The Winter Side of Whistler

The icy cold weather of winter in the north freezes the lakes and brings snowfall for months on end. While much of the rest of Canada is grumbling about shovelling driveways, Whistler locals and visitors alike are gleefully checking the forecast and peeking out windows in awe at the bounty of snowflakes falling on the valley. We wonder: How much snow will fall? Where should we go tomorrow, and what should we do? With the abundance of white gold comes an astonishing array of winter activities for every person’s age and ability.

Are you eager to feel the crisp winter wind on your face, doing an activity that requires little skill and none of your own equipment? Simply head up to Whistler Blackcomb’s Coca-Cola® Tube Park, located at the Base II Zone on Blackcomb Mountain. Tubing is one fun activity where you can take the whole family, and slide down the hill on inflatable tubes together. It’s easily accessed from the Village at no cost via the Excalibur Gondola. Be sure to wear warm winter clothing, and for your comfort, a pair of goggles.

If you crave a taste of speed and desire a wintertime adventure in Whistler’s forested valley amongst cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir, book a zipline tour to soar high above Whistler’s glacier-fed creeks. Tours combine a thrilling experience with fascinating and educational insights into Whistler’s ecology.  

For those who thrive on the adrenaline rush of extreme speed, the public bobsleigh and skeleton programs offer exhilarating sliding experiences, located at the Whistler Sliding Centre, a 2010 Olympic Winter Games venue. The programs are open to the public, and provide sport orientation, helmet fitting, track etiquette, safety guidelines and the fastest run of your life at up to 125 kilometres an hour in the bobsleigh and 100 km/h on the skeleton.Compared to the hustle and bustle of downhill skiing, Ski Callaghan — a partnership between Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) and Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures — offers a tranquil Nordic recreational experience where you go at your own pace, under your own steam. Located in the Callaghan Valley, 20 minutes south of Whistler, WOP is the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics cross-country, biathlon and ski-jumping facilities. Both classic cross-country and skate-ski rentals and lessons are available, as well as great starter trails on mostly flat terrain, like the 3.8-km Neverland Trail. At a 15-km round-trip, the Norwegian Woods trail and Madeley Creek Loop offer a more challenging course for those who want to pump up their heart rate with rolling climbs and descents.

Cross-country skiing is also available at Lost Lake Park, just a short walk from the Village and the parking at Day Lot 4 or 5, with the Lost Lake Loop trail lit at night.

You can also rent snowshoes and trek through some of Ski Callaghan’s 35 km of maintained trails to enjoy the picturesque views. Or, book a snowshoe tour with a local company and learn about the Callaghan Valley backcountry from a knowledgeable guide.

To ramp up the fun factor for everyone, Ski Callaghan has dedicated toboggan runs for kids of all ages to enjoy. Feel like testing your cardio and marksmanship? Sign up for WOP’s Discover Biathlon program. Participants learn how to combine cross-country skate skiing around a short loop with shooting a rifle in the biathlon target range.

Ice skating is probably the definitive Canadian sport — given our nationwide passion for ice hockey — and there are three places in Whistler to feel the freedom of a winter’s glide. Meadow Park Sports Centre has an indoor rink that’s open year-round. Skating outdoors in the heart of the Village is simply magical with the twinkling lights of Whistler Olympic Plaza, where you can rent skates and cruise around with family and friends. And if the weather is cold, dry, and the conditions are safe, it’s possible to blissfully skate on the local lakes.

To add a touch of romance and tranquility to your winter visit, take an old-fashioned sleigh ride through fields and forests of snow. Cozy up to loved ones under warm blankets, as two magnificent Percheron horses pull your sleigh on a smooth ride along snow-covered trails and through pine forests. Dogsledding is an authentically Canadian way to explore the trails, and you can learn to mush your own team, or relax and enjoy the ride led by an expert guide.

If you’ve never been snowmobiling before, it’s a fun and exciting way to quickly access Whistler’s surrounding backcountry. Several operators offer scenic, guided tours for new riders and families, adventure tours that speed over frozen lakes and into high alpine bowls, and extreme riding tours for the experienced, big mountain enthusiast.

Heli-skiing is one of the most memorable skiing or snowboarding experiences you will ever enjoy in the mountains. Led by experienced, certified instructors, guests venture into the immense wilderness of the B.C. backcountry aboard five- to 10-passenger helicopters. Untouched, big-mountain powder skiing and secluded tree skiing in small groups, spectacular scenery and a gourmet alpine lunch combine to complete your unforgettable backcountry ski day. A variety of tours is offered from intermediate-advanced to expert.
Cat-skiing allows you to shred the backcountry with a guide, while saving your energy for the powder runs down untracked slopes. Relax and warm up in the heated snowcat as you travel to the next peak, while re-fueling and sharing good times with friends. Guests should have strong, intermediate skills with experience in trees, powder and steep terrain.

Whistler’s ultimate winter activity is, of course, skiing or snowboarding on Whistler or Blackcomb mountain. Beginner or advanced, step up your game and take a snow-school lesson to make the most out of your day. Unable to ski or snowboard? No problem. Take the Whistler Village or Blackcomb gondola into the alpine and ride on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola over to the other side to experience the spectacular alpine environment and its snow-covered peaks, forested valleys and glacier-fed rivers.

Since you’ve made the long trek to Whistler, why not get into the full celebratory mood of winter and dive into multiple sports, activities and outings while you’re here? Be sure to throw a snowball. Make a snow angel. And don’t forget to dress warmly and in layers. We promise you won’t regret stepping out into the cold and the snow for a wintertime adventure.

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