Whistler Blackcomb

The Ultimate Guide to Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

Written by Karl Sander  • Last updated Oct 10, 2017

If you’re serious about your skiing or snowboarding, sooner or later you owe it to yourself to visit Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia. It’s consistently near the top of Ski Magazine’s annual list of Top 50 resorts as well as Forbes Top Ten Ski Resorts in North America. With a ski area of 8,117 acres spanning two mountains, it’s North America’s largest and most popular resort. The staggering amount of acreage includes over 200 named trails of bowls, glaciers and tree runs. There’s plenty of variety and enough terrain to keep everyone from beginner to expert busy for days.

View of Whistler from Lower Panorama at Blackcomb

That said, its popularity has its drawbacks. Located within driving distance from the greater Seattle area, it is often a rally point for weekend warriors intent on testing themselves against the mountain(s). This means an influx of crowds on both US and Canadian public holidays with the resort being doubly flooded during Christmas and New Years. It’s proximity to the coast means that weather can be a bit hit or miss. This isn’t helped by its relatively low peak elevation of 7,493 feet which means heavier snow that can be downright soggy at the bottom. That said, it has a respectable average annual snowfall of over 450 inches so you’ll still find quality turns, especially if you stick to the upper reaches of the resort.

View of Whistler Valley

When the weather’s good, though, you’ll find awe-inspiring views that seem to go on forever over the many inlets along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. There are plenty of places in the ski fields to escape the crowds, including some of the longest runs you’ll find in North America, and, if you’re up to it, easily accessible backcountry. The village, with its overwhelming array of dining, nightlife and shopping complemented by Canadian hospitality, is worth a visit all by itself.

Shops lining Whistler Village

Whistler-Blackcomb was originally built as part of a bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics, and 42 years later, it got its chance to host 2010 Olympic alpine skiing events. You’ll see remnants of its Olympic spirit in the village including a large set of rings. This is the place to channel your inner speed demon and take on the same slopes where the likes of Bode Miller and Linsey Vonn chased gold!

The Mountain

View of Blackcomb Mountain on the Peak2Peak

The resort consists of two distinct mountains, Blackcomb Peak and Whistler Mountain, with the main village nestled between the shared base and a second, smaller Creekside base a couple ridges to the west. The two mountains are joined by the Peak2Peak gondola which is the highest lift of its kind in the world (1,427 feet above the valley floor). It boasts the world’s longest unsupported span of 1.88 miles and is so impressive that tourists buy tickets to ride the gondola just to take in the sights! Of course, us snow sports enthusiasts will want to do much more than that!

Peak2Peak Gondola Station

The elevation at the village is 2,214 feet, so no one has to worry about being bothered by altitude sickness. Blackcomb Peak is a little bit taller than Whistler Mountain at 7,494 feet compared to 7,160 feet. But more importantly, this translates to a full mile of vertical! This is plenty of vertical to burn your legs and hunt fresh snow.

On the gondola traveling between the mountain across Fitzsimmons Creek!

Just over half (55%) of the runs are rated for intermediates. The split between beginner and advanced runs depends on which mountain you’re on (there’s more advanced terrain on Blackcomb compared to Whistler). Across the resort as a whole, there’s a pretty even split with approximately 20% beginner terrain and 25% advanced. Of course, this doesn’t count the backcountry, which is easy to get to and, perhaps more importantly, easy to get back from!

When to Go

Whistler’s season typically begins by the end of November and usually lasts well into May. If you go in March, you stand your best chances of getting an almost-perfect combination of longer days, great snow coverage all over and temperatures cold enough to keep the snow in good shape. It also avoids the Christmas/New Year’s crunch, and the US public holidays when Americans stream over the border for world class skiing and a (usually) favorable exchange rate. Just watch out for the local schools’ spring vacation period which is a recipe for big crowds. For 2017-2018, it’s the last two weeks of March.

President’s weekend lines at Jersey Cream Express and Glacier Express

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets at Whistler are more expensive than other places in Canada but purchasing in advance will save you money. A pre-purchased adult ticket for 2 days ranges from $141-$174, depending on the time of the season. 5 days will cost $264-$395, and 7 days costs $353-559, all of which compare favorably with similar resorts in the US. Children, youth (age 13-18) and seniors (65+) are all discounted. Even though Whistler-Blackcomb is a Vail property, the Epic pass doesn’t save you any money here, so you should only consider it if you plan on visiting one of the other Vail resorts in the same season.

Photos by Karl Sander

Overall Rating

4.6 / 5 based on 149 reviews
Accessibility
Food
For Beginner
For Intermediate
For Advanced
For Expert
Sidecountry
Backcountry
Fresh Snow
Facilities
Activities
Nightlife
Family Friendliness
Arvid Stigland from Not from USA

Spent a winter season there. Not a single day goes by without me missing all the friendly people and the deep powder skiing. It can match all the aspects of the world's leading ski resorts. Overall, Whistler-Blackcomb simply has the best skiing that our planet has to offer - it's the sole king of mountain resorts.

Posted on Oct 16, 2017
Jason Taylor from Not from USA

Fantastic resort, amazing facilities and topped off with a great snow year! the patrollers do an incredible job of dealing with a huge number of people combined with super wet coastal snow, hats off to them for sure!

Posted on Oct 16, 2017

Elevation

Base
2214 feet
Base
Summit
7493 feet
Summit
Vertical Drop
5279 feet
Vertical Drop

Lifts

Gondola & Trams
4
Gondola & Trams
High Speed Six
1
High Speed Six
High Speed Quads
13
High Speed Quads
Triple Chairs
4
Triple Chairs
Surface Lifts
15
Surface Lifts

Terrain

Beginner Runs
18 %
Beginner Runs
Intermediate Runs
55 %
Intermediate Runs
Advanced Runs
22 %
Advanced Runs
Expert Runs
5 %
Expert Runs
Total Runs
200
Total Runs
Terrain Parks
5
Terrain Parks
Longest Run
7 miles
Longest Run
Skiable Terrain
8171 acres
Skiable Terrain
Snowmaking Area
565 acres
Snowmaking Area