A Beginner’s Guide to Winter in Whistler

Whistler is a world-famous resort just north of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The pedestrian village has won plenty of awards and Whistler was host to the 2010 Winter Olympics. It’s the largest ski resort in North America and was my home for two incredible years.

The main reason people come to Whistler is for winter sports. Across the two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, there is over 8,000 acres of ski-able terrain, with everything from green runs to tree runs, glaciers and cliff drops. Once you know the area well enough it’s easy to find fresh tracks away from the tourists and weekend warriors. You will undoubtedly have a favourite mountain but it’s always good to head over to the dark side and explore new territories.

Whistler Mountain

Taking the Whistler Village Gondola to the top of the mountain is a nightmare. It’s always busy and takes half an hour to reach the top, but it’s warm and sheltered when the weather is bad and once you’re at the top it’s straight onto the snow. The alternative is to take Fitzsimmons Express, Garbonzo Express and ride down to Big Red Express. Longer, but quieter.

Emerald Express is the chair to ride when you want to hit the park or the beginner slopes. From the top, you can also jump on the Peak 2 Peak. The gondola connects the two mountains and holds world records for the longest span between towers and highest from the ground. It’s worth the wait for the glass bottom cabin, at least once.

Peak Express is one of the highlights of Whistler. From the top of the mountain, the possibilities are endless, whether you’re riding down the Peak 2 Creek to Creekside or heading into the back-country to Million Dollar Ridge. There are cliff drops and tree runs to keep you busy for hours. It’s the busiest chair on a pow day but at least you can watch brave people attempting Air Jordan, the 100ft double cliff-drop.

Harmony Express, now a high-speed 6-seater, was always busy but well worth the wait. This side of the mountain has some great tree runs and huge wide open pistes to really see how fast you can ride. It’s also the only way of getting across to Symphony Express, your access to even more great back-country. You can hike up to Flute Bowl in half an hour or take your split-board into all-new terrain only accessible on foot.

Blackcomb Mountain

From the village, you can catch the much shorter Excalibur Gondola and then Excelerator Express which takes you high enough to catch Glacier Express. This chair is hell on a windy day but gives you access to Spanky’s Ladder, one of the best runs on the mountain. It’s only a t-bar and a short hike to the Blackcomb Glacier, another incredible place on a powder day.

You also gain access to Crystal Ridge Express, a new high-speed chair that can take you deep into Burnt Trees or up onto Fraggle Rock. These are great runs if you’re capable of riding through tight trees and pillow lines with the odd cliff and waterfall thrown in to make it more exciting.

If you’re in the Upper Village you can catch Wizard Express, with its cosy bubble chairs, and then Solar Coast which drops you off right at the top of the terrain park. From here you can also get to 7th Heaven Express, where you can traverse across the mountain to reach the huge bowls that are perfect on a powder day before dropping back into the trees.

Whistler Village

The village has some great restaurants for every budget. One of the cheapest and most popular is El Furniture Warehouse or Furny’s to the locals. Every item on the menu is just under $5 and it’s surprisingly good, especially The Works burger.

Chicken wings are a staple part of every Whistler locals diet, one of the cheapest places to get them is Crystal Lounge, but my favourite is Buffalo Bills’ wings during the dead season. Another cheap option is The Old Spaghetti Factory, mostly for the unlimited bread and garlic butter that is included with every meal.

During dead season most places do special offers and deals so those of you who are scraping by until the season starts can afford to try the nicest places in town. Sushi Village does epic Saki Margaritas by the jug, The Keg does the best steak in town and Creekbread in Creekside does incredible wood-fired pizza.

Whistler Après

The après in Whistler is so different from the après of Europe. In the alps you start drinking at the top of the mountain, slowly working your way down to the village where you end up drunk out of your mind and dancing on tables in your ski boots.

If you live in Whistler you ride home, shower, maybe have a nap and some dinner before heading out in the evening to meet everyone. There are some great places for an apres beer in the sun though: GLC, Longhorn Saloon and Dubh Linn Gate for the best views, Merlin’s in the Upper Village for the best nachos and Dusty’s down in Creekside for the best pulled-pork roll.

Whistler Party

Drinking is a big part of living in Whistler. As a newbie, it’s the perfect way to meet new people that you can spend your season riding with. There are 5 main clubs (Moe Joes, Buffalo Bills, Maxx Fish, Tommy Africa’s and Garfinkel’s), each have their own big night so you always have somewhere to go. There are also a ton of awesome bars to chill in with a jug of beer, my favourites are Crystal Lounge, Cinnamon Bear and Tapley’s.

These are all my personal preferences, if you can think of somewhere that deserves to be on the list feel free to leave a comment!

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