The first thing you need to know about Whistler Blackcomb is that it’s the biggest ski resort in all of North America—coming in at 8,171 acres, accessed by a whopping 37 lifts. And that alone is an incredibly good reason to visit, because we’re talking about more terrain than even the most avid of skiers will ever know what to do with. Even locals who have lived in Whistler for a decade or more are regularly finding new zones to ski—as exemplified by guys like Mike Douglas, Kye Petersen, Nick McNutt, Dan and Dave Treadway, Rory Bushfield, Eric Pehota, Hugo Harrison, Mark Abma and Sean Pettit, just to name a few.
An average of 462 inches of snow falls annually (over 38 feet) in the area, blanketing 200-plus runs, massive bowls, dreamy tree zones, gargantuan cliffs and everything else the mountain has to offer. Folks who prefer pushing the send-meter all the way to maximum will find no shortage of extreme skiing opportunity.
From the steep, sustained faces of Ruby Bowl to the adrenaline-inducing Poop Chutes to the mystical Christmas Trees, the amount of skiing at hand is almost overwhelming. Supplementing the big-mountain terrain are five world-class parks where you can push your limits via dozens of perfectly sculpted jumps, rails and pipes—from huge to small.
For those who don’t care to tilt the send-meter that hard, the big, bad beast that is Whistler Blackcomb has its softer sides, too. With a terrain breakdown of 17.75% beginner, 55% intermediate and 27.25% advanced comes groomers and mellower slopes aplenty. Twist & Shout is a particularly rad choice, full of playful rollers and pitches—a blast for absolutely anyone and everyone.
At the end of the day, cruise said groomers down to Whistler Village where the fun will not stop—not even close. The bustling zone offers an incredibly wide variety of shops, restaurants and other off-hill activities. The quality of the food in town is arguably unmatched by any other destination across North America and the nightlife that kicks up after the dinner hour is the rowdiest of the rowdy. You might say Whistler is the Mecca of skiing and partying. Not to mention, the variety of lodging available will suit any and all desires and budgets, guaranteeing you’ve got a desirable place to rest your head when the action is all said and done (that is, if you can find the time to sleep.)
Another notable aspect of the Whistler culture is its dedication to environmental awareness—battling climate change in a variety of ways. To start, heating programs save 600 tons of carbon emissions annually and staff carpools save 64,155 kilometers of travel, 86,768 liters of fuel and 208 tons of emissions per year. Our sport can have a big impact on the environment and greater climate change problem, whether we like it or not, and the resort is facing that tough fact big time.
Whistler is the absolute skiing powerhouse of North America, and any vacationer—like, any—is guaranteed to have the trip of a lifetime if they choose to go there. It’s for this reason that the area has topped FREESKIER’s annual resort rankings for a decade-plus.
Do Whistler right:
Start your day early by heading up the Whistler Village Gondola for Fresh Tracks Mountain Top Breakfast. Upload between 7:15 and 8:00 a.m. for a mountain-sized breakfast buffet at the Roundhouse Lodge, then enjoy fresh powder or perfectly groomed corduroy all to yourself, lapping the Emerald Express or Big Red Express.
Once the high alpine opens, head up the Peak Express and get ready to burn those thighs skiing down over seven miles via Peak to Creek, which takes you from from the alpine to the valley floor at the base of Creekside.
Grab some BBQ and a Caesar to drink at Dusty’s in Creekside, before heading back up the Creekside Gondola and Big Red Express back to the Roundhouse Lodge. From the Roundhouse, hop on the world-record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, and after the 11-minute ride you’ll find yourself on Blackcomb for the afternoon.
Head up the Glacier Express chair, and left off of the top of the chair towards a short boot pack that will take you up Spanky’s Ladder. Pick your favorite of the Gem Stone Bowls (Sapphire, Garnett, Diamond, Ruby from left to right). Ruby is the easiest, with a low shoulder “roll-in” entry. Diamond and Sapphire Bowls are more difficult to navigate with some mandatory straight-line entrances and airs. The terrain feels more like the classic steeps of the European Alps than a North American resort.
Ski out the Glacier Road from the bottom of Spanky’s down to the Crystal Ridge Express. Hit the flowy, gladed areas in Outer Limits or Arthur’s Choice.
Finish your day in the sun on the south side of 7th Heaven. Upper Panorama features stunning views of Black Tusk as you make your way down Blackcomb to hit après at Merlin’s with a mountain of nachos and an ice-cold Kokannee.
Eat, sleep, ski, repeat:
El Furniture Warehouse (a.k.a. “El Furny”) has the cheapest après in town; all food is five bucks or less, and the drinks are aplenty. Pro skier and all-around legendary dude, Sean Pettit, is also a part owner. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to enjoy an esteemed Caesar (or five) with him.
Sushi Village, on the other hand, is the place to be for fancier eats. It has the best rolls in town, without a doubt, and more than enough sake to get your whole squad riled up. If you want to really go all-in, try the Rainbow Roll: prawn tempura rolled with soya bean sheet, wrapped with the chef’s choice of seven different fish.
There’s no better place to be after the best skiing of your life than Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill. It has what just must be the biggest patio in all of Canada—loaded with tables for you and your skiing compadres to drink pitchers on top of pitchers all afternoon long.
The nightlife scene in Whistler is super extensive, but Garfinkel’s is the most poppin’ of all. Break it down on the dance floor via super loud music, and make your way to the back bar, where a who’s who of local ski pros hang out on a nightly basis. Tourist challenge: Bring a Sharpie and see who can get the most autographs out of your whole crew.
The HI-Whistler Hostel is a ski bum’s haven, offering shared rooms for as low as $30 (CAD) and private rooms as low as $70 (CAD). Tear up the game room, meet like-minded individuals to shred with and enjoy the super-short stroll to the Creekside Gondola.
Folks looking for a top-of-the-line place to crash should head straight to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. It looks like a god damn castle, nestled right at the base of Blackcomb Mountain with ski-in-ski-out access. Slide straight down to the Wizard Express lift, shred all day long then relax to the max in your fancy robe among the pool, hot tubs, bar and more.
Ride the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb—the resort’s main areas—and offers the absolute best views in the area, by far. This engineering masterpiece was completed back in 2008 and has been one of the area’s biggest attractions ever since.