Last Updated on November 30, 2023 by Nicole
For over 20 years now, I have made Whistler my second home. In the winter, I ski on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains, and in the summer, I hike and bike along its trails. All four of my kids (19 years old – 26 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 a day on the mountains. In this blog, I am going to highlight 11 tips that will save you time and money to help you have a fantastic ski or snowboard day on Whistler and Blackcomb.
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At A Glance
I know you are busy. If you only have a couple minutes to spare, here are the key takeaways from this article.
- Whistler Blackcomb Resort is made up of two enormous mountains.
- To get the most out of your day, make sure you get lift tickets the night before you ski or snowboard, upload before 8:00 am, and follow the signage.
- If you have the time, take a free mountain tour or lesson.
- To save money, eat at home, pack a lunch, buy a pre-made lunch, or eat at the base.
- If you are going to take a day off and do something else, do it on a weekend, a holiday, or on a powder day.
If you can find more time, try to read my full article. It explains my suggestions, gives you details about experiences that you will have, and provides travel tips.
Whistler Blackcomb Ski and Snowboarding Tips And Tricks
Here are 11 best tips and tricks to save you time and money while skiing or snowboarding on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
Whistler Mountain And Blackcomb Mountain
Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is made up of two enormous mountains: Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain. They are each approximately 7300 feet (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.
Gondolas and Ski Lifts
There are four main locations where you can upload on to the mountain. Those are Creekside Village, Whistler Village, Upper Village and Base II.
Creekside Village At Base Of Whistler Mountain
Creekside Village is the first place that you will reach when you are driving from Vancouver to Whistler. It is a 10 minute drive from Creekside to Whistler Village; 3-4 minutes from Whistler Village to Upper Village, and then again, another 3-4 minutes from Upper Village to Base II.
Creekside has a large indoor free parking lot so it is popular with locals and those who are driving up from Vancouver for the day. 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 8:00 am to guarantee a spot. There are very limited parking options, paid or otherwise, if the parkade is full.
Whistler Village With Access To Both Whistler And Blackcomb Mountains
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. Those include 5 outdoor day lots or indoor lots under various hotels or other buildings.
There are two gondolas at the base of Whistler Village. 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 the Excalibur Gondola which goes up Blackcomb Mountain. Once you are on Blackcomb Mountain, there are also lots of ski runs to from which choose on Blackcomb Mountain 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, which is an 8 person high speed ski lift that takes you about 40% up Whistler Mountain. Here you will find many green, family or easy runs back to Whistler Village.
It also connects to Garbanzo, a 4 person lift which takes you another 30% up Whistler Mountain.
Upper Village On Base Of Blackcomb Mountain
Upper Village is home to Blackcomb Gondola which takes you up Blackcomb Mountain to the Rendezvous Lodge. From there, you can start your ski day, including heading to 7th Heaven Express lift to reach the upper Alpine. You can also take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to Whistler Mountain.
There are very few paid parking spots in the Upper Village. Instead, 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. Alternatively, there is a free shuttle from Lots 4 and 5 that run on weekends and holidays.
Base II On Blackcomb Mountain
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.
If you are looking for other articles about Whistler, please see:
For dining options:
- Whistler Restaurants: Budget Friendly Choices!
- Whistler Treats: 5 Amazing Places To Wreck Your Diet
- Fine Dining in Whistler: My Four Favourites
For all year round activities:
For summer activities:
For winter activities:
For Indoor activities:
Times To Avoid Uploading To Whistler Or 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 8:00 am. In addition, do not take any runs that lead you back to any of these gondolas (except the Peak 2 Peak) until after 11:00 am. There are two reasons for this.
First, the ski day is short from December through February. Generally, it is daylight only from around 8:00 am – 4:00 pm depending on the month (the shortest day of the year is December 21 and then, each day its gets longer until June 21).
Everyone needs to get off the mountains well before darkness arrives. That means in December and January, lifts can close as early as 2:30 pm. Accordingly, everyone tries to start their Whistler ski day as early as possible.
Second, most children’s ski or snowboard lessons on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains meet at one of these Gondola 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.
If there has been a huge powder dump and it is the weekend or a holiday, then all bets are off. You will want to get to the gondolas to line up as soon as you can.
When To purchase Lift Tickets And Equipment Rentals
If you need to purchase any lift tickets or ski or snowboard lessons, sign any waivers, or pick up 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.
How To Organize Your Whistler Ski Or Snowboard Vacation
Whistler has many other winter activities other than ski and snowboarding. Those include both indoor and outdoor attractions. If interested, please see:
If you think you might want to try one or two of them (or take a day off, relax or go to a spa), then I would recommend doing so on a weekend, and leave your ski or snowboarding to weekdays when it is quieter on the mountain.
Although Whistler Blackcomb Resort has added many new high speed or larger ski lifts or gondolas, you may still find yourself in long line ups over weekends or during holidays.
Avalanche Safety On Whistler And Blackcomb Mountains
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 it a super early or late start. Why?
First, many locals and Vancouverites may take an unplanned day off from work, drive up to Whistler, and spend the day enjoying the fresh snow.
Second, the upper alpine might remain closed for half the day while they 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. Depending on the day, this could create really long line ups for the lifts and the gondolas until the upper alpine opens.
And FYI – There is no guarantee that the upper alpine will open.
Take Free Mountain Tour
Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are truly massive. The offer 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, would still be unknown.
Both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains offer free tours. Please click on this link for more information about meeting times and locations.
Pay for A Ski Or Snowboard Lesson
The free mountain tours are a great resource to learn more about Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. However, it is even better 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.
In addition, my husband and I have also taken the occasional one or two day lesson over the years. Why?
Certainly, we like to take a lesson every now and again to try and improve our technique. However, what is even more valuable to us is that invariably, the ski or snowboard instructor takes us to different parts of Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains that we have never been to, or on different runs that we have never tried before.
Even after 25 years, there are parts of these mountains, 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.
Put Your Children In Whistler Ski Or Snowboard lessons
Skiing and snowboarding are terrific family activities. I love spending the day with one or all of my kids on the mountains.
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, putting our little ones into a ski or snowboard lessons in Whistler and spending the day on the mountain with each other was one of life’s guilty pleasures. And it is something that you should consider and budget for, even if it is only for a day.
Your kids will have a blast in their lesson – the ski and snowboard teachers are exceptional. And you and your partner will get to have one of the best dates in the world!
Pay Attention To Signage On The Mountains
Both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains have 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 as you go. It is very easy 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.
Restaurants And Snacks On The Mountains
It is pretty expensive eating on the mountains. If you are trying not to overspend, or stay on a tight budget, consider doing one of the following:
- Eat at home. Either start your day early, take a break midday and go home to eat, and then, head back to the mountain. This might not be possible in early winter when the days are quite short, but it becomes more viable as spring approaches;
- Plan your day so you don’t need to eat on the mountain. For example, we will often sleep in and head to the mountain for a 11:00 am start. We then have a late breakfast or early lunch at home beforehand, and bring a snack for later;
- Bring your lunch. There are a few spots where you can pick up inexpensive sandwiches or other pre-made lunches. Those include Creekside Market at the Creekside Gondola, or Fresh St. Market in Whistler Village. You can also pack your own lunch if you have kitchen facilities.
- Eat in Whistler Village. Whistler Village offers lots of budget friendly restaurants or kiosks where you can eat for a reasonable price. To find out where to go, please see Whistler Restaurants: Budget Friendly Choices!
Skiing or snowboarding at Whistler Blackcomb Resort 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.
These few tips and tricks should have a definite impact to your day. Whether you hope to spend more time on the mountain and less time in line, or save a bit of money, these should help you on your way.
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