"Ski cross," says Marielle Thompson, "is the most fun you can have on skis, maybe other than powder skiing." And she should know: Thompson is a two-time Canadian ski-cross champion, overall World Cup ski-cross champion and a strong contender to compete at the Winter Games in Sochi. "It's basically like playing around with friends like I used to – hitting all the little side jumps on the hill, racing past each other," she says about the sport (a four-person race down a course of rolls, banks and ridges), which made its debut at the Vancouver Olympics.
The 21-year-old athlete grew up in Whistler and she snapped on her first skis at age 2. Here she shares her favourite spots to send visitors in her hometown.
Crystal Ridge Express
"I am really looking forward to the new Crystal Ridge chair opening Dec. 7 because that's one of my favourite areas on Blackcomb Mountain. Some of those runs are so fun and there are lots of great natural features, especially if I go out on my ski-cross skis and just want to go fast. And on a powder day it's just as awesome. There are so many areas that stay nicely untracked you can go there throughout the day. Prior to this season, it's been a three-person chair and it was pretty slow. This summer they put in a four-person chair and moved the location, so it goes much further to open it up a bit. There are also really great waffles in the Crystal Hut, which is the little restaurant at the top." whistlerblackcomb.com/crystal
PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola
"Go up the mountain and check out the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola that connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains at the top. It's a quick way to get from one mountain to the other and it's also really scenic. I think it's 11 minutes across. Make sure you get a glass bottom one. You can't stand on it, but you can look through it. It's a really incredible view." whistler.com/gondola
Skating on Alta Lake
"I used to do a lot of figure skating when I was younger, so two places that are pretty close to me are skating at the Meadow Park Sports Centre, because it's a great facility, or once Alta Lake freezes. Lots of locals go out to Alta in the winter. There's pond hockey. My mom's expert opinion is that it freezes around Christmastime. It stays open if people make sure they shovel it the whole winter." whistler.com/ice_skating
"Crêpe Montagne in the Marketplace in Whistler village is really good. They have really great service and it's locally owned. I would usually go there for brunch, lunch or a treat. They have the most delicious crêpes. They have healthy ones made of buckwheat. They also have a dessert one with pears and chocolate. It's also really close to the Olympic Plaza, where in the summer we had a lot of free concerts, and that's where the Olympics rings are, so it's a good photo-op." 116-4368 Main St., crepemontagne.com
"There's a great locally owned bakery that started out at the Farmer's Market. It's called Purebread. It's really popular and they have tasty treats. I like going there after a tough workout and getting something to refuel me. Pretty much everything's delicious. I'd get a salted caramel bar, which is basically pure butter with chocolate. There are delicious cakes and really good coffee there as well." 1-1040 Millar Creek Rd., purebread.ca
This interview has been edited and condensed.