Whether you’re a seasoned skier or not, everyone’s heard of Whistler. This is one of the biggest – and perhaps the best, judging by its annual No.1 awards – ski resorts in the world. The twin peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains together make the Whistler Blackcomb ski area. Thanks to its lively pedestrian village, its stunning setting and more than 11m of annual snowfall, Whistler is an incredible place to ski and easily rivals the American Rockies or the Alps.
If you’re thinking of visiting this superb, world-leading resort, then brush up on your knowledge with our Whistler ski guide. Here’s why skiing in Whistler could be your next favourite holiday…
Where is Whistler?
Whistler is located on British Columbia’s west coast in its Coast Mountains, just a 90-minute drive from Vancouver. Vancouver has direct flights from several UK airports, which means Whistler is really easy to access. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is no chore either – it follows Highway 99 which is also known as the Sea to Sky Highway. It’s a renowned driving route with incredible mountain and ocean views.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to Whistler is to fly direct from the UK into Vancouver, which is around a 9 ½ hour flight. You can then hop on one of the many shuttle buses from the airport which have regular daily schedules throughout the season. The comfortable coaches have free WiFi on board and stop off at all the Whistler Village hotels.
If you fancy doing some exploring as well as skiing, you can also hire a car from Vancouver Airport. This is a great choice to combine sightseeing into your ski holiday. However, if you’re planning on staying in Whistler Village then there’s no need for a car as the town is pedestrianised.
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort
The two mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb together make up the biggest ski area in North America. You’ll be spoilt for choice in this vast terrain, where you’ll still be finding new runs after a week’s holiday. Its location in the Pacific Coast Mountain Range doesn’t just make it pretty – the weather system here means Whistler enjoys a huge amount of snow each year with regular fresh powder dumps.
The resort has an excellent ski school and abundance of green runs so it’s very welcoming for families and for beginner skiers and riders. The high open bowls offer endless possibilities if you’re an intermediate skier or rider. And of course, there is plenty of challenging terrain, diamond runs, backcountry and heli-skiing for advanced skiers to take advantage of. It’s a true all-rounder resort. Whistler mountain tends to be the busier of the two and it’s here that you’ll find the majority of ski lessons and kids’ groups. Blackcomb Mountain is quieter.
Ski area – 8,171 acres
Elevation – 650m to 2,285m
Pistes – 20% beginner, 55% intermediate, 25% advanced
Terrain parks – 3 on Blackcomb, 2 on Whistler with 1 halfpipe, 90 rails and 40+ jumps
Season – November to May
5-day lift pass – From $459 CAD
The Peak2Peak Gondola
One of the most impressive features of the ski resort is the Peak2Peak Gondola. This Guinness World Record-breaking gondola spans the 3km (1.9 miles) between the peak of Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, which enables both mountains to part of the same resort and be skied on the same lift pass. It’s a fantastic trip in itself, with epic views of peaks and alpine forests.
Where to stay in Whistler
Whistler is blessed with dozens of top-notch hotels with a few different village areas to choose from. Whether you like it lively and bustling or quiet and secluded, you’ll find somewhere to suit.
This is the true heart of the resort. Whistler Village is fully pedestrianised and is packed full of shops, restaurants and galleries. It’s an incredibly friendly, welcoming and lively centre to stay in. If you book a hotel here, you’ll be the closest to the gondolas.
This little village is just a 5-minute drive from the main village and makes a charming alternative. The area has been revitalised with its own restaurants and shops, so it has a good balance of village bustle without the crowds.
Upper Village nestles at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. It’s close to the main Village and to Lost Lake but feels wonderfully secluded and alpine. The weekly farmers’ market can be found here. If you’re thinking of staying here, bear in mind that the Upper Village only has access to Blackcomb Mountain and you’ll need to take the Peak2Peak Gondola to access Whistler.
Centred around a market plaza and just a short walk away from the main Village, Village North is home to the new Whistler Olympic Plaza which hosts vibrant events throughout the year.
Where to eat in Whistler
Whether you’re grabbing lunch on the mountain or heading into town for dinner, Whistler is well-stocked when it comes to eateries. Here are a few favourites:
On the mountain
Christine’s is inside the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain so is easy to get to if you’re hopping on the Peak2Peak. The panoramic views are amazing, as is the menu and wine list. Expect rich and hearty dished like braised beef cheek, albacore tuna and Keralan fish curry.
Starters from $18
Mains from $28
Steep’s Grill is in Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain. Dine at 1,850m on farm-to-table dishes like seared scallop, mac and cheese and braised shortrib.
Starters from $14
Mains from $22
Sushi Village in Whistler Village is one of many sushi bars in the resort, but it’s one of the best. It serves fresh sushi and sashimi with a good selection of soups, noodles and hot dishes too.
Starters from $3
Mains from $7
The Old Spaghetti Factory may be a chain, but it’s friendly, reliable and good for families. They serve up homely pasta dishes as well as ribs and chicken from the grill.
Starters from $6.95
Mains from $11.25
Araxi is regularly voted the best restaurant in Whistler. It boasts a refined, seasonally-sourced menu which revolves around seafood. Its oysters are world-class.
Starters from $14.50
Mains from $29.50
Rimrock Café, unlike the others on our list, in located in Creekside rather than Whistler Village. They too have a great range of seafood dishes but the menu also includes duck, lamb, elk and venison.
Starters from $17
Mains from $36
Best Après in Whistler
One of the most winning elements of a skiing holiday in Whistler is the incredible après ski on offer. If the town is known for one thing besides its powder snow, it’s the fun vibe. Après varies from chilled wine bars to vibrant clubs, so you can wind down or crank up the evening as appropriate.
The Garibaldi Lift Co. has been rated one of North America’s best après bars by SKI magazine. No wonder, then, that it’s a perennial favourite. Situated above the Whistler gondola building, it has some of the best views of skiers and riders ripping down the slopes. It is known for its large patios, picture windows and sleek style which blends lounge, bar and club into one.
Merlin’s Bar & Grill, by contrast, leaves style at the door. Instead, this laidback, cabin-style bar at the base of Whistler Mountain leads the way with beer on tap and dancing on the tables. Think towering plates of nachos, live music and loud partying.
Best spas in Whistler
After a long day on the slopes using muscles you didn’t know you had, there’s no better way to unwind than by treating yourself to an indulgent spa. Whistler is known for its fantastic options, where a hot pool in the snow is the resort’s pièce de résistance.
Scandinave Spa is one of the best-known and most luxurious in the town. It perches overlooking the Lost Lake Park and is surrounded by fragrant, snow-capped spruce and cedar forest. A series of hot pools wend their way down the mountainside, with eucalyptus steam baths, wood-burning saunas, Nordic waterfalls and icy plunge pools all on offer.
The Spa at Nitka Lake Lodge focuses on wellness. From rooftop hot tubs to hot stone massages and rejuvenating body scrubs, the order of the day here is mind and spirit relaxation.
The Spa at the Four Seasons hotel is a good choice for indulgent beauty treatments and massages.
Other winter activities in Whistler
Whether you want to branch out on your holiday or are travelling in a group with non-skiers, there are plenty of winter activities on offer in Whistler. The pristine snowy outdoors is good for a lot more besides skiing and snowboarding.
The Coca Cola Tube Park is a totally fun alternative to skiing down those snowy slopes. It’s perfect for kids and adults alike and is a great way to get the whole family together. Simply grab an inflatable ring and slide down the mountain for the most fun you’ve had in years.
The Coast Mountains really are beautiful, and Whistler is surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Soar higher than the peaks for views of Black Tusk mountain, the Cheakamus Glacier and Garibaldi Provincial Park. You can even land on a glacier and talk a walk over the ancient ice giant.
Ziptrek’s Ecotours take you on a high-ropes adventure through a network of ziplines and suspension bridges. Not only will you soar over the mountains, you’ll also learn about the ecology of the area.
A guided tour on a snowmobile puts you behind the wheel to get out and about in those beautiful landscapes.
Walk through snow-muffled alpine forests for a truly magical experience. It’s a great way to spot wildlife as you travel quietly.
Snuggle up in a blanket-lined sled or mush your own team on a dog sledding adventure. The ride is exhilarating, the hot chocolate sweet and meeting the pups is unforgettable.