrade – darn).
So, now about 25 minutes later, I’m back at the car and it’s Brittany’s turn to check-in. She comes out about 5-minutes later and says everything’s good to go, and she was upgraded to a Junior Suite. Say what now?! While I was happy for her fortune, I was a bit confused how someone who checked-in after me was treated to a generous upgrade, even though she doesn’t have status in the Fairmont President’s Club (Brad and I both have Platinum).
I went back in and waited for the same agent. Again, being as polite as I could, I asked how someone with top-tier status was told to wait for a room, while someone with a whopping one Fairmont stay on her profile was treated to a suite-upgrade and early check-in. She didn’t really seem to get what I was saying, and instead offered to have the front office manager speak to me. A nice young man, Alex, came out and explained that the room allocation had not been handled appropriately, and offered his apologies. He said they would still offer the Fairmont room for us to relax in, and he was able to find a recently renovated Alpine Suite for me and Brad, which would be available around 5pm.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler Alpine Suite
Brad arrived to the hotel shortly after our room becoming available, and I have to say it was worth the wait. While some of the basic rooms at this hotel can feel a bit too ‘mountain retreat’ (read: dated), the Alpine Suite is brand new, and features a new design aesthetic not found in most of the other rooms. At 600 square feet, the space feels large, though the ceilings felt a bit low. Hardwood flooring and stone remind you you’re in a ski resort, though the rest of the furniture felt a little bit generic, much like the Fairmont Olympic and Fairmont Empress felt post-rennovations.
The room opened into a small hallway with a closet on the right and bathroom entrance on the left. The closet was large enough, though the door was sticky and tough to open. Inside was space for luggage, a safe, and bathrobes.
The bathroom, like the rest of the room, had been completely renovated and felt quite nice. However, given this was a mid-range suite, I was surprised to see no deep soaking bath (especially after a long day of skiing or hiking), but rather a really large spa shower with more than enough room for two. My biggest pet peeve was the location of the toilet. It is literally the first thing you see when you open the door. While I understand not all bathrooms can feature a partitioned toilet, please at least put it around the corner or behind the door. I’m not an interior design expert, but I don’t think a toilet should be where your eye goes when you enter a washroom…. Apart from that, the space was nice, with lots of earthy tones and marble, and my favourite Le Labo Rose 31 bathroom amenities (in the larger bottles).
The main living area features a comfortable sofa with coffee table, and a nice gas fireplace below the wall mounted television. Because of the location on the top floors, the ceiling angles down, creating an intimate living space. Personally I prefer high ceilings, but felt it was kind of fitting in the mountain setting. It should be noted this room is better suited for couples or singles, as there isn’t actually a door separating the bedroom from the living room.
The welcome amenity we received was insane, with a selection of local chocolates and a bottle of red wine. While I’d like to think this was Platinum recognition, I believe there was a bit of service recovery from the front office manager, which was above and beyond considering the upgrade to the suite.
Views from the suite were just ok, featuring lots of greenery, lots of rooftops, and some mountains in the distance.
Housed beside the fireplace was the minibar, featuring a selection of overpriced snacks and beverages. There was also the typical coffee station and glassware you would expect to find in a luxury hotel. The minibar fridge is a sensor variety, with a stern warning that removing items for personal storage will result in a $20 restocking fee, which just feels petty.
I was shocked to find a Keurig coffee maker in a recently renovated suite at a luxury hotel. I don’t think I’m alone in saying not only is the ‘coffee’ disgusting, the plastic cups don’t seem environmentally friendly. The Fairmont Pacific Rim has Nespresso makers in all rooms, which I find a lot better.
The bedroom area features a large king bed with office desk near the window, which could easily double as a dining area for two people. There is also a chest of drawers in the corner with flat screen television. Linens and pillows were top quality, and the mattress was incredibly comfortable. Not sure how I feel about the blue accent wall, but I did like the dark hardwood floors throughout the suite.
The hotel knew we were brining our dogs along, and pet amenities were in the room on arrival (the hotel does charge a $25 fee for pets).
Brad and I both decided to get in-room dining for breakfast, which was included as part of our Fine Hotels and Resorts booking through our American Express Platinum Card. The breakfast was some of the best I’ve ever had, and arrived really quickly!
One of the highlights of the property is the pool area, which features a unique indoor/outdoor pool, along with lap pool, jacuzzi, and steam rooms (in the change rooms). We opted for a dip at night, which provided some nice views of the castle in the dark!
Apart from that, we didn’t use much of the services on this short stay. Brad and I did go to the Mallard Bar for a drink (we were provided a handful of drink vouchers for the mixup at check-in) and had a laughable experience. The server was nice enough, but it was pretty clear she was new (maybe her first day). She had no idea what was on the menu, and as we left, she admitted she was only working there for the ski benefits. I mean, that’s true of probably 90% of service workers in Whistler, but come on, practice some discretion. This is the root of the service problem in Whistler, and expectations should be set accordingly.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler Alpine Suite Bottom Line
Service issues aside, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is still one of the best hotels available, with a wide range of guest rooms perched at the base of one of North America’s best ski hills!
Things that I love about this hotel:
- Location in the Upper Village, away from the tourists but still walking distance to everything (The hotel has BMW car service on a first come, first served basis)
- Participation in The Fairmont President’s Club means potential for a lot of added value for Platinum members
- Participation in The American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts Program
- Full service pool is one of the best in Whistler
Things that I don’t love about this hotel:
- Service is good at best and not consistent (though this is a problem in Whistler, and probably much less noticeable here than at other hotels)
- Some of the rooms are quite dated
- Expensive (again, more of a Whistler problem)
- Pet fees
Overall, still a property I love, from a brand I’ve really come to value. Is it the best in Whistler? Maybe! Check back over the weekend to see my review of The Four Seasons Resort and Residences next door to find out!
Have you stayed at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler? Do you think it’s the best Whistler has to offer? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!