Photo credit: Destination BC
Complete Guide to Whistler
With more than two million visitors per year flocking to its seemingly endless skiable terrain, Whistler is as legendary for its après-ski scene as it is for its on-snow cred. And thanks to the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, Vancouver’s sister to the north also boasts improved accessibility and some sparkly new attractions. Of course, Whistler is a four-season destination, so if you’re planning a visit outside of the ski season, visit out our Whistler Day Trip page.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to plan a winter weekend mountain getaway to Whistler.
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort
Rival resorts Whistler and Blackcomb merged in 1997, creating one giant ski destination with the most skiable terrain of any resort in North America. When you’re standing at the resort’s base looking up at the peaks, Whistler Mountain is on the right, and Blackcomb is on the left. This huge amount of terrain — 3,300 astounding hectares (8,100 acres) — means unbeatable diversity, from beginners to experts. Plus, snowboarders can make like Shaun White at one of Whistler Blackcomb’s five terrain parks.
More than 11 metres (459 inches) of snow fall at Whistler Blackcomb on average each winter, and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect waist-deep powder after a huge dump. But even when the West Coast isn’t getting pounded with fluffy white stuff, the resort’s expanded snowmaking capabilities (thanks to the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games) mean visitors to Whistler Blackcomb will still enjoy a deep base and extended season. Another Olympic boon? The Superpipe at the Nintendo Terrain Park. Or, of course, you can test your schussing or riding prowess on the Dave Murray Downhill and Women’s Course on Whistler Mountain, where the world’s top speed demons earned their medals in 2010.
Lest you think skiing and boarding is all there is to do here, hop aboard a snowmobile, snow cat, dog sled or horse-drawn sleigh for a special tour around the alpine landscape. Another option for non-skiers: The Whistler Blackcomb tubing park, with multiple lanes and a lift assist to get you right back up to the top to do it all again!
Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
A true winter sports paradise, Whistler’s cross-country skiing is the resort’s little secret. Known for its spectacular downhill runs, Whistler’s Nordic skiing options are experiencing a real rise in popularity. With 160 kilometres (99 miles) of trails that wind around lakes, alpine forests and take in spectacular views, this is the perfect place to spend some time in the winter environment. Most trails are open from December through until March, and some trails are lit for evening adventures. Lost Lake Park, just a short walk from the Village is a great starting point, while Whistler Olympic Park offers cross country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as biathlon, baseboarding and tobogganing.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola
In 2008, traversing between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains changed forever with the opening of the record-setting Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Stretching 4.4 kilometres (2.73 miles) from Whistler to Blackcomb, the gondola delivers you to a new snow-capped peak in just 11 minutes. It also boasts the world’s longest unsupported span, and at 436 metres (0.3 miles) above the valley floor, it is the highest lift of its kind. If you can manage, snag a spot aboard either of the two silver trams: both have glass floors and provide dizzyingly awesome views.
Most visitors to Whistler will find themselves in Whistler Village, the quaint pedestrian-only neighbourhood at the base of the mountains is where you’ll find hotels, restaurants, and shopping congregated. The Village has earned praise from everyone from architects to ski magazines and it’s easy to see why. Two feet are all most people need to get around, with gondolas and lifts just steps from most hotel rooms, and plenty of places to grab a bite, indulge in a spa treatment, or enjoy an après-ski tipple in between.
There’s also no shortage of off-mountain activities to keep you busy (think yoga studios, a movie cinema, indoor rock walls and tennis courts). If you have only a day and want to see as much as possible while expending as little energy as possible, consider an escorted, full-day sightseeing tour from Vancouver, which will take care of getting you too and from Whistler, along with time in the Village.
Whistler-Style Après Ski
What would a day on the slopes be without a little après? With a multitude of bars, restaurants and lounges within walking distance of both the lifts and your hotel room, the après-ski scene in Whistler is hard to beat. You don’t even have to change out of your ski boots before heading into the most popular slope-side joints, where you can unwind after tearing up the ski trails all day.
Just a two-hour car ride from Vancouver will land you in Whistler’s mountain paradise via Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway. If you’d rather not get behind the wheel yourself, board a scheduled bus service from either downtown Vancouver or Vancouver International Airport. When you arrive, everything you need is easily accessible by foot. For more information on getting to Whistler from Vancouver, visit our Whistler Day Trip page.