The Winter Side of Whistler
In wintertime the occupying passion of locals and visitors alike is to ski and snowboard the vast terrain of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. While it’s true that downhill snowsports are considered the main menu, Whistler has a tantalizing cornucopia of other winter activities to try. This coming winter, why not expand your tastes and sample something new?
Tubing is a super fun and accessible activity, because you don’t need any skill or equipment, and the whole family can enjoy whizzing down the hill on inflatable tubes together. Simply head up to Whistler Blackcomb’s Coca-Cola® Tube Park, located at the Base II Zone on Blackcomb Mountain. 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 the Tube Park arouses a need for even greater speed, sign up for a zipline tour to soar high above Whistler’s glacier-fed creeks and through cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir forests. Tours combine an exhilarating experience with fascinating and educational insights into Whistler’s ecology.
For those who thrive on the adrenaline rush of extreme speed, the Thunder on Ice (bobsleigh) and Lightning on Ice (skeleton) are 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.
Whether you are new to Nordic recreation or a seasoned veteran, be sure to visit Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) to experience the peace and picturesque views of the Callaghan Valley, 20 minutes south of Whistler. WOP is a premier Nordic recreation destination, and is the home of the Olympic 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.
If you’re keen to explore a traditional Canadian activity at a calmer pace, you can rent snowshoes at WOP and embark on some of the 35 kilometres of maintained trails. For a unique experience, test your cardio and marksmanship by enrolling in the 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.
Alternatively, you can book a snowshoe tour with a local company and learn about the Callaghan Valley backcountry from a knowledgeable guide.
Ice skating is a classic Canadian winter pastime, and there are three places in Whistler to glide. Meadow Park Sports Centre has an indoor rink that’s open year-round. Skating outdoors in the heart of the Village is quite magical with the twinkling lights of Whistler Olympic Plaza, where you can rent skates, cruise around with your friends, and strike up a casual game of shinny. And if the weather is cold, dry, and the conditions are safe, it’s sometimes 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. Cozy up to loved ones under warm blankets, as two magnificent Percheron horses pull your sleigh smoothly on snow-covered trails and through majestic forests. Dogsledding is an authentically Canadian way to explore the trails of the Callaghan Valley. 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 boarding experiences you will ever try. 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.
Skiers and boarders who seek a thrilling backcountry adventure should try a day of cat-skiing. Outings involve powder-shreds down untracked slopes, and good times with friends as you warm up and travel to the next peak in a heated snowcat, re-fueling with snacks and a hot drink. It is recommended that you have strong, intermediate skills with experience in trees, powder and steep terrain.
Long-time skiers and snowboarders who are eager to expand their skills, mountain knowledge and terrain covered will enjoy a snow-school lesson with the expert instructors at Whistler Blackcomb. (Psst, you also get to skip lift lines!) If you’re unable to roam the runs on planks or a board, be sure to put the Peak 2 Peak Gondola sightseeing experience on your “must-do” list to view the spectacular alpine environment and its snow-covered peaks, forested valleys and glacier-fed rivers.
When the temperatures drop and the snow flies, make a pledge to try a new sport or adventure on the Whistler winter activities menu. You’ll never forget the thrill and joy of doing something for the very first time.