This Canadian ski resort is a must-see for any Australian, snow-obsessed or not, and here is the proof in pictures.
A 13-hour flight is tough, but worth it when, at 30,000 feet, you look out your little window to see snow covered mountains – you can’t help but be excited to be one of the annual 2.1 million visitors about to touch down in the cold paradise. Pro tip: a plus of being an Australian (or New Zealand) resident is that you don’t need a visa to visit Canada, so you can book the next flight if you like!
There is a range of accommodation options in Whistler, from the swanky Four Seasons Whistler to the budget options such as Hi-Whistler hostel. I stayed in a Stony Creek Lagoons townhouse with my family because it was more like a home than a hotel – we had our own kitchen, lounge room, dining room and, most importantly, our very own hot tub. Having your own hot tub may sound unnecessary, but when our family friends had to share one with every other guest staying at their hotel, we realised it wasn’t! Our accommodation also had fabulous views and snow-covered paths for you to take walks and explore the neighbourhood.
Before you go anywhere or do anything, pick up one of these bad boys. This map will take you from newbie tourist to Whistler expert in about five minutes. There are two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, which both have chairlift access up to 2000 metres. The total ski-able area across both mountains adds up to a staggering 3307 hectares. Trying not to get lost on that much snow will be made much easier with a map. Trust me.
No matter what your skiing ability, it’s always wise to take a lesson. If you’re a complete beginner, lessons are must as there is nothing worse than sliding down the mountain on your arse for a week straight. You can choose from full- and half-day lessons that suit your ability. Although costly (about $A121 for a half day) your confidence will soar and you are bound to pick up some new skills. Lessons are limited to groups of four, so you’ll get lots of one on one time with that cute instructor, and you might even make new friends.
It’s worth setting your alarm and getting out of bed early for your chance to do some runs in complete solitude. The mountains in Australia are small and always crowded with people so to be able to do wide sweeping turns on your own is bliss. Pro tip: If you’ve had a big night and can’t find yourself getting out until noon, it probably isn’t worth buying a ski pass as the mountain closes at 4pm.
Do yourself (and your wallet) a favour and avoid eating on the mountain. Granted, restaurants on the hill are convenient, but the three I went to had just three food options: hot dogs, soup or vegan food, and I wouldn’t rate any of it more than three stars. However, given the spectacular views (as evidenced in the pic), it’s not a bad place to stop for a coffee and photo break. Instead, for a good quality lunch, brave the queue (it’s worth it) at Zogs Dogs, a popular hotdog stand at the bottom of Whistler mountain.
For a 360-degree view of the mountain peaks, Whistler village and the snow-covered forest, the Peak 2 Peak cable-car ride, which takes you from Whistler mountain to Blackcomb mountain and back, cannot be missed. Hop aboard a gondola with a glass bottom and let the full beauty of Whistler blow your mind. This mega-attraction can be done with or without snow gear on, and if you have a lift pass for the day it’s included in the ticket! Warning: They keep the windows open, so definitely don’t venture up in anything that’s not going to keep you super warm. There are also only two glass-bottomed gondolas, so be prepared to wait about half an hour for the full experience.
Other than the Peak 2 Peak, there are a tonne of other things to do on Whistler (besides the obvious skiing and snowboarding). In 2015, SKI Magazine readers rated Whistler the number one resort in North America for winter activities off the slopes. So if your legs inevitably cramp up from being on the slopes, there’s ziplining, tubing, shopping and sledding to keep you occupied.
Take your time to explore the mountain – even if it’s your first time seeing snow. The mountain is 15-20 per cent green runs, which means even if you’re a novice, you can go virtually everywhere. Pictured above is a green run that starts almost at the peak and runs all the way down to the bottom of Blackcomb mountain. Doing runs like these mean you’ll be ready for intermediate (blue) runs in no time!
For a week’s visit, or for the six-month snow season, I would 10/10 recommend Whistler for anyone and everyone. Every time I was on a chairlift and looked behind me I saw a scene worthy of a postcard. After a quick Instagram to make everyone jealous (obviously) all I could do was marvel at how far I was from home, and how truly unbelievably breathtaking the sights before me were. So make sure to always be on the lookout for picture-perfect views like this one, as they will (devastatingly) become memories the moment you leave. Until you inevitably visit Whistler again, of course. – Words and pictures by Lauren Croft