Visiting Whistler is an incredible opportunity. But with more than 200 marked runs, 8171 acres of terrain to discover and a lively village to explore, what should you do first?
To help you make the most of your visit, whether it’s a day, a weekend or even longer, I sourced the best Whistler tips from 5 local experts:
- MEC Ambassador Reuben Krabbe: a photographer who focuses on skiing, mountain biking and other acts of awesome.
- Feet Banks: writer, filmmaker and editor of Mountain Life – Coast Mountains.
- MEC Ambassador Joe Schuster: a ski filmmaker whose goal is to “spend as much time on snow as possible.”
- Abby Cooper: splitboarder, hiker, adventurer, year-round snow seeker, photographer and writer.
- Graeme Leathem: MEC staffer who’s snowboarded in Whistler for 17 years (and counting).
Read on for the local’s guide to Whistler, from where to head first on a powder day to where to enjoy après.
1. What’s your favourite run?
Reuben: Spanky’s Ladder [on Blackcomb]. There’s something so fantastic about the scramble up the ladder on a pow day, and racing to the line you want before other people get there.
Joe: The Goat Path on Whistler.
Feet: School Marm, down at the bottom of Blackcomb under the Wizard. It’s steep and has nice corners and great pitch at the end.
Abby: Nothing beats Blow Hole on a fresh powder bluebird day!
Graeme: The Grey Zone on Blackcomb, just off Glacier Chair. A short hike gets you a big open bowl full of fun terrain features, plus it ends at the top of Crystal Chair for access to some of the best tree runs.
2. Best blue or green run?
Reuben: Everyone should get a lap from the top of 7th Heaven on a clear day. The view can’t be beat, and there are green and blues. But Harmony Ridge for a blue skier is one of the all-time favourites.
Abby: The best blue run combo is Flute Bowl into Glissando Glades. For beginners, Green Acres is always fun.
Graeme: Jolly Green Giant on Whistler is the best mid-mountain blue, and Symphony Chair has a great mix of blue runs with epic views.
3. What’s your favourite bowl or glade?
Reuben: Bagel Bowl off the top of Peak Chair on Whistler. You’re on a side of the mountain with no chairlifts, so it’s quieter, and there’s good snow and a huge fall line.
Abby: Sapphire Bowl, hands down!
Graeme: CBC Trees on Blackcomb is awesome.
Feet: The good thing about glades is that they’re everywhere, so depending how adventurous you are, you can always find good tree skiing. Get up for first tracks anywhere on the front side of 7th Heaven and you’re gonna find stuff dreams are made of. If you’re looking at the map, it’s left of the chair.
4. It’s a powder day. What’s your first move?
Reuben: Any good powder day needs good coffee. Hit up Mount Currie Coffee, then get to a chairlift early. At Peak Chair, the skiing’s as good as the show – crazy cliffs are visible from the lift, so it’s stoke-central.
Joe: Crystal Chair usually opens earlier than the high alpine chairs and it has tons of fun tree skiing.
Feet: It all comes down to strategy. I like to bust a few laps of [Emerald] or [Big] Red Chair before I head to the alpine lifts. If I’m on Blackcomb, there’s lots of good fun to be had off Jersey Cream and you’re still right there to jump on Glacier or head on the high traverse to 7th Heaven.
Graeme: The side runs that aren’t easily visible from the chairlift tend to get tracked a little less quickly. I also highly recommend going straight to an alpine lift and waiting for it to open. It may take an hour or two, but you’ll get one of the best runs of your life without going into the backcountry.
5. Best Whistler après-ski spot?
Abby: If I’ve been riding Blackcomb all day, it’s HandleBar for sure. If I’ve been on Whistler, then Amsterdam or Longhorn.
Reuben: HandleBar at Blackcomb base. It’s independently owned, and it has a deadly rotating beer list.
Graeme: Dusty’s in Whistler’s Creekside base. No other après hangout has as much Whistler history and character.
Feet: You can’t really go wrong anywhere, but for me, it’s the GLC. You can literally ski onto the deck. They’ve always got great music, the staff is amazing and the food’s good.
6. What’s your favourite piece of gear?
Joe: My MEC Northern Lite jacket. It keeps me super warm and I can wear it around town and it still looks good!
Reuben: Boot warmers. Yes, I’m totally that guy. But I’ve frozen my toes too many times for frostnip to be funny, so these are amazing.
Feet: My helmet. I’m a great skier, but things happen on the hill and a head injury can ruin your day or your year. Throw the helmet on.
7. Best lunch spot on the mountain?
Graeme: Crystal Hut – they have the best waffles, but get there early to get a seat!
Reuben: Glacier Creek patio; it’s normally a little less busy.
Feet: The Roundhouse is the original spot in Whistler. It’s got a nice mix of beautiful scenery, big sunny decks and good food.
Abby: Raven’s Nest. I’m not even a vegan, but the menu is so creative and tasty.
8. What’s your advice for first-timers in Whistler?
Joe: Get up and go early, because it doesn’t take long for the lines to get big and the pow to get skied out.
Reuben: Do a Peak-to-Valley lap: ski all the elevation from the top to bottom (of either mountain) in one non-stop lap.
Graeme: Train your legs with endless squats before you come! The runs are some of the longest in North America. If your legs aren’t strong, your days will be short.
9. Other than skiing, what’s the next best thing to do?
Joe: I love to play ice hockey on Nita Lake.
Abby: Go exploring by foot – there are plenty of waterfalls, suspension bridges and views.
Feet: The skeleton on the bobsled track. Stick on that helmet, lie on your little skeleton, try to keep your chin from bouncing off the ice, and go down the same track that was in the Olympics.
Reuben: The Audain Art Museum or Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre are well worth a visit.
10. If you’re skiing with kids, where should you go?
Reuben: Whistler Mountain is a bit better for all beginners. Try the magic carpets and the Olympic Chair, followed by Emerald Chair for long green runs and amazing views.
Feet: Off 7th Heaven is Xhiggy’s Meadow, a huge bowl where kids can see the big mountains and be in the pow. There are a couple of nice cruisers coming out the bottom.
Graeme: Olympic Zone on Whistler has the best terrain and facilities for beginners, and it’s easily accessible via the Whistler Village Gondola. Plus, you can zip up to the Roundhouse for lunch so the kids get to see the top of the mountain. For really young kids, the base of Blackcomb has a great magic carpet area you can access without investing in a full-day lift ticket.
11. If you could only pick one: Whistler or Blackcomb?
Reuben: Whistler: the first, the classic. It’s got powder days locked down and an amazing variety of terrain.
Graeme: Blackcomb, hands down. But I’m a snowboarder, so I’m a little biased.
Feet: I’m a Blackcomb guy. Long live the dark side!
Joe: I’ve never been able to answer this question. They’re both so good!
For more advice on planning your trip, check out The Whistler Insider, Tourism Whistler’s guide to local happenings. Want to experience a Whistler ski day yourself? If you haven’t already entered, check out the MEC $11,000 Whistler Ski Giveaway contest.
Top photo by Tourism Whistler / Eric Berger