The town of Whistler is located in British Columbia in Canada, approximately 80 miles north of Vancouver. It nestles in a valley between two mountain ranges, the Garibaldi Ranges being the side that contains the ski slopes.
The area was first surveyed by the British navy in the 1860’s and became informally called Whistler after the warning call given by the hoary marmot, a native ground squirrel. However, there were few inhabitants until the 1960’s when four Vancouver businessmen decided to develop the area as a ski resort. Whistler Mountain was opened to the public in 1966.
Whistler Village is entirely pedestrian, and has a residential population of about 10,000. However, it also has a larger transient population of younger people who come to work, largely from Europe and Australia.
Ski Whistler: An Insider’s Guide
If you didn’t already know, in 2010 Whistler hosted most of the events of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, so you can imagine that the skiing is top notch. Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are described as a skiers dream destination, with good reason.
There are around 8,100 acres of snow-covered slopes, more than 200 marked trails, three glaciers, 16 alpine bowls, and world beating terrain parks. The ski and snowboard season is from November to May.
There are several gondolas, and lift tickets permit skiing and riding on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains via the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Prices for winter tickets for adults for 6 of 7 days are $451 and for children 7 – 12 years $226. Tickets can be delivered to your accommodation at no additional charge, meaning that you can go straight to the lifts in the morning.
Ski gear can be rented from any of several rental shops near the hotels and the lifts. There is also a ski and snowboard school, so you can get the kids off to an early start if they have never skied before. Teens and adults of all levels of ability are catered for by instructors in addition.
There is also heli-skiing available with tours including lunch, avalanche safety equipment, and experienced guides. From the powder point of view, Whistler is a skier’s paradise.
What About Accommodation In Whistler?
For the third year running Whistler Blackcomb was named the number one ski resort in North America by Ski Magazine.
There are some 130 hotels in Whistler, 55 B&B’s, and over 500 holiday rentals including secluded alpine homes and condominiums, so there is a wide choice and a price to suit every pocket. For instance, the Sundial Boutique Hotel is only two minutes’ walk from Blackcomb Excalibur Gondola, and the suites on offer have free wi-fi, a 36” wide screen TV, heated slate flooring in the bathroom, and a 20” flat screen TV in the bedroom.
There are two on-site restaurants – Black’s Restaurant serving West coast dishes, and Sushi Village offering Japanese food – and Black’s Pub which is an apres ski bar.
Whistler Village Inn is also only a couple of minutes from Blackcomb Excalibur Gondola and has a heated year-round outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a fitness centre. The Keg Steakhouse and Bar serves seafood, chicken, and grilled steak. All guest rooms have free wi-fi and a flat-screen TV. Some rooms have a refrigerator and a microwave. A hot tub and a dry sauna are also on site.
Nita Lake Lodge is a quarter mile from Whistler Mountain and Creekside Gondola. Each unit has a 2 person soaking bathtub and a rain shower, wi-fi, a flat-screen satellite TV, and a gas fireplace. There is an on-site spa, an outdoor heated pool, a hot tub, and a rooftop garden. Yoga classes and personal training are also available. The Aura Restaurant and Cure Lounge offers a variety of foods sourced from local farmers and fisheries, and free bike, canoe, paddleboard, fishing rod, and kayak rental are also on offer.
Four Seasons Resort is located in Whistler’s Upper Village and has a fitness centre and a spa, together with a heated outdoor pool and three hot tubs. Guest rooms feature free wi-fi, flat-screen TV, and a gas fire. Seafood and steak dinners are served at Sidecut Modern Steak & Bar, and guests are offered a daily complimentary wine reception. The chairlift to Blackcomb Mountain is only 400 yards away, and within a 7 minute drive is Nicklaus North Golf Course. During the ski season there is a free shuttle to Whistler Mountain and Whistler Village.
Those are only four of the 130 or so hotels in and around Whistler, but all seem to have very good reviews and offer a full range of facilities. Click here to find more information on Whistler ski packages.
Whistler Eating Out Guide
Whistler offers a wide choice of restaurants providing varied menus. One of the oldest and most talked-about restaurants is Araxi which has an excellent apres oyster bar. Samantha Rahn is a former Sommelier of the Year and is the wine director here. She’s currently creating her own wine.
There is a choice of sushi restaurants in Whistler, one being Sushi Village which imports fish from around the world.
Trattoria di Umberto offers mushroom stuffed pheasant, crab risotto, and tuna which is cooked in a soya sesame vinaigrette as part of its Tuscan menu.
Vegetarians will welcome Raven’s Nest at Whistler Blackcomb, the first vegetarian restaurant here, which also offers some vegan dishes.
Steep’s Grill is on Whistler Mountain and has some amazing views. Fish comes from the West Coast and includes tuna, mussels, and salmon. There is a large wine list, and apres snacks are served in mid-afternoon.
What Else Does Whistler Have To Offer?
In winter there is ice fishing, bungee jumping (160’ drop for the brave), ziplining, dog sledding, ice skating, bobsleigh tours, and a whole lot more outside activities.
Readers of SKI Magazine voted Whistler in the top ten kid-friendly ski resorts in North America in 2015. There is an indoor gym, a gymnastics centre, indoor skating and tennis, indoor rock climbing, and yoga studios. There is also a place called “Escape!” where groups choose one of four themes and then get “locked” inside and have 45 minutes to solve clues and achieve targets in order to escape. Fun for all the family.
Starting from virtually nothing just 50 years ago, Whistler has now become one of the top family-friendly ski destinations in the world. It is no surprise, then, that Whistler now boasts of having some two million visitors every year.