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, couple or a family, there is lots of winter experiences waiting for you to discover. Best of all, some of them are free!
Here are my seven of my favourites. I like them a lot because many of them will appeal to people of all ages and interests. Not everyone who comes to Whistler in the winter wants to downhill ski or snowboard. Some have no interest in any winter sports, including cross country skiing or snow shoeing, two other winter outdoor activities offered in Whistler. Instead, some people come to Whistler with their loved ones and want to find other activities to share with one another that celebrates how special a Whistler winter is.
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1. Skiing and Snowboarding – The Most Famous Whistler Winter experience
We have to, at least, start with the most famous Whistler winter experience – downhill skiing and snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb.
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 or snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb. We have had many amazing days in the mountains skiing and snowboarding together. 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 Blackcomb 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.
In my article Whistler Blackcomb: A Local’s Guide To An Epic Ski Day, I have compiled 10 of my most useful tips for how to get the most out of your ski day on Whistler Blackcomb. This includes where best to park and upload; when you should upload and when you might consider avoiding the mountain all together; how to get rentals and lift tickets faster; and how to quickly learn the best ski runs for you. If you want to get the most out of your time skiing or snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb, this article is a must read.
2. Peak 2 Peak Gondola – A Breathtaking Whistler Winter Experience
For those of you who do not ski or snowboard, all is not lost. You can still take a gondola from Whistler or Blackcomb Villages almost to the top of the mountains and experience jaw-dropping views. From there, you can also take the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola which connects Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. In addition, last year a new 8 person Blackcomb gondola opened which created the first three gondola connection in the world between two mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb.
All of this is to say that all guests to Whistler Blackcomb, regardless of whether they want to sightsee, ski or snowboard, can comfortably upload onto a gondola, connect between the mountains via the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, and then finally download in another gondola back to one of the villages, never requiring ski or snowboarding equipment.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola facts
The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is one of the longest unsupported lift spans 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, you can wait in a separate line for one of two glass bottomed gondolas! However, if the line up is long, I’d skip it. The views from any Peak 2 Peak Gondola are spectacular even without the glass bottom.
Eating or drinking on Whistler Blackcomb
Both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains have world class restaurants, self-serve cafeterias or bars easily accessed by one of the gondolas. On a beautiful sunny day, it is quite easy to lose hours sitting by floor to ceiling windows or out on one of the decks, with a glass of wine in hand, gazing out onto the ski slopes, the mountains and the stunning views below.
3. Apres-Ski – A Very Satisfying Whistler Winter Experience
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”. Today, when you say “apres-ski”, it means a little bit more, like 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. 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 any of them.
(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. Moreover, 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 I have adored over the years. When the sun is out, there is no better place to be after a day on Whistler Blackcomb.
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: A Local’s Guide To 8 Affordable Choices!
- Whistler Treats: 5 Amazing Places To Wreck Your Diet
- Fine dining in Whistler: My Four Favourites
4. Fire and Ice Show – A Crazy Whistler Winter Experience
5. Tubing – An Exhilarating Whistler Winter Experience
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 winter 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.
You do need to be reasonable fit for this activity. Although there is a “movator”, something that moves you and your tube up the hill to where you start to tube, you still have to be able to pull a large tube from the bottom of the mountain to the start of the movator. It seems close, and it really isn’t far, but with all of your heavy clothing, boots and an unwieldy tube, I always end up a little out of breath whenever I tube!
6. Whistler Village – A Magical Whistler Winter Experience
Accommodation For Whistler Winter Activities
For accommodation in Whistler Village or elsewhere in Whistler, I would recommend searching below in booking.com and using the amazing interactive map to find your ideal location at the best prices.
7. Outdoor Ice Skating – A Fun Whistler Winter Experience
In the shadows of the 2010 Olympic Rings and in Whistler Village is the Whistler Olympic Plaza. Every year, this venue hosts an outdoor ice skating rink that is free and open to all. In addition, ice skates are available to rent for a couple of dollars.
This is an incredible place for kids and parents looking for some entertainment. Surrounding the ice rink is a massive all year round playground for children and several cafes with outdoor patios. On every Monday and Wednesday evening from December until the end of March, Whistler Olympic Plaza also 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: A Local’s Guide To the 10 Best Things To Do
- 4 Whistler Summer Activities That Make You Go Wow!
Not in the mood for outside activities, here are suggestions for fun and interesting indoor activities.
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