If you’re traveling to Whistler in the winter, you are likely planning to ski or snowboard. But did you know that skiing is just ONE of the many epic winter activities in Whistler? Of course, we wanted to ski in Whistler, but our teens wanted to try some new adventures too! This list of things to do in Whistler in winter with teens and older kids includes skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb as well as a wide range of thrilling activities like riding the bobsleigh & skeleton, zip lining, snowmobiling and more mellow activities like ice skating and the nighttime Vallea Lumina light experience. Adding some of these extra activities to your itinerary is sure to create a Whistler ski vacation your family will never forget!
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Ski Whistler Blackcomb
The Whistler Blackcomb ski area is comprised of two side-by-side mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, located in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. These 2 mountains offer over 200 marked runs (from beginner to expert) on almost 5000 acres of skiable terrain.
Here are some things we love about skiing in Whistler:
- The Whistler ski area is so big and there are so many lifts to choose from.
- The runs are long! We never went to the very peak, but skiing from about 75% of the way up back down to the base would take us 20 minutes.
- Chairlifts AND gondolas! It was SO cold when we were there and the gondolas were a welcome relief from the cold! While not heated, of course, it was an escape from the bitter cold & wind. We mostly stuck to riding the gondolas on the first 2 days we were there.
- THE SNOW! We are used to the heavy wet snow in Tahoe. The kind that clumps on your skis and you have to scrape off. Whistler snow was so light, powdery, and easy to maneuver through. With just a flick of my ski, the snow would fly off. We loved it!
Whistler Ski Map
Instead of a paper Whistler ski map, the resort encourages the use of the Epic Mix app which we thought was pretty great. We actually never saw a paper map anywhere, though there were Whistler ski maps posted in the gondola and at the top of many runs.
EPIC Mix App
We downloaded the Epic Mix App onto our phones and without creating an account, we had access to:
- Map of the mountains with trail & lift status
- Lift wait times
- Mountain web cams
- Our precise location
With an account, you can also track:
- Time spent on the Mountain
- Total vertical feet
- Distance covered
- Track your friends
Note: The only downside was, aside from my husband, none of us had cell coverage in Canada so we could not track each other while using the app. We designated a meeting spot if we got separated because we couldn’t call, text, or track each other on the mountain without data or wifi. This is not a limitation of the app, but rather a limitation for anyone without cell coverage.
Whistler Ski Lessons
Whistler ski lesson offerings are robust: from beginner to advanced, teen & adult group lessons, private lessons, and even lessons with an Olympian! This time around we did not book any lessons, but I wish we had. My 16 & 12 year old recently switched from skiing to snowboarding and while they can get down the mountain, I think a lesson would have helped their confidence. My 18yo, who has been skiing since he was 4, asks me a lot of technical questions which I just can’t answer – he needs a private instructor. Plus Whistler ski instructors know the mountain, have insider information, and can point you toward the best level-appropriate runs. If you don’t need a lesson, Whistler also offers ski guides to take you around the mountain. In hindsight, I wish we had taken advantage of these offerings.
On our first family trip to Whistler in 2014, we signed up all 3 kids for full-day lessons at the Whistler Kids ski school and my husband & I went off on our own. We were very pleased with the Ski School at Whistler. It was well run, our kids had a great time and learned a lot.
Purchase a Whistler Lift Ticket
The easiest way to purchase a Whistler lift ticket is online. I purchased our tickets about 10 days in advance, but I recommend purchasing your tickets as soon as your dates are confirmed to ensure availability.
Whistler Lift Ticket Pick-up
Easiest: Load an existing Epic lift ticket. We already had existing Epic lift tickets from skiing at Northstar in Tahoe. So I just added the new ticket values onto each card and brought them with us. We put the cards in our pockets as we headed out on the first day and went straight to the lift!
Easy: Have the lift ticket shipped to you. If you purchase the tickets online at least 9 days in advance, they will be shipped to your US address (14 days in advance for other international visitors).
In Person: Pickup at an Express Ticket Window. If you purchase the tickets less than 9 days in advance, you can pick them up at an Express Ticket Window.
Same Day. Same day tickets must be purchased at a ticket window and are only available if the resort is not sold out.
Whistler Lift Ticket Prices
Whistler lift ticket prices vary based on the day of the week and peak periods. We bought 3-day passes simply for convenience as there was only a marginal savings of about $1-2 USD per day when buying more than one day at a time.
We went over President’s Week in February 2023 and paid:
- $134/day per adult (19 – 64 years)
- $114/day per teen (13 – 18 years) * we were thrilled that our 18yo was not considered an adult!
- $67/day per child (7 – 12 years)
Whistler Lift Ticket Discounts
- Kids 6 and under ski free. Tickets must be picked up at a ticket window.
- There are also Senior and Military Discounts
Whistler Ski Rentals
There are many places to rent ski equipment in Whistler.
We chose not to travel with our own skis & snowboards. This was mostly for ease of travel. We were only going for 5 days (skiing for 3) so bringing all the extra bags felt like too much. Also beware, that some airlines charge hefty fees for oversized items like ski equipment.
Some Whistler hotels have rental shops on site
Many of the ski-in ski-out hotels and resorts in Whistler have onsite rental shops. We used the Fairmont Whistler ski rental shop to rent our equipment.
Before our arrival, we provided the shop with rental details such as rental dates, height, weight, shoe size, etc. The evening we arrived, we walked to the rental shop, which is at the bottom of the Fairmont, and were fitted for our equipment. We happened to be the only ones there and were in & out in about 30 minutes. The next morning, we gave them our room number and they brought us all our equipment. Then we walked 2 minutes to the gondola and were on our way. The entire process was so easy – I would definitely opt to rent this way again.
Whistler Village Ski Rentals
If you aren’t staying at a ski-in/ski-out hotel, there are plenty of other rental options available.
- Whistler Blackcomb Rentals
- Spicy Sports
Rental Equipment Delivery & Pickup
Some companies will deliver & pickup equipment to wherever you are staying.
- Ski Butlers Whistler
- Black Tie Ski Rentals
Whistler Activities that Aren’t Skiing
Wondering what to do in Whistler that isn’t skiing? We wanted to take advantage of as many winter activities offered in Whistler as we could. There were so many options, we barely scratched the surface and wished we had more time. Below are some epic Whistler activities to enjoy in the winter!
Bobsleigh and Skeleton at Whistler Sliding Centre
Riding the bobsleigh at the Whistler Sliding Centre was hands-down our family’s favorite activity! This course is the fastest in the world and is the same track used at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. 3 passengers ride with a trained pilot along the track as it twists & turns at speeds of 125+ km/hr. Riders feel the acceleration of up to 4 g-forces.
This track is only open for a couple of hours per day for the public to take rides. The rest of the time it is used by athletes to train. The cost to ride the bobsleigh is not cheap ($200/person), but the Sliding Centre is a nonprofit and all the money paid by public passengers goes towards maintaining the track to keep costs lower for the athletes.
Note: The minimum age to ride the bobsleigh is 14 years (there are additional weight & height requirements).
My 12yo and I went along to watch my husband, 18yo & 16yo as they rode. We watched the orientation with them and then went to the observation point along the track – this is where the bobsleighs reach their top speed and then the course turns uphill to slow it down. Before each ride, they announced who was on the bobsleigh and there was a video screen we could watch until they came tearing around this last corner.
The Skeleton is an individual event that runs on the same track as the bobsleigh. It appears to be offered on fewer days than the bobsleigh. Skeleton riders get two rides whereas the bobsleigh is only one run. The minimum age to ride the skeleton is 16 years.
Zip Line Whistler
Yes, you can zipline in Whistler in the winter! We have zip lined a lot of places and this was the most unique ziplining experience we’ve ever had as it snowed the entire time! There are 2 companies in Whistler that offer a winter zipline experience. We chose to go with ZipTrek Ecotours because it’s located right in Whistler Village (whereas the other company is a 10 minute drive outside of Whistler).
We did the Winter Après Tour which consists of 4 ziplines and 4 treetop bridges. We checked in at 3:50pm and the entire process from start to finish was less than 2 hours. The trees and paths were all covered in snow and It lightly snowed the entire time making this course exceptionally beautiful and extra special for us. Our guides stopped along the route to show us bear claw marks on some tree trunks and talk about the wildlife that inhabits the area as well as the history of the area and some fun facts.
They also have the Eagle Tour which runs year round and includes 5 ziplines. This tour runs earlier in the day so you could do it in lieu of skiing. A longer course is open in the summer including the Sasquatch, which is 2+ km and the longest zipline in Canada & the US!
Snow Tubing Whistler
Head to the Whistler snow tubing park for a great family activity! The Tube Park is located on Blackcomb Mountain, just above the mid-station of the Excalibur Gondola.
Things to know about snow tubing Whistler:
- There are 7 lanes ranging from a gentle mini-slope to super fast lanes
- Hours of Operation: Weekdays 11am – 6pm (last tickets sold at 5pm). See their website for special holiday hours.
- Tube park tickets are available for 1 or 2 hour sessions and can be purchased online or at the ticket window (Note: Kids who are 3+ and between 36” and 42” are restricted to the mini-lane with a mini-tube. These tickets must be purchased in person at the window).
- Online tickets are not a reservation. It’s recommended to go during non-peak hours to maximize the number of runs during your window.
- Must be at least 3 years old to ride.
Vallea Lumina is a multimedia winter night walk about 15 minutes outside of Whistler Village. The experience is a great family activity that’s offered year round and varies based on the season.
The setting among the trees was gorgeous. There were string lights illuminating the check-in area and several fire pits scattered about. In winter, the entire walk is about 1km on a relatively flat path with some stairs that wind through the forest. There are places along the path to stop and listen to the story unfold or just watch a fabulous light display.
Things to know about the Vallea Lumina winter walk:
- Buy tickets online in advance to guarantee your start time. Walk-up tickets are available based on availability.
- There is an option to include a bus ride with the ticket. The bus runs from Whistler Village directly to Vallea Lumina (about a 15 minute drive) and then returns to the Village after the experience. We purchased this option online when we bought our tickets.
- The experience takes as long as it takes you to walk 1km and enjoy the story as in unfolds. The website estimates 40-60 minutes, but it only took us about 30 minutes.
- There’s no need to rush through, especially if you opt for the bus. Once you complete the path, you cannot re-enter and must wait for the bus.
- There is a snack bar, The Cougar Cafe, but it had closed by the time we finished the path. We took the 8:30pm bus from the Village and probably started our walk a little before 9pm, finishing around 9:30pm. We were a little bummed as we had hoped to get a snack while we waited for the bus.
- If there is snow on the ground, wear boots! We slipped a few times even with boots.
Ice Skating at Whistler Olympic Village
Go ice skating in Whistler Olympic Village! This seasonal family friendly outdoor skating rink is right next to the Olympic rings and has views of the surrounding mountains!
- Rental skates are available for $9; there is a $2 admission fee if you bring your own skates.
- Push bars/skate aids are available at no charge for those learning to skate.
- Open 11am – 8:30pm with 2 maintenance closures. No reservations. First come, first served. See here for current details.
This is a great activity to do while you wait for a dinner reservation!
Dog Sledding Whistler
One of the most unique things to do in Whistler in winter is dog sledding! There are quite a few companies that run dog sledding tours in Whistler Blackcomb. Sit back and enjoy the ride or drive your own team of specially trained dogs along a picturesque trail through the forest! Learn the commands and how to handle the sled. Stop for apple cider along the way.
Things to know about Whistler Dog Sled Tours:
- Most sleds accommodate 2 adults + 1 small child
- Most tours run from mid-December through mid-April
- Cost varies but is approximately $550 – $650 per sled
Whistler Snowmobile Tours
Book a family snowmobile tour and cruise along groomed trails – or take a thrilling backcountry terrain snowmobile adventure! Kids are welcome on the family tours and many tours allow kids 5-12 to ride free with a paying adult. Some tours even take you out to a cabin for breakfast, a steak dinner, or mountain top fondue! All drivers must have a valid license, but the driver’s age minimum varies by company.
This family tour with Blackcomb Snowmobile includes a stop at a mini Z track where kids can ride their own mini-snowmobiles!
Whistler Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is extremely popular in Canada. Whistler has over 160 kilometers of terrain for cross-country skiing to suit any level of experience.
- Lost Lake Park is located just minutes from Whistler Village. This park has 30km of groomed trails including 4km of lighted trails for night skiing! Within the trail system, there are also water stations and a warming hut. Rentals and lessons are available.
- Whistler Olympic Park – This park was the venue for the 2010 Nordic Olympics. Whistler Olympic Park is located approximately 30 minutes from Whistler Village. Here you’ll find 90 km of trails for any ability from beginner to advanced. Ski through forests, open meadows, and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains. They even have dog-friendly trails!
- Callaghan Country – Located next to Whistler Olympic Park, the trails here are varied in terrain from classic ski loops and wide-open beginner slopes to more challenging double black diamond trails.
- Purchase a ticket here which allows access to both Whistler Olympic Park and Callaghan Country’s trails. For the 2022-23 season, adult passes cost ~$30/day while a youth ticket cost ~$17/day, a dog ticket cost $7/day and kids 6 and under are FREE.
Snowshoeing in Whistler
Not ready to try cross country skiing? Ease into the nordic trail system with snowshoeing in Whistler! All the venues above also have snowshoe trails ranging from hour long walks to half day adventures! This is a perfect winter activity for the whole family because if you can walk, you can snowshoe! It’s a fun way to get out into nature, look for wildlife and enjoy the winter views. Snowshoe rentals as well as guides and snowshoe tours are available – or venture out snowshoeing around Whistler on your own!
Need a break from the outdoors? Axe throwing seems to be gaining in popularity and everyone in my family is talking about it! Forged Axe in Whistler offers 1 and 2 hour reservations for axe throwing. With the help of a guide, you will learn some safety basics and how to throw both 1 and 2 handed.
Note: must be at least 10 years old to participate. All minors (19 years and younger) must be accompanied by a legal guardian.
Indoor Rock Climbing
Try a drop-in indoor rock climbing session at The Core in Whistler which offers a broad array of climbing terrain. Sessions are sold in 1-hour blocks and price is dependent on the number of people. Reservations recommended!
Where to Stay in Whistler
There are a lot of lodging options near the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort. I recommend finding a resort with ski-in ski-out access if possible as this streamlines the process of getting to the slopes! We have stayed at both the Four Seasons and the Fairmont in the Whistler upper village. Both are fantastic and I recommend both. There are less pricey ski-in ski-out hotels in the lower village as well as condos sprinkled throughout.
Top Pick: Fairmont Château Whistler
My top pick is the Fairmont Château Whistler.
- Location! Just a 2-minute walk from the Blackcomb Day Lodge and the Blackcomb Gondola. Getting to the slopes couldn’t be easier.
- Ski Valet – Store your gear at the ski valet just steps from the mountain. Each morning we would get our gear and be on the gondola within minutes. There was also a tent outside right at the bottom of the ski run with a hot chocolate station and fire pits. We left our skis there and at the end of the day they would bring everything back inside.
- Outdoor Heated Pool
- Fitness Center
- Restaurants on-site
- Free Shuttle – runs on a loop with 4 stops in the lower village. Coming or going, we never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes for the shuttle. The lower village is not far, maybe a 15 minute walk, but it was so cold when we were there we really appreciated the shuttle!
Fairmont Club Level
It’s a splurge, but upgrading to a room on the Club Level comes with quite a few perks.
- Club Concierge – Concierge dedicated to those staying on the Club level. Prior to our arrival, our concierge arranged our transportation from the airport to the hotel for us and handled our ski/snowboard equipment rentals. They also have team members in the lounge to assist with anything during your stay.
- Complimentary Food – Every day, they provide complimentary breakfast, apres-ski hors d’ouevres, and after-dinner desserts, plus coffee, tea, and non-alcoholic drinks. There are alcoholic drinks available for purchase on an honor system. We would have a big breakfast, come in for snacks after skiing and really only pay for dinner out. The breakfast offerings included waffles, bagels, yogurts, oatmeal, pastries, eggs, fruit, coffee and more. It was one of the best hotel breakfasts we’ve had – even ones we’ve paid for!
- Lounge – There were also games and plenty of places to set up a laptop to work or just hang out.
- Fairmont Car Service – In addition to the free shuttle, the Club Level also has access to a complimentary car service available on a first-come-first-served basis. We used this to get from the hotel to the Sliding Center, as it wasn’t on the shuttle route. We called them back when we were done and they returned to get us.
We stayed in a 2-bedroom suite on the Club level. We had 2 bedrooms (1 King; 2 Queens) with en-suite bathrooms, plus a central living area with a pull-out couch and another half bath. My 16yo and 12yo each took a queen bed and my 18yo slept on the pull-out couch and essentially took over the entire living area, but it was fine because we didn’t spend much time in the room.
The Four Seasons is about a 5-10 minute walk from the Fairmont (further from the mountain). We stayed here on our first family trip to Whistler and loved our stay, especially the nightly après-ski s’mores by the pool. The only drawback to the Four Seasons is that it’s farther from the mountain. They have a ski-valet set up next to the Fairmont so you don’t have to carry your skis farther, but it’s just a 10 minute walk to/from the mountain. We stayed here when our kids were 3, 6 and 8 – so a 10 minute walk was a bigger deal.
Where to Eat in Whistler
These restaurants in the Whistler Village area have a lively atmosphere and robust menus – great for kids & teens.
Portobello – Located at the bottom of the Fairmont. Order at the counter and then find a table and sit down – they don’t take reservations. Portobello offers a smokehouse dinner menu with hearty dishes like pulled pork, brisket, rotisserie chicken, ribs, sausage, chili, mac n cheese, biscuits & cornbread. We tried the chicken pot pies, and mac n cheese topped with pulled pork, and had a salad to share. The servings were generous – we probably should have gotten a bigger variety of items and just shared among the 5 of us. Portobello also offers breakfast & lunch which we didn’t try.
Hunter Gather Eatery & Taphouse – They have a variety of sandwiches (fried chicken, pulled pork), burgers, bowls, and plates (chicken shawarma, brisket, ribs, fish & chips, salmon). We ordered burgers, falafel, and fish & chips, plus a couple of local beers on tap. Everything was delicious & fast. They also serve breakfast & lunch. No reservations. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a table when we arrived around 6:45pm.
Mongolie Grill – Walk through a buffet line with a bowl and select from different noodles, meats, vegetables & sauces. Then watch them grill your food right in front of you! We often have different kinds of rice & noodle bowls at home so I knew this would please everyone – plus the added entertainment of watching them grill up the food. You pay by the weight of your food, so our kids also enjoyed seeing who got the most food (my husband) and who got the least (my 16yo). The biggest bonus though – no wasted food! No reservations and the wait can get long. We tried eating here on our second night and the wait was 45 minutes at 7pm so we walked over to Hunter Gather and were seated quicker. The next night we came back at exactly 6pm and were seated right away.
Braidwood Tavern – located at the Four Seasons. Braidwood Tavern does take reservations. The dinner menu wasn’t as extensive as some others but there was a decent assortment of dishes and I knew we could all find something we’d like: burger, fish & chips, flat bread pizzas, hot chicken sandwich, steak, short ribs, curry, and pasta. I was only able to book a table for 4 people on OpenTable (this is because the restaurant has limited seating for larger parties). So I called the restaurant and they were able to update our reservation to 5 people.
La Cantina – Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, plus chips & guacamole, and margaritas, of course! This place has rave reviews and I knew my kids would love it. This was one of our options but we didn’t have enough time! No reservations. Take out also available.
Cow’s Whistler (Ice Cream) – The line was long but it moved fast! So many fun flavors to choose from though my 2 oldest simply got coffee ice cream. It was far too cold for the rest of us though we enjoyed hanging out in the shop, staying warm, and admiring all the shirts & apparel sporting Cow puns, like “Cowhardt”, “CowCow Chanel”, and “Formoola 1”.
Sachi Sushi – If you like sushi, this place has great reviews and it came up over & over again as a fun place to go with kids.
Dub Linh Gate – Great location in the village for après-ski. Outdoor firepits and traditional pub fare. Check the calendar for live music too!
Avalanche Pizza – Pizza is always a hit with our family and this place has a great atmosphere too!
I highly recommend booking dinner reservations PRIOR to your trip! There is a big dinner rush between 6-8pm and wait times can be long! Unfortunately, many of the restaurants I was interested in didn’t take reservations at all. I tried to have at least 2 restaurant options in mind in case the waits were long. You can also check out the many shops in the village while you wait.
What to Pack for Whistler in Winter
This California family thinks anything below 50F degrees is cold. While we were prepared for the Canadian cold, we weren’t mentally prepared for skiing in -11 F. Granted, we probably picked the coldest 5 days of the season to visit.
Here are some items we were very happy to have!
Heated Gloves – My husband and I both had these heated gloves from North Face. Because it was so cold, we kept them turned on high, but unfortunately, the batteries would run out before we finished skiing. Would be great if the batteries lasted longer, although they claim to last for 8 hours when turned on low. I appreciated the button on the front of the gloves that illuminates when turned on and changes color based on which setting the gloves were set to. These particular gloves were expensive so my husband & I decided to test them out before buying them for the kids.
Hand Warmers – We also brought disposable hand warmers. The kids used these while skiing and we all used them when we went out at night. We purchased these rechargeable hand warmers but unfortunately, they arrived after our trip so we didn’t get to test them. I think I will prefer the rechargeable ones simply to reduce waste.
Warm Base Layer – A warm baselayer is key! We realized we only had lightweight baselayers which have always worked fine for California skiing but bought new base layers with a warmth factor of 8-10 for everyone. There are a lot of options, but we have always been happy with Hot Chillys. We bought tops with a zip-top for added neck warmth like this one and tight-fitting bottoms like this one so they didn’t bunch under our ski pants.
We also bought fleece-lined leggings to wear under our pants when we went out at night. If the weather is milder they could also be worn on their own with a jacket & boots.
Waterproof Winter Boots – If there’s going to be snow on the ground, a good pair of waterproof winter boots is key! Our kids tried to convince us they’d be fine in their everyday sneakers, but once we were there, they were SO happy we had insisted they bring boots. My 16yo daughter loved these Thermoball Northface boots which almost look like regular sneakers. I’ve had my Keen snow boots for years and love them – these snow boots are the newer version. We got both of our boys these Sorel Buxton boots
Warm Socks – Cold feet are the worst. Invest in good ski socks like these to keep your feet warm. I haven’t tried heated socks yet, but those may be worth the cost. Or stick a pair of disposable toe warmers into your boot.
GoPro – My 12-year-old wore a GoPro Hero 5 on the slopes. We also took it ziplining. Because we rented our gear (including helmets) we brought extra adhesive mounts to attach the GoPro to his rental helmet. When we were done, we just removed the adhesive.
The good news is that there are plenty of ski shops in Whistler to purchase any gear you may have forgotten – or decide you need once you’re there!
Traveling to Whistler from the US
Always check the US Department of State for current travel guidelines for US citizens.
Proof of Citizenship – A valid passport or passport card is required for entry into Canada. Tourist visas are not required for visits less than 180 days.
Shuttle to Whistler – We have never needed a car to get around the Whistler-Blackcomb area so we always take a shuttle from the Vancouver airport to Whistler which is about a 90 minute drive. Many hotels have shuttle services from the airport or can recommend a service.
Cell coverage – We shouldn’t have been surprised that we lost cell coverage in Canada, but yet we were. My husband has international cell coverage through work so usually we just rely on this when we travel abroad. The rest of us just stick to using wifi at the hotel to check email, text, etc. However, next time I would get temporary coverage so we can communicate with each other while out on the mountain. Yes, growing up, we managed on the mountain without cell phones, but my kids are so used to being connected that trying to figure out a last-minute plan outlining where to meet if we got separated was stressful and I wasn’t confident they’d remember. If you don’t have coverage, just be sure to outline a plan before getting on the mountain.