For almost 20 years now, I have made Whistler my second home. In the winter, I ski on Whistler Blackcomb and in the summer, I hike and bike along its trails. All four of my kids (14 years old – 22 years old) have grown up doing both as well. They spent years in ski or snowboard lessons with incredible instructors. When they were finally ready, we have spent years skiing and snowboarding together as a family. We have loved it and it has been an important part of our family life. Over the decades, I have learnt a thing or two about how best to make the most out of our day on Whistler Blackcomb. In this blog, I am going to highlight 10 tips that will save you time and help you have a fantastic ski or snowboard day on Whistler Blackcomb.
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Whistler Blackcomb Ski and Snowboarding Tips
1. Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb is made up of two enormous mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb. They are each approximately 7300 feet or (2200 metres) high. Of that, 8,171 acres (3307 hectares) are skiable terrain. Collectively, there are over 200 ski runs, and 36 lifts and gondolas. Here is a map of the gondolas, ski lifts, and ski trails found on both mountains.
2. Gondolas and Ski Lifts on Whistler Blackcomb
Creekside Village at Whistler Blackcomb
Creekside Village is the first place that you will reach when you are driving from Vancouver to Whistler. It is a five minute drive from Creekside to Whistler Village and another three or four minutes from Whistler Village to Upper Village.
Creekside has a large indoor free parking lot so it is popular with locals and those who are driving up from Vancouver. From here, you can access the Creekside Gondola which takes you up Whistler Mountain. Then, you can begin to ski or snowboard on Whistler Mountain or find your way to Blackcomb Mountain through various ski runs and other lifts, or with the Peak 2 Peak Gondola next to the Roundhouse Lodge.
Tip: The free parkade can fill up quite quickly on weekends and holidays. I would recommend parking before 9:00 am to guarantee a spot. There are very limited parking options, paid or otherwise, if the parkade is full.
Whistler Village at Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Village is the main village with the most hotels, restaurants, and shops than any other part of Whistler. It has lots of paid parking within walking distance to the lifts and gondolas. There are 5 outdoor day lots next to Whistler Village or indoor lots offered by various hotels.
There are two gondolas at the base of Whistler Blackcomb. The first is the Whistler Village Gondola which takes you up Whistler Mountain to the Roundhouse Lodge. From there, you can choose from countless runs on Whistler Mountain or walk 30 steps to access the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola to Blackcomb Mountain.
The second is Excalibur Gondola which goes up Blackcomb Mountain. Once you are on Blackcomb Mountain, there are also lots of ski runs to choose from or you can find your way to the Rendezvous Lodge and take the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola over to Whistler Mountain.
A third choice is Fitzsimmons Express, a four person ski lift that takes you a short way up Whistler Mountain. Here you will find many green, family or easy runs back to Whistler Village.
Upper Village at Whistler Blackcomb
Upper Village is home to the new Blackcomb Gondola which takes you up Blackcomb Mountain to the Rendezvous Lodge. From there, you can access numerous ski runs, including 7th Heaven Express lift to reach the upper Alpine. As mentioned before, you can also take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola from here to Whistler Mountain.
You can pay for parking in one of the five outdoor day lots next to Whistler Village and walk to Upper Village. Depending on where you park, your walk will take between 10-20 minutes. There are very few paid parking spots in the Upper Village.
Base II at Whistler Blackcomb
Base II is found above Upper Village and it has two free outdoor parking lots. From here, you can access the Excalibur Gondola which takes you up Blackcomb Mountain. This gondola originates in Whistler Village but it slows down for unloading and uploading passengers at Base II.
Accommodation For Your Time In Whistler
For the best accommodation near any of these locations, I would recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find your ideal location at the best prices.
3. Times to avoid uploading to Whistler Blackcomb
Notwithstanding there are four base locations from which you can start your Whistler ski day, uploading in the morning can be very busy with long line ups. Accordingly, on weekends or during school or statutory holidays, I would recommend that you try and upload onto the mountain before 8:30 am. In addition, do not take any runs that lead you back to any of the gondolas (except the Peak 2 Peak) until after 11:00 am. There are two reasons for this.
First, the ski day is short from November through February. Generally, it is daylight from around 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, depending on the month. Everyone needs to get off the mountains well before darkness arrives. Accordingly, everyone tries to start their Whistler ski day as early as possible.
Second, most children’s ski or snowboard lessons on Whistler Blackcomb meet at one of these locations between 8:30 am -9:00 am. That means that most parents have already suited up for the day as well. Accordingly, from around 8:30 am, a huge surge of people begin to line up at the various bases. Anyone in ski lessons, adult or children, have their own ski lift lines at all gondolas and ski lifts on Whistler Blackcomb and they take priority.
4. When to purchase lift tickets and equipment rentals for Whistler Blackcomb
If you need to purchase any lift tickets or ski or snowboard lessons, sign any waivers, or acquire rentals, try to do that the night before your first Whistler ski day. There can be massive line ups or wait times to do any of these things in the morning. I have found myself in these huge line ups and there is very little more frustrating to the start of your ski or snowboard day than waiting in line for an hour or more to do these “administrative-type” things. Even though the ski hills on Whistler Blackcomb may close down early, many of the shops and services are open well into the evening. It is worthwhile to put your dinner on hold while you get these chores out of the way.
5. How to organize your Whistler ski or snowboard vacation
Whistler has many other winter activities other than ski and snowboarding. In another blog called A Whistler Winter in Canada: 7 Of My Favourite Things, I recommend my favourite Whistler winter attractions.
If you think you might want to try one or two of them (or something else), then I would recommend doing so on a weekend, and leave your Whistler ski or snowboarding to weekdays when it is quieter on the mountain. Although Whistler Blackcomb has added many new high speed ski lifts or gondolas, you may still find yourself in long line ups for ski lifts and gondolas over weekends or during holidays.
6. Avalanche safety on Whistler Blackcomb
If there is a huge amount of new snowfall during the night, the mountains may be busier than ever regardless of the day of the week. You might consider not skiing or snowboarding that day, or making that it a late start. Why?
First, many locals and Vancouverites may take an unplanned day off from work, drive up to Whistler Blackcomb, and spend the day enjoying the fresh snow.
Second, the upper alpine might remain closed for half the day while they “bomb” it to set off avalanches. Whistler Blackcomb takes avalanches and the risk of triggering one very seriously. They have a thorough system of deliberately triggering avalanches in the upper alpine after a heavy and extended snowfall. Depending on the amount of snow and the risks, this process might take hours. In the meantime, everyone is skiing and snowboarding in the lower alpine on Whistler Blackcomb. Depending on the day, this could create long line ups for the lifts and the gondolas until the upper alpine opens.
7. Take a free mountain tour on Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb is truly massive. It offers countless ski and snowboard runs, many of which are not easily found. Some of them are truly unbelievable. They are extremely varied in terms of type of terrain (steeps, trees, or moguls) and it would be a shame to spend a whole day on one of the mountains and be oblivious to them. Many of them are on the map. With a bit of time, you could likely figure out how to access them. However, whether you have the time; they are the right level for you; or they have the type of terrain that you want, is another thing.
Both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains offer free tours. Please click on this link for more information about meeting times and locations.
8. Pay for a Whistler ski or snowboard lesson on Whistler Blackcomb
The free mountain tours are a great resource to learn more about Whistler Blackcomb. However, even better is to take a ski or snowboard lesson.
All four of my children took weekly ski or snowboard lessons on Whistler Blackcomb from the age of 3 years old until around 11 years old. Suffice it to say, they are really good skiers or snowboarders. My husband I have also taken the occasional one or two day lesson over the years. Why?
Certainly, it is nice to take a lesson to try and improve our technique. However, what is even more valuable to us is that invariably the ski or snowboard teacher takes us to different parts of Whistler Blackcomb or on different runs that we have never tried before. Even after 20 years, there are parts of Whistler Blackcomb, or runs that are tucked away about which we either do not know, or are unsure whether we have the ability to do them. Accordingly, a ski or snowboard lesson is a great way to learn about your abilities and what the mountains have to offer.
9. Put your children in a Whistler ski or snowboard lesson
Skiing and snowboarding are terrific family activities. I love spending the day on Whistler Blackcomb with one or all of my kids. However, when they were little, it was also nice not to ski with them! Thankfully, gone are the days when my husband and I spent the whole day snowplowing, choosing runs that were easy and unexciting, and dealing with whatever emotional moment one of our kids was having. When they are really small and novice skiers, it can be very stressful making sure that they don’t do something erratic and get hit from behind, or blow past a lift into “out of bounds”.
For us, it was one of life’s guilty pleasures – putting our little ones into a ski or snowboard lesson on Whistler Blackcomb and spending the day on the mountain with each other. Your kids will have a blast in their lesson – the ski and snowboard teachers are exceptional. And you and your spouse will get to have one of the best dates in the world!
10. Pay attention to the signs on Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb has excellent signage on the ski and snowboard runs. Make sure that you are either very comfortable with using the map and/or pay close attention to the signs on the runs. It is very easy (and I still sometimes do it today) to think that you should just continue down the next ski run to reach a lift that will take you back up to where you started, when you really shouldn’t!
For example, in the past, I have gone down a run assuming that I was going where I wanted only to find out that I had made a huge error. Instead of going to Creekside Village where our car was parked, I was on my way to Whistler Village. Because of the size of the mountains, this type of mistake could take an hour to fix. You have to figure out the right combination of gondolas and lifts to move you across the mountains so that you can ski or snowboard down the right way.
Skiing or Snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb is one of the best winter experiences that you can have. The mountains are beautiful with spectacular views and the ski and snowboard runs are exceptional. As a local, I have learned a few tips and tricks to make the most of your day and to avoid long line ups and slow starts. I hope that these have been helpful and you love your day on Whistler Blackcomb as much as we do.
If you are interested in other articles about Whistler, please see the list below:
For dining options:
- Whistler Restaurants: A Local’s Guide To Affordable Choices!
- Whistler Treats: 5 Amazing Places To Wreck Your Diet
- Fine dining in Whistler: My Four Favourites
For summer activities:
- Whistler Summer: A Local’s Guide To The 10 Best Things To Do
- 4 Whistler Summer Activities That Make You Go Wow!
For winter activities other than ski or snowboarding:
For Indoor activities:
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