Even before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games made Whistler, B.C. a household name, the stunning ski resort town was already one of the top places to go in British Columbia. Just an hour and a half outside of Vancouver, even the drive to the mountain is noteworthy, as the Sea to Sky Highway cruises alongside panoramic ocean views, looping its way up to your destination. Not into skiing? Not to worry. There is so much to do in Whistler, no matter the season, that anyone will find exactly what they need to enjoy their time in the famous destination. Before covering the top things to do during your visit, here’s a rundown on how the Whistler known and loved today came to be…
Surprisingly, it wasn’t skiing that kicked off Whistler’s popularity, but fishing! In the 20’s, Rainbow Lodge was a legendary spot to go trout fishing and remained one of the most sought-after summer destinations in the west. However, winter came and with it all the snow of a world-class ski resort. In the 1960s, that dream began to be realized as a group of Vancouver businessmen began developing an alpine ski area on what was originally known as London Mountain, later renamed Whistler. The official opening was in 1966 at what currently the Creekside base of the mountain. Their neighbor, Blackcomb, opened fourteen years later, which spurred the creation of the Whistler Village, and each independently owned hill then set off in competition, adding chairs to rival each new addition. Fast-forwarding, the two mountains merged into one company, the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, a highlight of the mountain and a record-breaking journey, was built and the Winter Olympic Games came to play on its slopes.
Today, Whistler Blackcomb offers over 8,000 acres of terrain, three glaciers, sixteen alpine bowls and over 200 runs. There are terrain parks and pipes, kids’ parks, trails of all levels, multiple lifts and so much more. The village offers plenty of food, cafes, boutiques and spas, plus numerous accommodation options tucked into the mountain with stunning views. It is truly a destination of massive proportions offering everything you could desire from a west coast mountain escape. Here are all of the top things to do in Whistler when you visit. Keep in mind the activities are season dependent!
First and foremost, Whistler Blackcomb is a ski resort and village. Naturally, that makes skiing and snowboarding the top of the list when it comes to the top things to do. Over two hundred trails await, with acres of outback and glaciers between to the two peaks, which can be traversed with the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola. Starting in November straight through to April, visitors can enjoy fantastic skiing with access to both the Whistler and Blackcomb peaks. Whistler is a world class ski resort and the Whistler Village contains all the things to ensure that when you’re not on the slopes, you’re still getting a true, mountain experience.
PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola
The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola was a record-breaking creation when it was built to connect the Whistler and Blackcomb peaks a decade ago in 2008. It is a 4.4-kilometer adventure, containing the world’s longest unsupported span (3.024km), is the highest lift of its kind (436m high) and completes the longest continuous lift system in the world. Not only is it great for snow-goers wanting to make the most of their lift passes by experiencing both the Whistler and Blackcomb peaks of the resort, but it adds numerous summer adventures, too. The PEAK 2 PEAK 360 experience unleashes visitors onto two mountains with hiking trails, guided tours, bear watching, unrivaled vistas and numerous other activities. It’s definitely something that can’t be missed, no matter when you visit.
Come summer, the two mountains open up into over fifty kilometers of trails, keeping even the most avid hikers satisfied. Be surrounded by an ever-changing mountain landscape doused with left over snowy-peaks, blossoming wildflowers and surrounded by age-old glaciers. There are plenty of treasures waiting from towering snow-walls, to hidden lakes with rope swings and, of course, unbeatable views.
Like other destinations in British Columbia, mountain biking is a huge part of the summer mountain culture of Whistler Blackcomb. The bike park on this mountain is extensive in every way, shape and form. There’s almost 5,000 vertical feet of mountain biking for riders to enjoy, including over sixty trails and three unique zones. The lift-accessed courses are challenging and adrenaline pumping, providing riders with everything they desire out of a day on their bikes. Whistler Blackcomb also hosts a massive freeride mountain bike festival in the summer known as Crankworx. The already popular summer hotspot is in full-swing, playing host to some of the world’s best mountain bikers. The festival offers downhill, whip-offs, pump track, trials and, outside of biking, music and art. For those that love being in the heart of all the excitement, Crankworx is the ultimate time to be in Whistler.
Summer and Winter adrenaline seekers can rejoice when it comes to a non-skiing, heart-pounding activity on Whistler Blackcomb. The Ziptrek tours offer a number of suspension bridges and ziplines that take you high above the tree tops and racing through the forests of both peaks. Explore life in the trees high above the creeks and waterways, even flying between the two mountains. Then, just outside of the Whistler Village, you can literally jump off a bridge if your friend does too. Tandem, solo, by your ankles, via chest harness…. Experiencing the rush of leaping 50m above the glacial Cheakamus River can come in many forms. The screams of exhilaration, however, sound the same. Whistler Bungee has a perfect safety record and is often voted to be the most extreme activity in Whistler. Rain, shine, winter, fall, summer… There’s never a bad time to take the leap.
If you love a good toboggan ride, you’ll love the tube track at Whistler. Rather than strapping into skis or a snowboard, you can hope onboard a tube and race with your friends down the steep track. It provides a sweet activity other than skiing, with absolutely no skill required. It’s fun for anyone and offers a nice change up of winter activities. Plus, you can still be on the slopes.
Scandinave Spa Whistler
For those looking to truly relax while on their vacation, the Scandinave Spa is calling your name. An incredible series of traditional, Scandinavian baths, the pools are beautifully tucked into Whistler’s stunning mountain scene and include both hot and cold baths, along with a relaxation area. Enjoy Eucalyptus steam baths, saunas, Nordic water falls, cold plunge baths, outdoor fires, solariums and hammocks, plus the beautiful gift of silence – the Scandinave Spa believes that silence is essential to true relaxation, as is the disconnection from wifi.
Whistler Blackcomb has a healthy black bear population, and aside from seeing them in the summer as you cross on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, you can book a day-long bear watching tour. Local guides are well-versed on the resident bears, even knowing how to identify each by name when you come across them. Bear tours offer the best way to spot this essential Canadian creature, while keeping them safe in their own home environments. The guides will even know where to go to spot them depending on the time of day! It’s one thing to see this iconic Canadian animal from afar, but seeing them fairly close up while learning about all of their habits, habitats and gaining a true understanding of them is something entirely different.
During the beginning of the summer, you can enjoy a truly unique, Whistler experience – massive snow walls. All along an area known as Pika’s Traverse, a labyrinth of towering tunnels made of leftover snow makes for an incredible afternoon of exploration. Feel the power of packs of snow pressing in on you as you make your way along the traverse. The walls are remainders of the past winter, helping summer visitors access the alpine. They’re a time-sensitive experience, so be sure to visit Whistler in early summer if you hope to experience this unique, alpine entrance.
Accompanying the 50km of hiking trails are numerous, crystal-like lakes that offer a refreshing reprieve form the summer sun. Some are easily accessed off of paved roads and offer picnic areas, BBQ’s, kids areas, washrooms and sandy beaches upon which you can relax and enjoy a peaceful summer’s day in the sun. Others require a local’s knowledge and rough-road worthy vehicle. Many of the best spots are off the beaten path and require a bit more work to get to, often rewarded with private swimming sessions and even rope swings. Considering a lake was the very beginning for Whistler as a tourist destination, it’s only fitting that visiting these beautiful bodies of water are on the list of the top ten things to do in Whistler.