This beginner’s guide to skiing in Whistler, Canada, gives you everything you need to know to plan the best family ski trip.
Known for its long runs and some of North America’s steepest terrain, Whistler in Canada’s British Columbia is on many skiers’ bucket lists.
Throw in acres of beautiful alpine terrain, an abundance of snow and a fun and thriving village vibe, and Whistler is the perfect ski vacation destination for families.
If this is your first time visiting Whistler for the winter season, then this article is for you. I walk you through everything you need to know about skiing in Whistler, including:
- The best ski runs for all abilities
- What ski pass to get
- How to book ski lessons
- Where to hire ski equipment
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
Plus much, much more!
Whistler is one of my favourite places in the World, so if you are booking a ski trip there, then lucky you! I hope this article helps you get the most out of your ski holiday.
Table of Contents
Fun Facts about Whistler
Before we get into the practical details, here are a few fun Whistler facts:
- It’s the largest ski resort in North America.
- There are 4,757 acres of skiable terrain.
- It has an average annual snowfall of 11.4m / 37.3 ft.
- It has 37 lifts with a total capacity of 69,939 people per hour.
- The longest run is the Peak to Creek – a whopping 11km long. That’s a thigh burner for sure!
- The Winter Olympics were held here in 2010.
- Whistler receives approximately 3 million visitors per year and has capacity for 30,000 overnight visitors.
- The Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which connects Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb, broke the Guinness Book of World Records as the “highest cable car above ground” at 1,430 feet and “longest unsupported span between two cable car towers” at 1.9 miles.
The Best time to Ski Whistler
The Whistler skiing season runs from late November to late April.
No matter what time of year you visit, remember that weekends will always be busier due to day-trippers from Vancouver. Tuesday-Thursday is always quieter on the slopes.
December – January generally sees plenty of powder snow, making it a popular time in Whistler. It’s also a magical time to visit as the village is decked out in its Christmas lights and there is a fun festive atmosphere.
Note that Christmas – New Year is peak season and therefore very busy. You can expect to pay more for accommodation and will need to book everything well in advance.
The resort does get a bit quieter once the Canadian/US schools go back in early January, but early-mid January is still a popular time with Australian and South American families who are on their summer break.
February – early March is a great time to visit Whistler if you are not constrained by school holidays. There is plenty of snow and fewer crowds than earlier in the year.
Late March – April is spring ski season in Whistler. You can expect milder weather, longer days and softer snow. The gondolas and chairlifts open earlier at 8:15 AM, and close later at 4 PM, meaning more time on the slopes, and more time for a long lazy lunch at Christine’s!
Whistler vs Blackcomb Mountains
Whistler Blackcomb is divided into two mountains: Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain. Your ski pass allows you to ski both mountains.
(The village area is divided into three areas: Whistler Village, Blackcomb base (aka Upper Village) and Creekside – but more on this later).
It’s easy to ski between the two mountains, with the Peak 2 Peak gondola connecting them at the top, as well as the Excalibur gondola connecting Whistler to Blackcomb from Whistler Village.
(If you are staying in Blackcomb base and want to ski Whistler mountain, the best way is to take the Blackcomb gondola up and take the Peak 2 Peak gondola across).
From the top of Blackcomb you can choose to ski back to either Blackcomb base or Whistler village. However, from Whistler Mountain, you can only ski back to Whistler Village or Creekside (not Blackcomb).
Sound complicated? It’s really not and it will all make sense once you get there and look at the map.
Top Tip: To get to know the mountain, you can join a free guided tour. These leave from the top of Blackcomb Gondola (outside Rendezvous) and Whistler Gondola (outside Roundhouse) every morning at 11.15am.
Which is better? Whistler or Blackcomb?
Neither mountain is better than the other. Generally speaking, Blackcomb is known for being better for intermediate and advanced skiers, as Whistler has more long green runs, making it ideal for beginners.
Between the two mountains you have so many runs to choose from, that you will find something for everyone on both mountains. You could also ski an entire week and not cover everything.
Blackcomb can be quieter, as more people ski Whistler mountain. This is due to Whistler being accessed via a gondola and 8-person chairlift from Whistler Village, plus a gondola from Creekside. Also, more people stay in Whistler Village than Blackcomb base.
The Best Runs in Whistler Blackcomb
No matter what your ability you will find plenty of runs to suit you. The ski are is HUGE and there is a great variety of all levels of runs.
No matter whether you are a beginner or a double diamond adrenaline junky, I’ve got recommendations for your below.
Best Green Runs in Whistler for Beginners
Note: Runs in Whistler Blackcomb can be steep. For this reason, green runs in Whistler can be the equivalent to blues in other resorts. If you are nervous, it is worth talking to a mountain host before you set off to find which ones you are best suited to.
The good thing about Whistler Blackcomb for beginners, is that there is nearly always a green run option. These are clearly signposted “Easiest Route” and on both mountains you can take a green run all the way back to the village.
Ego Bowl on Whistler is a great place to start. It’s a nice wide run from the top of the Whistler Gondola down to the Emerald Chair. It’s also in the “family zone” so people are supposed to ski slower here.
On Blackcomb mountain, a fantastic beginner green run is Easy Out. You can access it from the top of the Blackcomb Gondola, and ski down to the Catskinner chair lift (or mid station). It’s a great little loop for beginners. It’s an easy slope but gets progressively sleeper towards the end for something a little more challenging.
For those who are more adventurous, you can ski green runs all the way from the top of Little Whistler Peak (top of the Harmony chair) to the village.
Best Blue Runs in Whistler for intermediate skiers
You are really spoiled for choice when it comes to blue runs in Whistler Blackcomb. If you are comfortable skiing blues, then you have a huge area to explore.
My personal favourites are the blues around the Crystal Ridge and 7th Heaven on Blackcomb, and around Harmony and Symphony on Whistler. You can ride the same chair lift several times with a choice of different runs coming down at all of these places.
There are also several nice runs through the trees from the top of the Garbanzo chair lift on Whistler. And loads to choose from between the top of the Blackcomb gondola and the Excelerator chairlift.
See? Spoilt for choice!
Hardest Black runs on Whistler Blackcomb
If you’re an advanced skier looking for a challenge, these are known as some of the hardest runs in Whistler Blackcomb:
- The Coffin – a Triple Black just below the Peak chairlift on Whistler. It gets its name from how narrow it is (one person wide, just like a coffin!)
- Hawaii 5-0 – known as “5-0”. A steep, curved Triple Black chute that leads into Saudan Couloir on Blackcomb. Said to be the steepest run on Blackcomb. The rumour is the 5-0 name stems from its pitch being 50 degrees!
- Spanky’s Chute – a steep, narrow Double Black chute leading into Ruby Bowl on Blackcomb.
- Wild Thing – steep Double Black chute between Sapphire and Diamond Bowls on Blackcomb.
- Excitation – Said to be the steepest run on Whistler Mountain.
- Couloir – Double Black on Whistler Peak.
On mountain restaurants
There are several options for restaurants on the mountain in Whistler Blackcomb.
The main two mountain lodges are Roundhouse (Whistler) and Rendezvous (Blackcomb). These are located right next to where you get off the gondola at the top of the mountain.
Within these lodges you will find washroom facilities, a small shop and self-service canteen-style dining.
You can expect meals such as burgers, chilli, chicken nuggets, poutine, soup, salads, ramen and pizza. Both are licensed so you can enjoy a lunch time beer or wine too.
Both lodges also have a full-service restaurant for something more upmarket, but you will need to book ahead.
It is also worth checking out the smaller huts around the mountain. You can often find better food and they can be less crowded.
Top Tip: All mountain restaurants get busy! Choose to either eat early (by 11.30am) or late (after 2pm) or be prepared to join the scrum looking for a table!
- Roundhouse – the largest restaurant with canteen-style self-service meals. Located next to the top of Whistler Village Gondola.
- Steeps Grill & Wine Bar – located within Roundhouse, this is a full-service restaurant offering farm-to-table fine dining (the Whistler equivalent to Christine’s). Book ahead.
- Umbrella Bar – located right outside Roundhouse, the iconic Umbrella Bar offers drinks with a 360-degree view.
- Chic Pea Hut – located at the top of Garbanzo chairlift. Famous for its cinnamon rolls (but go early as they sell out quickly!) and foot-long hot dogs. Also serves chilli and pizza.
- Raven’s – located at the top of the Creekside gondola, it’s the first indigenous-inspired restaurant on Whistler Mountain. Its menu, created in partnership with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, offers sandwiches, salads and bowls and showcases indigenous offerings from local companies.
- Rendezvous – the largest restaurant on Blackcomb, with canteen-style self-service meals. Located next to the top of Blackcomb gondola.
- Christine’s on Blackcomb – located inside Rendezvous, this is a full-service restaurant offering fine dining with a view.
Tip: Book ahead as it books up quickly. Check the website for when reservations are open. It’s also worth putting your name on the waitlist if it is fully booked (I’ve had good success with this).
- Glacier Creek – located next to the bottom of the Glacier Express and Jersey Cream Express chairlifts. This is a large lodge with self-service canteen-style food. It has a nice spacious dining area and tends to be quieter than Rendezvous, so often our choice for lunch.
- Crystal Hut – located at the top of the Crystal Express chairlift. This small hut is famous for its waffles! Always a hit with the kids. They also serve Chilli and have a nice outdoor terrace with a great view.
- Horstman Hut – located at the top of the 7th Heaven Express chair lift, this is the perfect spot for a hot chocolate or beer on their patio with amazing views.
Whistler Ski Pass
When it comes to buying ski passes for Whistler, this is where it really pays to be organised. The earlier you buy your pass, the cheaper it will be, as they offer early bird discounts that can be significant.
Eg. In 2024, we paid $705 per adult and $367 per child for Epic Local Pass, allowing for 10 days skiing in Whistler (plus access to other resorts worldwide).
These were early bird prices in October (it would have been cheaper if we’d bought May – September). This is compared to $289 for a Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass bought on the day.
Top Tip: sign up to Epic to receive emails so you know when the early bird passes go on sale. They give you lots of warning when the prices are about to go up to lock you in early!
Whistler Pass vs Epic Pass
There are two passes you can buy for Whistler lift tickets: a Whistler Pass or an Epic Pass. The Whistler Pass only allows you to ski at Whistler Blackcomb. The Epic pass allows you to ski at many resorts worldwide.
Crucially, Epic Pass holders also get discounts on ski hire, ski lessons, accommodation and F&B on the mountain.
Example comparison: For skiing in 2024, for us it worked out $50 more to buy the Epic Local Pass vs the Whistler Pass. But the Epic Local Pass gave us 10 days skiing, vs 8 days skiing on the Whistler Pass.
We also received a 20% discount off the kids’ ski school ($60 per lesson per child) and off their ski hire (around $20 per child per day). We also saved money on every meal up the mountain.
This was a massive (probably around a thousand dollars!) saving overall.
Epic Pass vs Epic Local Pass
The Epic Pass gives you unlimited and unrestricted access to Whistler Blackcomb and 42 resorts across North America (including Vail, Beaver Creek, Park City and Breckenridge).
It also gives you unlimited access to Perisher in Australia, plus 5-7 days access to other resorts around the world, including the Les 3 Vallees in Europe, Rusutsu in Hakuba Japan, Telluride and other resorts in the Canadian Rockies.
It also includes Peak Dates – so if you plan to ski between Christmas and New Year, and/or want to ski elsewhere, such as Perisher or Hakuba, the Epic Pass is the best option.
The Epic Local Pass gives you unlimited access to many of the same resorts in North America (excluding Vail) and ten total days at Vail, Whistler Blackcomb and Beaver Creek.
Note that it does not include Peak Dates. Nor does it include Perisher in Australia.
If you are only planning to ski Whistler Blackcomb outside of peak dates then The Epic Local pass is the best option.
Whistler Skiing lessons
Ski lessons in Whistler are expensive (around $300 per day for a group lesson). But it is money well spent. Our kids have improved so much taking lessons in Whistler.
Both private and group lessons are available for:
- beginners to experts
- kids (3-12), teens and adults
- skiing and snowboarding
- half day and full day
Lessons are provided in all three locations: Whistler, Blackcomb and Creekside. Just choose whichever is closest to your accommodation. You can book through the Whistler Blackcomb website.
Kids group lessons run all day from 8.45am – 3pm and lunch is provided.
An Adventure Ski Camp is also available for kids aged 3-12. This starts on a Monday and is available for 3 days or 5 days, and works out slightly cheaper than booking individual lessons.
Top Tip: If you are visiting during peak times or during school holidays, make sure you book ahead for kids lessons as they can book out.
Ski hire in Whistler
You can pre-book your ski or snowboard hire through the Whistler Blackcomb website. They have loads of options at ski hire shops all over Whistler and Blackcomb, including some in the hotels that you might be staying at.
However, this might not be the cheapest option and if you want to shop around, then these local Whistler ski hire shops come recommended:
- Spicy Sports – locations in both Whistler Village and Blackcomb
- Evo Village Sports – locations in both Whistler Village and Blackcomb
- Premium Mountain Rentals – located under Crystal Lodge in Whistler Village. Also offer overnight storage.
- Coastal Culture – located in Creekside.
Many Whistler hotels have ski valets at the base of the mountain. This allows you to drop your skis and boots at the bottom of the mountain instead of carrying them to/from your hotel daily.
Alternatively, if you rent equipment through a Whistler Blackcomb store, a free ski valet service is available in the Blackomb Day Lodge building and also in the basement of Carleton Lodge in Whistler Village.
If you have your own skis and don’t have the advantage of a hotel ski valet, then you can rent a locker at Whistler Bag Storage.
It’s pretty pricey at a per night charge of $45 for a small (fits 2 sets skis) or $60 for a large (3-4 sets skis & boots) but is conveniently located in the Hilton Hotel galleries, just a 1-minute walk from the Village Gondola.
Best Apps for Whistler Skiing
Download these apps before you start skiing – they will make your life easier when on the mountain!
My Epic app
This is the official app. It is most useful for access the ski map online and keeping an eye on which lifts are open, which pistes are groomed and how long the queue is at each lift.
You can also access your pass information and see your skiing stats (how far you skied that day, how many lifts you took).
If you get into trouble on the mountain, you can also call Ski Patrol from within the app and it will tell you your location co-ordinates.
Whistler Peak live
This is generally acknowledged to give more accurate and up-to-date snow reports than the Whistler Blackcomb website. You can also use it to check on lift status and grooming updates.
In addition to the above apps, I recommend using the website snow-forecast.com to keep an eye on snow conditions.
Where to eat in Whistler Village
One of the pleasures of holidaying in Whistler is the choice of excellent restaurants. Here are some of my favourites:
You can read in more detail about the Best Restaurants in Whistler here.
Top Tip: If you are in town during peak season, make sure you book ahead! The more popular restaurants can book up weeks in advance.
- 21 Steps – excellent hearty mountain food in generous portions. Think Braised Beef Short Rib, Curried Lamb Shank, Pork Shoulder Parpadelle and Barbecue Ribs.
- Sushi Village – great sushi in a fun atmosphere at this popular restaurant in the village square. Walk-in only for groups smaller than 6 (expect to wait at least an hour for a table in peak times).
- The Mexican Corner – convivial atmosphere in the heart of the village. Good Mexican food, friendly service and great margaritas. Walk-in only during peak season.
- Teppan Village – fun teppanyaki restaurant, popular with families.
- Crepe Montagne – cozy French eatery serving delicious crepes, fondue and raclette. It’s tiny and doesn’t take reservations so be prepared to wait for a table.
- Earls – popular and cozy, has a very varied menu, so something for everyone. Think seafood platters, steak, salads, ribs, burgers, pasta… Check out their specials – they do half-price on ALL bottles of wine every Tuesday and Wednesday!
- Sidecut – fantastic (expensive) steakhouse in the Four Seasons Whistler Hotel. Excellent food and cocktails but comes at a price.
- Hy’s – another great option for good-quality steak. Don’t miss their Caesar Salad and Banana Foster, both prepared tableside.
- Chalet at Fairmont – the Fairmont golf clubhouse is transformed into a Swiss-style restaurant during winter, complete with all your favourite mountain dining favourites. The Fondue set is always a hit with the kids.
- Il Caminetto – excellent Italian dishes in a refined but relaxed atmosphere.
Whistler Grocery stores
You’ll find two sizeable grocery stores in Whistler Village: Fresh St Market and The Whistler Grocery Store.
There are smaller grocery stores in both the Upper Village and Creekside, as well as several liquor stores in all locations.
Prices are higher than in Vancouver or Squamish, but the selection is good.
Other Whistler activities
If you’re taking a day off skiing, there are a variety of activities for non-skiers in Whistler.
Here are some things to consider:
- Snowmobiling – Canadian Wilderness Adventures do really fun backcountry snowmobile tours in the Callaghan Valley.
- Snow Tubing – the Bubly Tube Park is located at the top of the Excalibur Gondola. It has seven tubing lanes, graded from a gentle kids’ slope to faster lanes for the more adventurous.
- Snowshoeing – Whistler has an extensive network of cross-country ski and snowshoeing trails so you can explore the winter wonderland at a more relaxed pace.
- Bobsledding – feeling brave? The Whistler Sliding Centre offers both Passenger Bobsleigh and Public Skeleton rides.
- Zip Lining – Ziptrek Eco Tours gives you the opportunity to experience Whistler’s winter wonderland from a unique perspective while zipping above the trees!
- Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre – excellent cultural museum where you can learn about the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation, the two First Nations communities in the Whistler area.
- Scandinave Spa – known to be the best day spa in Whistler, offering a “Thermal Journey”, with hot baths, cold plunges, saunas, and relaxation areas surrounded by nature. It is a kid-free zone, and silence is mandatory!
- Audain Art Museum – contains a permanent collection of nearly 200 works of art from coastal British Columbia, as well as boundary pushing temporary exhibits.
- Whistler Escape – really fun escape rooms in the heart of Whistler Village. Several rooms to choose from with varying difficulty. Good wholesome family fun.
For more ideas read my article on Things to do in Whistler in Winter.
Where to stay in Whistler
There are three key village areas that are close to the lifts in Whistler Blackcomb:
This is the main part of the resort, with lifts and gondolas giving access to both mountains and plenty of accommodation options in the village.
It is where you will find the majority of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels.
It is convenient for going out in the evenings, although note that some hotels can get noisy if they are close to the popular apres bars.
Blackcomb Base (also called the Upper Village)
Blackcomb is smaller and quieter than Whistler Village, with fewer accommodation and dining options. However, it is only a 7-8 minute walk into Whistler Village.
It is home to both the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Four Seasons Resort, as well as a good choice of ski-in ski-out apartments.
It’s a popular area with families and has the Blackcomb Gondola giving access to skiing on Blackcomb Mountain.
Creekside is quieter and more isolated than the other two areas. It has a smaller selection of restaurants and accommodation options. If you want to head into Whistler Village for the evening, you will need to take a bus or taxi.
Do note that on weekends, Creekside can get very busy as it has a large, free underground car park. People coming from Vancouver usually stop here, so the lineup for Creekside Gondola can get quite long.
In addition to the above three areas, there are also many other options that are not close to the lifts, but are accessible via hotel shuttle bus or via the public transit bus.
Family-friendly accommodation in Whistler Blackcomb
There are loads of family accommodation options in Whistler, including hotels and apartments. Here are a few recommendations:
Blackcomb Base (Upper Village)
- Fairmont Chateau Whistler – huge hotel with fantastic facilities at the base of Blackcomb mountain, right next to the Gondola. Families can book rooms with two queen beds. Good choice of restaurants, outdoor heated pools and jacuzzis, kids play rooms, teen activity room. Ski in / ski out with ski valet at the base. Check prices here.
- Four Seasons Resort – luxury hotel with a more boutique mountain lodge feel than the Fairmont. It’s a 5-minute walk to the Blackcomb Gondola, but ski valet at the base makes life easy. Nice bar/restaurant and fantastic outdoor pool & jacuzzi facilities. Check prices here.
- Glacier Lodge – across the road from the Fairmont so easy access to Blackcomb Gondola. 1-4 bedroom condos available with living area and fully fitted kitchen so ideal for familles. Outdoor heated pool and jacuzzis too. Check prices here.
- Hilton Grand Vacations Club – also across the road from the Fairmont, offering 1-3 bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens. Outdoor heated pool and jacuzzis too. Check prices here.
- The Aspens – condo accommodation on the Blackcomb slopes with ski-in ski-out access. Large 1 and 2-bedrooms suites with fireplaces, fully fitted kitchens and balconies overlooking the slopes. Outdoor heated pool and jacuzzis. Check prices here.
- Westin Hotel – great location next to the Whistler Village Gondola with an easy walk into the village. All rooms have a kitchenette. Heated pools and hot tubs. Ski valet at Whistler base makes life easy. Check prices here.
- Crystal Lodge – boutique property featuring 1-3 bedroom suites. Located in the heart of the village, just a 2-minute walk from the gondola. Heated pools and hot tubs. Check prices here.
- Carleton Lodge – located directly at Whistler village base at the gondolas and lifts with easy access to the village. Condo-style accommodation (1 and 2 bedroom) with kitchens, and washing machines. Do note that it is located right above the Longhorn Saloon (one of Whistler’s most notorious apres-ski bars) and therefore some rooms may be noisy. Check prices here.
- Pan Pacific Mountainside – 1 and 2-bedroom condos with living areas and full kitchens. Located opposite the lifts and gondola, but can be noisy due to its proximity to Longhorn. Check prices here.
- Sundial – big family-friendly suites, some with private hot tubs. Can also get noisy due to proximity to Longhorn. Check prices here.
- Legends – Condo-stye lodge offering ski-in ski-out accommodation. 1-3 bedroom suites with living areas and full kitchens. Home to famous aires-ski bar Dusty’s Bar & BBQ. Check prices here.
- Nita Lake Lodge – luxury boutique hotel located right on the lake, a couple of blocks from Creekside gondola. It’s a little more secluded than other accommodation, but they have 3 onsite restaurants and several close by. Hotel shuttle will take you to the lifts if you don’t want to walk. Check prices here.
Getting to Whistler
Whistler is around a 2.5-hour drive from Vancouver Airport and around 2 hours from downtown Vancouver. There are good reliable options to get you to Whistler from both locations.
From Vancouver Airport YVR
The cheapest option is YVR Skylynx. They have around 7 daily trips, calling in at Pacific Central Station, Downtown Vancouver, Squamish, Creekside and Whistler.
They will drop you outside the Whistler visitor centre and you will need to make your own way to your accommodation. You can usually find taxis at the visitor centre if you have lots of luggage.
If you prefer a door-to-door service, check out the Whistler Connection shuttle. They will adjust their schedule based on arrival times, so need to stress if your flight is delayed. They will also drop you at your hotel, so no need to worry if you have lots of luggage.
If you don’t like the idea of a bus, there are plenty of companies offering private transfers in comfortable SUV vehicles or private minibuses (including Whistler Connection). You can expect it to cost around $600 each way though.
From Downtown Vancouver
Both Skylynx and Whistler Connection both also offer shuttles from Downtown Vancouver.
Another cheaper option from downtown Vancouver is Epic Rides. They offer a non-stop bus service from Burrard Station in Vancouver to the Gateway Loop in Whistler Village, with several buses per day.
Driving to Whistler
I don’t really recommend hiring a car to drive to Vancouver. If your accommodation is within one of the villages and close to the gondolas, a rental car is of little use during your time in Whistler.
Everything is within walking distance. There is also limited overnight parking around Whistler during winter (to allow for snow clearance) and many hotels and apartments charge a high nightly fee for parking.
Self-drive is, therefore, not usually worth it.
If you do choose to rent a car and self-drive to Whistler, make sure you request snow tires. This is a legal requirement for driving to Whistler.
Be aware also that road conditions can change rapidly, so be prepared with water, food and patience should you get stuck due to an accident.