Ski, bike, dine, or explore. An extensive guide to BC’s Beautiful Mountain Town

Ski, bike, hike, eat, drink, or explore, Whistler is beautiful in every season. North America’s biggest ski resort has legendary apres and a pedestrian village that buzzes all year round. This complete guide will ensure you know where to eat, drink, stay, and what to do when you visit.

Why Whistler Should Top Your List:

  • Largest ski & mountain bike resort in North America
  • World-class restaurants and bars with a buzzing nightlife
  • Cute village with lots of activities from dog-sledding to bungee jumping
  • Situated between lakes & mountains with stunning scenery
  • Bucket-list hiking
  • Easy access: only 2-hours from Vancouver

How to get to Whistler

Whistler is a 2-hour drive from Vancouver international airport and 4-hours from Seattle. Rent a car and drive, it’s incredibly scenic! If you don’t have your own wheels, take one of the many coaches from the airport or downtown Vancouver.

What to do in Whistler

Whistler is an outdoor mecca. If you’re active there are all kinds of sports to partake in. The most prevalent are skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports. It’s also one of the best places in the world to mountain bike. Hiking, rock-climbing, kayaking, and lake swimming are also popular.

Besides outdoor activities, Whistler is a paradise for foodies with world-class restaurants. It’s popular for weddings, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and birthday trips, thanks to the vibrant nightlife. Couples enjoy Whistler for romantic getaways with spa days, luxury resorts, and great meals.

Popular activities

  • Winter: dogsled, snowmobile, cross country ski, snowshoe, ski
  • Summer: bike ride, hike, swim in one of the many lakes, get out on the water
  • Spa day at the Fairmont, Four Seasons, or Scandinave Spa
  • Ziplining and bungee jumping will get the adrenaline going
  • Take the Gondola for incredible views & walk the cloud-raker sky bridge
  • Vallea Lumina evening light show in the forest is very unique
  • Shop at the many boutiques from outdoor gear, to fossils, to jewelry
  • Visit one of the many galleries. Audain is my favourite, even just for the building itself
  • Hit the water and kayak, whitewater raft, or SUP

Skiing & Snowboarding

Whistler Blackcomb is the biggest ski resort in North America. With two great mountains, varied terrain, and consistent snowfall, it’s hard to beat. Whistler is part of the Vail Resorts Epic Pass. Early bird season passes are $1200 CAD. Single-day lift tickets start at $180 CAD.

Beginner / Intermediate: There is plenty of beginner terrain and lessons for all levels. The grooming and snowmaking program is excellent.

Advanced: There are so many great areas for advanced riders. If you like tree runs on a powder day, head to 7th-Heaven or Crystal on Blackcomb, and Symphony or Harmony on Whistler. Blackcomb Glacier is a favourite, from here you can access Spanky’s via a short hike. Do your research though!

Back/side country: Whistler has some of the best back and slack country for experienced riders with the proper gear (shovel, probe, transceiver).

Heli/cat skiing: There are a couple of excellent heli and cat skiing operations. The most well known being Whistler Heli.

Pro tip: Whistler is the busier mountain due to the famous name. Creekside & Whistler gondolas usually have the longest lines. Take the Blackcomb gondola up and you can always use the peak2peak to cross over to Whistler from Blackcomb.

Mountain Biking

Whistler is world-famous for mountain biking with 70 trails spanning 80 km. The most well-known trail is ‘Top of the World’ dropping in at the peak of Whistler mountain. There are also countless free trails around the Whistler area. Crankworx, the annual mountain bike festival, happens every August and is one of the busiest bike events in the world. Mountain bike operations run from mid-May to mid-October.

Hiking

Whistler is a premier hiking destination with varied trails from multi-day treks to 30-minute walks. Here are some of my favourite hikes:

  • Crater Rim trail follows a ridge above a volcanic crater, now Logger’s Lake. 4.5km, 2-hrs, intermediate.
  • Wedgemount Lake is out of this world gorgeous. Book a campsite overnight, or do a long day hike. 14-km, 7-hours, difficult.
  • Train Wreck is a short, very popular trail to an abandoned train wreckage in the forest. 2km, 1-hour, easy.
  • Ancient Cedars offers lake and forest views without the crowds, as it requires a 4WD for access. 5km, 2-hrs, intermediate.
  • Lost Lake skirts the lake and is an easy walk with lots of offshoot trails. 5 km, 1.5-hrs, easy.
  • Cheakamus Lake is a flat trail through the forest to a stunning lake. The trail continues around the lake. 16km (only 6km to the lake), 5-hrs, easy.
  • Rainbow Lake is relatively challenging but beautiful. 16km, 6-hrs, intermediate.
  • Joffre Lake is an hour north of Whistler. It’s gorgeous and therefore unbearably busy! 10km, 4-hrs, intermediate to hard.
  • Panorama Ridge is an epic trail, most people spend the night as it’s 11-hours and 30-km roundtrip.
  • Brandywine Meadows is a beautiful day hike. Rated difficult, it’s 3.5 hours and 6km.
Joffre Lake Trail visits three glacial lakes

Foodies rejoice: Eating & Drinking

Whistler has incredible restaurants with a lot of variety. There are plenty of ethnic flavours including Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Mongolian. Lots of high-end fine dining restaurants, lively pubs with comfort food, breweries, cocktail bars, and nightclubs.

The Best Restaurants

Araxi has won ‘best restaurant in Whistler’ for the last decade. Check out their oyster happy hour from 3-5pm in the bar.

Il Caminetto is Italian fine dining. The bar is fun if the dining room is full.

Sushi Village is legendary. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is great. There will inevitably be a wait but they will text when your table is ready.

Bearfoot Bistro specializes in champagne and caviar. Fine dining at its best!

Red Door Bisto book out months in advance. Their French-inspired West Coast cuisine is legendary.

Basalt has great cheese and wine and a patio with fire-pits.

Antico Pizzeria serve excellent pizza with a strong craft beer selection.

Creekbread is Creekside’s pizza place. It’s excellent and always busy!

Steeps Grill is fine dining up Whistler mountain with stunning views.

Rimrock Cafe is old world fine dining with steep prices.

Best casual quick eats – Splitz Grill for burgers, Peaked Pies for pies (duh), Ingrids for wraps and veggie stuff, and Pure Bread for baked goods.

Apres-ski

Garibaldi Lift Co. (GLC) has two huge patios with views across the village. With live music, it’s one of the most popular apres options.

Dubh Linh Gate is fun at any time of day! The big patio with firepits and live music make Dubh Linh gate a popular apres-ski candidate.

The Longhorn is party central. If you’re looking to dance on tables, this is the place. Locals avoid it like the plague.

The Beacon has a pool table, a great patio and pub food.

Dustys is a huge saloon in Creekside with legendary apres.

Merlins is the biggest spot in the Upper Village spot for apres with shot skis, a DJ, and enormous nachos.

RMU brought their cool vibe all the way from Breckenridge to the Upper Village, along with a great beer and cocktail list.

Handlebar is a locals beer bar with both German and vegan pub food.

The Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont is how the upper-class do apres!

Cocktails & Nightlife

Bar Oso makes you feel as though you’re in Barcelona. The cocktails are excellent and the tapas is delicious, if pricey.

Raven Room in the Pan Pacific has a strong drink list, a fun atmosphere, and excellent food.

Braidwood Tavern in the Four Seasons opened in December 2020 with great happy hour specials and insane cocktails, including the S’mores Man who comes in a smoking glass box wearing marshmallows.

There are lots of nightclubs, they rotate popularity depending on the night of the week. The classic Whistler nightclubs include the Longhorn, Maxx Fish, Moe Joes, Buffalo Bills, Tommy Africa’s, and Garfinkels.

Happy hour

Your wallet will be happy to discover that Whistler has some great happy hours. Some of the best ones include Earl’s, Dubh Linh gate, Antico Pizzeria, Pangea Pod restaurant, Dustys, Caramba, Braidwood, RMU, and Basalt. Araxi and Bearfoot for oysters.

Where to stay in Whistler

Whistler has a myriad of accommodation options, none of which are cheap during the winter or peak of summer. Book well in advance and try to take advantage of 7-night long stay discounts. Most places require a 3-night stay in high season. Airbnb is extremely popular and there are lots of options from apartments to mansions.

The Best Neighbourhoods:

Benchlands/Upper Village is my favourite area because of ski-in/ski-out access to Blackcomb, a quick walk to the village, and to Lost Lake in summer. Home to the Four Seasons and the Fairmont.

Whistler village is very convenient and popular with partiers. It can get rowdy at night!

Creekside is popular as it has it’s own village and gondola. However, the gondola is slow and the village is sleepier. There are buses that connect to Whistler village, 10-minutes drive away.

Lakeside areas for summer home rentals include Green Lake, Lost Lake, Rainbow Lake, and Alta Lake. There are many beautiful lakefront properties.

Accommodation

Whistler has a huge range of accommodation options including mansions, townhouses, apartments, luxury hotels, a hostel, and even a pod hotel.

Budget: Whistler HI Hostel (winter rates are still $50 for a dorm & $140 for a private room). A room in a shared place on Airbnb is another option. Riverside campground rents sites as well as some well-priced basic log cabins. Pangea Pod hotel sells single Pods, but prices vary wildly.

Mid-range: There are so many options and they’re all pretty good. Go with whatever has the best rates for your dates!

Luxury: My favourite luxury hotels are the Four Seasons and Fairmont Chateau Whistler. They both have incredible facilities including outdoor hot tubs with amazing mountain views. Nita Lake Lodge is also lovely but not as conveniently located.

Check out my apartment that we Airbnb in the Upper Village: https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/25889065?s=51

Whistler’s Best Events

Events and festivals never stop in Whistler. Here are some of the best:

  • Whistler Ski Snowboard Festival (WSSF): April
  • Crankworx Mountain Bike festival: August
  • Beer Festival: September
  • Whistler Film Festival: December
  • Whistler Pride: January
  • Cornucopia food and wine festival: November
  • Whistler Writers Festival: October
  • Tough Mudder: June
  • Whistler half marathon: June

Tips for the best visit to Whistler

  • When to get the best rates: April-June, September-November.
  • Best rates for winter: Nov-Dec 18, January 2-12, April.
  • Best snowfall: Feb & March
  • Seaplane to or from Victoria in the summer (Vancouver Island)
  • Planning a party trip? Book a private chef or bartender.
  • Combo with a ski-trip to Mt Baker in Washington.
  • Don’t ignore Vancouver on the way through. It’s a beautiful city!
  • Buy an EPIC season pass for access to Vail owned resorts worldwide.

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