Whistler-Blackcomb is the world’s most stylish ski resort – although it’s actually two ski resorts, connected by a picturesque pedestrian village home to over 90 restaurants and bars. You can also catch the world’s highest gondola (the Peak 2 Peak) between the two mountains.
When combined together, Whistler-Blackcomb is North America’s largest ski resort (and is the biggest in the world outside Europe) – home to three glaciers, 37 lifts, 12 alpine bowls, 200 marked trails and a staggering 3300 hectares of skiable terrain. And that’s just what you can find on the mountain – off it, Whistler-Blackcomb offers more off-piste activities than any other ski resort.
The resort is approximately 83 miles away from Vancouver making Vancouver International Airprt (YVR) the best place to fly into if you’re taking a flight. From Vancouver you have a few options that can bring you to Whistler-Blackcomb.
Various providers offer shuttles which take approximately 3 hours, this can be a great option if you plan on staying at the resort for your stay. If you may go exploring then renting a car might be your best option, it’s also much quicker taking closer to two hours. If you’re feeling fancy you can also have a limo take you to the resort and show up in style.
Best Time To Go
Well, it depends what you’re looking for. If you want to soak up the best après ski atmosphere on the planet, nothing beats Christmas and New Year’s Eve at Whistler-Blackcomb, although be prepared for queues at the chairlifts and gondolas. You’ll want to book far ahead for restaurants and remember hotels are at their highest premiums during this period. If your concern is the snow, Whistler-Blackcomb is one of the best bets in Canada for early season snow – if you’re looking to escape the crowds and snare ski season opening specials, head over in early December. A ski trip January to March will give you the best chance for fresh snowfall – with February traditionally being the best month for powder. Mid-January can be a great time for a trip to Whistler – the snow is consistent and the majority of the crowds leave after the first two weeks of January which means shorter lines. February and early March will offer great conditions but keep in mind these are popular times. Spring Break vacation times for both American and Canadian schools and colleges in early March can get very busy. Whistler-Blackcomb often receives a lot of snow in April when it’s warmer – by then crowds have gone and accommodation and lift tickets are heavily discounted. Not to mention Spring skiing lends the opportunity to shed layers and hit the slopes in a tee shirt.
Best Things To Do
While the skiing options at Whistler-Blackcomb are enough to keep any skier satisfied for a week (without doing the same run twice) there’s much more on offer. For the thrill seekers looking to go heli-skiing, there are three heli-ski operators around the Whistler-Blackcomb area. The largest, Whistler Heli-Ski, will give you access to 175,000 hectares of exclusive terrain.
Cat skiing is also available, with two operators in the Whistler area offering terrain just 20 minutes away that receives double, even triple the amount of snowfall as the resort. Conveniently, all operators will pick you up from your hotel or other accommodation.
There are so many activities off the ski slopes that about a one-fifth of all visitors to Whistler don’t even ski! There’s everything here from ziptrek ecotours which allow you to fly across mountains on a zipline, to snowcat tours that take you to the top of the mountain for a rustic fondue dinner. You also have helicopter sight-seeing tours, snowshoe tours, and snowmobiling tours through Whistler-Blackcomb’s extensive backcountry.
Snowtubing remains a favorite among kids and for those looking to relax the Scandinave Spa – a Nordic-inspired outdoor spa built in a spruce and cedar forest beside a lake just outside Whistler Village that includes a wood-burning Finnish sauna.
Since the Winter Olympics were held in Whistler in 2010, you can emulate your favorite athletes at Whistler’s Olympic Centre: why not throw yourself downhill at frightening speeds on the bobsled? If you’re in the shopping mood you can check out over 200 unique stores across Whistler’s three villages – from art galleries to fine jewelery stores and fashion boutiques, heck, there’s even a Cuban Cigar store.
Visitors may well come for the skiing, but they return for the après ski scene. Slope-side bars with outdoor seating and close-up mountain views play live music every afternoon out in the Canadian sunshine.
Whistler has some of the best dining and nightlife options in the entire province of British Columbia with everything from $2 pizzas at the Glacier Creek Lodge to eight-course degustation dining at one of Canada’s most decorated restaurants, Araxi, the pioneer of farm-to-table dining in western Canada.
With its cosmopolitan pedestrian-only village square just below the slopes, Whistler is a magnet for every skier who likes to party. Straight after skiing order from the martini menu or enjoy a beer while watching skiers take to the slopes around you at The Garibaldi Lift Company Bar & Grill (the GLC). It’s consistently rated North America’s best après bar by Ski Magazine. It’s open to the wee hours and attracts world-famous DJs, where skiers still in their boots take to the dance floor.
Merlin’s Bar & Grill at the base of Blackcomb mountain is another local’s favorite – local rock bands play free-of-charge in this laid-back mountain cabin, while Dusty’s Bar has been a local hang-out since 1965 and has the sunniest patio in Whistler.
The après ski options don’t quit there, Whistler has over 90 restaurants and bars. You could spend weeks at Whistler-Blackcomb and not see the same venue twice. The people watching is legendary at the pedestrian-only village square and fine dining options are everywhere. The best Italian in western Canada is at Caminetto di Umberto, while the fish and game at the Rim Rock Café is to die for. Tasting tours are offered that take visitors to the the best restaurants in the village.
Late night revelers will get their thrills at over 30 bars, lounges and nightclubs – there’s everything here from suave cocktail and lounge bars in five-star resorts like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler (the Mallard Lounge feels like a movie set) to local’s party nights at nightclubs such as Garfinkel’s, Tommy Africa’s and Maxx Fish.
The Best Winter Events
Whistler-Blackcomb has more events every week of the winter than any other ski resort in the world. Each Sunday night from December 18, the best freestyle skiers and snowboarders catch some crazy air on huge jumps just above the village square. These jumps send the pros through burning rings of fire at Whistler-Blackcomb’s Fire & Ice Show, followed by a fireworks display.
Earlier in the season, foodies have the opportunity to sample British Columbia’s best produce at the 20th Annual Cornucopia Festival from 10-20 November, the 16th annual Whistler Film Festival will be held from 30 November to 4 December, screening the best Canadian and international films and documentaries.
The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival turns 25 in January – and will feature parties, comedy shows and the best apres from 22-29 January while the biggest party of the year will be held from April 7 to 16 with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival – a 10 day celebration of music, arts and sports held in the warmer, sunnier months of Spring.