I am about to begin my 17th year of skiing in Whistler and I can’t wait! For sure, there is the annual thrill of buckling my ski boots, hopping onto that first ski lift, and heading down my favourite ski runs. But, experiencing a Whistler winter is so much more than just skiing or snowboarding. Whether you are an individual or a family, a Whistler winter has lots to offer everyone.
Here are my seven favourite Whistler winter experiences.
Whistler Winter Experiences
1. Skiing and Snowboarding
Whistler Ski Resort is made up of two enormous mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb. They are each approximately 2200 metres or 7300 feet high. Of that, 8,171 acres (3307 hectares) are skiable terrain. Collectively, there are over 200 ski runs, and 36 lifts and gondolas.
All four of my children have grown up skiing at Whistler and it has been a fantastic family bonding experience. There is nothing quite like catching up with your kids while riding a ski lift or gondola together, then hurtling down the side of a mountain as fast as you can.
Whistler Ski Resort has ski and snowboard runs for every level, and for every age group. You can ski and snowboard on some of the best ski runs in the world, with breathtaking views and amazing facilities, and never get bored – even if you ski every single day of the ski season!
For some fundamental tips to make the most out of your Whistler ski or snowboard vacation, please see my blog Whistler Ski Resort: 10 Tips for The Perfect Ski or Snowboard Day.
2. Peak 2 Peak Gondola
For those of you who do not ski or snowboard, all is not lost. You can still take a gondola from Whistler Village or Blackcomb Village to the top and experience jaw- dropping views. From there, you can also take the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola which connects Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. In fact, in the 2018/2019 ski season, the opening of the new 8 person Blackcomb Gondola will create the first three gondola connection in the world between Whistler and Blackcomb. This will allow all guests, regardless of whether they want to sightsee, ski or snowboard, to upload, connect between the mountains via the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and download in a gondola.
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is one of the longest unsupported lift span in the world at 3.024 kilometres or 1.88 miles and the highest with an elevation of 436 metres or 1,427 feet. It takes around 11 minutes to cross one way and the views are absolutely stunning. For an extra thrill, wait in line for one of two glass bottomed gondolas!
Both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains have world class restaurants or self-serve cafeterias easily accessed by one of the gondolas. On a beautiful sunny day, it is quite easy to lose hours sitting in one of these places, with a glass of wine in hand, gazing out onto the ski slopes and the stunning views below.
Whistler has some fantastic apres-ski experiences. Whether you skied or snowboarded or spent the day at the spa, apres-ski is a must-do Whistler winter experience.
Apres-ski is French and simply means “after skiing”. Usually apres-ski means meeting up with friends or family at a bar or restaurant after a day on the slopes. You have a drink, something to eat and share slightly exaggerated stories of epic ski or snowboard moments.
There are lots of Whistler bars and restaurants that offer an apres-ski menu. However, my favourites are “the classics”. The ones where ski boots are expected, beer is served in jugs, and rock music is blaring. There is at least one of these at the base of each gondola. If you are looking for a more refined “Four Seasons Hotel” experience, these places are NOT for you! However, if you want to experience some old school Whistler apres-ski, you can’t go wrong with these.
(Notwithstanding that beer is served generously and music is blaring, children are welcome in certain sections at each one of these establishments. Nothing crazy happens early on so come and enjoy some authentic Whistler apres-ski experiences with the kids.)
Dustys at Creekside
Dustys is found at the base of the Creekside gondola. It is a favourite of “locals” (which in this instance includes Vancouverites) as it is the first gondola that you reach from Vancouver and there is lots of free underground parking. In addition to a large indoor restaurant filled with picnic benches and stools, Dustys has an enormous outdoor patio that is an amazing place to relax on a mild sunny day. This is my hangout of choice.
Longhorn Saloon & Grill at Whistler Village
The Longhorn is located at the base of Whistler Mountain and is basically in the centre of the action in Whistler Village. There is normally a DJ and if you hang around long enough, live bands play most nights. It has the perfect apres menu of wings and burgers.
Merlins Bar & Grill at Blackcomb Village
Merlins is located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. It has an old-school vibe with a laid-back mountain cabin décor. But, don’t let that fool you. There is a live-music stage and suspended gondola-car DJ station. Apres often turns into some pretty crazy stuff. Dancing on the bar is encouraged.
For those looking for other dining options in Whistler, please refer to the blogs below:
- Whistler Restaurants: Budget Friendly Choices!
- Whistler Treats: 5 Amazing Places To Wreck Your Diet
- Fine dining in Whistler: My Four Favourites
4. Fire and Ice Show
Tubing at the Coca-Cola Tube Park is one of the exciting Whistler winter activities that allows you to feel the thrill of hurtling down a mountain, without skiing or snowboarding. There’s no skill or equipment required. However, they do recommend appropriate winter clothing for the temperature. This may include ski pants, mittens, goggles, and hat or helmet (for a child).
What I love about this Whistler attraction is that it is great for families. Children as young as 3 years of age with a minimum height of 91cm (36″) tall are welcome. There is a “Mini-Kids” lane which starts halfway down the normal tubing hill for those between 91 cm (36″) to 103 cm (41″) tall.
6. Whistler Village
7. Outdoor Ice Skating
In the shadows of the 2010 Olympic Rings and in Whistler Village, is Whistler Olympic Plaza. This venue hosts an outdoor ice skating rink that is free and open to all. Ice skates are available to rent for a couple of dollars.
Surrounding the ice rink is a massive all year round playground for children and several cafes. On every Monday and Wednesday evening from December until the end of March, Whistler Olympic Plaza offers free Canadian-themed activities and entertainment for kids of all ages.
I have only scratched the surface of Whistler winter activities that are available to every visitor to Whistler. These are just my favourites. You don’t have to be ski or snowboard obsessed to spend time in Whistler and have a fantastic experience. If you love snow, Christmas lights, being surrounded by majestic mountains with breathtaking views, and outdoor winter activities such as skating, then a Whistler winter has something special to offer you.
Thinking of going to Whistler in the summer? Here are some amazing Whistler summer activities that you may wish try:
- A Whistler Summer in Canada: 10 Of My Favourite Things To Do
- 4 Whistler Summer Activities That Make You Go Wow!
Not in the mood for outside activities, here are suggestions for fun or interesting indoor activities.
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