Whistler is North America’s biggest and best ski resort. First in skiable acreage and vertical drop, it has slopes for every skill level, from first-timers to experts who crave its dopamine-rush-inducing off-piste terrain. But skiing ain’t cheap. Here’s how to enjoy this whistler without busting your budget:
1. Know your currency.
If you’re coming from the US, remember that one Canadian dollar equals less than one American dollar… by how much fluctuates. Know which currency something is priced in when making reservations. If you have flexibility on timing, go when the Canadian dollar is weaker relative to the US one.
2. Buy lift tickets in advance and for each day you’ll ski.
A one-day ticket purchased at the base of the mountain will set you back C$148 (that’s US$118 at publication). If you get on whistlerblackcomb.com and buy a week’s worth of tickets a week in advance, the price comes down to C$108 per day (or US$87).
3. Know your age.
Little kids ski free, and there’s tiered pricing for big kids, teens, and seniors.
4. Consider the Epic Pass.
When Vail Resorts, Inc. bought Whistler Blackcomb, they jacked up ticket prices. Not nice. But depending on where and how many days you plan to ski, their Epic Pass, a season pass for all of Vail’s resorts, may be worth it. If you’ve got a friend with an Epic Pass, ski with them. They can get you a discount on your lift tickets. Nice.
5. Go backcountry.
But only if you’re an expert. If you’ve got your avalanche shovel, transceiver, and backcountry training (and preferably “skins” or a backpack onto which you can hook your skis), you and your hardcore buddies can buy a one-use lift ticket to access Flute Bowl off Whistler or the top of the Blackcomb Glacier. From there you can hike into the backcountry and spend a powdery day, free of charge. Ask around first; if experienced guides aren’t taking folks out that morning, skip it. Avalanches suck and helicopter rescues are really, really expensive.
6. Ski off-peak.
Accommodations and lift prices drop in off-peak weeks, so avoid late December and go in March instead. Prices are lowest in April, and the snow can still be great. Don’t be lured by accommodation packages that include lift tickets; you can probably get cheaper lift tickets separately, especially late in the season.
7. Get out of bed.
If powder is promised, make the most of your day. Buy a Fresh Tracks pass (C$23; for use with a regular lift ticket) for early access to the slopes and a big breakfast. Line up at the Whistler Gondola in the pre-dawn darkness. You’ll arrive first at the Roundhouse Lodge for a buffet of scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit, and the like. Don’t get too comfortable, because when the ski patrol gives the go-ahead, they’ll ring a bell and everyone will race outside to be the first to make fresh tracks. Just stuff your pockets with banana bread and get out there!
8. Eat a hearty breakfast.
If you’re not an early riser, grab an egg and bacon sandwich at the kiosk by the Carleton Lodge and eat it on the way up. Unwrapping a greasy, bacon-scented sandwich in the gondola will be extremely awkward — but, hey, you’ll save precious ski time and maybe can skip a pricy lunch on the mountain!
9. Eat an early “dinner.”
You’ve skied through lunch and now you’re starving. Get your friends together for a massive plate of nachos and pints of beer. Dubh Linn Gate’s happy hour starts at 5 PM so sip slowly and then order another round at 5:01 PM.
10. Know the time.
The Dubh Linn Gate in Whistler has breakfast, après, and late night happy hour with pints, highballs, and glasses of wine for C$5. HandleBar in Blackcomb has happy hours at noon, 5:00 PM, and 10:00 PM, with $5 appetizers and wines and $4 craft beers.
11. Get a kitchen.
Plenty of Whistler accommodations come with kitchens. Get a unit with a kitchen, shop at IGA or The Whistler Grocery Store, and save money by cooking at home. (If you have a car, shop at Nester’s market. It’s a better grocery store).
12. Ask a local.
Locals know the less expensive spots for dinner, including El Furniture Warehouse, where every item — from fish tacos to burgers — is C$5.95. At Samurai Sushi in Creekside, the teriyaki chicken bento box is C$9.50 and sushi rolls are around C$4. All the burgers at Splitz Grill are well under C$10, and they’ve got salmon and veggie options too.
13. Don’t rent a car.
The Whistler Perimeter Bus from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler is C$150 round-trip for adults and half that for kids. The Epic Bus from downtown Vancouver is much cheaper. If you don’t mind lugging your gear, the Canada Line rail will get you downtown from the airport for a few dollars. From there, Epic has round-trip fares to Whistler for C$35. In Whistler, free bus shuttles will get you where you need to go.
14. If you have a car, use it.
The farther from Whistler Village you can stay, the cheaper your accommodations might be. You’ll find free ski parking in Whistler Day Lots 6-8 and in Whistler Creekside.
15. Cross-country ski.
You may be there for the downhill thrill, but if an alpine gale is keeping upper lifts closed, save the lift price and go Nordic. A short walk from the village, the Cross-Country Connection rents cross-country gear for C$30 and trail passes for C$21 (half that for kids). Prices are even lower after 3:00 PM. Ski around Lost Lake or tackle some serious inclines through the forest. Snowshoeing is even cheaper, and you can lose yourself (for real) in the woods. Snowshoes rent for C$20 and adult trail passes are C$10.50 all day.
16. Downward dog for free.
You don’t need to be in a fancy resort to enjoy some restorative yoga. Lululemon offers complimentary yoga classes at the Audain Art Museum on Wednesday nights.
17. Hit the sports center.
If your cheap accommodations don’t have a gym, take a shuttle to the Meadow Park Sports Centre, which is run by the city of Whistler. It’s got a huge gym filled with very toned locals, squash courts, an Olympic sized swimming pool, a sauna, and an ice rink. The locker room is nothing fancy, but the price is right… especially if you go in the middle of the day. (C$5.50 to use the fitness area, jammed with cardio equipment, weights, TRX ropes and bands, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM).
18. Shop right.
If you need some last-minute ski gear, check out The Whistler Clearance Center, in Whistler Village or Blackcomb, for a random assortment of jackets, skis, boards, helmets, gloves or anything else. You might find barely used GS racing skis with bindings for C$99. We did.