Local launches Whistler’s first Escape Room

DJ-turned-entrepreneur inspired by popularity of immersive games in Europe

It’s early evening. You and your family spent all day skiing then went for a nice dinner in the Village.

But now the day has taken a turn; you’re trapped on a ship, plotting to escape the on-board pirate jail so you can steal a map that will lead you to treasure and beat the bad guys to it.

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That scenario — or some version of it — is what throngs of tourists and locals have been experiencing since Escape Room opened its doors in Whistler on Boxing Day.

The real-life, interactive game uses props, clues and elaborate set design to immerse players in one of two (soon to be four) scenarios: the aforementioned pirate ship as well as the a lost tomb in which you search for a “priceless gold idol.” The buried cabin and rabbit hole are still under construction, said Kori Klusmeier (also known as Kori K), owner and creator of the new business.

“It’s like you’re in a live version of a video game, basically,” he said. “The whole point is to get people interacting together rather than sitting in front of a computer game… We opened on Boxing Day and we’ve been full pretty much every since.”

Klusmeier and his girlfriend Karen Mizukami were travelling around Europe last year when they noticed a trend. In every city they visited, some version of an escape room was listed as one of the highest-ranked activities to do. So, they went to a few.

“We were like this is a pretty cool idea and it’s something completely different for Whistler,” he said.

When they returned, they discovered a growing number of the rooms popping up in Vancouver as well. Klusmeier, who has been working as a DJ and producer in Whistler for the last 15 years, decided to give it a shot. “I think this is a perfect fit for Whistler because there are no indoor activities,” he said. “Whistler is the mecca for outdoor physical activities, but for people who aren’t into that, but want to go to Whistler — or underage kids who can’t get into the bar — it’s an activity you can add on to any other reason to being here. It takes up an hour of your day and it’s very affordably priced.”

Customers — around 70 per cent tourists and 30 per cent locals — have all raved about the experience, he added.

Players come in, choose a theme, have all their possessions stored away (so they can’t cheat) and are locked into a room for 45 minutes to solve a series of challenges. “We’ve tried to diversify the clues and puzzles, so it’s not one way of thinking,” Klusmeier said. “Sometimes it’ll be a physical thing — thinking, matching things, noticing small details. Each of the puzzles have been designed by us and are very unique.”

They’re also elaborate. “We’ve built everything by hand. Everything is custom built, painted, one of a kind,” he said.  

Business might be booming, but does Klusmeier worry escape rooms could be a passing trend? “I think everyone who starts a business has concerns whether it will fail or succeed,” he said. “I don’t spend my time wondering if it will fail or succeed; I spend my time making it the best I can.”

For more information visit escapewhistler.com.

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