The insiders' guide to Whistler 

Everything to need to know for spring break fun and adventure

click to flip through (9) PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE COURTESY OF TOURISM WHISTLER - Peak 2 Peak
  • Photo by Mike Crane courtesy of Tourism Whistler
  • Peak 2 Peak
 

Anytime is a great time to visit Whistler, but spring break is one of the best as all the sliding sports are in full swing, while the coldest days of winter are behind us.

Everyone is focused on enjoying the holidays from the snow school activities on the mountain, to adventure sport outfitters, to our arts and culture offerings in the village. And don't forget to eat. Spring menus bring out the best in local chefs!

You could easily spend your time in Whistler putting in epic days on the mountains, trying to explore every nook and cranny of the 8,100 in-bound acres, and still no day would ever be the same.

But what about broadening your mind?

Don't dismiss Whistler as just another ski and snowboard town. It's so much more.

Don't believe it? Consider: outdoor skating under a disco ball with tunes playing against a majestic mountain backdrop, snowshoeing through a quiet forest, rushing through the backcountry on a sled pulled by dogs, ramping up your heart rate on long, skinny cross-country skis, easing your weary muscles into a long hot tub.

And still, you haven't even scratched the surface.

Like the thrill of stepping off a ledge high in the air and zipping through the sky; or the feeling of being an Olympian, hurtling down the fastest sliding track in the world; or slowing the pace to a saunter through the village, enjoying the shops, restaurants and trendy cafés.

We take a certain pride here in knowing how to show people a good time, whether at après, on skis, or at any of the other myriad of activities to choose from. Let us show you why we fell in love with Whistler. We guarantee it will capture a piece of your heart too!

To help you figure out how to spend your time Pique has gathered a few of the best tips from it's sister-publication FAQ.

What's new?

Whistler has added some items to its list of outdoor adventures this spring.

Out at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) in the Callaghan you can find a brand new sport: Baseboarding. This adrenaline sport is best described as bodyboarding, but on snow during which you slide down a specially groomed run on a board.

"We are thrilled to be North America's first location to offer the Bromley Baseboard Experience," says Roger Soane, CEO of Whistler Sport Legacies.

Carson Hamm of Bromley Sports Ltd describes it as, "highly addictive."

"The Bromley Baseboard Experience complements the existing activities by providing an exhilarating gravity-fed activity that everyone can enjoy."

This fun-for-the-family activity was developed by four-time Olympian, British skeleton racer and sled manufacturer Kristan Bromley.

The Baseboard Experience takes place on a 600-metre long slope that starts near the top of the ski jumps. It is suitable for everybody over the age of eight and no prior sliding experience is necessary.

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It will be offered daily from March 15 to 30 and pre-booking is recommended by calling 604-964-0060 x 2460. The cost, including Baseboard rental is $25 per adult and $20 per youth (8-18yrs), with family rates too. Helmets are mandatory and goggles are recommended, both are available to rent for $5 each (www.whistlerolympicpark.com).

If that isn't fast enough for you head to the Whistler Sliding Centre (www.whistlerslidingcentre.com) for the Thunder on Ice spring break where you could have an opportunity to ride the bobsleigh with a Canadian Olympian.

Bobsleigh pilots, Kaillie Humphries, Chris Spring and Lyndon Rush, who have just returned from the 2014 Sochi Games, will not only be available for photos, autographs and chats with the public participants, they will even join the Whistler Sliding Centre's Pilot crew for the public bobsleigh sessions, until March 23.

Thunder on Ice, and the skeleton experience Lightning on Ice, are $169 plus tax. Advanced booking is required —online or by calling 604-964-0040. 

And the Whistler Sliding Centre wants to meet even more Olympians: Any Olympic athletes — past or present — living in or visiting the Sea to Sky corridor are invited to slide for free during Spring Break! If you are or were an Olympic athlete, summer or winter, contact the Whistler Sliding Centre or just come up and introduce yourself to book your slide!

From March 19 to 26 head to Whistler Mountain and catch the Sportcheck Canadian Championships where you can see Canada's top alpine and paralpine skiers face-off against each other and international competitors as well.

Spring break fun

Throughout the break, Whistler's famous Fire and Ice Shows take place every Sunday until April 6 in Skier's Plaza. You will find music, dance and fire to dazzle your senses, starting at 7:30pm.

And make sure you spend some time at Whistler Olympic Plaza, where you will find an outdoor skating rink and a family-friendly toboggan hill. Skating is free, and if you need skates and helmets you can rent them rinkside. It's especially fun at night as the disco ball catches the lights, and the Olympic rings and Paralympic Agitos are lit up in the background (Whistler Olympic Plaza). It is open seven days a week: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 3 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Closed for maintenance daily: 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. and 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Every Monday and Wednesday night the Plaza also offers street hockey, music, hula-hoop fun, bungy trampoline, target practice with laser skeets and many other activities for kids.

On the mountains the fun never stops whether with your family or with your adopted Whistler family at snow school.

There are hidden kids' hot spots on both mountains as well — a Magic Castle tucked within the forest on Blackcomb Mountain and a Tree Fort on Whistler Mountain. These are the perfect family getaway spots on the mountains while parents regroup and kids keep burning off that never-ending energy.

Further down on Blackcomb Mountain is the tube park close to Base II. If you were having troubles getting down the mountain on your skis or boards, here you can grab a tube and feel the wind in your hair. There's a conveyor lift that takes you to the top of the lanes, and from there, just hold on tight, slide and prepare to scream with glee.

Looking for something peaceful? Head out onto the Valley Trail system and enjoy the winding network on foot, on skinny skis or even snowshoes. The trail system is surrounded by forest, meanders over rivers and helps you forget you are only minutes from a bustling resort (www.whistler.com/activities/summer/valley_trail).

Ahhhh.

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On the mountains

What do you get when you add a brand-new six-seater quad chairlift on Whistler Mountain and a whole new lift line and access point into a favourite spot on Blackcomb?

A revolution in the way skiers and riders enjoy Whistler Blackcomb, that's what! There's little doubt the this winter season transformed the way we enjoy the mountains — the fruits of Whistler Blackcomb's $18 million capital expansion project.

But let's back up a little.

Sure, the basic stats remain the same: it's still an enviable 1,925 hectares (4,757 acres) of skiable terrain — combined, that's the most in North America. It has more than 200 named runs on the map, 37 lifts, 11.9 metres (39.1 ft) average snowfall per year, and 1,609 metres (5,280 ft) of vertical, three gorgeous glaciers, and 12 awesome alpine bowls.

But now there's more. And it's better.

The new six-seater chairlift at Harmony on Whistler — the biggest chairlift at the resort — will be able to move 3,600 people up the mountain every hour. Called Harmony Six, it will be Whistler's "heavy lifter" into the alpine, redistributing the way people ski the top of the mountain.

Across the valley, the Crystal zone isn't just getting the old Harmony Chair. Rather, a realigned chairlift called the Crystal Ridge Express that will allow guests, once used to going to the Crystal Chair and skiing all the way back to Excalibur, to stay in the zone for the whole day, if they so desire. The work includes new gladed runs in the area and other run improvements.

If that all seems a bit, well, daunting, chew on this — 20 per cent of the terrain here is for beginners, 55 per cent for intermediate and 25 per cent for advanced. Don't be intimated — everyone can ski or ride Whistler Blackcomb.

You can always ease your way up the mountains with a lesson or two, or take part in one of the on-mountain camps. If you think you've already mastered all there is to learn on the snow, think again. These pros can show you something new. They can't help but make you better! And they're really fun.

But if that's not enough to tempt you on to one or two planks, don't despair. You can still get a sense of what it's all about by sightseeing. The gravity-defying Peak 2 Peak Gondola, spanning the two mountains, hanging above the Fitzsimmons Valley, is not just an engineering wonder (though it does break several world records) it also offers, quite simply, the best rooms with a view in Whistler.

Truthfully, there's a reason why places are called Sun Bowl and Seventh Heaven and Angel Dust. Find out for yourself. And enjoy the ride!

Nordic Adventures

The skinny on skinny skis is that it's never been better in Whistler. Truly.

The 2010 winter Olympics left Whistler with a Nordic legacy that breathed new life into the sport. It didn't just bring the sport's best athletes to our backyard to serve as inspiration to a whole new generation of future skinny skiers, the Olympics also left behind a physical, tangible, usable legacy of trails and facilities.

Whistler now boasts a combined total of more than 129 kilometres of cross-country trails for all abilities. It is, quite simply, a haven for cross country skiers, and not just for the quality of trails but also for the chance to soak in the surrounding beauty, to be close and quiet in nature.

Even if you came for the downhill thrills, don't discount the "other" ski thrills because this is a not-to-miss Whistler experience.

Aside from the free access — across the frozen lakes where you can carve out your own path— cross-country skiing is neatly divided into three main areas. Here's a little about each and you can see what suits your needs. Once you get a taste, however, you'll likely want to try it all.

Lost Lake Park

Located beside the village, Lost Lake Park is just a short walk away. It boasts 32 kilometres of groomed trails within a 525-acre pristine park.  

There are groomed grooves for cross-country skiers and the rest of the wide trail suits skate skiers to a tee.

The trails wind through a forest with Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains as the majestic backdrop.

There are four kilometres of lighted trails for night skiing too.

Try the beginner's Lost Lake Loop green trail if you're new to this sport, or to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. Then move up to the intermediate blue trails and if you're feeling particularly bold, go for the roller coaster loop called Centennial. It's for experts.

You'll find all you need for your day out at the PassivHaus from tickets to rentals and sustenance to keep you going. The PassivHaus is next to Lost Lake Park.

(www.whistler.com)

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Whistler Olympic Park

The multi-million dollar Olympic legacy is located a short drive south of town and high into the Callaghan Valley. Whistler Olympic Park boasts a network of trails groomed to perfection to satisfy even the most discerning skier. The trail levels range from beginner to expert, for both classic and skate skiing.

There is a large lodge facility where the pros can get you set up in short order and you can enjoy lunch by the fire.

(www.whistlerolympicpark.com)

Callaghan Country... Beyond

The Olympic facility, on the doorstep of 3,500 hectares of wilderness, has shone a new light on the Callaghan trails, long tucked up high in the valley.

It's a different kind of experience to what you'll find at Whistler Olympic Park and Lost Lake Park. This is B.C. at its most raw, at its spectacular best. The trail network is designed for light Nordic ski touring — the trails are set for cross-country and skate skiing is sometimes an option depending on weather and conditions. Go deeper and further on your skinny skis than you thought you could (www.callaghancountry.com).

So, there you have it. That's our Nordic offerings in a nutshell.

You don't have to be the fittest. You don't have to have experience.

You just have to have a sense of adventure and a willing spirit. The tradeoff for getting out of your comfort zone is the chance to create some life-long memories.

All you have to do is get into the grooves.

Snowmobiling

If you've noticed the line of pick-up trucks driving through town with big, beefy sleds on the flatbed, you're halfway there! You've realized there is a whole other pastime in Whistler. And surely, the locals can't be wrong.

They're not. Locals always know best, whether it's surfing in Hawaii or sledding in B.C. And Whistler locals know a thing or two about snowmobiling. It's part of the playtime culture here. Those in the know come from near, and far, to get a little piece of it.

What locals know is that sometimes you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big resort. Sometimes you're just itching to get out into nature fast. Sometimes you just want to feel the thrill of revving your own engine and seeing what it can do. So get yourselves onto the back of a snowmobile and see what's out there. It's big. It's bold. It's so worth the journey.

Let's face it — sometimes powering yourself through the snow on your own steam just doesn't appeal. A snowmobile offers an easy way to get you out into the wilderness quickly. And... it's really, really fun.

There are networks of snowmobile trails both north and south of town that make for easy access through the forest to wide open winter wonderlands, soft alpine meadows of snow.

Don't be intimidated by it all. Tours in Whistler are designed for all levels so this is your chance to try something different. If you're an old hat at snowmobiling, doing it in Whistler takes it to a whole new level of fun and excitement. Just try playing on a snowmobile in West Coast powder.

Snowmobile operators have taken all the guesswork, all the potential stress, out of it. There are great tours to choose from — single or double rider, with kids or without, with après or dinner, in the sunset or the warmth of the mid-day sun, over frozen lakes or through ancient forests, climbing up a mountain 1,800 metres, or racing along the valley floor by the light of the moon, or in the crisp morning air.

Tempted yet? How can you not be!

(www.whistler.com)

Heliskiing

OK — it's decadent.

Taking your seat in that chopper, getting whisked across the skyline to sweet heavenly powder stashes, dropped at the top with untouched snow below. Alone, save for a few lucky souls.

Decadent. Yep. Awe-inspiring? You betcha!

Don't be jealous. Be on the top of that mountain.

It'll be the best money you've ever spent — worth every penny to ski with sweet abandon.

We've been in the business of heli-skiing for decades because people always want to know what it's like beyond the ropes. So, you know you're in good hands when you decide to do it here.

But we wouldn't be doing it justice if we didn't tell the cautionary side of this tale — once you get a taste of it, you'll just want to keep coming back for more.

Skiing will be changed forever for you. When you think of snow, you'll think of that deep, west coast champagne powder that was all yours. You'll think of your own private Seventh Heaven. You'll think of feeling like a rockstar on the way to the top, and a superstar athlete on the way down.

This is the stuff day dreams are made of — the fuel for your memories to get you through the summer.

You won't be able to stop yourself from coming back for more.

(www.whistler.com

Backcountry

Have you ever imagined what it was like to be on your skis away from the popular marked runs and the lift lines, where horizons beckon and the snow is untouched?

Have you ever noticed tracks disappearing into the great beyond and wondered: Where do those go? Should I go too?

Those tracks are likely heading into the backcountry — a place where the untouched snow sparkles in the sun, where you can hear the gentle rocking of your skis on skins going up the mountain and your steady breath as you work your way up. There's a shivery anticipation running up and down your spine when you think about what's ahead. All those fresh turns all to yourself — and deservedly so. You hiked for them. They're yours.

Imagine no more. Experience it first-hand.

The backcountry — that once mythical place beyond the ropes reserved for the most hardcore of skiers — is now pretty much beckoning to everyone. You don't have to be hardcore. But wait! You do have to be 1) prepared 2) smart about it 3) well-equipped, and 4) ready to earn your turns.

So consider earning your turns with a pro — a certified guide. These are qualified pros that know the lay of the land like the backs of their hand, and better yet, know how to read the snow. They can take you on an overnight hut-based tour or on a day trip. Check out Whistler Alpine Guides or Whistler Ski Guides.

All too often people make the mistake of following tracks to the great beyond and seeing where they end up.

Think before you duck.

There's a mind-blowing experience waiting for you; get ready for it first.  

What not to miss

1. Ski and ride — You didn't come all this way not to slide down the mountain. There's a reason why Whistler Blackcomb is consistently rated No. 1. See for yourself!

2. Après — If you're not heading home in your ski boots at 10 p.m. it's not an après. Find a patio, get settled under a heater, order beer and nachos, and relive your day.

3. Sightseeing — The record-breaking, gravity-defying Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb is a ride not to be missed. You don't have to be a skier or a snowboarder to enjoy it. Come up in your snow boots and stay for a while.

4. Dine — Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Irish, Australian. There's something to tempt every taste bud. From award-winning high-end fare, to quick grab and go's, dining out in Whistler is an experience not to be missed.

5. Shop — There are lots of treasures in the local shops. Take the time to explore.  

6. Fresh Tracks — The best breakfast view out there. It's worth the early wake-up to see the sunrise over the mountains. And, as the name suggests, you also get to hit the snow before anyone else.

7.Relive our Olympics — There are a host of legacies left behind from Whistler's biggest party, the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Look beyond the five rings!

8. Sleigh rides — It's romantic. It's fun. It's relaxing. Experience the valley drawn behind gentle Percheron horses.  

9. Get jumping — Jump up, jump up and get down in the south end of town. Check out Bounce, the trampoline facility, or Oros, the Olympic gymnastics facility.  

10.Made in Whistler —There's a 'Made in Whistler' memento that will suit you to a tee, from beer to chocolate. Pack a little of Whistler home in your suitcase. Don't miss the Made in Whistler market every Saturday at the Westin Resort and Spa for the ultimate one-of-a-kind items by local artisans. An eclectic mix of jewelry, pottery, fine art, unique fashion, baked goods, artisan foods; there's plenty of fabulous finds to keep your inner artisan satisfied.

11. Bend and stretch— Take a yoga class. Some of the best teachers call Whistler home. Another great idea for stretching is to head to Whistler's indoor climbing centre at the The Core (www.whistlercore.com)  

12. The Hairfarmers — If you really want a Whistler après, find out where the Hairfarmers are playing and go. You'll find them in our arts and music listing on page 86.

13. Dogsledding —See Whistler from the back of a sled, tucked under cozy blankets, as beautiful dogs whisk you across the snow.  

14. Eat a Beavertail — A great Canadian treat to tempt that sweet tooth. And just to be clear...these are not real beaver tails! They just look like them. Find them at the bottom of the Whistler gondola. 

15. First Nations — Need a break from all the physical activity? Explore the Squamish and Lil'wat Cultural Centre and learn about the First Nations who lived here long before the skiers and snowboarders. The centre offers great craft activites for families too, including drum workshops and wool headband making. (www.slcc.ca)

16. More than a massage — Whistler's spas offer a host of treatments from Shiatsu to reflexology.   

17.Ziplinning — See the world from up high. Soar through the air, suspended on a zipline and see why this is a must-do in Whistler (www.superflyziplines.com and www.tagwhistler.com).  

18. Bungee — Say you came to Whistler and threw yourself off a bridge over a rushing river. There's no better place to bungee jump!  

19 Gallery Gazing — Explore Whistler's visual arts with a stroll through its art galleries from the village to Function Junction. Find watercolours, glasswork, photography, sculpture and more (www.artswhistler.com).  

20. Whistler Visitor Centre — If you need to get more information to plan you trip, head to the Whistler Visitor Centre in the village where you can get info, book your activities, and speak to friendly locals. We're here to help you have a vacation you won't forget!

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