Why am I writing about Whistler on a home and garden website? There are a few reasons for this. They are:
- We write about vacation homes. Since ski resorts offer excellent vacation property opportunities (for winter and summer). Whistler is no exception.
- We go to Whistler quite a bit and have spent quite a bit of time up there over the years so I know it well. It’s a home away from home in some ways for us.
We’ve been staying at Whistler several times a year for several years. We ski there in the Winter. We bike, hike and swim there in the summer. We’ve stayed in several Whistler hotels, lodges and Airbnb houses. To say I know Whistler Blackcomb is an understatement.
Whistler is an international ski and mountain bike destination. It’s not cheap. Depending on where you live, it’s a long trip to get there (although the drive from Vancouver airport to Whistler is amazing). While most people have an amazing time there, it’s good to know the ins and outs only a regular Whistler visitor can provide.
Below is my list of 42 things you need know about Whistler Blackcomb. If you’re curious what Whistler has to offer, check out my 31 things to do in Whistler in the Winter.
1. Your lift ticket is good on both Whistler and Blackcomb
Years ago you bought separate lift tickets for Whistler and Blackcomb. Not anymore. These days both are owned by the same company and operated as one big ski mountain which is awesome.
While the entire area is now referred to as Whistler Blackcomb, it’s really two separate ski mountains. Check it out:
2. There’s a mind-blowing 200 ski runs over 8,171 acres
Together, Whistler and Blackcomb offer 200 marked runs across 8,171 acres of skiing terrain. It’s incredible. There is skiing for everyone [Source: WhistlerBlackcomb.com].
3. There are three ski-in, ski-out village areas – choose wisely
The three villages are Whistler, Blackcomb and Creekside. I’ve stayed in all three. All three have their pros and cons. Let’s explore them.
i. Whistler Village (aka Lower Village)
The most lively: It’s the largest of the three village areas with the most bars, restaurants, hotels etc. If it’s your first time to Whistler, I recommend you stay in the main village. It’s definitely worth visiting once.
Walk to the gondola (for the most part): You can walk to the Whistler gondola from most parts in Whistler village. It’s a haul from some hotels if carrying gear but it’s doable.
Busy and noisy: The main village has many bars so if you’re staying in the village expect to hear the nightlife in your unit. But it’s quite a vibe in the village and if that’s your thing, the village is totally worth it.
Expensive: Because it’s the main village, accommodations are fairly expensive. Not Fairmont or Four Seasons expensive but still expensive.
ii. Blackcomb village (aka Upper Village)
Offers the two swankiest hotels in Whistler: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Four Seasons. If you like luxury, stay at either of those hotels. No other Whistler hotel comes close. I know, because I’ve stayed in both more than once. If you like swanky pool areas, the Fairmont and Four Seasons pools are the best in Whistler.
Not much to do: There aren’t many restaurants or bars or things to do in the Blackcomb village. Fortunately, it’s only a 10 to 15 minute walk to the lower village. The Four Seasons and Fairmont offer a free shuttle.
iii. Creekside Village
Quiet, small yet offers all you need: Okay, there aren’t many restaurants and no nightlife but it’s small, easy to walk to and quiet. With young kids, we’re not into nightlife or restaurants. Instead, we order in or cook.
Has its own gondola: The gondola in Creekside gets you access to all the slopes.
Get more accommodation for less: We stay in First Tracks Lodge which is spectacular and literally 30 steps from the gondola. We’re able to afford a 3-bedroom unit which would get us only a one or two-bedroom unit in the lower village and definitely only a one-bedroom suite in the Four Seasons or Fairmont. So we get more than twice the space for less money.
Not much happening: This suits us since we like to ski and use the pool and that’s about it. If you like nightlife and dining out, Creekside is not for you.
Must drive to the main village: Unlike the upper village which is only a 10 to 15 minute walk to the main village, Creekside is several miles from the main village. If you want a night out, you must drive.
Ski school not always in operation: We usually put our kids in the Whistler ski camp. Last year, after booking in Creekside we were told the ski school was not operating out of Creekside. We had to drive them to Blackcomb which was a hassle. This coming season, I was told the ski camp would operate out of Creekside. I booked at the First Tracks Lodge in Creekside and then they decided to not run ski camp out of Creekside. It was either drive the kids to Whistler ski school or hire private ski instructors who could meet our kids in Creekside. We opted to hire private ski instructors to avoid having to jump in the car first thing in the morning. Besides, while the ski camp is awesome, I suspect they’ll get even more out of one-on-one instruction.
4. Ski-in and Ski-out up the slopes
There are also accommodations that go up Blackcomb, Whistler and Creekside slopes. Most are condos, townhouses and chalets, many that you can rent. My point is you don’t have to stay in one of the three villages for ski-in and ski-out. There are many neighborhoods that have direct slope access you can walk and ski into for the ski-in and ski-out experience. When booking, be sure to look carefully at maps and ask how far of a walk it is to access the slopes.
5. If at all possible, stay in a place where you can walk to the slopes (seriously)
No matter what, your Whistler vacation will cost a lot of money so if you can, spend what’s necessary so that you don’t have to drive to get to the slopes. Being able to walk to the gondola from your condo, house or hotel is such a nice convenience. Some hotels, such as the Four Seasons offer frequent, free shuttles to the gondola. In fact, the Four Seasons has a ski-storage concierge area next to the Blackcomb gondola where you can keep your skies. That’s pretty nice (but still not as nice as the Fairmont which is steps away from the gondola).
6. There is quite a bit of parking but it can fill up
There are 5 massive parking lots between Whistler Village and Blackcomb. Some are free and some are paid. Generally, they offer sufficient parking but they can fill up on busy days. It’s about a 12 to 15 minute from the parking lot to the Whistler gondola. It’s about the same to Blackcomb. It depends on which parking lot you end up in as well. The free are further away.
7. Blackcomb peak tops 7,160 above sea level
More importantly, the vertical of skiable terrain is 5,020 feet. That’s a big vertical.
8. There are places to eat and drink all over the mountain (you don’t have to ski into the village)
My wife and I usually spend one day while the kids are in ski camp, skiing gentle green runs from the top to the bottom stopping at about 3 coffee shops and restaurants along the way. It’s a fun, relaxing ski day we do each year. My point is there are places to eat, drink and relax all over the place. The big restaurants/cafeterias are at the top of the Blackcomb and Whistler gondolas (which is also where you catch the peak-to-peak gondola). Moreover, there are coffee huts scattered all over the mountain. There’s a small one at the top of the Creekside gondola as well. You won’t go hungry or get thirsty.
9. The Whistler kids ski camps are amazing
We’ve had our kids do one-hour private lessons on local ski mountains which was fine but nothing advanced their skiing like a full week in the Whistler Kids ski camp program. We’ve enrolled them two years in a row and every year their skiing improves dramatically during that week. It’s not cheap but if you want to give your kids a crash course in skiing, a weeklong Whistler ski kids camp will do the job.
10. Whistler has its own meal delivery app and service
Don’t bother trying to use Doordash or other meal delivery apps. Whistler has its own app that the local restaurants use. I suspect it’s done so that restaurants don’t have to pay such a hefty price to the app. The app is at WhistlerDineIn.com.
11. Just because there isn’t snow in the village doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of snow on the slopes
Don’t be alarmed if you show up to the village and there isn’t any snow or much snow. It happens. There’s always snow way up the mountain. Take the gondolas up and from there you can ski the upper part of both mountains… in fact, the best skiing is above where the gondolas end.
12. The chairlifts stop operating at 3 pm early in the season. As daylight hours get longer, the chairlifts stay open later… 3:30 pm and then 4 pm.
Be sure you know when the chairs stop running during your visit. It changes throughout the season. We typically go in January so it closes early which suits us because we love spending a couple of hours in the pool and hot tub at our accommodations after a day of skiing.
13. There’s a green run (easy run) option you can take from the top of pretty much every chair and gondola
Don’t be alarmed if you end up at the top of a seemingly impossible slope. I’ve yet to end up anywhere on the mountain where an easy green run (green is the easiest run level) isn’t easily accessible. Green runs zig-zag the entire mountain. It’s actually a nice way to tour both mountains.
14. I’ve skied many mountains over the years and none of them are as well marked as Whistler Blackcomb for signage
With 200 runs you’d think you’d get lost but I never have. I’ve also never accidentally ended up on some crazy difficult double black run either. This is all due to the incredibly well marked runs. The signs are large and clear. Most importantly, there is signage everywhere.
15. Get some help and info with the Whistler App called EpicMix
I didn’t really get into the app just because I find it a hassle to check my phone while skiing but I did download the EpicMix app and played around with it. The app provides trail maps and some weather info but overall I found it clunky. By all means give it a shot but it wasn’t that great. If you want to track your skiing for the day, there are better apps for that.
16. You get up into the main skiing area on fully-enclosed gondolas
The gondola ride is worth a visit to Whistler. It’s such a great way to get up the mountain in winter and summer. They are roomy and comfortable. They accommodate 6 to 8 people. It’s easy to load your skies and snowboard. The entire thing is amazing. Gondolas launch from Blackcomb, Whistler and Creekside. Once at the top of the gondola, you can ski down or better yet, take chairlifts up way into the alpine and ski the best runs.
17. Avoid long lineups by skiing during the week
We book our week-long ski trip Sunday to Saturday. We ski Mon to Friday for the sole purpose to avoid the long weekend lines. If you can in anyway stay during the week, do so. You’ll get more skiing. It’s not a ghost town; it’s still lively but you won’t wait quite as long to get on the gondolas, chair lifts and restaurants. FYI, Friday is also busy. In my experience, the best days to ski are Monday through Thursday.
18. There’s a gondola that travels to and from Whistler slopes to Blackcomb called the Peak-to-Peak
Before the peak-to-peak gondola was built in 2007, you had to ski all the way down to the village to switch over to Blackcomb from Whistler or vice versa. Now you can switch over way up the mountains with the peak-to-peak gondola. This gondola is quite the ride. At the highest point, it’s 1,427 feet above the valley floor. Interestingly, it holds the Guinness World Record for the longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind (1.88 miles). [Source: WhistlerBlackcomb.com]
19. My favorite hotel for skiing is the First Tracks Lodge in Creekside Village
Above is First Tracks Lodge. Notice how close it is to the gondola. This lodge offers one to four-bedroom units which is great (we usually get a three-bedroom offering plenty of space).
I’ve not stayed in every hotel in Whistler Blackcomb but I’ve stayed in quite a few. They are The Fairmont, Four Seasons, The Hilton and First Tracks Lodge. All but the Four Seasons are ski-in ski-out. In other words, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, The Hilton and First Tracks Lodge are steps away from the gondola (literally steps). You can’t much closer to the gondolas than those three hotels.
For skiing, my fave is First Tracks Lodge.
20. My favorite hotel in summer is the Four Seasons in Blackcomb
The pool area and the stunning rooms is what makes the Four Seasons hotel my favorite Summer accommodation. Okay, I should clarify our house rental on Green Lake was better but for hotels, the Four Seasons is amazing. It would be my first pick for skiing if it were closer to the gondola.
21. There are tons of Airbnb houses, condos and townhouses to choose from
Pretty much everyone who owns a place in Whistler lists it on Airbnb. Okay, I’m exaggerating but there are a lot of options and price points for accommodations in every nook and cranny of the entire region. You can find small places or rooms for a couple hundred per night or spend tens of thousands per night for an estate and everything in between. When you go during the year will also make a huge difference on price. If during peak ski season, that’s the most expensive. Peak summer is the next most expensive.
22. If you have a huge budget, check out renting a house in the Kadenwood neighborhood which has its own gondola for residents (including those who rent in Kadenwood)
We rented a Kadenwood mansion for nearly a week one summer. The reason we did so was because it had a pool. Many houses in Whistler have a hot tub but not so many have a pool. Kadenwood houses are incredible and the entire neighborhood is sk-in ski-out with its own gondola. I’m not kidding; the neighborhood financed its own gondola into Creekside. It’s very cool and the houses are truly exceptional. It’s without a doubt one of the nicest neighborhoods in Whistler… and it’s reflected in the cost of the houses which ranges from $8 million to $20 million+.
23. It’s a really good idea to make reservations at any restaurant you wish to dine at
If you want to try a particular restaurant, you’re wise to make a reservation. Restaurants are busy during winter and summer. There are some great restaurants up there but they are packed all the time so before you go, take some time to check out restaurants you’d like to try and make a reservation.
24. Whistler Blackcomb is now a very popular summer destination
There are babysitting services available in Whistler so you can enjoy a night or day out.
Most times we stay in Whistler, we use the local babysitting service to watch our kids so we can go out one night for a great meal. Again, it’s best to arrange this before you go because they can get booked up.
25. You can take the gondolas up in the summer including the peak-to-peak
If you’re going during Summer, don’t worry, the gondolas are running so that you can hitch a ride into the alpine for hiking, a nice lunch at a restaurant or whatever else you want to do way up on the mountain. The hiking is pretty cool.
26. The bike park is definitely worth trying
The bike park is pretty epic. I’ve only done it one day but it’s fun. The best part is you get to do some amazing trial riding without the brutal uphill climb. The chairlift takes your bike up the mountain. You get to ride down. There are trails for all levels.
27. There are several bike rental stores in the main village
If you don’t own a bike or are traveling from far away, don’t worry, you can get a mountain bike. There are several bike rental shops right in Whistler Village. You can get a helmet and all the gear you think you’ll need.
28. There are easy runs you can take down in the bike park (I did it with young kids)
I went to the bike park when my oldest was 7 years old. There were easier trails to take all the way down so it definitely is a good outing for younger kids. Note, kids should be able to ride a bike reasonably well though including knowing how to stop.
29. There’s a free pump track bike park you can go to anytime
This is actually both our sons’ favorite summer place (other than lakes and pools). It’s a free bike park that is really a series of three pump tracks. There’s an easy pump track, more difficult pump track and then some crazy pump tracks with huge jumps. We’ve spent hours in this bike park many, many days. It’s located in between Whistler Village and Blackcomb (very close to the parking lots). Did I mention it’s free?
30. There are dozens and probably hundreds of biking and hiking trails throughout the area that don’t cost a penny
I’ve merely scratched the surface with the trails I’ve biked and hiked in Whistler. The place is crawling with trails everywhere.
31. There are four lakes fairly close to Whistler village: Alta Lake, Lost Lake, Nita Lake and Green Lake
Here are photos of the four lakes. FYI, Lost Lake is closest to the village. Green Lake is the biggest. Alta Lake and Lost Lake have a public beach. Green Lake is the only lake that permits motorboats (and has a public boat launch).
32. My favorite lake is Green Lake… but it’s wicked cold
We rented a house on Green Lake for a week. It had its own dock. We swam in the lake all week but it is wicked cold, even in July.
33. There’s a public boat launch on Green Lake (motorboats are permitted)
On the northwest side of Green Lake there’s a public boat launch. It’s not a big area and there’s very little parking so be prepared for a bit of a mess to get your boat in the water. There’s a public dock there as well but overall, it’s not a great beach area.
34. There are surprisingly few public access points to the lakes which is unfortunate
With four lakes in the Whistler region there are very few public access points. The few that exist are very small. Let’s just say the public lakefront situation is entirely inadequate for the number of people visiting in the summer.
35. There are four golf courses in and around Whistler
If golf is your thing, there’s no shortage of it in Whistler. The four golf courses are:
- Big Sky Golf Club
- Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club
- Nicklaus North Golf Course
- Whistler Golf Club
I’m not a golfer so can’t comment about these courses. Maybe one day I’ll do a round on each of them.
36. There are all kinds of fun adventure activities you do in summer such as:
- ATV tours
- Whitewater rafting
- Helicopter tours
- Aerial obstacle course
- Bungee jumping
The ziplines are pretty wild. I haven’t done those yet. In fact, the only outdoor adventure activity I’ve done other than hiking, biking and kayaking is taking our kids to an aerial obstacle course. Here’s a photo:
Check out The Adventure Group for your adventure activities. Reservations recommended. You can visit their office in Whistler Village to reserve and pay. Then go to the adventure zone wherever it is.
37. It can get hot in the summer in Whistler (30°C and hotter)
In 2021 we stayed for a week on Green Lake. Granted it was an unusually hot summer but we enjoyed 35°C plus days. Fortunately, we had a house right on Green Lake so stayed nice a cool plunging in the glacier-fed lake.
38. If staying in the summer, definitely opt for a hotel with a pool (many do have outdoor pools)
As I mentioned, it can get hot in Whistler. One of our favorite things to do during our summer stay is swim in the hotel pool (or the lake when we manage to rent a house on a lake there).
39. There are two grocery stores in the main village and one in Creekside
In fact, the main village has pretty much everything you need. Creekside comes darn close (which is why we particularly like Creekside).
40. Traffic to and from Whistler can get congested
It’s bad going to Whistler Friday afternoons, evenings and Saturday mornings. It’s bad leaving Whistler Sunday afternoons and evenings. It can take 30+ minutes to drive the last few kilometers to Whistler village. The way home on a Sunday afternoon can be busy all the way to West Vancouver.
41. Whistler is expensive
During peak ski season, hotels cost a fortune as do Airbnb rentals. There’s no getting around it. Peak summer months is also expensive but not like during ski season. If you want to check out Whistler without spending a fortune visit during the off-season months (May, June, October and November). June can be sunny and nice which could be a great time to visit while not spending a fortune.
Not only are hotels expensive but ski camps, rental equipment, activities and restaurants are all expensive. It’s the nature of a resort location.
42. Despite the cost, it’s totally worth it (especially the skiing)
If forced to choose, I’d opt for the skiing over the summer offerings. The skiing is second-to-none. The runs go on and on. The terrain is varied; there’s something for everyone. The gondolas are such a pleasant way to head up the slopes. The ski school (called Whistler Kids) is top-notch (my kids love it and every year their week in ski camp takes their skiing to the next level). I can’t wait for our annual Whistler ski trip.
That said, since we live only 1.5 hours away, we get to enjoy Whistler in both winter and summer.