Whistler is a fantastic ski destination. There’s more ski terrain than even the most ambitious of skiers could cover in a week, a good variety of graded bowls as well as plenty of off piste for those looking for it. It’s also home to the most authentic apres ski you’re likely to find in North America along with a host of activities off the slopes for away days or for the non-skiers in your group.
Recently back from Whistler, here are my top 12 things to do to make the most of your time (though you’ll still need to go back for another week).
Bits Of Housekeeping
1) Get the Whistler Live App
Before getting anywhere near the mountain download the Whistler Live smartphone app (Android & Iphone). We reviewed the Whistler Live App recently and strongly recommend using it to stay up to date with the latest on lift openings and on-piste conditions as well as tracking where you’ve been on the mountain as well as recording your quickest and average speeds. For those who like to know where they’ve been on the mountain, this is a must have and the best thing is it’s free on both Apple’s App Store and Android’s marketplace.
2) Take or rent the right skis
Whistler offers a huge amount of terrain. In fact it can be hard to make comparisons with North American and European resorts given that the European resorts measure their skiable terrain in kilometres and North America don’t. This is simply because resorts like Whistler offer a huge amount of terrain which wouldn’t be considered ‘on piste’ but which is accessible within the boundaries of the resort. For this reason, a popular choice of ski is the Salomon BBR (top set of skis in the photo below). They are designed to be as good in “off piste” conditions as they are on the groomed runs meaning you can carve down perfect corduroy with all the power and edge of a racing ski, but then jump into the powder and the front of the ski, not dissimilar in shape to a surf board, will float you on the top of the snow making skiing powder a dream not a chore, even if you’ve had little to no practise in this type of skiing before.
Whistler Must Do’s
3) Take in the view from Whistler’s peak
You can do this by riding the Peak Express 4 man chair lift – this is the highest viewpoint at 2,182m with fantastic views on a clear day back down the slopes towards Whistler village as well as out across Whistler’s back country and out towards the other peaks surrounding Whistler Blackcomb. Be sure to bring a wide angle camera lens as the view from up here is breathtaking whichever way you’re facing.
4) Experience first tracks
This is a very indulgent way to start the day as you’ll join the lift queues around 7am. You’ll then ride the gondola up to the Roundhouse Lodge where a fantastic all you can eat breakfast buffet is put on before a buzzer sounds, signifying that the pistes are ready for you to explore and create your fresh tracks. So called because you’ll have around 1 hour before the gondolas open again for the rest of the public (they limit fresh tracks tickets to around 500). When I went I managed several rounds at the breakfast buffet and three untouched runs before seeing anyone else on the slopes.
Tip: A ticket will cost $17 and covers the price of the breakfast and I’d suggest buying this beforehand (otherwise you risk it selling out). I’d recommend looking at the start of your week as to when the fresh snow is likely to fall and book your fresh tracks for that morning. I had a lot of luck with 4 to 5 inches of fresh snow having fallen the night before ensuring I wouldn’t forget my fresh tracks experience in a hurry.
5) Wild Wood restaurant
This restaurant is a hidden gem and mostly visited by locals as it’s a 10 minute walk from the village. Their website is currently under construction but does have contact details so you can make a reservation. Of all of the places I went in Whistler to eat, this was by far the best – both for value and quality.
6) Peak to Peak lift
This impressive cable car lift links the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler mountain with Blackcomb mountain, travelling nearly 3 miles in just 11 minutes. At least once on your trip to Whistler you should wait in the glass bottom car queue – this is worth the extra wait and will allow you to appreciate the 400+m drop under the cable car as you traverse between the two mountains.
7) Crystal Hut on Blackcomb Mountain
At the top of the Crystal chair or accessible by the blue ridge runner run, this is a fantastic place to warm up and grab a coffee. On clear days you can sit outside and admire the view. When we visited it was a white out, meaning we stayed inside and enjoyed the waffles.
8) The Peak to Creek run
This was one of my favourite’s of my week spent in Whistler. You can join the Peak to Creek either by taking the Peak Express chair lift to the very top of Whistler mountain or join it via a series of undulating blue runs from the mountain’s mid station. As one of Whistler’s longest runs, it’s a fun run for all levels and abilities (boarders beware – you’ll need to keep your speed on the upper sections with some flat sections accessed by the Upper Peak to Creek section).
9) Apres ski in Dusty’s Bar
Situated at the bottom of the Peak to Creek run, this is voted as one of Whistler’s best spots for apres ski. With a spacious lounge, views over the slopes from upstairs, American pool table, table football and the English Premiership shown on its TV’s, what’s not to love about this place. Oh and the Hot Chocolate is perfect after racing down one of the longest runs on the mountain.
10) Tapley’s Bar
This is found a 5 minute walk back through the village and away from the slopes. It’s the perfect place to come for a Canadian (a popular beer) after a day on the slopes and gets busy with great atmosphere later on (be careful not to leave it too late or you’ll be queuing).
11) Try a Caesar cocktail
This is a very popular cocktail, as much with the locals as it is with the tourists. It combines clamato juice (clams mixed with tomato juice), vodka, celery, gherkins and steak seasoning added to the rim of the glass. This is a great way to start the day if you spent too long in Tapley’s the night before.
12) Off slope activities
For those with families the Coca Cola Tube Park at the base of the Blackcomb Mountain is a great way to pass an hour or so. Prices vary depending on age ($15-$20) and allow you to ride the Excalibur Gondola from Whistler Village to visit the park for free. Another family favourite is a sleigh ride which can be booked in-resort and costs from around $50 an hour.
For those looking for something slightly more adrenaline fuelled, why not try a Ziptrek, traversing cables and ziplines between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, or go snowmobiling (from around $130 for 2 hours) or even heli-skiing, though this will set you back a minimum of $800.
In Whistler Blackcomb you will really need at least a month for you to see everything the resort has to offer. It has a good apres ski scene by North American standards and even on busy days you’ll find the slopes and most of the lifts quite quiet.
This post was written by Jon Paget, Social Media and Online PR Manager at Crystal Ski.