10 ways Whistler Blackcomb is raising the bar on ski travel
1. Scandinave Spa will help you forget all of your epic wipeouts.
I didn’t know it until now, but literally nothing beats some Swedish hydrotherapy after a long day on the slopes. Broken down into a three-part cycle, it is recommended that you repeat the motions three or four times for maximum detox and relaxation. Hot saltwater bath followed by a dunk in an ice cold waterfall, then finish with relaxation in either a steam room or solarium sun deck.
Perhaps the best part about this place, other than it’s mountainside location, is that it is completely silent — no talking, no cellphones, no screaming kids or clomping ski boots. It runs $60 Canadian, but that’s what I spent at the bar the night before anyway and this left me feeling a hell of a lot better.
2. You have the option to ski or ride with a pro.
Whistler Blackcomb is literally huge — 8,171 acres gives it the most skiable terrain in North America. I came into BC a little cocky, thinking I’d be able to find my way around. I was wrong. Luckily, I rode with a professional snowboard guide named Andrew Purvis who puts in 100 days per year on Whistler and Blackcomb. Once I gained his trust as a decent rider, he showed me some of the most amazing terrain I have ever ridden and would never have found on my own.
3. Three base villages means three very different vibes.
The party scene is generally based in the main Whistler Village, where you can find everything from craft beer and late-night live music to extensive sake lists and fine dining. The village square is a happening place — you will hear at least three or four different languages being spoken as you move from bar to bar. The Creekside Village is a little calmer, with the exception of Dusty’s, with party bars being exchanged for family restaurants and shops. The Blackcomb base is a good mix of the too — I recommend stopping into Fitzgerald’s Pub to see what’s currently on its eight constantly rotating taps.
4. The terrain is as extreme as it gets.
Once you find it, Whistler Blackcomb has 2,200 acres of expert-only terrain, and that is not including the out-of-bounds and heli-access areas. The Peak Chair, Symphony Chair, and Blackcomb Glacier are just a few of the areas to check out if you are looking to push your limits.
5. There’s always the world-famous après.
This town knows how to party. I never even made it close to 5pm without popping a beer a single day I was there. A couple dozen bars and nightclubs dot the village base areas, interspersed with the sushi bars and fine dining. Live music happens daily in the afternoons and evenings. Drink Guinness at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub and listen to a band play then head across the way to Garibaldi Lift Company and get down to a DJ. The vibe in Whistler Village is unlike any other ski town I’ve been to — I never found less than two bands playing within walking distance of each other. Whistler may be far from Italy but I had one of the best pizzas of my life at Black’s Pub (chicken, shrimp, and chipotle sauce — sounds odd, but I’d consider heading back just for another one of those).
6. Super easy access to Vancouver
There are multiple transportation options to and from the airport or city that will save you from having to rent a car — whether that’s bus, van, or cab. I’d recommend Pacific Coach Lines — a quick two-hour bus ride with large windows providing awesome views of the Sea to Sky Highway.
7. International hostels mean you can have more money for beer or spas.
HI-Whistler is the best bet for cheap accommodations. You have to be a member of Hostelling International, but the membership and overnight rates are cheaper than your other options (unless you have a couch to crash on).
8. You can ski and bike in the same day
This is something you won’t find at most ski resorts — due to Whistler’s northern location and on-mountain glaciers, the snow sticks around well into the summer. The bike park opens May 20, and the projected closing date for ski lifts is May 23. The high glaciers, however, host ski and ride camps throughout the summer.
You can also raft in the winter — nearby Squamish even has Bald Eagle watching raft trips.
9. Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Exactly what it sounds like, this is hands down the most incredible gondola ride I have ever taken. So incredible that it holds three world records: world’s longest unsupported free span for a lift of its kind, highest lift of its kind, and longest continuous lift system. Riding the Peak 2 Peak is 11 minutes of jaw-dropping views over Whistler valley 436 meters below. The ride spans 4.4 kilometers connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
10. It has shopping, dining, and amenities to compete with ski areas all over the world.
In March 2016, the town will step it up a notch with the opening of the Audain Art Museum. “This will help make Whistler even more of a destination,” says Tania Sear, Travel Media Coordinator for Tourism Whistler. The galleries will showcase British Columbian art dating back to the province’s First Peoples. “It’s a really big win for Whistler to have this art on display.”
Also, the Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival is the town’s annual winter throw-down. Plenty of partying plus theater, photo exhibits and live music all over town from April 8-17.