Whistler Blackcomb is a major ski resort located 121 km (75 mi) north of Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada. By many measures it is the largest ski resort in North America.
Whistler and Blackcomb are two side-by-side mountains which combined offer over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers, and receives on average over 1,164 centimetres (458 inches) of snow annually. A world class resort for all seasons, Whistler Blackcomb has one of the longest ski and ride seasons in North America, as well as lift accessed mountain biking and alpine hiking in the spring, summer and fall.
Whistler is one of the world’s top ski resorts and an absolute must destination for skiers of all levels. The statistics for Whistler speak for themselves - with more terrain, more snowfall, the best nightlife, the biggest gondola, hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, the list goes on.
Whistler consistently places in the top 5 Ski resorts in North America (in major industry magazines such as SKIING, Powder and Transworld Snowboarding) and has won the No.1 overall ranking numerous times. On top of the formidable facts listed above, Whistler-Blackcomb employees pride themselves on extending a truly world class guest experience. There are activities for young and old, skiers and non-skiers alike.
A favourite among North American skiers, Whistler also attracts visitors from all over the world. Excellent ski schools, safer family slopes, top-quality accommodations and service, fantastic skiing and the overall convenience of location are the reasons people chose Whistler over other resorts in Canada and the USA.
The ski season in Whistler-Blackcomb runs from late November until early June and snowfall averages over 33 feet (more than 10 metres) per year, supplemented by extensive state-of-the-art snowmaking facilities over the main runs and the ski outs.
Regularly voted the No. 1 ski resort in North America, ski holidays in Whistler offer everything that you could possibly want: an attractive village, efficient lift system, wonderful skiing for all standards, family friendly activities, good accommodation to suit all pockets and excellent après ski.
Skiing in Whistler
Whistler Canada is the largest ski resort in North America and the biggest ski area in the world outside of Europe. Whistler Blackcomb ski resort consists of the interconnected Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, and it has an incredible 8,171 acres (3,307 hectares) of terrain, a huge vertical drop of 1,609 metres, over 200 marked trails, and plenty of off-piste opportunities. The Whistler ski resort is so big that instead of having a trail map, they have an atlas!
The Whistler skiing and snowboarding terrain varies incredibly from gentle slopes and wide groomed cruisers to tree skiing, steep alpine bowls, couloirs and terrain parks. No other resort offers so much variety. Whistler Resort is suitable for all types of skiers and snowboarders, from first-timers to extreme riders who want to ride hair-raising steeps.
The only downside to the Whistler ski terrain is for those with un-fit legs who may struggle with the super long runs. Also, sometimes the powder that falls is a bit wet, but the terrain makes up for it.
Whistler Blackcomb is committed to continuing to develop the resort and in the past decade they’ve opened new terrain and upgraded the infrastructure. A major highlight has been the addition of the very impressive Whistler Peak to Peak Gondola which connects the upper parts of Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain.
Whistler Snowboarding and Skiing for Beginners
The best area for novices is on Whistler Mountain at Olympic Station, the area at the mid-station of the Whistler Village gondola (beginners can download the gondola at the end of the day). This area has a slow zone, magic carpets, and a couple of short lifts that aren’t too daunting for beginners.
If you’re staying in the Upper Village there is a beginners’ area suitable for first timers at the base of Blackcomb (Yellow Brick Rd). The Creekside base is not set up for beginners, although the ski instructors are adept at getting the little kids up to easy areas from there.
Confident beginners can head up the two mountains to various green runs, although slow riders may find these runs to be really long and exhausting.
Intermediate Boarding and Skiing Whistler
Whistler skiing and snowboarding is bliss for intermediates. The Whistler Blackcomb ski resort has sooooooo much variety for intermediates, with plentiful wide cruisers. The blue runs on Blackcomb tend to be a little steeper than those on Whistler Mountain.
They can’t groom all the blue runs (and black runs) so check the grooming charts at the top of the lifts. The Peak to Creek run on Whistler can be super fun for racing if it’s been groomed, but otherwise this really long run can just become a grueling long hard slog.
Ski Whistler – Kids and the Family
Both Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain have child specific areas including a children’s adventure park with terrain features, a little terrain park, and a tree fort adventure playground. One of the benefits of Whistler Blackcomb is that there are quite a few areas where riders of differing abilities can play together because a green run weaves around the mountain and crosses the more challenging blue and black runs. The Harmony Bowl is one example of an area where there’s something for everyone.
Whistler Terrain Parks
Whistler Blackcomb has so much to offer with multiple terrain parks that allow easy progression. The various terrain parks cater for novices up to those doing the most extreme tricks. Blackcomb has more terrain parks than Whistler Mountain and it’s also home to the super pipe and the pro level terrain park.
Advanced Snowboarding & Skiing
A “must do” for strong intermediate and advanced riders on a pleasant weather day is the Blackcomb Glacier. Easy access is via the Showcase T-bar and a quick hike, whilst game experts can get there via Spanky’s Ladder. The trail out from the glacier is a little tediously long, but it’s worth it because the snow quality up on Blackcomb Glacier is often lovely.
If the run’s been fully groomed, the Dave Murray Downhill to Creekside is an awesome run for racing, but you’ll need to tighten your goggles as the speeds you’ll reach may be eye watering. It’s a great glory or ego boosting run, unless of course you let your friends beat you down!
The Whistler Blackcomb ski resort has plenty of bowls and steeps for advanced riders. Some of the single blacks are pretty steep, so sharpen your edges! Favourite single black runs include the Secret Bowl just around from the Extreme Couloir area on Blackcomb. The Whistler Bowl seems rather trendy so it can quickly develop nasty bumps, but if you nip around to the skiers left and give the Bagel and West bowls a go there’s less skier traffic.
Examples of enjoyable tree skiing at Whistler Blackcomb are below the 7th Heaven chair (Blackcomb) and runs such as “Where’s Joe?”. And start a love affair with the Symphony bowl - this area is fabulous.
Ski Whistler - Experts
Experts will love Whistler due to the abundance of super challenging terrain. Whistler Blackcomb ski resort scores full marks for both expert and extreme terrain, so it’s not surprising that Whistler attracts (or develops) lots of hard-core ski bums.
There are plenty of double black diamond runs in-bounds. Most of these are up in the high alpine areas, but there are a few zones for steep gnarly trees (e.g. Crystal area). Spanky’s Ladder into the glacier provides some tricky chutes and rocks to navigate, and Extreme Couloir is considered “the” expert run of Blackcomb, and many an embellished story has been told of the legends of this run. This is not the place to do a garage sale! There are usually a couple of reasonably easy entries into the couloir, or there are entries that fall into the extreme category. This run was formerly known as Saudan Couloir after an extreme skier, although I always thought it was called Saddam Couloir and that they had to change its name after Saddam Hussein was executed in 2006!!
In good visibility there are also great runs and nasty chutes off the Peak chair at Whistler.
There is additional expert skiing at Whistler in the side-country areas. One example is a hike up from the Blackcomb Glacier into the 7th Heaven area and Ziggy’s Meadow. There are various guiding and coaching services available for those wanting to explore the Whistler Blackcomb side-country.
Whistler Snow and Weather
Whistler BC has an average annual snowfall of 11.2 metres, so the chances of scoring fresh powder are pretty good. The quality of the Whistler snow is incredibly variable because the temps vary significantly, but the snow has a tendency towards being wet due to the proximity to the coast.
As to be expected for a ski resort with mile high vertical, the snow conditions between the top and bottom can be amazingly different. On the lower parts of the mountains it can be raining and the snow may be very slushy, but there is significant snowmaking capacity to ensure adequate snow coverage.
The alpine areas of Whistler Blackcomb are quite exposed so on inclement weather days the visibility is often crap, and sometimes the lifts close due to wind issues. Impressively there are various electronic signs around the resort that indicate which lifts are open, the wind speed, and the visibility.
Family ski holidays in Whistler
Whistler-Blackcomb caters extremely well for families, hosting a wide selection of activities to keep the little ones entertained. The resort offers a childcare programme for tots aged 18-48 months and will provide parents with a complimentary pager so that you can check up on how they are doing while you’re away.
Family activities include:
- Coca-Cola tube park
- Magic Castle and Tree Fort adventure playground
- Nintendo gaming lounges
- Fire & Ice big air show
- Ice skating
- Dog sledding
Apres ski, restaurants and non-ski activities in Whistler
As well as some great family friendly activities, Whistler-Blackcomb also provides plenty of activities solely for adults. From gourmet evenings, to zip lining, spa days and backcountry tours, there’s something to suit everyone.
- Heli skiing - Heli skiing gives you access to a massive 173 glaciers and 475 runs, offering different packages ranging from intermediate to expert. You will be taken out by an experienced guide and provided with lunch on the mountain. There will be also be a photographer on hand to capture your experience and you’ll have the chance to buy the photos at the end if you so wish. If you’d rather skip the skiing or boarding, or you’re not quite up to intermediate level, then you can still enjoy the birds-eye view by taking a breathtaking tour by helicopter.
- Coca-Cola tube park
- Fresh tracks and mountain top breakfast - Get earlybird access to the slopes an hour before they’re open to anyone else. Meet at the Roundhouse Lodge at 7.15am where you can take an early gondola ride to the restaurant on top of the mountain. Here, you can pile up your plate with a hearty buffet breakfast to set you up for the day. As soon as the slopes open, an announcement is made giving you time to get in an early run or two before everyone else.
- Ziptrek Ecotours ziplines and suspension bridges - Take part in this unique ziplining-ecological exploration combo and fly across Fitzsimmons Creek, which joins the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains together. A great way to take in the scenery and the surrounding nature, while giving yourself a big adrenaline rush.
- Peak 2 Peak Gondola
- Fire and Ice big air show
- Scandinave Spa - Visit the Scandinavian baths and pamper yourself with Swedish, Hot Stone, Sports and Thai Yoga massages. To top it off you can also get a 2-3 hour session in the Finnish sauna, thermal and Nordic waterfalls, cold plunge baths and solariums, followed by relaxation next to the outdoor fireplace.
- Free mountain tours
- Sleigh rides
- Dog sledding
- Mountain Top Fondue Snowcat Tour
- Helicopter sightseeing tours
- Foodie tasting tours
There are plenty of Whistler accommodations to suit all budgets and requirements. There's a diverse selection of Whistler hotels ranging from standard to 5-star, as well as lodges, apartments (condos), and even a few hostels. Only a small amount of Whistler lodging is ski-in ski-out but there are lots of accommodations that are only a short walk to the lifts.
When choosing Whistler accommodation the first decision is regarding which village to stay in. Whistler Village is the main heartbeat of Whistler with prolific restaurants, bars and shops. The adjacent North Village has plenty of action, but it requires a longer walk to get to the lifts or use of a shuttle bus. Upper Village at the base of Blackcomb Mountain offers some slope-side accommodation, whilst the Creekside base is popular with families.
Cost of a Whistler Ski Holiday
There are some components of a Whistler ski resort that are expensive. The lift ticket prices are by far the highest in western Canada, but you get great value for money considering the infrastructure and terrain on offer. Other Whistler Resort owned services such as ski rentals and ski school are very costly but there are also private providers who don’t charge as much. Whistler activities also generally cost a little more than at other Canada ski resorts.
When it comes to Whistler accommodations, you can pay as much as you want in relation to the quality and location of the lodging. Relative to other Canada ski resorts, the accommodation rates are very reasonable due to a large supply and plenty of healthy competition. The same can be said for dining and shopping. You can spend a fortune if you want, but if you’re watching your pennies there are lots of inexpensive options available.