Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort Review
Skiing North of the Border can be an incredible experience, and no Canadian resort embodies Canada’s ski scene like Whistler. It is a world-class ski area, with a touch of class and culture to boot.
Whistler Blackcomb began back in the 1960’s, just as Whistler Ski Area. Blackcomb was added as a competing nearby resort a few years ago. Whistler was trying to win an olympic bid — which was unsuccessful then but would pay off a few decades later.
The resorts combined into one beginning in the late 90s, and today Whistler and Blackcomb are entirely integrated and can be explored with a single lift ticket. The combined resort boasts the Peak 2 Peak Gondola that broke the world record in the Guinness Book of Records. Peak 2 Peak combines the resorts, and links their terrain as well as base areas so you can enjoy the massive acreage no matter where you start from. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is also an incredible ride on a clear day, and if you are willing to wait in a queue, you can get on the glass-bottomed car which allows you to examine the forest valley below.
Whistler Blackcomb boasts massive terrain, plenty of variety, and lots of dining both at mid mountain as well as in the base areas (there are more than one). If you are not looking for skiing, you can also view the area’s bears (in certain seasons) and, down the valley, you and your family have a choice of adrenaline buzzes. You could opt for white-water rafting, or you could take a zip-line over the raging river’s waters.
The Family Adventure Zone has plenty of scope for fun and games, and the resort village offers a plethora of options for family dining and shopping.
Getting to Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb is a ski resort in British Columbia near the west coast of Canada. It is 75 miles (121km) north of Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway (BC Highway 99). If coming from a different part of North America, we recommend flying into Vancouver and driving or taking a shuttle. Expect the drive to take about 2 1/2 hours. It seems like it should not take so long, but you have to wind through the entirety of Vancouver which can sometimes be a bit maddening. After that, the drive is extremely scenic on a clear day.
Seattle is also an option, but will add at least a couple hours on to your drive.
When leaving Whistler, allow a little extra time. Even if you are a frequent flier with Global Entry and all the perks, the Vancouver airport takes a little longer to navigate due to the international nature of the flights.
Originally planned as part of Canada’s bid to host the 1968 Winter Olympics, the Whistler resort was built even though the bid was lost. Now a mega resort and a very famous name in the world of skiing and snowboarding Whistler was awarded the site of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics’ alpine events.
But this is not really what attracts the crowds. It is North America’s largest ski resort and boasts the biggest ski area in the world outside Europe.
The Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are interconnected (by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, mentioned above) and offer 8,171 acres (3,307 hectares) of terrain. There is a massive 5,279 ft (1,609m) vertical drop and more than 200 marked trails, as well as many off-piste opportunities. The resort is so vast that instead of a map, visitors are offered an atlas instead!
The trail map shows you the various terrains to be found, which range from the gentlest of slopes, through wide cruisers to steep alpine bowls, tree skiing, terrain parks and couloirs. With such variety Whistler attracts all levels of skiers and snowboarders, from the first-time beginners to the most experienced, extreme snowboarders. Very generally speaking, Blackcomb has the better advanced skiing, and Whistler (especially the Creekside area) has the best beginner skiing.
For beginner skiers, the area around the Roundhouse mid-mountain restaurant and tram stop supplies plenty of green runs. For people who want to challenge themselves a little more without doing the double blacks, we have always enjoyed the Symphony, Harmony, and Seventh Heaven lifts as our go-to’s. Doing the 5,000 foot Peak to Creek run off the Peak lift is also a great experience, but be sure your legs are up for it.
One common issue with Whistler is, because it is so low in elevation, it can be rainy at the bottom. Don’t let it get you down if you arrive to Whistler Blackcomb and it is raining. All you do is get 1/3 up the mountain, and that rain will likely be snow. Still, the bottom of the mountain sometimes can be a bit wet with “mashed potato” snow, so try to get higher on the mountain above any precip and fog. Also, if you get a bluebird day at Whistler, you will want to take full advantage of it. It tends to have more clouds rolling through than a Rockies resort.
To get high up into the mountains you also have the opportunity to use heli-skiing services, where the skiers and snowboarders are taken up by helicopter. The resort also offers cat skiing. This was originally a British Columbian invention and is a type of guided backcountry skiing. Instead of hiking, using a chair-lift, or being flown in a helicopter, skiers and snowboarders get taken up in a snowcat.
Other Attractions at Whistler
On the mountain, there’s the Whistler Kids Snow School, along with purpose built family zones, a Tree Fort and Magic Castle as well as the Coca-Cola Tube Park. This basically puts people in inflatable tubes and sets them off sliding down their choice of track. It takes good-old-fashioned fun to a new level.
Off mountain there’s the Fire & Ice Show, or families can their skates on for fun on the Olympic Plaza’s outdoor skating rink.
When the day is over, the whole family is invited to après in the resort village. Many bars and restaurants welcome kids up to 10pm.
There are also many other Whistler activities. They include snowmobiling, dog sledding, fondue dinners and day spas.
The accommodation in and around Whistler will suit all requirements and budgets. The diverse selection of hotels and other accommodations range from the standard up to the 5-star. There are also many lodges, condo apartments, and a few hostels for the most budget conscious.
Only a small proportion of the accommodation is built for ski-in and ski-out access, but there is plenty of accommodation that is are just a short walk from the ski lifts. Looking at VRBO will give you plenty of great choices.
It is important to note that Whistler Blackcomb has multiple base areas to lodge in and start from. The two biggies are Whistler Village and Creekside, with the Village being larger and more built-out.
Whistler Village is the main center with many restaurants, shops and bars. Adjacent is North Village, which requires a longer walk or shuttle bus to get to the lifts. The Upper Village is at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain. There are a number of Gondolas to choose from to zip you up the mountain. You almost always are taking a Gondola as your first lift — that way you are getting up and out of any precip, should you have some during your trip.
Creekside is probably the most popular with families. Creekside is actually the original, old-town Whistler village, and is about a 5-10 minute bus ride from the newer Whistler village. It’s only a few steps away from the snow school, which offers programs for all levels and ages. Parents are welcome to either stay with their kids or leave them with qualified instructors, who are hired for both their teaching skills and their genuine love of kids.
Which is better? There are more shopping and restaurant options, and lodging options, at the Whistler Village base. But Creekside is a little quieter and easier to navigate. Both will have a pretty significant initial gondola line on weekend mornings. You can get to either mountain from the Whistler Village base, but you can only get to the Whistler side from Creekside…. from there you will need to hop on the Peak 2 Peak to access Blackcomb.
One choice, boasting a location right at the base of Whistler Blackcomb is the Marriott-owned Delta Hotels Whistler Village Suites. Each suite offers a fully stocked kitchen, free Wi-Fi, a washer and dryer, and a fireplace.
If you are looking to assemble something that could rival an all-inclusive ski resort and you have a healthy budget to work with, the Four Seasons Whistler is worth checking out. Slope slide lodging, combined with the possibility of breakfast, apres-ski appetizers, and dinner all within the walls of the property, as well as onsite child care and fitness options make it a potential one-stop shop for families who have some vacation bucks to spend.
The “Upper” mountain which is also an option for lodging is actually the Blackcomb area. All areas offer excellent VRBO options, and have lift service to/from them.
The great news for families is that the ski school operates from all three areas — Village, Creekside, and Upper — so you are able to have your kids do their lessons regardless of where you decide to stay.