Whistler Blackcomb

British Columbia, Canada

Whistler is spectacular in many ways. Whether it’s the two gigantic mountains delivering more than 8000ac (3237ha) of skiing, the jaw-dropping scenery, a village life that puts most major cities to shame or terrain that is steep enough to give even the most extreme skiers an adrenaline rush, you will never be short of being amazed at Whistler. Long the favorite of skiers everywhere, Whistler became even more famous when it hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and showed itself off to the world. Whether you’re a family of beginners or training to be an instructor, anyone will have a blast at Whistler. 

Scout Loves

  • Some of the longest ski runs on the planet.
  • Two mountains to choose from, joined at the foot by the village and at the middle by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
  • The pedestrian-friendly village that can do some real damage to your credit card thanks to its shops (shops and more shops), hundreds of restaurants and countless bars.
  • Dustys in Creekside is an apres institution.
  • Scandinave Spa Its collection of hot tubs, steam and sauna rooms plus icy plunge pools and relaxation rooms will rejuvenate any tired ski body. Allow several hours.
  • Become an instructor or just push your boundaries with a week or two on a YES Improvement course.

Scout Tips

  • Weather and snow conditions can be variable. Rain at the base of the mountain is not uncommon, but that usually means it's snowing up top.
  • Weekend crowds can be terrible, stay and ski mid-week to avoid long lift lines.
  • Bars are ridiculously busy on Australia Day (January 26). Given half the working population of Whistler seems to come from the Great Southern Land, every bar is heaving with merry Aussies.
  • Whistler is part of Vail Resorts and the Epic Pass.
  • Whistler Blackcomb is massive. You will need at least a week to ski it all.

Scout Review

Simply, Whistler Blackcomb is huge. Each mountain is big enough on its own to outdo the size of most other North American resorts. But put together, nothing comes close. Once upon a time, it was one resort with two separate ski mountains. In the morning you would decide which you were going to ski and then stick to it as coming back to the village to change mountains ate into valuable ski time. But when the awe-inspiring Peak 2 Peak Gondola joined them at the top, the mountains truly became one huge resort as it was now easy to ski both in the one-day. Whistler is so big that if you look at the terrain statistics as size, not a percentage, even just the advanced skiing area alone - a whopping 2206ac (893ha) - would be bigger than many world-class resorts. On all this terrain, the ski runs are well designed and the lifts efficient, meaning you spend less time traversing and more time skiing.

In keeping with the size trend, Whistler also has impressive amounts of powder snow. Sure, the lower elevations mean it’s not the same light, dry powder found in some other resorts, but at 462in (11.7m) a year, there’s still plenty of it. Just keep your fingers crossed the temperatures stay cold enough to keep the rain away.

Added to all of this is some of the most beautiful scenery – Whistler is surrounded by glaciers, valleys, forests and soaring mountains in every direction you look.

If the skiing isn’t enough to exhaust you, then Whistler’s famous party scene will. After-dark funsters let rip at the many and excellent restaurants, bars and nightclubs. We’re not sure where they get the energy, but the parties go late and they go hard. However you don't have to be a party goer to enjoy Whistler Village. It is a bustling, happening place and the pedestrian "Whistler stroll" which is lined with shops, bars and restaurants is about 1km long. Of course, the action extends beyond that and the second main base, Whistler Creekside, is also a happening little village. Whistler is perfect for families and couples, with so much to do beyond skiing and more than enough choice of restaurants from budget to top end.

It’s enough to make you exhausted just thinking about it.

Whistler Blackcomb Skiing

Where to we begin?! Whistler is one of those resorts that has to be skied to be believed. 

Whistler and Blackcomb are two monstrous side-by-side mountains, which when combined offers over 8171 acres of terrain to explore, including 16 alpine bowls, 3 glaciers and over 200 marked runs. You can almost explore the mountain for multiple days and not ski the same run twice. Although predominantly suited to Intermediate skiers and snowboarders, we love Whistler as there are runs for every ability level. Fantastic beginner areas, intermediate tree skiing and long groomers on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and some of the best advanced skiing in Canada. Steep bowls, double black diamond runs, and tricky chutes are in abundance, as well as additional side-country options with a short hike or two.

With this much terrain on offer, Whistler has stepped up the game with its chairlift capacity. Servicing this mammoth resort are 37 lifts, mostly made up of high-speed gondolas or quads, and the famous Peak-2-Peak gondola, which allows easy skier access between the mountains. This alone is a memorable experience (and test of the nerves) as you make your way across the ropeway (some 3.03 kms long, and 436 metres above the ground), and take in the incredible views of the surrounding peaks and valley below.

The only downside to Whistler can be the crowds, which is understandable given how incredible this mountain is, and its proximity to Vancouver. The resort is making continual improvements to help with crowding and currently has a lift capacity of just under 70,000 skiers per hour. However Peak season (February mainly, and holidays) brings crazy lift lines at the gondolas and main quad chairs, and the fight for fresh tracks is real, so avoiding these travel dates as well as weekends is highly recommended.

There are 17 restaurants on-mountain including a few smaller restaurants, however most are giant caffeterias serving up regular mountain fare (chilli, pizza slices, burgers etc). The Chic Pea on Whistler mountain is one of our favourites.

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Whistler Blackcomb For Families

The one thing Whistler does really well is cater to families. There are endless accommodation options throughout the resort, including hotels, apartments, condos, and townhouse, all with bedding configurations and amenities to suit each and every family unit. Choose to stay right in the heart of the action in Whistler Village, or enjoy the peace and quiet of the Creekside village. With plenty of ski-in/ski-out and slopeside options in both the main Whistler Village and Creekside, it makes it even easier to hit the slopes with the whole family every morning.

Having operated for over 50 years, the resort has fine-tuned all their ski facilities & amenities - from internationally renowned ski school, vast array of rental shops, heli-ski tours, seamless lift operations, and childcare options, to a plethora of restaurants and bars, convenience stores, & retail shops - Whistler definitely makes for a stress-free family ski holiday.

In regards to the ski area, the vast options for all ability levels across the two mountain ranges means there is something for everyone. Mellow beginner runs, cruisy groomers (immaculately groomed by the way), fun freestyle skiing, and plenty of advanced and expert off-piste and backcountry. Best of all you can almost always find an easy way down from most lifts which makes skiing together as a mixed ability family possible.

If you’re looking for a world-class ski resort with everything you’ll ever need for a family ski holiday, you can’t pass up Whistler.

Whistler Blackcomb Accommodation

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Given the capacity for overnight guests tops 30,000, there is an enormous amount of accommodation in Whistler to choose from and the quality, style and price are varied. Most lodging is based in three main areas; Whistler Village, Blackcomb Village and Mountain, or at Whistler Creekside. Compared to many big resorts in the US, Whistler represents great value. Don’t count out Creekside because of its location – it has some great amenities, is quieter and has direct access to Whistler Mountain and the crowds there in the morning can often be a lot less than the main village.

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Resort Activities

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So many extra activities are offered in Whistler beyond skiing, you could fill a week just doing those and still have things left over. Scout’s favorites are a visit to Scandinave Spa, heli-skiing, the Fire & Ice show (every Sunday at 6.30pm at the Whistler Village base), Fresh Tracks (including a huge breakfast and first access to Whistler Mountain) and bobsled rides on the Olympic track. A Whistler snowmobiling trip is also well worth the time and suitable for the whole family. For kids, the adventure playland areas of Magic Castle on Blackcomb and Tree Fort on Whistler are a fun change from the slopes.

Getting There and Around

Getting to Whistler is really easy. The best way is to fly to Vancouver International Airport and then transfer (about 2 hours’ drive) to the resort - due to the layout of the mountain, the pedestrian-focused village and the area’s sufficient public bus system you will never need a car.

Several shuttle services run frequent buses and private transfers from the airport and downtown Vancouver during winter. If you've flown across several time zones and looking to recover before hitting the slopes, Vancouver makes an excellent stop-over for a night or two. A one-way ticket on a bus is about CAD$70 while private transfers cost about about $355. If you’re in a real hurry to get to the slopes you can also catch a helicopter. Scout can include transfers as part of a Whistler Blackcomb ski package.

Getting around Whistler is simple. While Whistler Village is a big area it doesn’t take long to walk from one end to the other. It takes about five minutes to walk to Blackcomb Village from the top of Whistler Village. To connect to areas such as Whistler Creekside there’s an efficient public bus system and plenty of taxis.

When To Go

Whistler Blackcomb opens towards the end of November and Whistler mountain closes towards the end of April while Blackcomb mountain stays open longer, until mid-May.

December and January can be bitingly cold. February has, on average, less snow than other months, so you have more chance of fine days but less chance of powder.

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 2140ft / 653m Gondolas 5 Whistler    
Summit Elevation 7494ft / 2284m Express Six Seater 2 Beginner 20%  
Vertical Drop (Blackcomb Mt) 5280ft / 1609m Express Quads 11 Intermediates 55%  
Skiable Area 8171ac / 3307ha Triple Chairs 3 Advanced 25%  
Annual Snowfall 462in / 11.74m Surface Lifts 15 Blackcomb    
Longest Run 7 miles / 11km     Beginner 15%  
Snowmaking 665ac / 269ha Lift Capacity per hour 67,307 people Intermediates 55%  
Operating Hours (Opening- Jan 25) 8.30am –3.00pm     Advanced 33%  
Operating Hours (Jan 26 - Feb 22) 8.30am –3.30pm          
Operating Hours (Feb 23 - Closing) 8.30am –4.00pm          
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MAGAZINE
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Best Ski-in Ski-out Hotels in North America

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Photo: Corbet\'s Couloir at Jackson Hole.

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