Whistler is known around the world for being a top skiing destination. But there’s so much more to know about this British Columbian town. Here are 10 things you should know before you go to Whistler, which will help you have the best vacation possible.
It’s an expensive destination
A world-class resort usually comes with world-class price tags. Although budget travellers can find packaged deals, lift discounts, and hostels in Whistler, it is still one of the more expensive ski resorts in Canada. But, that being said, you are also getting to ski at one of the best resorts in the world, so many would say it’s worth the price.
More than just skiing
Yes, Whistler is known for its skiing and snowboarding, and it’s why two million people visit each year. But there’s so much more to do in Whistler beyond these two winter activities. On the mountain there’s tubing, snowshoeing, and winter ziplining. Off the mountain, there’s a record-breaking bobsled centre, the luxurious Scandinave Spa, and museums.
There’s two mountains
Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains used to be separated and were friendly rivals until they merged in 1997. Once this historic merger happened, the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort became one of the world’s largest, with over 8,000 acres (3,237.4ha) of skiable terrain. The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola that operates between the two mountains is also record-breaking and the world’s longest continuous lift system.
Whistler is in a great position for people traveling by plane, bus or car. It’s less than a two-hour drive from Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway, and there are several bus companies travelling between the two destinations daily. Vancouver has a major international airport, while Seattle is less than three hours south of Vancouver. There are many options to get to Whistler quickly, easily, and cheaply.
Après is Everything
Après-ski is a huge part of skiing in Whistler. The village is brimming with restaurants, bars, and cafés offering deals in the late afternoon. Most of the establishments understand you’re coming straight off the mountain, so there’s definitely a relaxed and casual atmosphere in the village. Try Southern BBQ at Dusty’s, dance the night away at Merlin’s, and check out the deals at Longhorn.
Tipping is expected
Tipping is common nature in North America, but not in Australia, where about 20 percent of Whistler’s winter population is from (hence the term Whistralia). As a quick guide, the tipping etiquette in Canada is usually between 15–20 percent, unless the service was less than adequate.
It’s just as good in summer
Although Whistler Blackcomb is known for its skiing, Whistler is also a must-visit destination in summer. Whistler Mountain becomes a Mountain Bike Park, which brings in adventure seekers from around the world. There are many hiking trails to lakes and across the nearby mountain ranges. Whistler is also home to one of the world’s more scenic golf courses. Visitors can enjoy the panoramic views from the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and pick up fresh produce from the weekly farmers market too.
Whistler’s main village area, which is at the bottom of Whistler Mountain, is a no-car zone. This makes it easy to stroll around before or after hitting the slopes. There are many boutiques, retail outlets and gift stores within the village, as well as a lot of restaurants. If driving to Whistler, don’t let this worry you as there’s a lot of parking places surrounding the village.
Although its après-ski scene may be quite relaxed, Whistler is also home to many outstanding restaurants. The all-round emphasis is on local, sustainable produce, and menus are heavy on meat and seafood. Chef James Watt at Araxi is known for being an early pioneer of farm-to-table dining, while Alta Bistro believes no two visits are the same. Bearfoot Bistro is also home to the world’s coldest vodka tasting room.
Pack many layers
Even in Whistler’s village, the temperatures generally hover around freezing during winter. Packing essentials include a thick waterproof jacket, a moisture-wicking layer for mountain adventures, and wool socks. As mentioned, there are as many casual restaurants in Whistler as there are fine-dining establishments, so it’s advisable to pack at least one smart-casual outfit for dining out.