Skiing in Whistler

The hallmark of Whistler’s ski area is its variety, from steep powder chutes and challenging mogul fields to secluded tree skiing and miles of groomed pistes.

Whistler Ski Area

Whistler Ski Area Overview

Whistler has some of the greatest vertical rise and has more skiable acreage than anywhere else in North America. 8,171 acres (3,307 Ha) is the count after the recent addition of the Symphony express- the combined size is double Aspen Snowmass. The two massive mountains are divided by the Fitszimmons Creek and connected via the Village and the Peak to Peak Gondola, which connects the mountains at alpine level.

There truly is skiing here for every standard and every mood – bowls and trees, piste and powder. The variety of terrain means that you can ski in almost every condition. When it’s all powder with no visibility, head for the trees. In sunshine and hard pack, cruise down steep and fast groomers. If you’re lucky enough to get the good snow and bluebird sky then shred the bowls and couloirs to your heart’s content.

There’s more than 17 miles (27 km) of cross-country trails throughout the village, including the Lost Lake area, the Chateau Whistler Golf Course, and Nicklaus North Golf Course. Rental equipment and trail maps for cross-country skiing are available at Lost Lake Hut. Contact the Whistler Information Center Tel:+ 1 604 932 2394 for further information.

Beginner Skiing in Whistler

Whistler’s beginner skiing offers a “whole mountain” experience by allowing novices to ski well-groomed green trails from high altitude all the way down to the village.

Whistler Beginner Skiing

Two vast mountains may seem rather daunting, but do not be put off by the fact that only 15-20 percent of the mountain area is graded for beginners. One of the great things about Whistler is that beginners are not restricted to the lower slopes.

Confident beginners can quickly progress to enjoy some of the high altitude beginner trails like Burnt Stew Trail off Harmony Express chair (6,939 feet / 2,115 m)-a perfect area for groups of mixed ability with some breathtaking 360-degree views and easy trails running down to the village. This gives beginners a “whole mountain” experience and a strong sense of achievement as they ski well-groomed green trails from high altitude all the way down to the village.

Beginners are likely to join one of the many ski school classes, but there will be plenty of time left to explore the ski area. For those not joining ski school, take the Whistler Village Gondola or Fitzsimmons Express to Olympic Station at 3,346 feet (1,019 m), where you’ll find the Children’s Learning Area and the best area for beginners on either mountain.

Return to the gondola at Olympic Station and progress higher up the mountain to Roundhouse Lodge at 6,069 feet (1,850m), from where you can access the Green Acres Family Zone off the Emerald Express, or take Upper to Lower Olympic trail and ski all the way back down to the village. This run can get busy and skiers need to be of intermediate ability to ski all the way down to the village.

The alternative is to download the Whistler gondola form either the Roundhouse or Mid Station. On Blackcomb, you can get started low down at the Magic Chair, but the upper mountain has only 2 green runs and it is easy to get stuck in the network of steep blue runs. Whistler Mountain is by far the better mountain for beginners and children.

The trail map is clearly marked to show slow-skiing zones on both mountains. Highlighted yellow on the trail map, they are well patrolled by the Mountain Safety Team-recognizable by their bright yellow jackets-who are quick to seize upon would-be racers skiing too fast in beginner areas or at intersections where skiers of mixed abilities meet.

Intermediate Skiing in Whistler

Both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains offer excellent skiing and boarding for intermediates and there is more than enough to keep you busy and tested if you return here year after year.

Whistler Intermediate Skiing

Whistler has so much terrain available it’s difficult to know where to begin. About half the trails you’ll find are graded for intermediates and many are quite long. Improve your technique on mile after mile of well-groomed marked trails, or test your off-piste skills in the high alpine terrain.

On Whistler Mountain try the Marmot Trees near the Emerald Express area, a new gladed run has formed here after trees were cleared for the construction of the Peak to Peak gondola. The Symphony Amphitheatre is a great place to get introduced to powder and tree skiing. Intermediates can also ride the Peak chair, from the top check out Highway 86, then Franz’s trail all the way down to Whistler Creek.

Blackcomb has some great skiing and riding in the areas around Solar Coaster, Crystal Chair, and 7th Heaven Express. Ridge Runner from the top of Crystal, and Panorama off 7th Heaven are not to be missed. Blackcomb glacier is also possible for confident intermediate skiers with some off-piste experience.

It is wrong to assume that heli-skiing is only for experts. Heli-skiing certainly means backcountry and powder, but it doesn’t have to be neck-deep and steep. Fat skis are available and a day’s guided heli-skiing is within the capabilities of most confident and aspiring intermediates. It very much depends on the prevailing weather conditions and having the local heli-ski operator select terrain that is appropriate to your group’s abilities.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Whistler

Whistler’s expert skiing is word famous. The high alpine areas on Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain are outstanding, with wide-open alpine bowls, steep chutes, and almost limitless choices.

Whistler Expert Skiing

It is in the high alpine areas that Whistler stands above most other resorts, with wide-open alpine bowls, steep chutes, and almost limitless choices. Each mountain has its own advantages; Whistler has more bowls and Blackcomb more couloirs.

Whistler Mountain 

On a blue bird powder day you can’t get better than Whistler’s Peak chair. Once you’ve lapped it once and gorged on the fresh, bypass the long lift queue and continue down to Big Red chair through Frog Hollow, West Bowl or Doom and Gloom.

From Whistler peak there are some relatively easy descents like The Saddle-a steep and exhilarating trail when freshly groomed. West Bowl offers some of the toughest skiing on the mountain with double black diamond trails like Monday’s and Cockalorum. Beware of avalanche debris in this bowl, frequent blasting by ski patrol can leave sizable hazards lurking underneath the powder. For fast groomer days take on Peak to Creek, the longest groomer in North America at 5.5km and descending over 5,000 vertical feet (1,530m) or try the World Cup tested Dave Murray Downhill.

In the Harmony bowl check out the double black ‘Horseshoe’ couloirs to the left of Harmony Ridge. There are plenty of single black diamond descents including Little Whistler, Low Roll, McConkeys, and Boomer Bowl. The Sun Bowl off the other side of the ridge has many more adventurous lines which are less frequented.

Hiking Flute Bowl from near the top of the Symphony Express could keep any advanced skier entertained all day. Further afield and just outside the ski area boundary is the Musical Bumps trail and Cowboy Ridge, peaceful and intermediate glades and bowls. All backcountry skiing in this area requires a ski out along the hazardous Singing Pass hiking trail. Hiring a certified guide is recommended if you wish to explore this area. Whistler Blackcomb recommends Whistler Alpine Guides Bureau

Blackcomb Mountain 

For a classic ski outing on Blackcomb Mountain get up early and be first in line; skip the gondola line up and go up the Wizard Express and Solar Coaster instead. Warm up with a few laps on Jersey Cream chair and then line up for the Glacier express. From here you have many options; take the Horstman T-Bar up to 7th Heaven, Traverse over to the Couloir Extreme (home to the former Saudan Couloir Race) or follow the experts up the short boot pack to Spanky’s Ladder.

From the top of Couloir Extreme you can traverse along the treacherous Chainsaw Ridge. An error here could send you tumbling down Jersey Cream Bowl, so proceed with caution. If you want to try glacier skiing take the Showcase T-Bar up and drop into the Blackcomb Glacier. The main bowl of the glacier is more moderate terrain. Experts will no doubt find the double black Blowhole exhilarating.

7th Heaven’s Everglades trees are a favourite on powder days, as are the chutes and gullies around Jersey Cream. The Bite, Blowdown and Staircase all allow you to zip in and out of the tress at your leisure. During the frequent white-out powder days head for the trees on Crystal chair. Arthur’s choice and Outer Limits offer steep and technical tree skiing. If you are riding the chair with locals see if you can convince them to show you the entrance to the famed Fraggle Rock.

Fancy yourself a mogul skier? Hit the zipper lines on Davies Dervish and Trapline above the Glacier Creek Lodge. These runs are the stomping ground for local and provincial freestyle teams and are sometimes closed for team training.

The four massive bowls in Spanky’s ladder- Sapphire, Garnet, Diamond and Ruby, all have their own playground of chutes, cliffs and risky entrances. There is no other terrain like this on either mountain; Spanky’s Ladder is truly the realm of extreme skiers. Be advised that this area has plenty of 60+ foot cliffs around so make sure you have good visibility and someone showing you if you are exploring it for the first time.

Boarding & Freestyle in Whistler

Whistler’s snowboarding options are fantastic as its choices for skiers. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders have plenty of bowls to make powder turns, together with well-groomed halfpipes and parksto choose from.

Both mountains have snowboarding lessons and clinics, and there are specialized camps offering accommodations, instruction, and fun activities. Each mountain has its own set of Nintendo Terrain parks. Both mountains have beginner terrain park features (S), park staff recommend the Blackcomb Terrain Garden (accessed from Easy Out) as the best place to start.

The main parks on both Blackcomb and Whistler have medium (M) to large (L) features where majority of park riders spend their time. The Highest Level Terrain Park (XL) on Blackcomb requires a special pass and a helmet.

The World Cup Halfpipe is located at the bottom of the Blackcomb terrain park and is considered one of the best in North America. It is cut every night with 17-foot (5m) radius and 15-foot (4.5m) walls, conditions in the pipe largely depend on how many people are using it.

Every park has a mix of jump and rail features appropriate to the signed level (S, M, L or XL). The popularity of park riding in Whistler means crowding and queues for jumps are inevitable. If you want to practice without lining up or having dozens of people watching you then get in there before lunch time.

The only pitfall of Blackcomb’s park layout is that it has no dedicated lift service, all traffic must either descend to Solar Coaster or take the slower Catskinner chair.

Off-Piste Skiing & Freeriding in Whistler

Whistler’s off piste skiing is truly world class. Almost half a million acres of backcountry terrain in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Access to the backcountry is available to experienced skiers and boarders, but anyone entering this area must be prepared with proper survival and self-rescue equipment.

Whistler has many classic off-piste options. Most popular with the locals is Million Dollar Ridge and Khyber’s Pass (neither are on the trail map), just past the boundary of the Peak to Creek area. Make sure to have someone guiding you in these places, tales of people getting lost for days in Khyber’s circulate around Whistler on a regular basis.

From the Flute Bowl the Musical Bumps and Cowboy Ridge offer excellent day touring options. Beyond Cowboy Ridge are Fissile and Whirlwind Mountains which require an overnight stay in the Russet Lake Hut. This hut (consisting solely of sheet metal walls and a roof) is unlike the luxurious catered huts of the European Alps.

On Blackcomb Mountain there are plenty of choices, though they are not all visible from the Blackcomb Glacier. Passing through the boundary gate on the far side of the glacier starts you up a moderately steep hike towards Blackcomb Peak. Use of climbing skins is faster but snowboarders and alpine skiers are able to boot pack this slope easily. From here there are several options: climb the ridge on the left towards Corona bowl and Husume Flank, traverse right to the entrance to D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) and Disease Ridge or continue out towards Circle and Decker glaciers.

An easier option for those not inclined to hike is to traverse from the top of 7th Heaven out to Lakeside Bowl and Xhiggy’s meadow. This area is relatively flat but nearly always fresh and is a favourite spot for freestylers building massive booter jumps.

Ski Touring in Whistler

Experienced ski-tourers can hire a guide and embark on the Spearhead Traverse. This two to four day trip (depending on how much skiing is done) traverses the scenic glaciers from Blackcomb to Whistler. Tours run several times throughout the season and can be booked through local guiding companies such as Whistler Alpine Guides Bureau. Web:

Heli-Skiing in Whistler

Approximately 80 percent of the world’s heli-skiing is in British Columbia, and weather conditions permitting, Whistler Heli-Skiing will take you into the backcountry to ski or board four or more drops per day, with each drop giving you access to between 2,500 and 5,000 vertical feet of untracked powder. Contact Whistler Heli-Skiing on Tel: +1 604 932 4105, toll free on 888 HELISKI or via their website For backcountry tours with professional guides contact the Whistler Alpine Guides Bureau or log on to

Mountain Restaurants in Whistler

Whistler’s mountain restaurants are quite good by North American standards. The quality and variety of Whistler’s on mountain dining facilities is higher than many of its competitors, starting with the Roundhouse Lodge’s market-style eateries.

The culture of mountain eating in North America is very different from Europe with quick snacks such as burgers, soup and sandwiches the norm. Packed lunches are permitted and microwaves are available to use.

Whistler and Blackcomb have between them 17 on-mountain restaurants serving breakfast as well as lunch, and the standard and choice of food is generally very good as far as North American resorts go. Step off the Whistler Village Gondola into Roundhouse Lodge’s market-style eateries with West Coast specialties plus enchiladas and fajitas, salads, soups, main-course sandwiches, and full-service dining at Steeps Grill. The Chic Pea, a cabin-style hut and patio on Whistler, is popular, while Raven’s Nest Mountain Deli has a fabulous valley-view deck and a menu featuring sandwiches, soup, chilli and an outdoor grill.

Blackcomb’s original mountain restaurant is Rendezvous, offering Mexican food, salads, BBQ, and full-service dining at Christine’s. Also on Blackcomb Mountain is Glacier Creek, a spectacular lodge with two restaurants. The Crystal Hut, a cozy European style log cabin has hearty home-style food and is famous for their great value Belgian waffles. The Horstman Hut is perched high up on Blackcomb at 7,494 feet (2,285 m.) serves café cuisine.

The main mountain restaurants are big and busy. They offer an excellent choice of food, but do not expect the same eating experience as a long lunch with wine in a quality Swiss or Austrian mountain restaurant. Eating on the mountain is pleasant enough, moderately cheaper than Europe but good value for money, but the self-service arrangement in many restaurants means people linger less over lunch and consequently spend more time on the slopes.


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