December 29, 2009 | Tips from Travellers >
Harrison Hot Springs, Spas & Wellness
View a larger image on flickr.com
Boisterous Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort publicizes itself as an official venue for February's 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, but visitors seeking a calmer experience may find its "older sister" resort at Harrison village a nice alternative.
Sprawled on the shore of southwestern British Columbia's Harrison Lake, the hundred-year-old hotel and adjacent mineral baths was offering cocktails and spa treatments to bathrobed movie stars when the upstart ski municipality of Whistler, BC was still just a shack on a cattle path.
Historically, the scalding "St. Alice's Well" waters gushed into Harrison Lake at a torrential rate and carried huge quantities of dissolved, "healthful" minerals. It was a tempting scenerio for 1890s era speculators and bathers. Over time the "health spa" expanded to become more of a "pleasure resort." Liquor distributor Seagram assumed ownership in the mid-1950s, possibly due to the growing fame of The Copper Room. Prime ministers (Mackenzie King), presidents (John F. Kennedy), kings (King of Siam) and movie stars (Clark Gable) snuck away to Harrison's dine-and-dance room for time away from the limelight — sometimes mingling with surprised locals on the dance floor.
Nowadays, the resort is still part Hollywood supper club, part Tropicana spa and part rustic lodge. It remains —as one staffer told me— "A place where movie stars can feel like regular people; and regular people can feel like movie stars."
Fans of ski sports may rush to Whistler's mountains in 2010 for a piece of Olympic action, but for a quieter experience, I prefer to get chin-deep in a natural hot spring, sip a cocktail and share gossip about movie stars.
(Photo: St. Alice Hotel - circa 1890's)