Whistler is Disney World for Skiers
We’ve made the Disney comment about other resorts but Whistler/Blackcomb really is like a fantasy land for skiers. Think of it as a ski-town on steroids—lots and lots of steroids. Beyond the two mountains—which are worldclass—Whistler Village is an international buffet of hotels, shops, and restaurants. There are also plenty of outfitters that can set you up with guided snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dogsledding, or even zip lining tours. For non-adventure seekers—there are day spas, a wide variety of local shops and restaurants. You can even visit the Audain Art Museum which hosts a visual history of artwork from coastal British Columbia. Folks may come here for the skiing but you’ll want to come back for everything else Whistler has to offer.
The locals will all tell you, “Winter isn’t even our busiest time of year.”
What we love about Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler and Blackcomb mountains together make up a massive ski area. Both have pros and cons but together you will not find a better resort that offers more terrain for every level of skier/snowboarder.
Whistler Mountain is bigger and the place you want to be when the weather is good. The Symphony, Harmony, and Peak Express chairs all go to the top of Whistler where you’ll find advanced/expert terrain. Flute Bowl, Whistler Bowl (before it gets tracked up), Bagel Bowl, and West Bowl are some of our favorites.
Blackcomb is great for inclement weather days because there are more tree and protected runs. On big snow days try the glade runs of 7th Heaven. If it’s really dumping head up the Showcase T-bar to Spanky’s Ladder. From there you can access the Blackcomb glacier and some gnarly chute runs. Intermediates will have fun on Hugh’s Heaven, Cloud 9, and Panorama off the top of 7th Heaven chair.
Beginners should stick to the Whistler side in the area around the Olympic Chair. There you’ll find a number of easy green runs (for beginners) as well as some blues (once you start to feel more confident).
There is something for everyone here and when it snows everything is off-the-hook. The only downside here is not having the legs to keep going because the terrain here seems endless. Throw in a little side/back-country—maybe even some heli-skiing—and there really is no limit to what you can experience here.
The food in Whistler Village is amazing and getting better all the time. You could spend weeks here and not eat at the same place twice. You’ll find everything from gourmet dining to mile high nachos all within walking distance to your hotel. Here are a few of our favorites.
The poutine at Brickworks is outstanding.
The meat pies from Peaked Pies are great comfort food—you have to try your pie “peaked” with mashed potatoes, smashed green peas, and a savory gravy.
The Red Curry Muscles at 21 Steps are amazing and the drinks are pretty swanky as well.
Brits will fin the Bangers & Mash at Dubh Linn Gate very satisfying along with your beer of choice—they’ve got plenty to choose from. The Fish & Chips aren’t bad either.
For those looking for something a little more sophisticated, tapas at Bar Oso is a nice refined way to spend an evening apres ski.
Head to La Cantina for a little more low-key apres ski with the kids. It’s a great little Mexican joint with a local feel and awesome food—the margaritas aren’t too shabby either.
There is an endless variety of apres-ski options here but these are some of our favorites.
Longhorn Saloon is right across from the base of the mountain and makes great meeting spot for skiers with tired legs. The music is typically cranked up to keep the energy flowing until your food and drinks arrive.
Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC) is just above the Whistler Gondola House and offers a bird’s eye view of the square. If the weather is nice, grab a seat on the patio for a front-row seat to the day.
Dubh Linn Gate is skier’s right to the Excalibur Gondola. This is the best spot to meet folks coming down from the Blackcomb side. The food is good and the beer is even better.
Zogs is the no-frills burger and poutine shack at the edge of the skier’s square. It’s a great spot to meet for a quick bite before heading up the mountain. This is your best bet for staying on the go.
Merlin’s and/or Mallard Lounge and Terrace on the Blackcomb side is a great place to take a load off and have a beer or two. You can always catch a shuttle to the village if decide to stay for another.
Dusty’s Bar by the Creekside gondola is also a pretty good spot to trade in your skis for a beer and a burger.
If you’re hanging with the kids, we recommend heading for the hotel pool/hot tub but not before grabbing a scoop or two at Cow’s Ice Cream (try the brownie explosion). The ice cream will satisfy the kids and the hot tub will do wonders for your sore muscles.
Fun for the Whole Family
Whistler is definitely a family-friendly vacation spot. They have amazing ski schools as well as day-care services. Ski schools equip all students with GPS trackers so no-one will get lost on the mountain. The instructors are supportive and keep the kids well entertained.
There is also a wide assortment of kid-friendly zones such as The Tree House on Whistler mountain, The Magic Castle on Blackcomb mountain, and the Olympic Plaza in the Village. These are like little play areas where kids can feel safe and moms and dads can catch their breath before the kids are on the move again. There’s also tubing, skating, zip-lining, and much more to keep the little ones entertained.
You’ll also find plenty of family-sized accommodations here. They have everything from two-bedroom suites with a kitchen, to condos, to large family homes. There are two village groceries, a pharmacy, and everything from pizza to KFC.
Free Mountain Tour
Mid-December thru April Whistler and Blackcomb offer daily guided tours for folks looking to get a handle on which part of the mountain is best suited to their abilities. We love it because: (1) It’s free; (2) There is so much terrain at Whistler/Blackcomb that it’s easy to get lost; and (3) It’s a great way to get local tips on where to find the best conditions for the day or a side-country stash of fresh powder.
For an extra $25 (Canadian) you can be among the first skiers/riders on the mountain. This special ticket includes a huge buffet breakfast at the Roundhouse Lodge and a full hour of skiing before anyone else gets on the mountain. Be ready—when they call, “Runs are open.” you’ll want to head straight to the Emerald Express or the Big Red Express to catch a lift to the top. Note: Don’t stay out too late the night before. Fresh Track ticket holders start heading up the mountain at 7:15 in the morning.
There is so much to do in Whistler you need at least a week but 10 days would be perfect. Obviously, skiing/snowboarding is the number one activity but unless your an athlete in training, you won’t have the legs to go every day. Give yourself a break. Go snowshoeing, or snowmobiling, or dog sledding, or maybe just relax and go for a spa day. After your rest day, go really BIG! Sign up for some cat-skiing—better yet, sign up to go heli-skiing for the day. Too much? Try your hand at cross-country skiing. Too slow for you? Try bob-sledding. …Don’t even get us started on summer activities.
Both of these cities are so close you can work them in as a bonus side-trip. Vancouver is two hours down the mountain and Seattle is only three. If you’re planning to fly in or out of either, give yourself a few extra days to explore.
What to Expect
Snow conditions can be wet and heavy at times—similar to Tahoe. The bowls above the treeline get more consistent snow with drier powdery conditions. Snowfall is pretty consistent year after year so it’s almost always a safe bet for great conditions. If you’re looking to hit some powder days, book your travel late December through early March. This is the peak of the winter season so book well in advance to get the best rates.
If you’re looking for a deal or maybe just to avoid the rush of peak season travelers, try booking during the shoulder seasons. It’s generally less crowded and there is often still a good chance of new snow in the forecast.
Snowboarders should be prepared to do some traversing to get to different parts of the mountain. You’ll also have to contend with some t-bar lifts (not fun on a snowboard) to get to the top of Blackcomb from Glacier Express. We suggest bringing a set of collapsible poles to help you with traverses and flatter sections of trail. Better yet—demo a split board and make your way out to a few side-country runs.
There are a lot of options in Whistler. They have everything from 5-star boutique hotels to slopeside condos—there are even a few hostels. We suggest taking a look at the Whistler Village Map the help you decide on where you’d like to stay. Convenience and proximity to the village and the gondolas will play a big part in your decision making. After that, it may come down to amenities (hot tub, heated pools, spas, kitchenettes, etcetera). You really can’t go wrong by just picking something that fits your budget and has the amenities you want. If you need help, give us a call at EndlessTurns.
Whistler really comes alive at night—especialy during the peak season. If you’re looking for a night out in the village, pick up a copy of Piqued Magazine and ask a local for the best tips on what to do while you’re in town. There are typically a few spots that are called out on specific days of the week.
For drinks, we like 21 Steps. It has an upscale feel with hipster bartenders and a “rat pack” vibe—try the Winter Old Fashioned.
Check out Brandy’s at the Keg, Maxx Fish, Garfinkel’s, or Moe Joe’s for the DJ club scene
We like Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC) or Brickworks for live music in a fun relaxed atmosphere
Best time to go: November-May
Best time to book: July -September
Travel time: 6hrs from NYC/ 5hrs from Chicago (plus 2 hrs for transfer from Vancouver)
Top Elevation: 7,165 feet
Annual Snowfall: 440+ in
Vertical drop: 5,279 feet
Resort terrain: 8,171 acres (15-20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25-30% advanced/expert)