Sunny bluebird day with fresh, fluffy snow. Rain and “mashed potatoes.” Fog and icy hard-pack. Clouds and gently falling new snow.
All this and more on my January trip to Whistler!
Whistler- Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America, and so was on the bucket list for my husband Scott and our friends from Connecticut, Melissa and Jim. I was a little more blasé, as during my decades in BC if it was not my “local” hill, it was still a place I tried to get to every couple of years.
If it’s raining and cloudy in the village at the base, it might be sunny or snowing half way up the 1500m/5000ft of vertical. If it’s snowing in the village, as it was several days, it’s going to be great— the resort gets 11m/37ft of snow annually at mid mountain.
The longest lines are for the gondolas from the base when the weather is wet or foggy, but there are chair lifts almost beside them with short waits. Once you get up the mountain there are over 200 runs to choose from, so rarely are the waits too long after the first ride rush.
When I was in my 20s and we carpooled on day trips from Vancouver, we headed for the highest and steepest, the bowls and the glacier. When I lived in Squamish, 45 minutes away, I spent a lot of time with my small children in the Enchanted Forest and on green runs. When I came here with my son 20 years later, it was all about the glades and the moguls. Whistler-Blackcomb has enough variety for everyone.
Some days on this trip I only did three runs— but with runs as long as 11 km/ 7 miles this could be a good half day of skiing!
In the late 80s we had to choose whether to go to Blackcomb or Whistler as they were separate resorts. Even when they combined in the 90s it was a long trip to the bottom and up again if you decided to change mountains. Now, the Peak to Peak Gondola lets you switch from the top. You don’t even need to ski, you can take a sight-seeing trip up one mountain and down the other.
Food on the mountain is typical North American resort style; fried food, soup and sandwiches, served cafeteria style. It was good quality for what it was, but after my first ski trip to Europe it was a disappointment.
Whistler Village, however, is a foodie’s delight. Strolling the car-free village centre you can go from après-ski appies and burgers all the way to Michelin worthy dinners. Just be sure to make reservations ahead! There are also excellent grocery stores if you have a kitchen. I could do a whole post on the food…
Whistler is apparently not just tops for skiing, but for its party scene! After a day of skiing we were more likely to have a few drinks after dinner and call it a night. Wandering the village is always entertaining, however, and we could faintly hear the partying till late from our place close to the lifts.
My relationship with Whistler has changed. In my 20s it was a sandwich in my backpack and a long drive home the same day. I partied there on my 40th birthday but mostly drove up for the day while my daughter was in school; then stayed a few times with family and self-catered, in both winter and summer. This trip it was my longest, with 7 days skiing out of 10, and après-ski and dinner either at our suite or out at the bars and restaurants. The skiing had its challenges for me, but it was worth it.
Whatever your skiing style, I highly recommend Whistler.