Whistler is 75 mi from downtown Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway (BC Route 99), while Seattle is 219 mi – or about 5 hours – away via Interstate 5 and BC 99. Halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, you’ll pass through the small city of Squamish which is a handy place to stock up on last minute supplies. Plus, it may be your last chance to duck into a hotel for the night if you run into an intense snowstorm that’s outpacing the plows! Especially if you don’t have an appropriate vehicle for the conditions (which may or may not have happened to one of us!).
Vancouver is the closest international airport, 85 mi away, about two to three hours drive. Bellingham, just over the border in Washington, also has air service (Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air) though it is a bit further out, 128 mi away. While farther away, Seattle is one of the major Western US hubs US with direct service from several American and international cities, so you may find deals that make the cost of a car and the drive time worth it. Flying into Bellingham or Seattle to get to Whistler, you’ll need your passport to cross the border. If you’re an American citizen and just know you’ll be coming back season after season for more, consider applying for a NEXUS card to speed your way through customs.
There’s no train or light rail to Whistler and rideshare (Uber, Lyft) isn’t available yet, so your choices to get to Whistler from Vancouver are either bus or car.
From the airport, Pacific Coach Lines offers scheduled service from both the airport and downtown several times a day for $75, while Whistler Shuttle offers door-to-door service with both scheduled runs and dedicated vans for $105.
You can book a six to seven hour bus trip from Bellingham for $81 one-way; it includes transferring to the Whistler Shuttle in downtown Vancouver. From Seattle-Tacoma International, the ride is 7-8 hours and $94 one-way.
All the carriers offer different levels of amenities (such as WiFi and washrooms), and some have package deals available through the resort including lift tickets and gear rental so shop around!
The road was redone for the 2010 Olympics and while it’s still a drive up a winding mountain road, it’s very safe with multiple lanes, broad curves, and relatively gentle grades. Sometimes winter storms can make it a little slippery until the plows can clear it, so a 4WD/AWD would definitely be wise. The route is well marked with signs, but if you’d like an added layer of comfort Google maps covers the area well.
The resort has rental car arrangements with Budget and Avis, but plenty of other companies are available at the airport and can be booked online. You should definitely do this in advance to make sure you can get the size and type of car you want, and be sure to make your request for a ski rack if you’ll need one. Rates are generally $38 per day. Canada recognizes foreign drivers’ licenses for short visits, so that and your passport are all you need. If you plan to fly into Bellingham or Seattle and rent a car for the drive to Whistler, check with the rental car company to make sure you can take the car into Canada: some US companies don’t allow it, and the ones that do typically want to know your plans.