For aficionados of the great outdoors, the question isn’t so much what can you do in Whistler, but what can’t you do. The city and its surroundings offer an astounding variety of activities which befit its reputation as one of the world’s greatest mountain resorts. Check out our list of Whistler’s top 12 experiences to suit all tastes and preferences.
Add to Plan
An unforgettable highlight of any Whistler experience, Scandinave Spa offers a variety of relaxing Nordic-inspired spa treatments in spectacular surroundings. Enjoy the Scandinavian Spa baths experience, beginning with the eucalyptus steam room, Finnish sauna, or thermal waterfall, before moving onto a cold bath or waterfall and finishing with some relaxation time on the terrace in a hammock, in the solarium or with your choice of massage. After it’s over, enjoy a light lunch in the Scandinave Cafe overlooking swathes of cedar forests in the Whistler and Blackcomb valleys.
Describing itself as the “leader in zipline-based adventure ecotourism”, Ziptrek Ecotours invites visitors to explore the environmental marvels of Whistler’s ancient rainforest in this 3-hour experience. The journey uses a combination of different methods such as suspension bridges, treetop platforms, ground trails and zip lines – suspended steel cables across a series of platforms. In addition to providing an exhilarating adventure, Ziptrek is underpinned by ethical principles, promoting the cause of environmental education and creating its own renewable energy.
Operated by Whistler Sport Legacies (a non-profit organization responsible for the legacy of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games), the Whistler Sliding Centre was the site of the 2010 bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitions and currently houses the world’s fastest ice track, reaching nearly 1.5km (1mi) in length. If you’re feeling adventurous, test your skills riding the bobsleigh and skeleton, reaching speeds of up to 125kph (78mph). There’s also a summer version, the bobsleigh on wheels, which runs from June to September. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
The Whistler mountain resort may be relatively new, but it sits on the ancient ancestral lands of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations peoples. Together, they conceived the idea of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to share their culture and traditions with the world, while respecting the natural environment. A local guide will be on-hand to answer any questions as you explore the center’s range of visual exhibits and interactive events, including the chance to meet artists and learn traditional craft-making techniques. The center itself is inspired by the architecture of the First Nations longhouses and traditional earthen pit houses.
It’ll feel like you’re on the ‘stairway to heaven’ when you ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains – the world’s longest and highest lift. It’s equally as thrilling for skiers and snowboarders who want to move seamlessly between mountains as it is for pure sight-seeing pleasure. Take in the vast mountain and valley panorama on this 11-minute journey through the clouds, or, for even more impressive views, opt for a special glass-bottomed gondola.
Established in 2001, the Whistler Film Festival is held every year on the first weekend of December. It has since become a favorite cultural celebration in Whistler and one of Canada’s premier film events. Each year, the lineup includes a selection of new feature films and short film programs in addition to filmmaker and talent talks, industry initiatives and other special events. Canadian and international filmmakers are invited to submit films of all lengths and genres, with the best being showcased at the festival.
The brainchild of friends and gastronomic enthusiasts, Skai Dalziel and Joe Facciolo, Whistler Tasting Tours was founded in 2008 as a way for visitors to experience the best of local dining and was recently designated a Canadian Signature Experience by the national tourism commission. Lunch, dinner and dessert tours invite you to experience the best restaurants in the area, sampling the menus of a range of venues and meeting their owners and chefs, adding a personal touch to the experience. The dining experience also features local beers and Okanagan wines.
Recognized as one of the world’s best downhill bike parks, Whistler Mountain Bike Park gives you access to over 80km (50mi) of trails – 1.5km (1mi) descending – spread across four different zones. These range from beginner-friendly rides through the forest to flying leaps and precipitous rock faces for the more expert riders. The Peak Zone, in particular, will thrill the experts with its trails soaring over the peak of Whistler Mountain. The Bike Park hosts numerous special events and competitions throughout the summer in addition to a bike school for both adults and children.
Whistler boasts a range of activities to enjoy after the ski runs close. Even if you haven’t been pounding the trails all day, you can still join in the dining and merriment at favorite local watering-holes such as Dusty’s – Whistler’s first après-ski bar, founded in 1965 – or Merlin’s Bar and Grill in the Upper Village. Better yet, sit back and enjoy a sparkling beverage of your choice in a hot tub (practically every resort and accommodation in Whistler features one) while watching the snowfall over the pine-clad mountains.
For a spectacular aerial view of Whistler’s coastal mountains, ancient glaciers, and hidden lakes, we highly recommend a helicopter excursion. Soak up the area’s beautiful scenery on a short flight, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, take your pick from the likes of heli-sightseeing, glacier landings and fly-in picnics. Although one of Whistler’s slightly pricier activities, it’s truly an experience of a lifetime and a unique way to experience this incredible natural landscape. Helicopter tours run year-round and are weather-dependent.
For an unforgettable evening adventure, explore the old-growth forest of Cougar Mountain while enjoying an immersive light show. Vallea Lumina is a magical night walk, suitable for all ages, which brings Whistler’s natural landscape to life, using a combination of video, lighting, sound and special effects. As you walk along a brightly lit pathway in search of a hidden valley, a story filled with unexpected enchantment unfolds. Excursions run Thursday to Monday from sundown every 20 minutes. The experience takes place whatever the weather, so dress appropriately.
We couldn’t finish this round-up without mentioning the very activity Whistler is known for. In addition to its world-class ski and snowboard runs, you can also try cross-country skiing, heli-skiing, and snowshoeing during your visit to this popular winter destination – rated again and again as North America’s best ski resort. Other fun winter activities include ice skating, ice climbing, dog-sledding, sleigh rides and, for those who are less fond of extreme exertion, snow-tubing. The peak skiing season in Whistler runs from December to February, with March still offering quality snow.