Whistler resort guide
One of the world’s most famous ski resorts, Whistler is the proud host of North America’s biggest mountain, with runs to suit all standards of skier; and an attractive, modern resort bursting with shops, bars and restaurants.
Voted the best ski resort in North America 8 years in a row, Whistler lies around 120km from Vancouver and is home to two spectacular mountains: Whistler and Blackcomb. Purpose-built over the years, Whistler itself is an attractive modern resort which invested heavily in hotels and ski lifts as host of the 2010 Olympics. Although the base village is large, it is bustling and lively as it’s largely car-free, allowing you to wander around the abundance of amenities with ease; shops, bars and restaurants are plentiful - if you can tear yourself away from the superb slopes, high open bowls and fabulous tree-runs!
Whistler’s close proximity to Vancouver means it can get busy at weekends, but with no need for connecting flights to get to the resort, and short transfers, it makes a fantastic alternative to European skiing. Its maritime climate can cause fluctuation in temperature and snow conditions, resulting in huge snow dumps and freezing conditions alternating with spells of mild weather and softer snow, though skiing conditions remain good on the top slopes. The best snow conditions tend to occur in January and February, whilst Spring brings longer days on the slopes and more sunshine.
Resort facts and figures
Resort altitude 675m
Highest point 2284m
Average annual snowfall 10.22m
Ski areas 2 mountains: Whistler and Blackcomb
Pistes 8171 acres
Pistes available Beginner: 20%, Intermediate: 55%, Advanced: 25%
Best for All levels, and some of the best off-piste skiing in the world.
On the mountain
Large above-the-treeline open bowls, wonderful tree runs, cruising terrain, glacier skiing, chutes and gullies, backcountry guiding and fabulous heliskiing. With two spectacular mountains to enjoy, many call Whistler the best skiing in North America. Blackcomb is best for endless runs that follow the fall line straight down the mountain's western slope. Whistler’s north-facing trails are less affected by the weather and provide snow-sure skiing on warmer days. Both mountains offer top-to-bottom skiing and a dazzling range of terrain. In addition, the ski area has 5 parks, 1 Super Pipe, and 1 Snow Cross Track over 80 acres, and over 100 rails and tabletops. There’s enough exciting terrain here to keep experts happy for weeks on end, whilst intermediates will love the whole mountain, too. For beginners there are decent nursery slopes, and marked gentle runs best skied in fair weather. Blackcomb tends to be slightly quieter and therefore it is great for competent skiers wanting to just explore. Whistler Blackcomb mountain also offers free guiding, which is great on the first day of your holiday to get your bearings.
Like many North American resorts, Whistler has larger self-service restaurants rather than mountain huts - 17 with a total of 6,540 restaurant seats. Although they are self-service, they still have a wide variety of cuisines and they are all excellent for a quick snack or a longer lunch. Most people choose to have an early lunch due to the lifts closing mid-afternoon so do be aware of queues at peak times. If you are after a more upmarket mountain lunch with table service, there is Christine's on Blackcomb mountain, or you can ski down to Sushi Village in Whistler village. For a delicious mid-morning snack, try the enormous cream and berry waffles at the Crystal Hut log cabin on Blackcomb, at the top of the Crystal Ridge chair.
Whistler has a large array of activities to offer non-skiers. There are several luxury spas and sports centres, but if you are after something different, then why not try the Tube park, which is fabulous for children and adults alike, and is a great deal of fun. There are also plenty of Canadian activities to enjoy such as snowshoeing, sleigh rides, dog sledding, snowmobiling, ziplining. Head to the Nordic centre to try some cross-country skiing (popular with the locals!) or take an excursion to Squamish to see the eagles, or even a day-trip to Vancouver.
Après, dining and nightlife
Whistler is very lively from après-ski time onwards, with a wide range of pubs, sports bars, cocktail bars and clubs to choose from. After a long day’s skiing head for the Garibaldi Lift Company and the Longhorn at the bottom of Whistler mountain or Merlin's at the base of Blackcomb for drinks, nachos and big-screen sports. The Dubh Linn Gate has live Irish music every afternoon and evening plus a good choice of whisky and draft beer. A classier drinking alternative would be the Mallard Bar in the Chateau Whistler, the Four Seasons, or the cigar bar at the Bear Foot Bistro. For eating out, there’s plenty on offer, including Italian, seafood, Asian, Japanese and classic American – there is plenty to choose from and you can easily eat out every night in a different eatery. After dinner the young and trendy will dance the night away at Tommy Africa, Maxx Fish and the Savage Beagle, while Buffalo Bill's is the nightclub of choice for the over-30s.
Family and ski school
Whistler is very welcoming for families, with copious amounts of flexible ski school options, child-friendly activities throughout the resort, and day-care services for infants. There’s a family ski zone on Whistler Mountain while the Magic Castle on Blackcomb and Tree Fort on Whistler provide fantastic adventure play areas to develop children’s skiing skills and increase their confidence. Teenagers will love the Ride Tribe programmes and free weekly Fire and Ice shows with DJs and plenty of stunts.
The ski school and guides in Whistler are excellent– groups are small, and as well as instruction, you’ll be shown around the mountain, perhaps discovering runs you’d never have found otherwise. In addition to individual and group lessons, the Ski Esprit programme offers five days of guided instruction, and the Max 4 lessons are new group lessons for only 4 people. Extremely Canadian holds two-day, steep skiing clinics for intermediates and advanced which are highly rated. Because of the fantastic off-piste opportunities, there are superb guides available to help you make the most of it. Backcountry tours and heliskiing are available too for the more advanced.