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Will’s Guide to Whistler – A Complete Insider’s Guide to Whistler Blackcomb

Will’s Guide to Whistler – A Complete Insider’s Guide to Whistler Blackcomb

If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you’re either thinking about a trip to Whistler, you’re already in the midst of planning one or you just love to read about some of the best winter destinations. Well, if that’s the case, firstly I want to say, ‘good for you’. Secondly, I want to say, ‘’can I come to?’

Whistler is one of those places in the world that’s existence is almost unfathomable because of its sheer beauty. And yet it does exist, and thankfully we get to experience it in all its glory. Rightfully, as North America’s largest resort, it is high up on the bucket list for any avid skier or snowboarder.

However, Whistler is not for the faint-hearted. Whether you’re trying to navigate the 200+ runs on over 8000 acres of terrain, the near 12m of average snow, or simply trying to navigate the walk home from the pub, Whistler has the potential to chew you up and spit you out faster than you can say, ‘go Canucks!’.

But fear not! Because upon your completion of this blog, you will have knowledge of all the tips and tricks needed to prepare you for Whistler, brought to you by a former Whistler resident – me (Will)! I spent close to two years in Whistler, skiing, adventuring, drinking, and working through multiple seasons which has given me ample amounts of recommendations and forewarnings to pass on to you lucky readers.

So, grab a coffee, sit back, and enjoy my ultimate guide to Whistler.

Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort - At a Glance


Key Information


Average Snowfall -11.9 m / 467 in / 38.9 ft per year on summit (10-year average)

Total Terrain -3,307 hectares / 8,171 acres

Trails -200+

Whistler Village Elevation -675 m / 2,214 ft

Number of Lifts -36

Hourly Lift Capacity -69,939

Mountain Restaurants -18

Statistic Whistler Mountain Blackcomb Mountain

Vertical

5,020 ft / 1,530 m

5,280 ft / 1,609 m

Top Elevation

7,160 ft / 2,182 m

7,494 ft / 2,284 m

Skiable Terrain

4,757 acres / 1,925 hectares

3,414 acres / 1,382 hectares

Terrain Type (beg, int, adv)

20% / 55% / 25%

15% / 55% / 30%

Trails

100+

100+

Parks, Pipes and Snowcross

4 parks

4 parks, 1 halfpipe, 1 snow cross track

Longest Run

11 kilometers / 7 miles
Peak to Creek

11 kilometers / 7 miles
Green Road down Easy Out

Snowmaking

127 hectares / 315 acres

156 hectares / 382 acres

Top Things to Consider When Visiting Whistler



When Is the Best Time to Visit Whistler


Choosing the right week or month to travel to this adventure destination can make or break your trip, as it could spell significant differences in price and crowds. It’s important to establish what you want to get out of your trip and plan accordingly – is it the best snow, small crowds, great atmosphere?

Early season November - early December is a cheaper option that is great when it pays off with smaller lift lines and snow falling hard and fast in good years.
Christmas through the first two weeks of January are notoriously busy but bring a great atmosphere to the village. Be prepared to wait in lift lines upwards of an hour and pay a premium.

Mid-January through March will bring the coldest weather and (usually) the best snow. You can plan around the holiday crowds, and there is usually enough good snow and terrain for everyone.
April into Mayoften still has good snow and can even bring new snow. Mix this in with regular bluebird days, small crowds and great deals, and this time can be one of the best periods to travel to Whistler. Bring your sunscreen.

June to August Don’t sleep on the Summer months! This is one of the best times to be at Whistler. Temperatures soar and with the sun out as late as 10pm, days can be spent in the world-famous Whistler Bike Park, hiking, camping, swimming in the surrounding lakes and much more.



Key Events At Whistler


There are a few key events that come to Whistler which you might like to see or participate in but remember they will often bring large crowds.

Whistler Pride and Ski Festival (January) – One of the biggest and best gay and lesbian ski weeks in North America. A week of non-stop activities on and off the slope.

World Ski and Snowboard Festival (April) – A festival celebrating Whistler’s unique mountain culture full of snowsports, outdoor concerts and non-stop nightlife.

Whistler Film Festival (December) - Canada’s Coolest Film Fest celebrates 20 years in 2020 with virtual film premieres, filmmaker and talent talks, and industry initiatives over 20 days.

For a full list of signature events click here.

Times to Avoid Visiting Whistler

There are also times to avoid that will bring large crowds from both the US and Vancouver.

These include: Christmas, Spring Break, MLK weekend, Easter, and any other kind of holiday. If you don’t want your trip to be ruined by loud, drunken college kids or huge lift lines, check the dates before you book!


Accommodation and Best Places to Stay in Whistler



Whistler’s fatal flaw is that it’s so good, everyone wants to go there. Whistler attracts around 3 million visitors every year! Booking accommodation can be a nightmare and you should get it organised early. There are various options around the village that give you different access to different parts of the resort. Remember,Whistler Resort encompasses two mountains - Whistler and Blackcomb. Both mountains can easily be accessed from the main village, so staying close to the main drag may be a priority for some.

 

There are several different accommodation options in the main village at varying prices so do some research to see which one will best fit your needs and budget.

Pro Tip: A relatively new (and cheap) option for the budget conscious is the Pangea Pod Hotel which is located in the middle of the Whistler Village.

Creekside Village is a bit further out from the main village and gives you access to Whistler Mountain via the Creekside Gondola, but it’s a nice option with its own mini bubble away from the main village.
Pro Tip: Check out Creekbread for great pizza and Southside Diner for breakfast

The Upper Village is a 10min walk from the main village at the base of Blackcomb. With its own shops, cafes, bars, and hotels, it also features as a mini-village. Options here include the premier Fairmont and Four Seasons
Pro Tip: After a long day on Blackcomb head down to the Handlebar for an excellent variety of craft beers and bar snacks.

Airbnb’s are also taking over and can provide a nice private option, but prices can be high. If you’re up for it and want to feel like a true local, you could even go a bit further out and utilise the fantastic bus network that Whistler has to offer.

Do some research based on your preferences of price and location, and get it organised early, because someone else is no doubt looking at the same room as you.

Whichever option you go with, remember that you can easily travel between mountains using the world-class Peak2Peak Gondola and that each of the Main Village, Creekside and The Upper Village are accessible directly off the slopes. To avoid having to bus or walk, get yourself a trail map and check the lift times so you know where you’re going and when.

 

Whistler Lift Passes

Lift passes are unfortunately an unavoidable and very expensive part of any ski trip. At Whistler, prices can vary during peak or slow periods. You should pre-book to avoid long lines and to save money. Another option is a Vail Resorts Epic Pass which could prove to be more cost effective for you. With Perisher, Hotham and Falls Creek all part of the Vail Empire, an Epic Pass is likely to cover your Australian winter as well.

Tips for Skiing and Snowboarding at Whistler

For most of you, the skiing and snowboarding that Whistler offers is the reason why you’re heading to this mountain mecca.

Whistler has terrain to accommodate all levels of rider. Whether you’ve never touched snow before or you’ve dropped cliffs for as long as you can remember, Whistler has you covered. Freshly groomed corduroy, deep powder bowls, tree skiing, world-class terrain parks and off-piste - the options are endless.

With 200+ marked runs and over 8000 acres of terrain, you would think there is plenty of space for everyone, right? Well, sort of. Whistler is one of the busiest mountains in the world, and within a few hours most of the mountain can be skied out before you’ve even stirred from your hangover-induced slumber.

But there are a few obvious things to know to help navigate these crowds and enjoy the best snow and minimal lift lines.

1. Get up early – get an egg and bacon roll and coffee for the 25-minute Gondola ride to the peak to rid yourself of any demons. You’ll be right as rain by the top.

2. Avoid peak periods – holiday periods bring long lines. As do weekends.

3. Get an early or late lunch – if you want to eat on the hill do so early or late. Don’t waste time waiting in long lines at the lunch-time rush. My tip is getting your morning meal for the gondola ride and then hold off until après.

4. Whistler Mountain as the ‘original’ and more beginner-friendly peak is generally much busier than Blackcomb so plan which mountain you’re wanting to conquer.

5. Utilise the Peak2Peak. Located 436m above the valley floor, the Peak2Peak gives you access to unlimited terrain on both mountains. If one mountain is busy or the weather is bad on your side, simply jump on and you’ll be on a different peak in 11 minutes.

6. Check the lightboard – Check which chairs are busy and steer clear. On a powder day Symphony and Peak Chair are fantastic, but you could be waiting hours for one run. There is likely to be great skiing everywhere so try somewhere else and keep checking in.

7. Download the Whistler Epic Mix App! – It will give you amazing information about the resort to help you plan your day. Lift times, weather and maps are all available. Make sure to charge your phone.


The Best Ski Runs on Whistler


Now in terms of knowing where to go once you’re up there, it’s a little bit more difficult. Every person and their dog has a different favourite run at Whistler. A lot of it depends on your ability level.

 

My Favourites:

Beginner – Any of the green runs near the Emerald Chair or Big Red Express on Whistler. Big wide spaces to practice technique and you can weave in and out of trees or go through the Whistler Terrain Park as your confidence grows. Symphony Chair has heaps of space, stunning views, and beginner-intermediate terrain, but it’s notoriously busy - Seventh Heaven on Blackcomb is the same.

Intermediate – The Crystal Ridge Express on Blackcomb has some of the best intermediate terrain and tree skiing. This area is so much fun with lots of little rollers, side-hits, and terrain to play off. There is also advanced tree skiing on the far edges. The Peak to Creek from the top of Whistler to the Creekside is also a must do. Do some stretches beforehand, and enjoy a cold drink at Dusty’s afterwards. You’ll need it.
Pro Tip: Take the Showcase T-bar to the top of the Blackcomb Glacier and ski all the way down to the Crystal Chair for some great intermediate action.

Advanced – Head up the Peak Chair on Whistler and into any of the surrounding bowls. Bagel Bowl and West Bowl are the best in my opinion. These areas are hotspots, but if you can get there early on a powder day, prepare for some of the best skiing and views of your life.  

Expert – Spanky’s Ladder. Join the line and take the sketchy hike up the snow-packed steps to the top of the Spanky’s entrance. This gives you access to a variety of expert bowls. Sapphire is the best. Watch for cliffs. Enjoy the powder.

Pro Tip: Head to the Blackcomb Terrain Park to see some of the best freestyle skiers and snowboarders do their thing.

 

Whistler Canada
Whistler Ski Fields
whistler BC

Whistler is incredibly difficult to navigate and, as I mentioned, finding the right runs depends on your ability. Do a lesson or find a guide. Not only will the instructors be able to help with your technique, but they will know the resort like the back of their hand. They can find you powder where there is no powder to be had and take you to places that others wouldn’t even know about.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to pay for a lesson or guide, follow one around. This is kind of cheap and you may end up in a place you don’t want to be or stopping and starting a lot. But it could also be a cost-effective way to get a free guide to the best spots. Proceed with caution…

For the experienced skiers and snowboarders, Whistler also has an abundance of unmarked and backcountry terrain that is easily accessed with the right gear and/or a guide. If you can, try and get your hands on a copy of Brian Finestone and Kevin Hodder’s: Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb (Advanced-Expert edition). This book will give you great tips and provides over 100 runs not marked on the trail map.

Even if you are experienced, I highly recommend you go with a guide if you are backcountry skiing. Heli-skiing is another great way to escape the crowds and explore untouched terrain, but it can be very expensive.

Fresh Tracks – A Fresh Tracks ticket offers you the ability to go up the mountain before regular ticket holders to enjoy a buffet breakfast and hit the slopes early.
Pro Tip: Fresh Tracks can be awesome on a powder day, but the line will be so long you won’t get any time to eat if you want to ski the fresh snow. If you want to eat before skiing, go on a day that won’t be as busy or simply get up super early to be first in line.

Planning Your Trip to Whistler



The Best Food and Places to Eat in Whistler


Whistler boasts an equally impressive food and drink culture to match the high calibre skiing and snowboarding scene.

Again, there is a vast array of choices both on and off hill, ranging from classic pub fare to high-end dining.

My On-Hill Favourites

Crystal Hut – The Belgian Waffles are famous (for a good reason!).

Chic Pea Hut – Nice stews, sandwiches, and great cinnamon buns.

Rendezvous on Blackcomb – Great patio. The build-your-own curry station is excellent.

Dusty’s at Creekside – After skiing down to Creekside get a beer and meal at this classic pub. Nachos, burgers, poutine – it’s all good.

Umbrella Bar at Roundhouse Lodge Whistler – On a sunny day, this place is unbeatable for drinks on the mountain. Be careful on the way down, your legs may be wobbly.

My Off-Hill Favourites

Harajuku/Ohyama Ramen – a cosy Japanese restaurant with a neighbouring ramen bar. The varieties of ramen are great and are perfect for a cold day.

Hunter Gather – I used to work here, but I promise I’m not biased, it’s amazing. Famous for their slow cooked meats and Pemberton Smashed Potatoes. They also do great craft beers and wines. Pro Tip: If you’re not feeling like meat, try the falafel wrap with the wilted greens as your side.

Ingrid’s – This deli-style cafe is the best for lunch snacks. Wraps, rolls, salads – take your pick; my favourite, the freestyle wrap.

Purebread – Sweet and savoury goodies such as cakes, breads, muffins, and brownies. The coffee is good too.

Earls – Earls is a restaurant chain, but don’t let that put you off. The food is good quality and they have excellent deals like Margherita Mondays Pro Tip: 2 for 1 after 10pm.

Araxi – For a fine dining experience try Araxi. In the middle of the main village, they are famous for their Oysters.


The Best Places to Drink in Whistler

Best Pubs in Whistler

Pubs are the heart and soul of Whistler and the perfect place to head to after a long day of skiing for some food and drink.

Dubh Linn Gate – The classic Irish pub located at the base of Whistler. Good food, excellent live music, and Guinness. So much Guinness

Brickworks – A quieter pub that is popular with locals. Good selection of beers, nice food and live music. A friendly, local vibe.

Crystal Lounge – A pub that’s probably best known for its super cheap wings. There’s a pool table and stage for music. Head there on a Tuesday to see the locals belt out some karaoke tunes or a Sunday for an open jam/mic session.

Tapley’s – A rowdy pub that’s good for watching live sports. A great patio area and big double windows that open up to make it a great venue for the summer and spring months.

Beacon – Great spot in the middle of town. Great patio, good food and drink. Pool table upstairs.

Pro Tip: Longhorn’s patio is great for a single post-riding beer by the fire or in the sun because of its prime location at the base of Whistler looking back up the hill. But don’t stay there long - it’s always busy with tourists, it’s loud and the food and drink isn’t fantastic.

Nightlife in Whistler

Whistler is notorious for its nightlife and can draw some serious DJs and musical talent. But a big night out can leave you performing far from your best the next day on the slopes – if you must go clubbing then make sure to go during the week to avoid the crowd from Seattle and Vancouver. If a hangover prevents you from skiing the next day, you were warned…

Each venue has its own ‘local’s’ night which is the place to be that night. Don’t end up at the wrong venue on the wrong night unless you’re looking to link up with a random bachelor/bachelorette party.

Monday – Maxxfish
Tuesday – Tommy’s
Wednesday –  Buffalo Bill’s
Thursday – Garfinkel’s
Sunday – Moe Joe’s


The Best Winter Activities at Whistler


Whistler also has a fantastic array of other activities to do and places to visit when you’re not on the slopes or out and about enjoy the food and drink.

Scandinave Spa – The spectacular Scandinave Spa is the perfect way to help your body recover after a tough day on the slopes. Featuring hot and cold spas, saunas, stretching areas, relaxation zones, heated hammocks and more – your mind and body will thank you.

Snowmobile – Whistler offers guided snowmobile tours which are lots of fun for families or groups.

Ziptrek - Experience a high-flying adventure with Ziptrek’s network of ziplines and suspension bridges. Ziptrek offers an entertaining combination of high-wire adventure and ecological exploration, on a choice of three guided zipline tours or our magnificent tree-top adventures. Available in summer and winter.

Axe Throwing – located in Function Junction, which is also home to two great breweries, Forged Axe Throwing is great family fun for everyone.

Tube Park – The tube park is a great spot for kids and adults alike. Slide down the slipper course in an inflatable tube.

Fire and Ice Show – A free show in the main plaza every Sunday in winter complete with fire spinners and fireworks. Watch the Snow School Kids take on the Ring of Fire Big Air Jump.


Get Your Gear Together!


Renting gear is another expense that adds up extremely fast on a ski trip. I worked at one of the rental shops in Whistler, and I can tell you that what you’re paying for is probably not worth the money! Buy your own gear, especially when you can get top quality products at decent prices here in Australia.
Come speak to the experts at Auski and we can help sort you out with some new gear before you go. This will save you having to wait in line for rentals or paying a premium once you’re in Whistler. If you must get your gear there, go see the experts at CanSki (Skiing) or Showcase (Snowboarding).
Pro Tip:TMC Freeriderz is an awesome local store for any freestyle skiers to check out.

SAVE. SAVE. SAVE!

Start saving now. In fact, you should’ve already started. You’ve probably already worked it out, but Whistler isn’t the type of place that welcomes penny savers with open arms. Save up so you can enjoy it properly and treat yourself – you’ve earned it. Whistler is a dream winter sports location, so make sure to enjoy every aspect of it!

 


Still Don’t Believe Me?

Still don’t believe how good Whistler is? Check out the video below.


So if you haven’t started yet, go start planning your next Whistler getaway, or if you are mid-planning I hope this handy guide has helped.

Make sure to share your Whistler adventure with us on Facebook or Instagram (@auskiaustralia)!


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