We’ve been vacationing in Whistler, BC for several years. While we don’t have a vacation home in Whistler, we live close by and stay there fairly frequently. Every winter we spend a week taking in much of what Whistler offers. Most of the week is spent skiing. We’re booked to go there again for a week this winter. We also spend time up there in Summer, but I’ll restrict this to things to do in Whistler in winter.
If you’re into winter sports and activities, Whistler is totally worth visiting. It’s a winter wonderland with world-class skiing plus so much else. Here’s my list… some of it depends on what your accommodations offer. Note, while I’ve done much of what Whistler offers, I still have things to do… particularly in the outdoor adventure/activity category. I tend to just ski but maybe one year I’ll stay for a few weeks to get time to try out a lot more.
1. Go skiing and/or snowboarding
Did you know you can ski at Whistler? That’s a rhetorical question. Whistler Blackcomb is first and foremost a ski resort and an amazing one at that. With over 200 runs with more than 5,000 vertical feet, it’s an epic place to ski. I’ve yet to ski every run (not even close).
You do NOT need to be an expert skier to enjoy the slopes. In fact, I’m mightily impressed with how well the easier runs are marked and how there are easy (green) runs from pretty much every part of both mountains. You won’t end up at the top of a chairlift stuck with some difficult ski run beyond your level.
On the flip side, if you’re an expert skier, there are some amazing runs and terrain. My favorite is the Whistler bowl with the Blackcomb peak a close second. The Whistler bowl is at the very top of Whistler. It’s above the treeline. It’s steep, powdery, not groomed… just pure skiing. It’s where my son and I spend our days (we enroll our kids in ski camp for the week but I usually take each son out for a day or two and ski with them).
Unique skiing opportunities:
a. Backcountry ski tours
If you love powder, then backcountry skiing is for you. I’ve yet to do this but it’s definitely on my “Whistler to do” list especially once my older son is ready for it (which won’t be long). There are a number of backcountry ski tour groups you can sign up for to take you such as Altus, PowerGuides and Mountain Skills Academy.
b. Terrain parks
If you like air, check out one of Whistler Blackcomb’s 5 terrain parks. There are runs and jumps for skiing and snowboarding. There are beginner terrain parks to advanced (the Highest Level Terrain Park is the most advanced with jumps for incredible air). When I was younger, I loved jumps. Now that I’m in my 40’s those days are over but it’s sure fun to watch.
If you want the ultimate skiing experience, you can book a heli-skiing tour where you can ski fresh snow all day long and get to it in the comfort of a helicopter. It’s not cheap though (no heli-skiing is cheap).
2. Eat and Drink on the Slopes
One day each trip my wife and I head to the top of Blackcomb or Whistler and meander down stopping at a couple of coffee huts and end it with lunch at either a restaurant at the top of the gondola or in the village. It’s a highlight of my trip each year (among many highlights). It’s a great day spent soaking in the views, outdoors and winter wonderland.
3. Take ski lessons
The ski instructors at Whistler are amazing. We enroll our kids in the Whistler Kids ski camp every year and every year their skiing advances an absolute ton after a week of instruction. It’s a full-day camp with lunch provided. Our kids love it; it’s a great mix of instruction and skiing. In other words, it’s not too pedantic. This year, we’ve hired private instructors for our sons so they each get a week of one-on-one instruction which I’m hoping will result in learning more with a more customized learning experience.
I’ve never taken a lesson myself so I can’t speak about lessons for adults but if the instruction is anywhere near as good as it is for kids, it’s very good.
4. Cross-country skiing
There are three separate cross-country ski areas at Whistler. They are Lost Lake Park (close to Whistler village), Whistler Olympic Park and Callaghan Country. There are trails, and lots of ’em for all ability levels (beginner to expert). Check out the trail maps for each area:
5. Go snowshoeing
When I was twenty I would never consider spending a day snow-shoeing. Now that I’m in my 40’s I appreciate snow-shoeing and have gone a number of times. I appreciate the scenery, being in a snow environment and the slower pace suits me just fine. There are many snowshoe opportunities in and around Whistler.
6. Go Tubing
The bubbly Tube Park on Blackcomb could be a fun day for you with kids. I’ve yet to do it just because we all like skiing so we opt to ski. But if your kids want a break from skiing or you don’t ski, tubing is a great way to enjoy the snow. The one downside (or upside) is you have to walk your tub back up the hill. I say upside if you like the exercise.
I definitely want to try snowmobiling at Whistler some time. I’ve never done it but it looks like a ton of fun. I doubt I’d ever buy a snowmobile but giving it a shot would be great. There are snowmobile options for beginners to experienced. Kids can go on their own Mini-Z snowmobiles on a specially-designed track. That actually sounds pretty cool.
8. Enjoy the gondolas
If you’ve never been on a gondola, spending a half-day going up the gondola and then taking the peak-to-peak is a great time and well worth the money. It’s incredibly scenic. I’ve been on the gondolas many times and I still enjoy every ride. The view of the valley and village as you ride up is unreal.
9. Winter Ziplining
I thought I knew all what Whistler had to offer but winter ziplining was a surprise for me. I knew Whistler offered some of the best zipline courses in the world but didn’t know they ran zipline tours in the winter.
10. Bungee Jumping
Yes, you can bungee jump at Whistler Bungee in the winter. Who knew? This is one Whistler activity I will never do. I’ll try pretty much anything but bungee jumping is not for me. Thw WhistlerBungee jump is 160 ft over the Cheakamus river.
11. Ice Climbing
I don’t plan to go ice climbing although I’d do it before I did bungee jumping. I’m not much of an adrenaline junkie but you never know if I have a spare day in Whistler and get bored enough to sign up for an ice climb. MSAA offers ice climbing.
12. Dog sledding
I could definitely spend a half-day dog-sledding. Looks like a fun way to see plenty of Whistler snow-covered terrain. The older I get, the more I appreciate natural beauty.
13. Snowcat tours
A snowcat is a large tracked vehicle for moving on snow. They’re used for grooming runs but Whistler has some that take on passengers for snowcat tours. It’s like a bus on tracks. They’re also used to ferry folks for backcountry skiing. The Whistler tour includes an alpine dinner at the Crystal hut.
14. Ice skating
There’s an outdoor skating rink in Whistler Village at the Olympic Plaza. It’s super cheap. You can rent skates if needed. It’s not a bad way to spend an hour for something different. It’s a first-come first-serve basis.
15. Fat tire biking in the snow
This is something I want to do and that is ride an electric fat-tire mountain bike on snow trails. I just might do it this year. You can go fat-tire mountain biking on local trails in Whistler (tons of them) or in the Callaghan Valley.
16. Ice fishing
There are several lakes around Whistler which I suppose offer ice fishing potential. First, you need to ensure they’re sufficiently frozen. Second, I don’t think a lot of people fish at them in the summer so I’m not sure how great they are in the winter. I don’t think Whistler is a go-to destination for ice fishing but if conditions are right and you really want to try it, you can.
17. Sleigh ride
If you like the nostalgic idea of a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the snow, you can do it in Whistler. The Blackcomb ride is 50 to 60 minutes. Kids and adults can go. Learn more here.
Because Whistler held the 2010 Olympics (along with Vancouver, BC), there’s a bobsleigh run there which you can try. No experience needed. You’ll be a passenger (piloted by a trained bobsleigh pilot). You’ll get to hit 125 Km+ and the 4 g forces that come at that speed ripping around all kinds of turns.
Solo Skeleton Ride
If you prefer solo, you can try the skeleton park. You must take some brief training beforehand and then you get to ride face-fist, belly-down on a skeleton sled at 100 Km per hour.
19. Enjoy the pool, hot tub, sauna and/or steam room
A prerequisite for any hotel we book is that it must have a pool and hot tub. The pool is for our kids; the hot tub for my wife and I. The first thing we do after skiing is head to the pool/hot tub area for an hour or two before dinner. It’s such a great way to unwind with kids. The two hotels with the best pools are the Four Seasons and Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The Fairmont pool is particularly cool because you enter it from the inside and swim to the large outdoor pool. Both pool areas offer multiple hot tubs. It’s an amazing experience.
Lately, we’ve been staying at the First Tracks Lodge which offers a good pool and hot tub but not as nice as the Four Seasons and Fairmont. We stay at the First Tracks Lodge because we like the more quiet Creekside village and we prefer the large 3-bedroom suites that First Tracks Lodge offers.
20. Aprés Ski
There are all kinds of bars and pubs to hit after skiing for some great aprés ski opportunities. The Mallard in The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is my fave. Dusty’s in Creekside is not bad if in Creekside. The lower village offers a number of bars and pubs to unwind with some drinks and appies after a day on the slopes.
21. Stroll the village
If in Whistler for the first time, no matter where you’re staying, strolling the pedestrian-only village at least one time is a must-do activity. It’s well planned with many shops, bars and restaurants. It meanders. It’s lively. We’ve done it many, many times but still do it at least once every time we stay in Whistler.
I’m not big on shopping and you’ll definitely pay high prices in Whistler (there are some terrific luxury shopping opportunities and shops with best-of-the-best gear) but it’s something to do if you’re shopper.
23. Relax at a spa
Most hotels offer a spa. If not, or even if your hotel has a spa, you might want to check out the Scandinave spa. It’s located outside Whistler so you’ll have to drive there. My wife and I spent an afternoon there on one visit. It’s reasonably priced. We each got a massage and then spent a couple of hours in the hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. It’s in a stunning setting. Overall it was a good experience except it has a no talking policy which sucks if you’re there with someone else. I didn’t care for the no-talking rule at all. We were shushed a couple of times… most people were shushed which tells me that I can’t help but think most people who go there would prefer to be able to talk. At the very least they could offer talking zones.
24. Dine Out
Generally, dining out in Whistler is costly but there are definitely price ranges. We’ve eaten at a good number of Whistler restaurants although more and more we order in just because we have kids and it’s easier. Earl’s is a good casual restaurant. The Mongolie Grill is good for something a bit less expensive. Hy’s Steakhouse is one of my fave’s for a dining splurge (you gotta love steak for it to be worth it). The Four Seasons hotel restaurant is epic. Portobellos at the Fairmont is an amazing place for breakfast and lunch. Yup, no shortage of places to eat.
We’ve probably eaten from more restaurants ordering in than actually going there.
With the Whistler dining app (WhistlerDineIn), you can order and have delivered food from many of Whistler’s restaurants. FYI, you can have groceries, booze and gift baskets delivered as well. You could stay in Whistler and never leave your accommodations haha.
Many hotels offer outdoor grill areas that are operational year-round. Last year we grilled a feast with friends (but ate it outside). It was me and a buddy grilling dinner and then brought it up to our suites.
27. Hit the bar (nightlife)
With young kids, I can’t say I’ve taken advantage much of the nightlife but usually we get a babysitter one night and head out to the village for dinner and maybe some time in a bar afterward. There are plenty of bars to hit and since most are within walking distance of one another in the village, it’s a fun place to bar hop and party until late.
28. Axe Throwing
I doubt anyone travels to Whistler to throw axes, but once there it’s a fun group activity you can try some night. Check out ForgedAxe.ca to book a group in for a an hour or few hours chucking axes into a wall.
29. Workout at a gym
I can’t say I’ve ever worked out during my ski vacations because I ski hard nearly every day but if you can’t not hit the gym, most hotels have a fitness facility you can hit. I’m a gym regular most of the year but when go on vacation I don’t really want to spend my time in the gym.
30. Take a yoga class
Most hotels offer yoga classes. There are also some yoga studios you can visit for a class. I’ve never taken a yoga class in Whistler just because I can do that any time of the year. When I’m in Whistler, I enjoy the slopes and what the hotel accommodations have to offer.
31. Escape Room
Escape rooms are getting popular. Whistler offers one called “Escape Whistler“. I’ve not done it. I doubt I will but who knows… we often go up with other families and I might get out-voted and have no choice but to go try and escape out of some room. One thing I’ll say for it and that is it’s also a good activity for kids. It’s located in the heart of Whistler Village so it’s easy to get to. That’s always a bonus. Many adventure activities require a car or shuttle so when you can find a family-friendly activity nearby, that’s a contender.
All-in-all, Whistler is an absolutely amazing place to visit in the Winter. I strongly recommend it. It’s only a two-hour drive from Vancouver International Airport.