As with all things Whistler offers, the services and terrain for beginners arre well thought out and world class. There are dedicated learn-to-ski (or board) areas at various easy-to-access spots around the mountain. Less than a fifth of the two mountain’s combined terrain is graded ‘easy’ – but as the area is so big, that doesn’t really matter and there are more than 30 easy runs to progress on to, some designated slow-ski zones to minimise the distraction of faster skiers whizzing past you as you make your tentative first turns. And of course the ski school offers a wide range of innovative public or private tuition options. The only question to ask, really, is whether it is worth travelling across the world to learn to ski or whether to consider leaving Whistler until later in your career. But then if you’re in a mixed ability group, at least everyone will be happy.
Intermediate skiers have more than 100 runs to enjoy in the mid-category alone, spread across both mountains. The huge choice includes all types of runs from flat open cruisers on the glaciers, to trails cut through the forest and even gentle powder bowl skiing. Thanks to Whistler’s mile of vertical, runs up to 11km (7 miles) long are possible by skiing Burnt Stew to Side-Winder or Upper and Lower Olympic. The Olympic men’s downhill course, the Dave Nurray downhill, will be within the capabilities of most good intermediate skiers too and is a very enjoyable cruise down even if you are not going at world record pace (in fact it’s probably more enjoyable if you’re not).
Nearly 30% of the giant terrain and more than 50 runs are graded advanced/expert at Whistler and the resort is regarded as one of the best in the world for this level of skier.
As with all things Whistler more or less everything is possible here, so you are not just limited to the piste - there are thousands of acres of back country terrain to explore with a guide, and companies offer snowcat-served skiing and of course the heliskiing for which British Columbia is famous.
The resort is perhaps most famous for its bowl skiing on Whistler mountain, which is extensive and steep enough to offer a near infinite array of variations on routes down. Blackcomb has slightly more limited steep terrain, but if anything the runs it does offer are steeper still. Perhaps the toughest run for the whole resort is found here, Couloir Extreme.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
Although snowboarding was one of the few snow sports Whistler Blackcomb did not host at the 2010 Olympics, its facilities are, once again, world class.
For freeriders there’s the huge area of terrain, most of it accessed by easy to ride fast chair and gondola lifts, for freestylers there are no less that five parks plus pipes and boardercross courses spread across the two mountains, although Blackcomb has rather more of the facilities. This is the only place in Canada with summer boarding too, on Blackcomb glacier’s summer terrain park.
The parks are divided up so that three are on Blackcomb Mountain, along with the resort’s super pipe and snow cross track while Whistler Mountain has two parks.
Park first timers will enjoy the Terrain Garden on Blackcomb Mountain which has small rails, rollers and hits to get you started. Next up the Habitat Terrain Park across on Whistler Mountain has three runs with bigger features than the Terrain Garden, but not yet THAT big.
The Nintendo sponsored Terrain Park on Blackcomb Mountain takes things to a higher level, if not yet the highest, with table tops, hip jumps, spines, jumps, banks, rails, and fun boxes.
The Highest Level park is just that and aimed at expert park skiers and riders only it features the resort’s biggest and most technically challenging rails, jibs, table tops and spines. You need to wear a helmet and sign a resort responsibility waiver to be allowed in.
Whistler already had 32km of excellent cross country skiing with the Lost Lake Cross Country trail system even before it hosted Nordic events at the 2010 Olympics and created The Whistler Olympic Park, 20km south of the resort, with a further 15km of world class competition standard trails.
At Lost Lake the groomed and track set trails circle around Chateau Whistler, Lost Lake Park and over what is in summer the Nicklaus North golf courses. There are full facilities including a warming hut and bathrooms. Lessons are available and a team of 40 volunteers provide a ski patrol service.
Whistler Olympic Park’s trails include two five-kilometre loops for cross country skiing and one four-kilometre loop for biathlon cut through spectacular scenery and pristine forest. During the Games the venue hosted more than 12,000 spectators to cheer on athletes although you can’t expect that many to turn out for you. However there are excellent facilities remaining as a legacy from the Olympics for you to make use of.
Average Snow And Weather Conditions
Well. On the one hand Whistler gets huge snowfalls each winter, averaging just over 10m (33 feet) and it has glacier skiing which makes it the only resort in Canada to open from June to August for summer skiing and boarding. There are also more than 250 snow guns covering around 15% of the key runs.
But. On the other hand Whistler’s base is rather low and close to the Pacific which does mean it’s not uncommon for rain to fall at resort level when powder snow is falling thousands of metres above. This is a kind of open secret the resort doesn’t like to talk about but which frequent visitors refer to and, crucially, are not put off by because it rarely effects top to bottom skiing anyway on North America’s second biggest lift-served vertical.
The average winter temperature ranges from an average low of -8 to an average high of 3 degrees Celcius (18 to 37 degrees Fahrenheit) – warmer at both ends of the scale than most of the well known Canadian resorts.