As another Whistler ski season begins, the locals prepare for what will be another busy year and tourists add to their list of things to do in Whistler in the winter.
Popular among locals travelling up from Vancouver and even the States, Whistler is known worldwide for its usually epic snowfall – which is getting better with each year – and its diverse terrain. Whether you’re a beginner skier or snowboarder, or an experienced ski bunny, there’s something for everyone. That’s what makes it so great.
For those of you who don’t know, Whistler is in British Columbia on the beautiful west coast of Canada. I spent two years there as part of a cliche, yet life-changing, adventure. I miss it more and more every day.
Having said that, I’m glad I lived there when I did. The season was incredible, my snowboarding improved massively (despite two concussions), and I made friends for life. And I was never short of things to do in Whistler in the winter, and beyond.
When I first visited in 2015 it was still owned by Whistler Blackcomb. It’s since been bought by Vail Resorts – the largest ski resort owner in North America – and things have changed. And not necessarily for the better, or so I’ve heard.
Regardless, Whistler is and will always be a ‘must’ for any snow lover. It’s as much of a Winter Wonderland as the photos make it out to be and although it’s overrun with Australians (they don’t call it Whistralia for nothing!), it’s still a prime Canadian ski resort.
Opening day this year was 23rd November so I’m sure people have made their mark on the two incredible mountains already. If you’re planning a visit or if you’ve just moved there yourself, here’s my list of 50 things to do in Whistler in the winter.
[If you’re visiting Whistler in the Summer, see my list of 50 Things To Do In The Summer here.]
- Ski + snowboard
Of course, this is obvious when thinking of things to do in Whistler in the winter, but that’s why it’s at the top of my list. If you’re not visiting Whistler for either sport, let’s face it, you’re a mega tourist and a bit weird. You’re also likely to be the bane of every local’s existence. Sorry. All jokes aside, you should definitely give skiing or snowboarding a go. The beauty of Whistler is that it’s spread across two mountains: Whistler and Blackcomb. Both have their pros and cons. For example, a lot of people will tell you Blackcomb is far better for boarding. I used to agree, but having worked as a Lifty for two seasons on Whistler, I fell in love with that mountain so much more. Both have good beginner slopes, but Whistler does tend to be better for learning either sport.
- Riding park
For you non-skiers/boarders, this means skiing or snowboarding in the terrain parks on the mountains. I didn’t ride any park before getting to Whistler and I’m still a little rusty/scared of it after a few too many bruises. But, both mountains have great park areas to learn your boxes, rails and kickers. Blackcomb is the bigger of the two, so for more variety, head there.
- Backcountry adventures
Venturing into Whistler’s backcountry is not for beginners. Like any backcountry terrain, it’s a dangerous place and you should be fully prepared with a shovel, a beacon, water, food and friends to go with. Or, tag onto one of the many day tours on offer. There’s some stunning terrain to ride/hike and you’ll probably be thankful for an escape from the maddening crowd of tourists and Jerrys.
This is a popular ‘to-do’ for those weird but wonderful non-skiers. The Peak2Peak was built for the 2010 Winter Olympics and is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s the world’s longest unsupported lift of its kind, travels 4.4km and takes just 11 minutes to cross from Whistler Mountain over to Blackcomb Mountain when running at full speed. Whether you’re riding just to switch mountains for the day or to take in the views, you won’t be disappointed.
- Après-ski to your heart’s content
When it comes to things to do in Whistler in the winter, this is the one thing you can’t go to a ski resort and not do. It’s the epitome of the snow scene. Après-ski translates to ‘after ski’ and is an excuse for a lot of people to get absolutely battered after a hard day’s riding on the slopes. There’s nothing better than doing your last run of the day, unstrapping from your board, grabbing your posse and hitting the best bars. Head to Longhorn’s or GLC in the Village, or Dusty’s in Creekside for a few bevies or a night you won’t forget.
- Dinner @ Christine’s On Blackcomb/Steeps
For dinner with a twist, try this. Both are restaurants at the top of each mountChristine’s on Blackcomb is a little fancier I think, but both will give you unparalleled views of the snow-capped peaks as the sun sets behind them.
- Breakfast 2,000ft up
I’ve got two words for you: Fresh Tracks. This is Whistler’s way of getting more money from you but it’s totally worth it. It costs around $20 and gives you early access to the mountain after you’ve gorged on the buffet brekkie at The Roundhouse Lodge at the top of Whistler Mountain. It’s called Fresh Tracks because you’ll literally get just that, the untouched tracks left by the groomers from the night before.
- Sasquatch Ziplining
North America’s longest and fastest zip line, the Sasquatch takes you from the middle of Blackcomb Mountain to the middle of Whistler Mountain in 90 seconds. Incredible views of the valley before, if you can keep your head still enough to see them.
This is definitely up there of things to do in Whistler in the winter because you can only do it in winter, duh. There are plenty of tour companies in the village who will take you on an outdoor snowshoe adventure. I never actually go round to doing it but friends of mine said it’s great fun, especially if you’re looking for something a little different.
- Snowmobile Tour
Again, there are lots of tour groups offering snowmobiling. Some combine it with a cheese fondue evening in the mountains, some just offer day trips. Either way, it’s great fun for all ages.
- Bungee Jump
When you’re looking for things to do in Whistler in the winter that are outside of the village and away from the snow, try a 160ft (50m) bungee jump off a bridge over the glacier-fed Cheakamus River. They’ve got a 100% safety record and it’s fairly small in the bungee world so it’s a good place to start if you’ve never done one before but are curious.
- Catch a movie
The cinema in Whistler is a treat in itself. Unlike the gigantic IMAX movie theatres we’re used to in major cities, it’s tiny, underground and the seating isn’t even tiered. Basically, it’s old, cheap and basic but it shows all the latest blockbusters. Go on a Tuesday for $7 tickets (or $5 for the local Club Shred members) – madness!
- On yer…skates
Like every great winter town or resort, Whistler has an ice skating rink. It’s not just fun when you’re a kid.
- Lil’Wat Cultural Centre
Inject a little bit of culture into your trip to Whistler and head to the Lil’Wat Cultural Centre. Spend the day learning about the First Nations people native to the region and what the lands mean to them.
- Whistler Museum
For more things to do in Whistler in the winter that are inside, head to Whistler Museum to up your knowledge of the once sleepy mountain village. You can boast about it at Brickworks Pub later.
- Hike Flute Bowl
Flute Bowl is one of the many bowls in Whistler that are incredible to ride. It can be a tough hike with your skis/board in all your ski gear, especially when it’s been puking (heavily snowing) the night before or morning of. It’s worth the shortness of breath though, not only for the great run you’ll get but the dream-like views out over the surrounding mountain ranges at the top.
- Go on an ice cave adventure
The ice caves are exactly what they sound like. Located on Blackcomb Glacier, you need to be a reasonably good skier/boarder to get to them. Once you make it up Blackcomb T-bars, cross over the top and drop into the glacier. You’ll see a gathering of people before you spot the caves. Unfortunately, they’re melting at a rapid rate thanks to climate change so Ski Patrol usually rope them off as it gets further into the season. Visit earlier on so you don’t miss out.
An expensive activity to try but if you can afford it you will not regret it. Take off in a helicopter from either Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain and you’ll be taken by a helpful guide to a few different spots in the backcountry for a few runs (depending on which package you choose) on one of the many glaciers in the region.
- Fondue the night away
One of the best things to do in Whistler if you’re a foodie is a fondue night in the mountains. There are a couple of tour companies that offer the experience a brie-liiant day (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) And some even tie it in with snowmobiling, as I mentioned before.
- Drink your weight in beer
Whistler has not one, but THREE breweries! The two main breweries are actually in the Function Junction neighbourhood just outside Whistler Village. Whistler Brewing Company claims to be an “originator in the BC craft brewing movement” so it’s definitely worth a visit. They also do great food and tours of the tap room every Tuesday + Saturday. Just around the corner, you can grab another flight of beer at Coast Mountain Brewing. This one is much smaller and newer – it only opened in 2016. It’s already got a great reputation with the locals though and is my preferred brewery. It’s also got a great sun terrace – new in 2017 – perfect for, well, summer! Back in the main Village, High Mountain Brewing Co, or Brewhouse, is recognized more like a restaurant and bar. They do brew onsite though, and there’s plenty to choose from.
- Panic/escape from a room
Whistler has become big enough to have its own Escape Rooms. A relatively new concept, escape rooms are exactly what they sound like. Choose from 4 different rooms – from pirate-themed to secluded snow cabin. It’s great fun and definitely tests your brain.
- See Whistler from the sky
For a list of things to do in Whistler, I’m cheating a little here. It’s actually not possible to get a seaplane ride from Whistler in the winter months because the lakes are all frozen. But, you can jump on one from Vancouver and nearby Squamish and head up the Howe Sound and over Whistler and its surrounding mountains. Everyone should do a seaplane ride at least once in their life, it’s an amazing experience.
- Relax with a massage
After a hard day spent hitting the slopes, hit the spa. Who doesn’t love a good massage?! Some of the best available are at The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge in Creekside Village, Aviva Wellness Massage and Spa + Whistler Day Spa.
- Ice Room
Grab a drink at Ketel One Ice Room at Barefoot Bistro if you think you’re cool enough. (Ha, see what I did there?!) At -32C (-25F) it’s the world’s coldest vodka tasting room and the only permanent sub-zero vodka room in Canada. Fancy.
- Train Wreck Hike
For something a little different, shove your Timbs on and hike to a train wreck. Starting at Function Junction, the short hike takes you through the forest, across train tracks and along the Cheakamus River to the wreckage of seven carriages which were derailed several decades ago and have been graffitied by local artists to give outdoor art a new meaning.
Another Function Junction activity, Bounce is an indoor trampoline centre. Great practising your park jumps, it’s not just for kids and I promise you won’t get strange looks for turning up without any.
- Scandinave Spa
I did mention a couple of spas before but Scandinave Spa deserves its own entry because you can easily spend a whole day there. Just outside Whistler Village, it has multiple steam rooms, a yoga room, saunas, hot jacuzzis and plunge pools as well as massages and facials with pretty mountains as the backdrop.
- Boogie the night away
If there’s one thing Whistler ski resort does well, it’s a night out! You wouldn’t think it but there are some pretty great underground clubs to party at – my faves are Moe Joe’s, Buffalo Bills and Garfinkel’s.
- Chase waterfalls
Forget what TLC told you and do go chasing waterfalls. There are so many beautiful waterfalls to choose from in the area – try Brandywine, Nairn or Alexander, Rainbow or Shannon.
- Ghost Town
Take a hike to an old logging town, first set up in the early 1920s. Many loggers lived there over the years but it was abandoned in 1966 after the logging industry slowed down and it’s now Parkhurst Ghost Town.
- Climb some rock
For adrenaline junkies looking for things to do in Whistler that aren’t on the slopes, head outdoors for some serious rock climbing. There are lots of options for serious climbers, or easier guided tours.
- Spend your last six bucks
On your last few bucks? One of the cheapest things to do in Whistler in winter is to splash the cash at El Furniture Warehouse (‘El Furny’s) where all food is $5.95.
- Spot Whisky Jacks
If you’re a bird lover looking for things to do in Whistler, head out on the hunt for friendly Grey Jay birds, or Whisky Jacks. Winter is full of them looking to say hello and begging for a photo! You’re guaranteed to find them at Symphony Express chairlift, Harmony Express chairlift and 7th Heaven chairlift on Blackcomb Mountain
- Shoot some pool
Head to where the locals hang for the free pool – Crystal Lounge was my favourite. It’s also the cheapest place in town for tasty chicken wings – just $35c errr day.
- Overeat at Purebread
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, check out Purebread while you’re in town. They do the best cakes and pastries and tasty sandwiches, bread and toasties. Seriously, to die for. There’s also one in Function Junction.
- Audain Art Museum
Act like you know what you’re looking at at this fairly new addition to Whistler Village. The Audain Art Museum showcases art from British Columbia from the 18th Century to the present day.
- Axe Throwing
Possibly the most Canadian thing ever and one of my favourite things to do in Whistler in the winter, axe throwing. Located next door to Coast Mountain Brewery (some say stupid, I say genius!), Forged Axe Throwing is all about mixing fun and fear. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t be able to stop.
- Irish jig the night away
Head to the popular Dubh Linn Gate Pub for a pint of Guinness and some live Irish tunes. The food is also pretty great and there’s a good-sized patio out front for people watching around the fire pit as the sun goes down and the locals come out to play.
- Whistler Animals Galore (WAG)
Do your bit for Whistler Animal Shelter and drop-in to volunteer for the day – walk a dog or play with the cats to give back.
If like me you’re always thinking about food, this one’s for you. Treat yo self to incredible fine dining at an award-winning restaurant, Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar. If you’re visiting Whistler in early winter, you may be able to get a good deal so keep an eye out.
- Lost Lake
Head out to one of Whistler’s most popular lakes to try your hand, or foot, at cross-country Skiing. I never tried it myself because I couldn’t bear to take a day off from boarding, but my brother did and said it was great fun. A lot harder than it looks though apparently.
- Whistler Sliding Centre
Halfway up Whistler Mountain you’ll find Whistler Sliding Centre. Built for the 2010 Olympics, the centre is home to bobsledding, toboggan and skeleton bobsledding. You can try it for yourself or leave it to the professionals and watch as they whiz past you at what seems like a million miles per hour. Crazy exciting!
- Tube Park
If you’re looking for things to do in Whistler in the winter with the kids, this is definitely it. The best kind of park I’ve ever been to. The Coca-cola Tube Park has 5 lanes of icy, slidey fun. The lines can be long in the middle of winter, but it’s worth the wait for something a little different that’s still in the snow. It’s also fun no matter what age you are.
- Meadow Park Sports Centre
Raining? Too cold? Drive or jump on the bus out to Meadow Park Sports Centre to go for a dip in the pool, and warm up in the jacuzzi, sauna and steam room after.
- Watch an Ice Hockey game
Another Meadow Park activity, you can watch the local teams battle it out on the ice. Or go before or after games to go ice skating. Two birds, one…puck.
- Do a spot of ice fishing
Yes, it’s an actual thing and so friggin’ Canadian. Take the short drive out to Gates Lake just outside Whistler and sit patiently, waiting for a fish to bite in the wintry frozen lake beneath.
- Gorge on Canadian cuisine
It’s so easy to overeat in Canada, let alone Whistler. Try the national dish, poutine. Or chow down on a Beaver’s Tail – chocolate heaven. The best of both can be found at Zog’s in the middle of the village.
- Go on the ride of a lifetime
For an experience like no other, jump on a dog sledding tour. Sit back and relax while the beautiful canines whisk you through the snowy mountains.
- Sip on gin n’ juice
OK so this one doesn’t technically come under things to do in Whistler in the winter, but just up the road from Whistler is Pemberton Distillery. It’s a small-batch distillery that makes creative liquors, including the world’s only organic potato vodka. Visit on a Saturday for a $6 tour.
- Get the ultimate tourist photo
Act like the tourist you are and grab a photo of you and your friends on the Olympic Rings podium at the top of Whistler Mountain. There’s a pretty spectacular view of the mountains behind. Find it outside the Village Gondola.