Initially, we wanted to write up this blog post after our first couple of weeks in Whistler and call it ‘Reasons Whistler is better than other resorts’ or something similar, but the more time we spent there, the more we started reflecting about the differences between the resorts we’ve been to without calling any of them the best or the worst. So many reasons to like it in Whistler, a few ideas on how to improve it and advice to give to other resorts.
A piece of our hearts will stay in Whistler for sure, but we can’t be disappointed as we have the Alps not that far!!
It won’t look like your usual a pros and cons list, but we’ll try to make it our points clear enough 🙂
Lifts, lift lines and lifties
+ Very well organised lift lines – almost every lifty on Whistler Blackcomb seems to take pride in their job and makes sure the lifts are full during the busy periods, etc.
+ Everyone in the lift line alternates in a very polite manner, so there’s no stress of fighting your way to the front of the line as in some busy areas in French resorts
+ Well organised Singles lines – so, again, if a single skier/snowboarder needs to join the lift line, it’s a quick and efficient way to keep the lifts always full and helps people that ride alone get on top of the lift quicker (we often used these lines on busy days even if two of us rode together – sometimes it’s fun way to meet new people, too!)
– Almost all the chairlifts can only take max 4 people with the exception of Harmony Express that takes six. French resorts have an advantage here with more bigger chairlifts.
+ Every on-mountain restaurant or hut has washrooms (I know I know, I am saying it Canadian way 😉 free of charge, yay. This is indeed a breath of fresh air in comparison to many French resorts where only customers could use the Toilette, otherwise it’ll cost you cash.
+ This topic follows the Washrooms one on purpose. In Whistler there’s no need to bring your own bottle of water on the mountain as water fountains are located in every restaurant/hut for you to use even if you’re not paying for their food. Hooray! It means you can drink as much as you want as you can go to the toilet as much as you need, haha 🙂
Both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains have massive eating/shopping places (Roundhouse, Rendezvous and Glacier Creek), with a few small huts located all around. These restaurants work like self service canteens with a selection of international cuisines for everyone’s taste.
+ They’re big enough to sit loads of hungry holiday makers and have a good selection of food, including soups, burgers, burritos, ramen or noodles, etc.
– They lack charm and are more canteen-like than a charming French on-mountain cafe (this excludes Crystal Hut or Horstman Hut and the like, as these are indeed cute and cosy)
On-Mountain Demo and Rental Shops
+ Whistler Blackcomb gives you a possibility to demo new snowboards/skis for a symbolic price – you can book it in the base or as soon as you are on top of the mountain. This is particularly good if you wish to try out a powder board or skis after a massive snow storm the night before. In addition, if you decide to buy yourself that snowboard/skis later on in the village, the initial $20 will be applied towards the total cost. Win win.
+ I would also like to mention the fact that they can also be life (or mood) savers – one day as soon as we got on top of the Whistler Gondola, I realised my binding lost a screw on the toe edge and therefore I couldn’t fasten it. The demo shop came in very handy as I quickly popped in there and got my binding fixed in no time! Thank you thank you thank you!
+ Well, that says it all. None of the areas on and right next to the mountains allow smoking, so that’s nice!
Free Wi-Fi and WB Plus App
+ All on-mountain restaurants and lodges have TELUS powered free wifi – you only need to sign up once and it connects automatically whenever you are nearby. Awesome little deal, therefore we never actually needed to get a Canadian SIM card!
+ In addition, Whistler Blackcomb lift pass is quite smart – every time you scan it the data is recorded and you can check your daily stats on an App or online – you can check your daily/total vertical, create groups and get competitive with your friends, check which days you were lazy and which days you were killing it on the mountain! The App has also got up to date snow report info, snow forecast, lift status, etc etc. A very handy little tool. Even if you don’t download it and link your lift pass on the first day of your stay, it collects information from the first scan!
Inbounds Backcountry Areas
+ This is something we love in Whistler Blackcomb – as long as you are inside the Ski Area Boundary, you are insured – you can enjoy piste and off-piste, tree runs and bowls as long as there are no temporary avalanche or other hazard signs in place. This is something we’ll miss when we’re snowboarding in Alps.
This winter has had a record snowfall, as well as being a very cold one. When we arrived in January, the temperatures in the village were around -15°C, reaching -22°C up in the midmountain and Alpine areas, which was a bit of a shock for us, as we had never snowboarded in such a cold. Those were proper bluebird days, too. It looked good and the piste conditions stayed awesome but we couldn’t bare our faces in order to avoid frostbite! We were told that this cold was very unusual for Whistler!
On the other hand, when the temperatures suddenly rose and it started raining in the village sometimes it actually rained on the mountain, too – this is something that we haven’t experienced in the Alps (at least not in mid winter!!) We can definitely see the difference in the climate between Coast Mountains and the Alps (the elevation must dictate this, too, as the villages in French Alps are located way higher than Whistler).
To sum up the weather we had this winter:
January – right before we arrived there was a massive snowfall and the very cold temperatures kept the piste conditions great even if it didn’t snow for the first two weeks and the days were beautifully bluebird. It then went way warmer with the rain in the village and on the mountain. Which turned into amazing powder for the end of the month.
February – it got cold again and the snowfall was pretty regular with some amazing fluffy champagne powder days and frosty bluebird days
March – we dreamt of slushy park days but all we had was snow snow snow. Warmer temperatures meant heavier snow and no sunshine. Not exactly sure, but we think we had about three bluebird days in all month! Not really complaining as some of the powder days were epic but seeing sunshine on our last day was bliss ♥
Lift Operating Hours
Again, this must be because of different climates, elevations and positions on Earth 🙂 but if you arrive in Whistler for a holiday in January, do not expect to stay riding all day until 5pm as you may be used to in French Alps. The sun moves and shade covers the pistes quite early in the afternoon and the lifts will close at 3pm. The opening hours extend to 4pm later in the season as the days get longer and Daylight Saving time begins. Well, the earlier you get off the mountain, the earlier Après begin 🙂
Well, guess French invented the Après-Ski the way we like it and it just seemed a bit different here in Whistler. The bars at the base of the lifts were always busy so we didn’t really go there and cannot comment much. Beacon became our favourite place for happy hour craft beer when we wanted to chill out straight after slopes but if we wanted a proper little party atmosphere straight after the slopes, we needed to wait for certain days in a week and only a couple of bars did it to our liking (need to mention Dustys or Merlins with their live music and dancing on the stools). Usually we would not see many people in the bars wearing their ski gear as it seems that locals prefer to go out in the night but the idea of having a drink after mountain and be home by dinner time and be full of energy the day after is something that appeals to us better!
As Whistler is definitely one of the best resorts and maybe the best in Canada (and so close to many big cities like Vancouver and Seattle), it gets pretty popular during school holidays, long weekends (public holidays in America as well as Canada) and generally weekends. This is a bit daunting to the locals and we would always tend to take our days off snowboarding on the weekends, unless it would snow loads and we would never miss a powder day no matter the lines! Well, on the other hand, the more time we spent here, the better we got in learning how to avoid the queues and busier times. In addition, bringing our own little sandwiches for lunch always saved us time!
Having said that, Whistler Blackcomb has been busy all winter with only a few really quiet weeks. First thing in the morning you’ll expect to wait in line for quite a bit, but I don’t blame the holiday makers – with day ticket prices sky high you’d want to make the most of your day. This is one of the reasons why we would not tend to come up very early (again, except powder days or if we’d get up for Fresh Tracks breakfast) and instead stay until last lifts in the afternoon when it tends to quiet down.
On the other hand, even if the lifts get busy, there are usually a handful of runs that you can choose once you’re up top, therefore the less popular pistes stay pretty quiet.
When you’re in a French resort, it usually works a different way. Holiday makers would arrive on a Saturday or Sunday as it’s a changeover day in most of the residences and chalets, and the locals would come to the resorts during the weekends! In addition, French Alps has lots of different big and famous resorts scattered throughout, therefore there isn’t one main place where all holiday makers would gather.
It’s actually pretty difficult to say which French resort we like most. Arran just wishes Morzine/Avoriaz would have a better snow record as it could be the one 😉 The mountains are massive, the Stash is cool, you can ride for miles and miles and the Morzine town itself has such a cool vibe!
Season Pass Holders and Locals Discounts
+ As in many other resorts, usually if you spend more than two weeks on the mountain, it’s worth getting a season pass. It also comes with 20% off in many on-mountain restaurants and a few shops in the village, really handy to have it always with you and look out for the ones that do discounts. People that work for the mountain (lifties, ski instructors or staff at WB restaurants/bars), get even more discounts everywhere. Awesome. Also, Tuesdays are the cheap day in Whistler – get your Pizza & Pint deal or go to cinema half price, etc etc. Not exactly sure how things will work next year with Vail buying the resort, but I’m sure perks will stay!
To conclude, we loved spending our winter in Whistler – the mountains were pretty easy to learn with many memorable lift and piste names (like Rock’n’Roll or 7th Heaven), with many runs leading to same lifts, English being spoken everywhere, all the amazing and interesting people working and playing there, seeing so many of our new skier and snowboarder friends progress loads (Kerry, hint hint!), snowboard pros coming and shredding the same lines as you, and more. On the other hand, we really missed March sunshine and we’re excited to spend more time in our home mountains in the Alps, too! Maybe we can apply the new experiences and continue our little love affair with the mountains ♥