Whistler: Winter Wonderland
by Shane Davis.
Whistler is a paradise for adventure sport lovers all year round. Whether you are there for snow sports in the winter, or hiking and mountain biking in the summer, Whistler has something to suit everyone's pace. The winter season runs from November to May with the peak season generally falling between the months of December and March, when you will get more than enough snow.
If you experience a big dump of snow overnight, the best thing you can do in the morning is rise early and book in for the Fresh Tracks Mountain Top Breakfast. Limited to the first 650 attendees, if you are lucky enough to get a ticket, you will have access to the lifts between 7-8am and be treated to a full buffet breakfast on top of Whistler Mountain. The most exciting prospect for the avid skier or boarder is the opportunity to be one of the first to make your way down the mountain that day, shredding and weaving your own path through the untouched snow. What a great way to start the day!
With over 200 runs between Whistler and Blackcomb, you could spend weeks without going down the same run twice. All levels are looked after, catering for the beginner green runs all the way through to the 20 expert Double Black Diamond runs. The bunny hills are entertaining and a great way to learn as this is where the instructors run most of the lessons for beginners Once you have mastered how to get onto a chair lift, turn and stop, you can venture on to any of the green runs. From the green runs, trails get more and more difficult, so experience is needed.
For the more adventurous and experienced out there, heli-skiing is also on offer in Whistler. A 10-person helicopter will take you to exclusive part of the mountain where lifts just don't go. From here you can make your own fresh tracks down the mountain, accompanied by very experienced and certified guides, most of whom will tell you that they have not even seen all that these two mountains have to offer.
Whistler has a lot to offer to get your adrenaline pumping. Pick up a Lightning on Ice ticket at the Whistler Sliding Center, and try your hand at the solo Olympic sport of Skeleton. Heading down the fastest track in the world, you can reach speeds up to 100km/h. Bobsledding is also offered in both winter and summer, if you feel like reenacting some of the scenes from Cool Runnings.
Whistler also offers zip-line tours if you want a different view of the mountains, glaciers, forests and village. Fly through the trees, with the sense that you are alone in the wilderness. Zip-lining gives you a unique perspective of Whistler and will have you screaming as you travel from Peak to Peak on a wire.
Something for the Family
The Olympic Park also offers family-friendly activities from cross-country skiing and snow shoeing to tobogganing and base boarding. Kids (or the kids at heart) should head to the Coca Cola Tube Park and race down the slopes on inflatable tubes. This is a lot of fun!
For a great bird's eye view of Whistler, head to the highest and longest gondola in the world – the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. For a bit of downtime, Whistler Village has great shopping options. Keep an eye out for Ilanaaq, the mascot for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The sculpture is a symbolic cultural figure for First Nations people, used at the games as a welcome and sign of friendship. In the village you will also find the Olympic rings, which are still lit up at night and an exciting photo stop for tourists.
After a long day of activities, when it is time to wind down, nothing beats a relaxing cocktail or hot chocolate in an outdoor hot tub before settling in by a log fire.
Whistler at Night
Whistler has some great après-ski and nightlife options. The Longhorn Saloon offers great snacks and a large patio close to the mountain gondolas. For something a bit more rowdy, head to Merlin's, where you will be able to catch a game on TV or find people dancing on the tables to karaoke. After these places finish up for the evening there are a number of nightclubs with local DJ's to keep you going into the early hours. Tommy Africa has a great mix of music from the past few decades, or Buffalo Bills with more mainstream music playing.
Whistler has activities on offer to keep singles, couples and families entertained for a week or more. If you are looking for a summer adventure holiday or a chance to experience a real Winter Wonderland, this may just be the place for you.
Flight Centre Tips:
- Whistler is easy to get to. Fly to Vancouver, and take the direct bus to Whistler Village on Pacific Coastlines. Or, hire a car and drive the frequently plowed roads north to Whistler.
- Stay at the well-equipped Fairmont Chateau Whistler in the Upper Village. The resort is ski-in and ski-out, and great for families and couples. The Fairmont also offers equipment hire and ski storage, making it so very easy to pick-up, drop-off and ensure everything is clean and dry for tomorrow's action! If you prefer to be closer to the après-ski action, the Delta Whistler Village is a great location, right in the heart of Whistler Village. Only a short walk to all of the shopping, restaurants and bars one should need during their stay, the Delta is also just a short walk to the Whistler Mountain ski lifts.