Making the Most of Your Whistler Ski Vacation
It’s a skiers (or snowboarders) dream to spend time in Whistler – and for good reason. As the largest ski resort in North America, with over 200 runs before we even think about the backcountry, there is no question why the words Whistler and ski are beside each other in the dictionary.
That being said, with accommodation to book, lift tickets to buy, and rentals to sort, the dream vacation can easily become a confusing headache. Luckily, you are here, reading this great resource. With the right resources in hand, booking and skiing Whistler is a breeze.
There are lots of people who have made Whistler a home, who are more than happy to share their advice, secrets and knowledge. We want you to love Whistler as much as we do (spoiler alert: you will).
What To Do Before You Come
Whistler Ski Accommodation
The less you need to do when you arrive, the more time you will have to soak up everything Whistler has to offer. The first thing you’ll want to have booked is a place to sleep.
There is no shortage of options in Whistler, but they do book up fast. If you know your travel dates, the best time to book is now.
There are three main spots to choose from if you’re looking for easy access to the lifts ; Upper Village, Whistler Village and Creekside.
- Upper Village
Steps from the brand new (as of 2018-2019) Blackcomb Gondola, The Fairmont comes to most people’s minds when talking about staying in the “upper vill.” World-renowned, you can’t go wrong staying at the Fairmont.
A little ways away from the hustle and bustle of the main village, Upper Village still hosts many restaurants with great apres vibes; Merlin’s Bar and Grill being the first one that comes to mind. Situated steps from the gondola you can watch your friends ride out while enjoying lunch on the patio.
- Whistler Village
The options are endless in the main village, and nothing beats rolling out of bed and being able to see the chair lifts. Whistler is home to many well-known hotels such as Delta, The Westin and Four Seasons, but also boasts boutique accommodation such as Sundial Boutique Hotel (5-star, most rooms including a full kitchen if you’re looking to cook at home).
If you just need a place to sleep, Crystal Lodge, The Aava and The Listel are all still walking distance to the gondola and will give you a bit more money to spend on apres (we’ll get to the apres shortly).
About six kilometres south of the village, Creekside is a gem in its own right. With a gondola uploading to Whistler Mountain, Creekside is a great option for anyone looking to stay a bit outside of the village.
Like the upper village, there is no shortage of pubs, restaurants and groceries. You’ll find the same 4-5 star standards as the larger chain hotels at Legends Hotel or Nita Lake Lodge.
Most of these hotels will offer discounts for early booking. Keep in mind prices will skyrocket closer to Christmas and New Years, so again, if you know your dates, book now and start getting stoked!
Whistler Lift Tickets
Resorts like to know that people are going to show up, so they always offer “early bird” discounts. Buying online before you arrive will always be cheaper (and more convenient) than buying at the window the day of.
There are ways to get the most bang for your buck. An Epic Day Pass for seven days is 730 USD (950 CAD), whereas anSeason Pass (with no restrictions) isn’t much more: 940 USD (1230 CAD) and it gives you access to a ton of other resorts.
Make sure you read the fine print on all of the pass options, as many passes have holiday restrictions. Buy early or you’ll end up paying close to $200 for a day pass, and possibly even more during peak times.
Whistler Ski Rentals
There are several rental companies located near the accommodation hot spots listed aboveOnce you’ve booked your lodging, it’s time to book your rentals (if you need them).
Many of the hotels are affiliated with rental companies, so it’s worth asking when you make your booking. This means they’ll be ready for you at your hotel and you won’t have to make any special trips to pick them up or drop them off.
If your hotel doesn’t offer rentals, no sweat. You can rent directly from Whistler Blackcomb at guest services. Alternatively, Spicy Sports is a popular rental shop in the village that allows you to switch out equipment throughout the day and will help you pick the best rental for the weather on that particular day.
What To Do When You Get Here
So you’ve sorted your lift tickets, your hotel, and your rentals. All that’s left now is discovering the mountains! Whistler is home to two equally diverse, challenging and incredible mountains, both with terrain ranging from beginner to absolute expert.
How long does it take to ski down whistler? It takes roughly 30 to 40 minutes to reach the top via gondola and chair. Our strongest snowboarder friends can go top to bottom in less than ten minutes. Beginners may take over an hour to make their way down the wandering green runs. . Point being, there is something for everyone.
- Whistler Mountain
Most people start by uploading to Whistler Mountain in the main village. This takes you directly to the “top,” where you can start skiing right away. Become acquainted with “green chair” (Emerald Express) and “red chair” (Big Red Express). Most locals abbreviate.
These are a great way to get used to the terrain as they are a mix of green and blue runs. Cutting hard right when you’re facing downhill will get you over to Symphony and Harmony, a favourite on a powder day. Peak Chair is a short slope to some of Whistler’s best bowls (this is also a route to ride out to Creekside if you’re staying there).
- Blackcomb Mountain
A local favourite, Blackcomb is accessed from Upper Village as well as the main Village. Jump on Excalibur Gondola in the village and enjoy the outdoors a bit more as most of your ride up will be on chairlifts.
Jersey Cream and Crystal will be your go-to warm-up runs. Do not miss out on going up Glacier Chair as it is quite possibly one of the most beautiful views you will see, especially on a bluebird (Crystal Traverse takes my breath away every time). If you’re lucky enough to get a powder day, do yourself a favour and traverse right to 7th Heaven Express, for quick, fun tree runs.
Whistler Blackcomb is very well marked and easy to follow. You’ll find maps in the Gondolas and on the chairs. Or, if you just want peace of mind, you can hire a guide who knows the mountains like the back of their hand. More about why a guide can make or break your Whistler Ski vacation here.
PRO TIP: If you accidentally go up Blackcomb when your friend wanted to meet on Whistler? No problem. Jump on the 13 minute Peak to Peak for one of the most stunning rides that connect the two mountains. It’s the highest cable car Gondola in the world, and a reason in itself that people visit Whistler!
When 4 pm Comes Around….. Apres!
In the prime of winter, it gets dark by 4:30, and most lifts shut around 3:00. That said, Whistler has so much to offer once the chairs stop running. The apres scene is one of the best there is.
You can ride right out to The Longhorn Saloon, renowned for its epic patio parties. Dublin Gate Irish Pub’s roaring fire is the perfect place for a beer, and Tapley’s pub is the spot to be for anything sports, for pub food, and the best local vibe.
Full Apres Inspiration here.
What is Fresh Tracks?
Do you feel like you want more time on the mountain? Fresh Tracks is an all-you-can-eat mountain top breakfast followed by the first lines of the day. This requires a separate ticket in addition to your lift pass and requires avery early wake up.
You can’t buy the tickets the morning of (it’s too early) so make sure to get them at guest services the day prior.
PRO TIP: If the weathermen are predicting powder, you may need to line up at 6-6: 30 am, as only the first 600 people get to go up! Fresh Tracks is definitely worth it – for the breakfast, the fresh snow, and the extra hour.
Whistler is More Than Just Skiing
Whistler has so many other activities to offer:
- If you can’t get enough of the snow, even after dark, there are scenic sleigh rides you can take.
- If you want to try something new, you can throw axes at Forged Axe throwing.
- If you want the ultimate relaxation and want to give your sore muscles a treat, check out The Scandinave Spa, where you can plunge in cold pools, curl up by the fire, or detox in the sauna.
- Need a few more ideas?check out Whistler Adventures to find one.
What To Do When Your Trip Is Over
Start planning for next year! Whistler is frequently an annual trip for families who ski. But what about families who don’t ski? Whistler is perhaps even more popular in summer. What can you do in summer? We’ve got a big list of summer adventures worth checking out.
Whether you are in Whistler for the ski and snowboard opportunities, or tagging along as a non-skier you will not be disappointed.