This post is in partnership with Travel Mindset and Ski Canada
With bluebird skies and fresh powder days, corduroy runs and a rocking après, Canada’s largest ski resort of Whistler, British Columbia, offers a stunningly varied list of things to do in winter.
Skiing remains at the heart of everything that makes Whistler tick, but there are winter activities for everyone to enjoy in this thriving mountain town, both on and off the slopes. From forested light illuminations to silent spas, first class First Nations artwork to fire and ice shows, we’ve got the goods on 25 epic things to do in Whistler in winter.
Epic Things to Do in Whistler in Winter
Ski or Snowboard
Whistler is a skier and rider’s paradise. With over 8,170 acres of skiable terrain between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and 200+ runs, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers, every powder hound will find a line, no matter the skill level. As Canada’s biggest ski area and a perennial award winning best ski resort in North America, Whistler brings the ski experience to another level.
Whistler receives an average annual snowfall of 11.8 metres/38.7 feet per year, so there’s plenty of the fluffy white stuff for everyone to enjoy. The two mountains offer slightly different skiing and riding experiences for winter enthusiasts. Whistler Mountain offers more green runs, wide open bowls and family friendly terrain, while Blackcomb Mountain attracts more intermediate and advanced skiers and riders, as well as those interested in double blacks and high alpine chutes.
We love spending time on both mountains, and the great news is that guests aren’t limited to enjoying just one mountain on a good powder day, or even a regular day, if the mood strikes. Lift passes include access to both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, as well as the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola that operates between the two.
The scenic 11-minute PEAK 2 PEAK gondola ride high above Fitzsimmons Creek allows guests to mix up terrain and stay high on the hills longer by using the P2P to ‘move’ mountains. It’s a fantastic way to cover more terrain, especially if you have limited time on the slopes. Whether you choose to board the special see-through, glass-bottom gondola cabin is up to you.
The 2020-21 Ski Season
For the 2020-21 winter season, Whistler Blackcomb is scheduled to open November 26th. For guest safety, the resort will be managing how many people are on the mountains this season and implementing a pass holder reservation system.
Yes, reservations will be required to access the mountains this year. For the vast majority of days, the resort anticipates the mountains will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski or ride. The reservation system is designed to give peace of mind to guests, and provide the space needed to feel safe and physically distance.
Whistler Blackcomb offers a variety of pass options for guests, from the Epic Pass, which also includes resorts across Canada, the USA and Europe; to EDGE Cards for locals; Student Cards and the new Whistler Blackcomb Day Pass.
Check out the Family Zone
Whistler Mountain is home to family friendly skiing, and some amazing things to do in Whistler for kids. The Whistler Kids Snow School offers ski and board lessons for kids 3 and up, with a catered lunch for those in all-day lessons.
The School has a Flaik GPS system to keep track of every child while on the mountains, which offers great peace of mind for parents while they enjoy their own time on the hill. There’s lots of beginner-friendly terrain, as well as a Magic Castle, Tree Fort and an Enchanted Forest for the littles to enjoy between runs.
Come to Cornucopia
The best food and drink from British Columbia (and beyond) is celebrated at Whistler’s 11-day Cornucopia festival held as the snow begins to fly every November. Between culinary workshops, winery dinners, and specialty tastings hosted by craft brew houses and distilleries, there’s no shortage of feasting and food events to enjoy in the Village during the festival’s run.
Celebrate at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival
Take in WSSF, North America’s largest festival of snow sports, music, arts, and mountain culture. It’s an exciting event that celebrates the best of winter fun as the season winds to a close.
Enjoy Vallea Lumina
Travel deep into the old-growth forest on Cougar Mountain north of Whistler Village for an immersive and spectacular night walk at Vallea Lumina.
Created by the Adventure Group and Montreal’s Moment Factory, the cold-weather version of this unique attraction transports guests into a winter wonderland illuminated by coloured lights, videos, and projections of Whistler’s past and present culture.
Pink salmon appear to swim in the streams while lights dance in the branches of talking Douglas Firs and Red Cedars along the 750 metre trail.
The fun team-building Escape room is a great après ski indoor activity to do with the entire family or group of friends. There are four themed rooms to choose from where you have to work as a team to solve puzzles and interactive obstacles to escape. We did the Pinball Machine room with our teens and they absolutely loved it. Thanks to their wits and gaming experience we actually did make it out and escaped just in time.
PIN FOR LATER
Experience the Sound of Silence
Whether you’ve spent the day carving up the slopes or curled up reading a book by the fire, Whistler has a wide variety of spas and wellness centers to relax sore muscles and tired minds. Our favorite is Whistler’s Scandinave Spa, the ideal spot to soothe aching muscles and soak in outdoor pools with views of the forest and nearby hills.
The Spa’s Nordic hydrotherapy circuit alternates cycles of hot-cold-relax with saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and cold plunge pools. The circuit gets the blood flowing, while relaxation rooms and fireside chairs give the body a chance to rest. If those sore muscles need deeper relief, massage therapy is available by appointment.
Scandinave maintains a 19+ age restriction, as well as a silence policy to ensure pure and total relaxation. After a busy day on the mountain, you’ll be grateful for the sound of silence.
Whistler hosts a free Family Après at its 2010 Olympics Plaza every Monday and Wednesday afternoon from January to March, with lots of kid-friendly activities and entertainment for all.
Fire and Ice Show
Fire spinners, fireworks and Whistler’s finest skiers and riders hitting big air through a burning ring of fire make for an exciting evening at the Fire and Ice Show, held every Sunday night in Skier’s Plaza in the main village.
Get Down with Adult Après
Toast a successful day on the slopes with a savoury Caesar cocktail or chilled local craft ale at Longhorn Saloon or Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC). Warm yourself by stone fireplace and watch the last skiers of the day make their way down the mountain.
Bring your own or rent skates to enjoy peak Canadiana and free ice skating at the Whistler Olympic Plaza in the Village. The skating plaza is open daily (weather permitting) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Conquered the hills and up for a challenge? Book a backcountry ski adventure with Whistler Heli-Skiing. Their big bird will fly you up, up and away to experience some of the 432,000 acres of big mountain terrain that every skier or rider should experience.
Need to rest those ski legs? Tackle one or all of the seven lanes at the Coca-Cola Tube Park just off of Base 2 Zone on Blackcomb Mountain. Tubing is great fun for the kids or to do as a family. Gain speed on your own or ask the staff to join tubes together and give you a spinning start for extra fun as you careen down the hill.
Ice Ice Baby
Bundle up and enter the Ketel One Ice Room at the Bearfoot Bistro to sip some of the more than 50 vodkas from around the world. At -32C (-25F), this is one of the world’s coldest vodka tasting rooms, and the only permanent sub-zero vodka room in Canada. Must be 19+ to enter.
Learn About First Nations
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler’s Upper Village shares the heritage of two First Nations who peacefully coexisted in the local area for centuries – the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.
Visitors enjoy guided cultural tours that employ oral storytelling and exhibits of basketry, weaving, and carvings. The Centre focuses on teaching guests about the often-difficult past between First Nations and non-indigenous people as a way towards healing and reconciliation.
Need a bed for the night? Read about the best hotels for families in Whistler
Saber Some Champagne
Step into the underground wine cellar at the Bearfoot Bistro to try your hand at sabering the top off a bottle of Champagne. This tradition dates back to Napoleon, when a clean sabering meant good luck in the battle to come. Your only challenge will be to lift a glass to toast a wonderful day on the slopes.
Head to the scenic Callaghan Valley south of Whistler for a half-day snowmobile tour through a backcountry winter wonderland of wide, winding trails or on rugged terrain through snow-covered forests for the more experienced guest. Snowmobile tours last approximately 3 hours.
Tread softly and deeply in freshly fallen snow in the forests of Whistler on a snowshoe tour. Several companies offer tours up Whistler Mountain or to Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley where guests strap on snowshoes and walk through snow-covered pine forests and descend the mountain into the Village, stopping to learn about healing plants, bird and animal life along the way.
If you’ve never snowshoed before, it’s a great winter exercise that quickly builds up a sweat. Dress in layers and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.
Looking to channel your inner Olympian? Book a winter bobsleigh or skeleton experience at Whistler’s Sliding Centre, a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Hurtle down the world’s fastest track at speeds of over 125 km per hour with guidance from a trained bobsleigh pilot.
Or launch yourself head-first down the track at the only place in Canada where members of the public can experience the rush of skeleton. Those daring enough to attempt this sport take off from the Maple Leaf starting point and pass through six corners, gaining speeds up to 100 km per hour.
Spend Time in Creekside
Did you know Whistler was founded at its Creekside location 50 years ago? This completely separate and intimate ski village 5 minutes south of the main village has its own gondola, shops, restaurants and small ski town vibe.
The longest run at Whistler Blackcomb, the 11 km/6.8 mile thigh-burning Peak to Creek, gets you right into Creekside Village, where you can celebrate conquering the longest consistent run of any North American ski resort at Dusty’s Bar, Rolands Pub or with organic pizza at Creekbread.
Visit the Audain Art Museum
The world-class Audain Art museum is located in the Village along Fitzsimmons Creek. The iconic black-clad building houses a permanent collection of British Columbia First Nations artwork, as well as one of Canada’s strongest Emily Carr collections. And it’s free for children 18 years and under.
Throw Some Axes
Release your inner lumberjack as you hurl sharp objects at the wooden bullseyes in Forged Axe Throwing. Located in Function Junction south of Whistler Village, the unique and strangely competitive pursuit of axe throwing is managed in a controlled indoor environment.
It’s especially fun in groups and has a fast learning curve. We progressed from tossing tiny blades to hurling large double-axes in less than 60 minutes. There’s nothing more satisfying than listening to the thwack of an axe embedded deep into the wooden target.
Tip: Taste the local craft beer offerings at Coast Mountain Brewing next door, after you’ve had your fun.
Walk the Train Wreck Trail
The Train Wreck Trail south of Whistler Village makes for an interesting and fairly level walk, with the ultimate destination being a suspension bridge and an old accident site.
In 1956, a train travelling south from Lillooet derailed, spilling engines and twelve boxcars into a narrow passage. Seven of the boxcars were too damaged to salvage, and so they were dragged out of the way and left behind overlooking the Cheakamus River.
Over the years, a suspension bridge to the site made access easier, and Train Wreck has become a favorite destination for graffiti artists, mountain bikers, and hikers. The box cars have all been covered in colorful graffiti, which makes the site an Instagram-friendly backdrop for memorable social media shares.
Wander Through Subterranean Ice Caves
The aqua blue ice chambers and caves underneath the Pemberton Ice Cap are part of the largest southern ice field in British Columbia. The ancient ice has formed into a maze of spectacular ice halls, frozen water sculptures and flows. Visitors with means can arrange a helicopter expedition to explore the ice caves and even book a dining experience set in the blue light of a private ice chamber. Guided tours are available through select companies.
The rush of moving 60-100 km/hour on a zip line is one of our family’s favorite things in any season. Whistler has two ziplining options available during the winter season. Tip: Bundle up in full winter gear including hats, gloves and goggles. It can get chilly when you’re zipping along at 100 km per hour.
Ziptrek Ecotours offers 4 distinct ziplining tours on 11 individual ziplines, as well as the TreeTrek Canopy Walk tour. Ziptrek operates tours during daylight and evening hours in the Fitzsimmons Creek wilderness area located above Whistler Village. Kids 6 and up are welcome to zip.
SuperFly Ziplines shuttles guests into the backcountry up Cougar Mountain for the only winter season tandem zip lines in Whistler. Their three-hour tour includes four zip lines that reach speeds of up to 100 km/hour. The unique braking system absorbs the speed and force of each rider, so there’s no need to brake on your own. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!
Have you been to Whistler in winter? Tell us what activity you love the most!
Photo Credits: Tourism Whistler, Mike Crane, Justa Jeskova, Forged Axe Throwing, SuperFly Ziplines, Claudia Laroye