© Mike Crain Tourism
Don’t dismiss Whistler as a sleepy ski resort town: The village's two spectacular mountains make up the largest ski area in North America with more than 8,000 skiable (and hikeable) acres with over 200 named runs. And secondly, summertime visitors now outnumber winter guests, and the shoulder season…s are quickly catching up. The resort was first developed to lure the 1968 Winter Olympics. The Winter Games didn't arrive until 42 years later, but when they did, Whistler was changed significantly. One lasting benefit, the widening of the Sea to Sky Highway, has eased travel between the village and Vancouver. The Whistler Sliding Centre—built for the Olympics and still serving as a training site for athletes—now invites anyone along for a bobsled or skeleton ride.
What to know before you go to Whistler
Whistler benefits from its proximity to Vancouver, one of North America's premier restaurant towns. Many celebrity chefs, such as Bearfoot Bistro's Melissa Craig, have moved to the village both for the greater culinary good and for the laid-back mountain lifestyle. Whistler teems with trendy tables: among them, Bar Oso's tiny tapas bar, Alta Bistro with its unusual take on Canadian cuisine, and restaurants serving up brick-oven pizza, inspired sushi, and great pub fare. Terraces are popular in all weather here, providing the perfect setting for après-ski tall tales and leisurely meals on long summer nights.
Every May, North America’s largest ski area transitions into the continent’s biggest downhill mountain bike park. Like its winter brethren, Whistler Bike Park features an ever-expanding map of trails—you can now "summit" on your two-wheeler—and arguably the best instructional school on the planet. Come summer, duffers are hardly left out in the cold, the three Whistler golf courses were designed by the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer, and Jones II, though the Pemberton track, Big Sky, remains the locals' favorite. Active visitors and residents paddle the lakes and hike the mountain trails, and wander the village to check out the museums and shops. Feel a need for speed? Slip into the Whistler Sliding Centre year-round to drop down the Olympic bobsled course at 65 mph.
The historic and living influence of First Nations people in the region is a source of pride and respect, as evidenced by several cultural sites of significance. The new Audain Art Museum together with the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre position Whistler among the most important art destinations in the Pacific Northwest. The Audain showcases an impressive array of Emily Carr paintings as well as one of the world's largest aboriginal mask collections. The interactive Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre is the first museum of its kind in North America: a joint venture between two nations. Outside of the institutions, village galleries showcase the thriving village arts scene of painting, sculpture, and crafts that often reflect the alpine setting, as well as authenticated First Nations artwork.
Originally created to draw crowds and business to the village during the shoulder seasons, festivals like Cornucopia, GO Fest, the Whistler Film Festival, the Ski and Snowboard Festival, and CrankWorx now cut can't-miss notches on many annual calendars. The Longtable Series, an August tradition started by the chef-owner of Araxi Restaurant, is a wildly popular ticket, with diners clamoring to take part in an alfresco dinner set among the windrows on Pemberton’s North Arm Farm.
The village is car-free and access to most other activities can be navigated on foot, or by free shuttle. Visitors arriving via Vancouver can opt for a direct shuttle from the airport or choose to drive the 2.5-hour route along the Sea to Sky Highway. A floatplane flight from Vancouver to nearby Green Lake provides thrilling mountain views.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific, winters here are mild, and daytime temperatures in the village rarely dip below 20F, even in January and February, the biggest snow "dump" months. Summers are spectacular, warm enough for a dip in Alta Lake, but cool enough at night to warrant a light sweater. Fall brings festival season and colorful foliage. (The weeks that follow spring skiing are the mud season, but the lack of crowds can make this the great time for a quiet visit.)
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