Whistler, British Columbia in the winter time is a pretty special place. There’s just something magical about this mountain resort during the icy grip of winter. Situated just a two-hour drive north of Vancouver, Whistler is Canada’s ultimate winter wonderland, and it’s hardly surprising that so many return each year to experience British Columbia’s outdoor adventure playground.
SKIING & SNOWBOARDING
Whistler has some of the best snow terrain and facilities in the world, and it’s easy to find something fun for all ages.
You’ll also need to purchase lift passes or season passes before you head for the slopes. Something like the Epic Pass at $899 USD is a highly flexible option for the nomadic skier or rider since it lets you take to the slopes as much as you want across 65 world class resorts across North America (including Whistler, of course) and Australia.
For the more accomplished skier or snowboarder, there are plenty of thrilling backcountry adventures waiting to be enjoyed. For a little backcountry luxury, check out Journeyman Lodge, where you can combine adrenaline-fuelled snow sport with lavish comfort. A word of caution: backcountry snow adventures are to be taken seriously so only those educated in avalanche training should venture out into the wild, snowy mountains.
For a truly epic group activity, why not try heli-skiing? After a spectacular helicopter ride to the peak of the mountain, you and your friends will enjoy a run all to yourselves, hurtling down the freshest powder the mountain has to offer. Click here to find out about Whistler Blackcomb heli-skiing options.
WHISTLER ADVENTURES FOR NON-SKIERS
Whistler is world-famous for world-class skiing and snowboarding, but that’s not all the beautiful mountain has to offer. There are a number of great activities to be enjoyed away from the slopes.
Ziptrek Ecotours has the longest zipline in Canada and the USA: over 2 km long. Suitable for all ages, it’s the perfect group activity to enjoy with friends or family, and there’s something highly addictive to zipping past snow-frosted conifers and seeing Whistler from a different perspective! Ziptrek offer a whole range of winter packages but the Twilight Tour comes highly recommended. After a day on the slopes, head for Ziptrek during late afternoon for a truly unique apres-ski.
For something quintessentially Canadian, head to Forged Axe Throwing, Whistler’s only axe throwing venue, where you and your friends can unleash your inner lumberjack and compete for the prestigious title of axe throwing champion. As Canada’s alternative to darts, axe throwing consists of hurling an axe down an alley with the goal of hitting a bullseye. Popular with bachelor and bachelorette parties, axe throwing is the perfect group activity. And it’s even indoors, so axe throwing is an ideal activity no matter the weather. Nervous about throwing an axe? Rest assured, the friendly Forged team will be on hand to provide a safety talk and help perfect your technique. You’ll be hitting those bullseyes in no time.
After all that axe throwing, explore Canadian snow country in style with a dog sled tour. Wrap up warm and hurtle across the snow behind a team of exuberant Arctic sled dogs. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take the reins and mush a team of dogs for yourself. This is a great activity, particularly for those travelling with children.
If horses are more your thing, jingle all the way on a romantic Whistler sleigh ride. You’ll enjoy stunning mountain views while snuggled up to your loved one behind a strong team of Percheron horses.
For the motor heads, jumping on a sled and heading deep into the backcountry to explore the rugged hills of Whistler is a must. The Adventure Group boasts the reputation of having some of the most incredible snowmobile tours in the province, and they have a range of options to suit all levels of experience and courage! Just be sure to bring a camera along for the ride.
After all that adventure on or off the slopes, soothe your muscles by immersing yourself in a hot tub or cold plunge pool, after enjoying one of the sumptuous massages, saunas or treatments at the Scandinave Spa. Bath access costs just $79 from November 1st, and it’s always worth checking out the impressive packages and promotions on offer during your time of travel.
With an abundance of dining options, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food and drink.
For the health-conscious, The Wildwood comes highly recommended. It’s the ideal place to refuel during a day in the mountains, and the impressive range of fresh bakery items and delicious gluten free & vegan items are reasonably priced and packed with flavor.
For those maintaining a rigorous gluten-free diet, it’s perhaps advisable to avoid the delectable Purebread Bakery. For those looking to indulge however, arrive early before they sell out! I’d advise the bacon and egg brioche early in the day, and a tangy lemon blueberry basil scone as an afternoon pick-me-up.
For a lavish evening dinner, Bearfoot Bistro has to be one of the best options in all of Whistler. Executive Chef Melissa Craig is something of a local legend when it comes to preparing the very best locally sourced, seasonal creations, and you’ll enjoy the finest seafood and wild game found in British Columbia. Bearfoot also has the Ketel One Ice Room next door, a special aperitif after you enjoy your meal. It’s the coldest vodka tasting room in the world and boasts over 50 vodkas.
Lovers of seafood should head to internationally-renowned Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar. Innovative and skillfully executive dishes from savoury starters through to delicious desserts deliver unforgettable flavours sure to have you returning at least once more during your stay.
Bar Oso (“oso” meaning “bear” in Spanish) is another popular choice serving Spanish-influenced small plates, tapas, and home-made charcuterie. For a refreshingly modern take on an espresso Martini, try the Shaft cocktail here too.
CHRISTMAS IN WHISTLER
The Christmas and New Year period is an extremely popular time to visit Whistler, and it’s hardly surprising. Fairy lights stream from frosted fir trees and this gingerbread village brims with festive cheer. Many of the top hotels vie for visitors’ attention by putting on some festive shows and activities, and each Sunday during the Christmas period, a free outdoor show called Fire and Ice is held at the base of the mountains. Expect snowboard big air displays, fire spinners, DJs and rowdy after-parties!
Whistler also has its own indoor winter market, meaning you can peruse a selection of locally made artisan products and pieces while staying out of the cold. Peruse rows of handcrafted jewellery, food, fashion and artwork, perfect for picking up a last minute gift.
Getting there: A number of international airlines fly regularly to and from Vancouver International Airport. Pacific Coach Lines and Epic Rides offer daily, frequent shuttle transportation from Vancouver to Whistler, with a shuttle bus station situated within the terminal itself. Each bus ride offers stunning city, ocean and mountain views, and a door-to-door services to your Whistler hotel as well as a meet and greet service from the airport are also available through Whistler Shuttle.
What to pack: Whistler generally has a relaxed vibe, but you’ll certainly need to bring plenty of warm clothing during the winter months. Layers work best, and a good pair of walking boots are strongly advised. As mentioned earlier, ski and snowboarding equipment can be hired.
Accommodation: Whatever your budget, you’ll find a wide range of accommodation options in Whistler. It’s advisable to book well in advance, particularly if you want to stay in the most sought-after accommodation. The majority of hotels require a minimum of 4-7 night stays over the Christmas and New Year period. For luxury, check out the impressive Four Seasons Resort or Fairmont Chateau. The Aava is a popular choice for group travel and the Nita Lake Lodge is a romantic, lakeside hotel perfect for an intimate getaway.