Whistler is a charismatic resort town located about 1.5 hours north of Vancouver, Canada. Home to the most impressive ski resort in the country and an abundance of thrilling outdoor activities for all interests, it is no wonder that Whistler has become a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts across the globe.
We have visited Whistler in the winter a few times now and the to-do list is never-ending! At the base of the ski resort is a unique, chalet-style pedestrian village known for its apres-ski culture and a variety of shops and restaurants. If your perfect day consists of hitting the slopes followed by beer, burgers, and a festive atmosphere, prepare to fall in love.
Besides skiing and snowboarding, the area offers a plethora of thrilling experiences including dog sledding, bungee jumping, ice cave tours, natural hot springs, snowshoeing, and so much more. In this blog post, I am going to outline 16 things you can’t miss this winter in Whistler and everything you need to know to make your trip unforgettable!
Downhill Skiing & Snowboarding
Whistler is home to the largest ski resort in North America which draws in over two million visitors each year. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are the main reasons for most winter trips to this lively town. Whistler Blackcomb is a top ranked ski resort consisting of two fantastic, side by side mountains that share a pedestrian village with ski-in/ski-out lodging and a whole lot of character.
With over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls and 3 glaciers, Whistler Blackcomb is by far the best ski hill we have ever visited. While lift tickets are more expensive than other areas in Canada, I promise, it will be worth every penny.
Heli-Skiing or BackCountry Skiing
Depending on your skill and desire for adventure, you may be ready to take things to the next level this winter in Whistler. On top of the excellent resort skiing, this area also boasts a ton of backcountry terrain and several heli-ski and cat ski companies. Keep in mind that a day of heli-skiing or cat skiing will likely cost between $500-$2000 CAD, but this unforgettable experience is worth the splurge!
While backcountry skiing is free, it can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. I would only recommend venturing out on your own if you are experienced in the backcountry. If you are an intermediate to advanced skier and want to get into it, you can book a backcountry ski clinic or course where a knowledgeable guide will take you out.
Brandy Wine Falls
Brandy Wine Falls is over 70 meters tall and offers incredible views year-round. Located about 15 minutes southwest of Whistler, I love visiting in the winter to watch the layers of icicles cascading down from the top. The hike from the parking lot is only about 1 kilometre each way and relatively flat, but be sure to bring spikes or snowshoes as the trail can get icy.
Dog sledding is something we have been lucky enough to do a few times now and it never gets old! Winding through the forest and stunning mountain terrain with your team of adorable sled dogs is guaranteed to put a huge smile on your face.
Whistler has a few different companies that offer tours throughout the winter, Canadian Wilderness Adventures and Blackcomb Dog Sled. During your time you will have opportunities to drive the sled, cozy up inside, and give your sled dogs some well-deserved love and affection for a job well done.
Visit The Ice Cave
We’ve all seen those photos of ladies in red parkas exploring perfectly sculpted ice caves in the Canadian Rockies by now, haven’t we? In my experience, though, they always seem to be in “undisclosed locations” or terribly difficult to get to or not even accessible anymore. Well, what would you say if I told you that Blackcomb Mountain is home to an incredibly picturesque ice cave that is accessible to the public from a blue run on the ski hill? Jackpot!
To access the ice cave on Blackcomb Mountain, all you have to do is take The Blackcomb Gondola and then the Glacier Express up to the Showcase T-Bar. From there, you have to take off your skis and hike up about 50 meters of steep terrain to get to the top of the Blackcomb Glacier Blue Run. A little ways down on your right, you will see the entrance to the ice cave right off the side of the run.
TIP: The Showcase T-Bar doesn’t open until 9:30 AM and it tends to get quite busy. If you want to avoid a long lineup, get there right when it opens.
In the spirit of being adventurous, why not knock bungee jumping off your bucket list this winter in Whistler? Located about 20 minutes southwest of Whistler very close to Brandy Wine Falls, Whistler Bungee offers solo or tandem jumps for a reasonable price year-round.
From the top of the bridge, you will plummet over 160 feet between the frozen cliffs surrounding the icy Cheakamus River. The views are exceptional and the adrenaline rush is wild! They offer photo packages to remember the day and also allow you to bring your own GoPro or camera if you so choose.
The Scandinave Spa
If you’re looking for a more relaxing way to spend your day, check out Whistlers Scandinave Spa. Here, they offer traditional Scandinavian baths nestled on the edge of Lost Lake Park in the forest. As you move from the hot pools and saunas to the cold plunge pool and rest areas, you will feel relaxed and renewed.
During your visit, you can choose to solely enjoy the hydrotherapy cycles or add any type of massage. Either way, prepare to fully unwind during your time at this technology-free, silent day spa immersed in nature.
Cross Country Skiing
If downhill isn’t your jam or you are looking for a bit more of a workout, Whistler is home to loads of fantastic cross country ski trails, too! When we visited, we spent an evening skiing at the Lost Lake Nordic Center and would highly recommend it. With over 30km of groomed trails and stunning terrain for all skill levels, this is a great place to start. They also offer night skiing as well as rentals and lessons for beginners.
Another option, if you are up for a 30-minute drive, is Whistler Olympic Park. They offer close to 90km of well-marked trails through breathtaking old-growth forests and rentals if needed.
Apres-Ski in Whistler Village
The apres-ski atmosphere during the winter in Whistler is like nowhere else we have ever been. The breweries at the base of the ski hill start getting busy after lunch and don’t slow down until the early hours of the morning.
The last time we walked through the village at 4:30 PM, there were several people dancing on tables on the patio of High Mountain Brewing, highly encouraged by their staff and amped-up music. I couldn’t do it every night, but it is a fun thing to experience at least once during your visit.
Some of the most popular places to go are High Mountain Brewing, Coast Mountain Brewing, Whistler Brewing, and Dusty’s Bar & BBQ. Although, to be honest, you really can’t go wrong with any bar or restaurant in the village.
There is something so magical about skating at Whistlers Olympic Plaza in the winter. The trees are lit up, the ambiance of the village is palpable, and different coloured spotlights bring the ice to life. They are open daily from 11 AM to 8:30 PM with skate and helmet rentals available. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and a few of your favourite people and hit the rink for a dreamy evening.
Natural Hot Springs
Something you may not know about Whistler is that it is actually surrounded by several incredible natural hot springs. Full disclosure, though, each requires a bit of a drive and a good set of winter tires.
The closest and most accessible are Tsek Hot Springs and Keyhole Hot Springs. Tsek is located about 1.5 hours southeast of Whistler in the traditional territory of the St’at’imc People. In total, they have 12 tubs as well as a campground that is open year round. The Keyhole Hot Springs are located about 1 hour 45 minutes northwest of Whistler down a long and bumpy logging road outside of Pemberton. The location is well worth the drive as the two small rock pools overlook a scenic, winding creek.
Ketel One Ice Room
Have you ever drank vodka at -32C (-25F)? The Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler is home to the coldest vodka tasting room in the world, Ketel One Ice Room. So why would you want to spend 15 minutes sipping on shots in a literal ice bar? Well, as it turns out, -32C is the optimal temperature for tasting vodka.
They allow you to sample a diverse selection of premium vodkas from across the globe while you learn about each one. Not a huge vodka fan? Me neither! The cool thing is, something about that temperature completely takes away the kick of the alcohol and brings out the different flavours that you choose. They are open from 3:30-9:30 PM and suggest that you make a reservation ahead of time to guarantee your spot.
Snowshoeing is an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors this winter in Whistler. Whether you want to get started on the snowshoe trails of the Nordic Center or venture out onto the many free trails in the area, you can never go wrong with an afternoon spent in nature.
Some of my favourite trails include Rainbow Falls, Brandywine Falls, The Whistler Train Wreck, and Cheakamus River Trail. Whistler Olympic Park is another great option offering 30 kilometres of marked trails with over half of them being dog friendly!
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Whistler Blackcomb is the most impressive ski resort we have ever been to. On top of two mountains, an incredible village at the base, and an ice cave, you can also go snow tubing!
Whistlers Bubly Tube Park is perfect for families or those who want to get out in the snow without strapping on ski boots or snowshoes. They provide all the exhilaration of sliding down a snow covered hill with no special equipment or experience required! It is easily accessible from the village with multiple lanes and conveyor lift to bring you back up to the top as many times as you’d like.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Speaking of the endless adventures to have at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, I have one more for you! The Peak 2 Peak Gondola soars almost 1,500 feet in the air between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain offering 360-degree views of the stunning surrounding ridges and peaks.
If you have decided to ski for the day, your ticket for this gondola is FREE! It is worth the ride for the experience alone, not to mention the fact that it allows you to ski both mountains easily in one day. If you don’t want to go skiing, don’t worry! You can also enjoy the Peak 2 Peak Gondola on foot.
If you are looking for an indoor activity or a way to blow off some stream while having a blast, this is it! At Forged Axe Throwing they go over everything you need to know about throwing an axe, give you the safety spiel, and help you set up a little tournament within your group. After an hour of throwing axes and enjoying a few drinks, I guarantee you will be happy you came.