Visiting Whistler in the wintertime is a magical experience, whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth. Known to some as ‘Disneyland for adults’, the moniker is certainly accurate, and there really is no shortage of Whistler winter activities, attractions, and events to see and do during your time in town. To help you navigate this convoluted, too-good-to-be-true winter holiday destination, we’ve rounded up our favourite Whistler winter activities and things to do during the snowy season.
Guide to Whistler Winter Activities
Whether you’re a snow sports fanatic, food and drink aficionado, celebrating a special event, or simply here to see the sights, this list of Whistler winter activities should get you well on your way to having the best visit to our mountain town as the snow falls.
For the Snow Lovers
Ski and Snowboard: Let’s get this out of the way. Whistler Blackcomb has been ranked as the #1 ski resort in North America for the past few years. It has the best terrain, snow, and facilities in the world for all ability levels and ages, whether you’re a seasoned local or first time skier. You have to try it at least once. Lift tickets can be purchased as half-day or full-day tickets, and rentals are widely available throughout the village.
There’s also plenty of backcountry skiing opportunities in and around Whistler, including the amazing trip out to Journeyman Lodge. If you do head out into the backcountry, be prepared! (Our Whistler Backcountry Skiing and Boarding Resource Guide is a good place to get started.)
One-Up: Try cat skiing or heli skiing to get away from the crowds and find deeper snow. Grab your closest ski partners and book a private cat with Blackcomb Catski. Or, enjoy a scenic helicopter ride on the way up, then ski a canvas of powder on the way back down with Whistler Heli Ski. Even without the skis, there’s plenty of Whistler heli rides and adventures to be had!
Dogsled: There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being pulled by a team of huskies through the snow covered forests around Whistler. Perfect for couples or families alike, book a tour with the folks at Canadian Wilderness Adventures for a memorable afternoon spent doing a quintessentially Canadian activity. Just try not to take a puppy home with you.
Snowshoe: Perhaps the most basic way to explore the snowy forests and lakes, on your own two feet! Snowshoeing is affordable and accessible for anyone. It gives you the opportunity to wander deep into the magnificent old growth forests and lakes around town. Rent your own and explore Whistler at your own pace, or book with a tour operator, like Canadian Wilderness Adventures, to see some of the hidden gems around town. The SnowShoe / Spa Combo tour, run by the Whistler Adventure Group is the perfect balance between recreation and relaxation.
Snowmobile: If you’re looking for something a little faster paced, look no further than snowmobiling. You’ll see the powerful machines all over town in the winter, why not try it yourself in a half day or full day tour with Blackcomb Snowmobiles or Canadian Wilderness Adventures. They even offer night tours which take guests to a remote backcountry cabin for a rustic and hearty wintertime dinner (guys, take notes for future date ideas).
Nordic Skiing: Although nordic skiing requires a little bit of skill, it’s certainly fun to try! There’s an extensive network of nordic trails throughout the Whistler Valley and Whistler Olympic Park. Grab a pair of skinny skis and give it a go! Tight spandex optional. Rentals are available throughout the village or at Whistler Olympic Park, located in the Callaghan Valley.
Snow Tubing: Experience the rush of sliding downhill on snow without any of the necessary experience or skills required to ski and snowboard. Snow tubing is accessible for all ages and is the perfect activity for families looking to spend a few exhilarating hours.
Ice Skating: Head to the Olympic Plaza in the wintertime to try your hand at a classic Canadian pastime – ice skating. Centrally located within the village, a warm mug of hot chocolate is never far away. Skating is free if you have your own skates, but rentals can be had for next to nothing if needed.
Zipline Tree Top Adventures: Climb to the top of snow-covered trees, then whiz in between the rainforest canopy with Superfly Ziplines. Their exhilarating zip-lines have long been a popular attraction in Whistler, and they offer tours suitable for all ages and abilities.
Explore: The best part of all – it’s free. Take a walk through the village or valley trail, and if you see a particular patch of snow that appeals to you, go play! Build a snowman, sled, or start an impromptu snowball fight with your family, friends, or loved one. There is something about snow that brings out the inner child in all of us, embrace it!
Whistler Olympic Park: Host to many of the events during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler’s Olympic venues are now available to the public to try their hand at many of the Olympic sports offered. For the truly adventurous, a ride down the Olympic bobsleigh track is not to be missed. For the risk-averse, biathlon, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing are great alternatives, and will take you on the same trails that were featured in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.
For the Culturally Inclined
If you’ve ever thought Canadian culture was solely based around hockey, maple syrup, and Tim Hortons, you’d be wrong. Whistler has tried to break away from this stereotype, and is known for its celebration of mountain culture, as well as indigenous and contemporary Canadian art. Galleries featuring incredible paintings, illustrations, and photography are scattered widely throughout the village, and the Squamish Lil’wat Culture Centre, Audain Art Museum, and Whistler Museum are must-sees, and make for great Whistler winter activities when you want some time out from the snow.
Peruse Art Galleries: Throughout the village there is no shortage of incredible artwork from local and international artists alike. Take a walk through the Whistler Contemporary Gallery, located in the Hilton and Four Seasons resorts to see the exceptional selection of original works in a variety of styles from Canadian and International Artists. Similarly, the Adele Campbell Gallery, also located within the village boasts a magnificent collection of artwork from talented emerging artists. Not interested in purchasing art? Don’t worry – no one will blame you for wanting to step inside for a bit to warm up while wandering the village.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre: A centrepiece of Whistler, this museum is not to be missed and is a great place to visit on a particularly stormy winter day. Featuring interactive tours and a wide collection of arts from the Squamish Lil’Wat peoples, this museum is a great place for families or those interested in learning more about the natural history of Whistler and the people who inhabited the region well before western influence.
Audain Art Museum: Recently opened in March of 2016, this museum hosts contemporary and historical art pieces from artists around Canada and the world. Located just on the outskirts of the village, the building is an architectural marvel in itself, and hosts traditional works of the province’s First Peoples through to contemporary Canadian and International art. Take a closer look at the Audain Art Museum here.
Whistler Museum: This museum preserves the rich and convoluted history of how this humble ski town came to be a world famous vacation destination and is a great place to visit on a rainy and wet day. Showcasing the natural history of the area, stories of the original pioneers and creation of the ski resort right through to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the Whistler Museum provides a complete history of the humble ski towns roots. Entry is by donation, which makes this a great place to visit for families or those wanting to travel Whistler on a budget.
For those Seeking Rest and Relaxation
Retail Therapy: Let’s face it, sometimes you just need some retail therapy for a cathartic afternoon or evening. Whistler village is home to many storefronts featuring products and services from around the world. Need a new coat? Looking for a piece of jewelry for that special someone, or want to find some knick knacks to bring home to your friends who weren’t lucky enough to accompany you to Whistler? You can find it in the village. Start at one end and walk to the other as you peruse storefronts and window shop to your hearts content.
Spas and Wellness: Whether you’re skiing all day or dancing all night – be sure to take some time to relax and rejuvenate when you visit the mountains. Whistler has many outstanding spas to visit to ease sore muscles and treat yourself so that you’re glowing for your next night out. Trust us, sitting in a sauna after spending a day in the snow has to be one of the greatest feelings in the world. The locals will tell you to head to the Scandinave Spa, Nita Lake Lodge, or Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa. Check out our recommendations on the best Whistler day spa experiences.
If you’re looking for a workout of a different kind, there are many yoga studios throughout the town, as well as indoor sports centres such as The Core, Whistler Creek Athletic Club, and Meadow Park Sports Centre.
Stay In: Tired from skiing? The weather is biblical outside and there’s a crackling fire inside and you want to catch up on the newest episodes of Game of Thrones? Yea, we get it. There’s no shame in staying in and cozying up by the fire, in a hot tub, or in bed.
For Food and Drink Aficionados
Après: Take part in the time honoured tradition of après-ski. After a long day in the outdoors playing in the snow or hitting the slopes, come inside in the evening for appetizers and drinks with friends or to make some new ones. Some of our favourite spots to grab a cold one with friends include Longhorn Saloon and Grill, Tapley’s Pub or Dusty’s Bar & Grill in the Creekside Village. For a truly local après experience, check out our post on Whistler’s best après ski.
Restaurants: The amount of times I’ve gone all day without eating because I was too busy skiing or playing in the snow are numerous. Thankfully, Whistler has a vast selection of restaurants for all types of travelers and cuisine preferences. From the ‘broke-but-I-want-to-treat-myself’ options for ski bums, all the way to some of the most recognized restaurants in Canada and everything in between, there are options for everyone.
- Budget Eats: Dup’s Burritos, La Cantina, El Furniture Warehouse, and no shortage of bakeries, coffee shops, and pizza places to stretch a dollar.
- For Families: Earls, Milestones, Old Spaghetti Factory, The Keg Steakhouse and Bar, Caramba.
- Date Night: Elements, 21 Steps, Mongolie Grill, Portobello, Wild Wood Bistro, Stonesedge Kitchen.
- Fancy Pants: Bearfoot Bistro, Araxi, Il Caminetto di Umberto, Rim Rock Cafe, Quattro at Whistler.
For Night Owls
In our guide to Whistler winter activities, we’d be remiss to not mention the town’s infamous and vast selection of bars, clubs, and other nightlife activities to wet your whistle. All located conveniently located within the village, you can’t go wrong on a night out in Whistler experiencing the lively nightlife of the town.
Bars: There are bars in every variety, from sports bars, ski bars, a bar styled in the likeness of an Amsterdam cafe, and even an Irish pub. You couldn’t possibly visit them all… or could you? Go out and try for yourself, you party animal you.
Clubs: Nearly every night of the week one club or another is hosting a themed party in Whistler Village, and once the sun goes down, the music turns up. From Case of the Mondays DJ residency at Garfinkel’s on, wait for it…Mondays, ‘Really Good Tuesdays’ at Maxx Fish (no, we didn’t make that name up), Industry Nights at Buffalo Bills on Wednesdays and Garf’s again on Thursdays, to a glow-in-the-dark party at Mojo’s on Sunday, no night of the week is ever boring in Whistler.
And if one venue per night isn’t enough, why not hop from one to the next? Bar Hop Whistler is a great way to experience four great venues, with express entry, five drinks of your choice, food, games and good times! Check out our run down at Your Guide to Bar Hop: An Epic Whistler Club Crawl.
Events: Be sure to pick up a copy of the Lost Duck pamphlet or copy of the Pique Newsmagazine found around the village. Both feature a list of current events held in Whistler, with everything from meditation circles, bar crawls and board games nights offered. Keeping up to date with a current events calendar is a great way to spend unplanned nights or discover a new part of Whistler for locals and first time visitors alike.
So – there you have it! Whether you’re a long time local looking to spice up your Whistler experience or a first time visitor to this mountainous paradise, we hope our Whistler winter activities list helps you to fill your days here in the best way possible. Or, if you still want more, check out our post on Whistler in winter for non-skiers and boarders.
Whatever Whistler winter activities you decide to take part in be sure to embrace winter; don’t forgot to play, laugh, and have fun. And remember – don’t eat the yellow snow.