Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia
Whistler Blackcomb is a behemoth presence in the culture of snowboarding, not only because of its massive size, but due to the community of professionals who call the mountain home, riding and filming on its seemingly limitless grounds. The same reasons that have long drawn snowboarding’s best to the area are also what make it a mandatory mountain on every snowboarder’s bucket list: a renowned park, insane terrain, and bountiful powder. It’s the largest resort in North America, boasting two peaks, over 8,000 acres of terrain, and one gondola running between Blackcomb and Whistler so you can access all the trails you can pick off on a given day (which will likely only be a fraction of the mountain’s expanse, so be sure to plan a good-sized visit or a return trip). It features a twisting trail system, plenty of steeps, a world-class park, and legendary powder dumps—all the features that one looks for in a mountain destination and then some.
It’s no surprise that due to all of this, this British Columbia resort is home to a plethora of professional snowboarders, backcountry bosses like Devun Walsh, Iikka Backstrom, Mark Sollors, Mikey Rencz, Marie-France Roy, Robin Van Gyn, and Leanne Pelosi all call Whistler home. Park prodigies like Mark McMorris and Mikey Ciccarelli base out of Whistler, too. Keep in mind, this is a very truncated list—Whistler has been a hallowed hill in snowboarding since the beginning of sliding on snow; a mecca to which riders have flocked for decades and the home to plenty of notorious and talented crews, like The Wildcats, Full Moon, The Man Boys, and many, many more. The top tier terrain has long been and will continue to be Whistler Blackcomb’s most alluring draw, but when it comes to taking a shred trip to this winter paradise, Whistler’s reputation for world class riding is matched only by its infamous nightlife. Luckily there’s a handful of top notch coffee shops located throughout the village to ensure you can keep going from sun up to way past sun down when visiting Whis.
Chris Rasman enjoying the Whistler views. PHOTO: Darcy Bacha
Vancouver International Airport makes air travel as relaxing as possible. As soon as you land, if you’re arriving from the US or any out-of-country location, your walk to customs is lined by a museum-quality installation featuring Western Canada’s local flora, fauna and First Nations culture. It’s a far cry from the sterile walls of most arrival arenas and just a preview of how welcoming the entire province of British Columbia is. Since Vancouver is a major hub, there are multiple daily direct flights from a litany of cities, including New York, Chicago and LA.
When you land, you’re still about two hours south of Whistler, but there are a plethora of shuttle options that offer door-to-door service from the airport to the slopes. Pacific Coach Lines offers seven trips per day and will drop you off right where you’re staying for $69 CAD one way (remember to check the exchange rate!). If you want to grab an Uber or taxi into downtown Vancouver, you can take advantage of Epic Rides insanely cheap $35 CAD round trip to Whistler from Burrard Station (six trips a day and seven on Fridays and Sundays). Renting a car is a great option, too, because once you get on the Sea to Sky Highway, the commute to the mountains is stunning and there’s multiple places to take photos if you want to pull off the road. If you’re staying in the Whistler/Blackcomb village areas, or in the surrounding condos, there’s no need for a car, but there’s plenty to explore outside the base of the mountain, so if you do decide to get your own wheels, you won’t be bummed.
We aren’t sure if there are many jumps in the Whistler backcountry that Devun Walsh didn’t pioneer. PHOTO: Andy Wright
Where to Ride
Well, Whistler and Blackcomb. Because that’s why you’re here, right? Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America. You could spend an entire season riding this megalithic mountain and still have barely made a dent in its enormous acreage. While the myriad of trails, trees, bowls, and steeps presents a multitude of options, it can almost be overwhelming to figure out where to start amidst the expansive terrain. If you have an appetite for cheesewedges and cold, hard steel, load the Blackcomb Gondola in the aptly named Blackcomb Village and head to the top of that peak, where Whistler’s infamous pro-level parks await. If medium and small features are more your style, the Peak-2-Peak Gondola offers a quick ride to Whistler peak (along with stunning views), where user-friendly jumps and jibs are set up for all ability levels.
Looking to score fresh? Well, you’re in the right spot. Both Whistler and Blackcomb peaks have limitless acreage to find untracked lines. You’re going to have to ask a local to lead you to the secret spots, but we promise even if you’re sticking to the trails after a storm, you will most definitely not be disappointed. If you’re planning on heading to any of the lift accessed backcountry areas, make sure to pack your beacon, probe, and shovel and stick with a knowledgeable crew. There’s plenty of pow to be slashed, so stay safe.
Robin Van Gyn calls Whistler home. PHOTO: Darcy Bacha
Where to Stay
Whistler is a world class resort with a renowned village that sure has its share of swank, but if you look around a little, you can find lodging options that won’t empty your wallet. Of course, weekdays are great if you can swing them, in order to find cheaper village hotel rates, but make sure to do your homework, because different hotels will offer deals and discounts at various times throughout the season.
There’s a cornucopia of VRBO and Airbnb listings, both large condos that are affordable if traveling in a posse and shared room options for smaller groups. The Whistler Lodge Hostel is located between Whistler Village and Whistler Creekside and has shared rooms starting at $46 CAD. Heading on a last minute trip? Tourism Whistler offers “Suite Deals” where you can book last minute rooms at discounted prices. You won’t find out the name of the hotel until after you’ve booked, but there’s no going wrong at Whistler when every option is steps away from the lifts.
Elias Elhardt knows where to stay. PHOTO: Darcy Bacha
If you’re going to spend the day sliding down the steeps of one of the most rugged and iconic mountains in the world, you need to have good food to keep your energy high and Whistler is loaded with a variety of eats that will satiate any appetite. Start your morning off right by swinging by Mount Currie Coffee Company. They put an extra amount of care into every item on their menu, sourcing the coffee responsibly and using organic and local ingredients for their hearty breakfast burritos and sandwich menu (also a great option for lunch). If you’ve got a sweet tooth, a short walk down the Village Stroll is Purebread, a bakery storefront loaded with mouthwatering pastries.
Jason Robinson is very hungry in the Whistler backcountry. PHOTO: Darcy Bacha
If you have more time to sit down for the first meal of the day, Elements Urban Tapas Parlour has a lengthy selection of benedicts, but you can get your turns first and enjoy dinner at the Whistler Village North restaurant, too. Take a few friends to maximize your dining experience; Elements’ plates are perfect to share. For a quick bite, stop at Zog’s Dogs just a few steps from the lifts in Whistler Village. They serve up piping hot poutine, dogs, and burgers that you can grab and go. Grab a beaver tail, a sweet piece of fried dough, too. Sushi Village is a Whistler staple, and while it gets busy at dinnertime because it’s so popular, the extensive menu and strawberry sake margaritas are worth the wait. Avalanche Pizza Co. offers up pies to eat in or take out and Fat Tony’s serves up slices in a hurry. Whistler is packed with restaurants, so no matter your taste or budget, there’s an option just a short walk from wherever you’re standing.
Whistler Backcountry. Photo: Darcy Bacha
Showcase Snowboards, founded by Graham Turner and located in Whistler Village, has been serving the Whistler Blackcomb population for since 1989. It’s a staple in the snowboarding scene there, not only because of its wide selection of products from brands like Burton, Lib Tech and Gnu, Never Summer, Volcom and many more, but also because each and every member of their staff is a die had shred. For two decades, Showcase has put on the annual Showcase Showdown, a favorite annual park contest and they boast a loaded team that includes Mark Sollors, Rusty Ockenden and Robin Van Gyn. If you are in need of new gear, a quick tune, rentals, or repairs, Showcase is the spot.
No trip to Whistler is complete without at least a Bloody Caesar (or three) and both the Whistler and Blackcomb Villages have plenty of Clamato concoctions for you to try. The Garibaldi Lift Company, better known as the GLC, sits above the Whistler Gondola station and while it is a hot spot for tourists of all stripes, their Cowboy Caesar, served with a Montreal Steak Spice rim and a slice of Black Tusk Beef Jerky is worth wading through the crowds.
A pretty solid aprés scene with the Full Moon crew looking sharp at the World Premiere in Whistler last year. L-R: Helen Schettini, Marie-France Roy, Jamie Anderson, Hana Beaman, Elena Hight, Robin Van Gyn, Annie Boulanger, and Leanne Pelosi. PHOTO: Nick Hamilton
On the Blackcomb side, Merlin’s is a local favorite and offers some of the best apres that often extends late into the evening. Their Caesars are on point and their nachos are humungous—if you have a post-shredding appetite, this is the spot. Whistler Village is famous for its insatiable nightlife and once the sun sets, every restaurant and bar at the base of the mountain is hopping until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re feeling luxe, The Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is good for a round. When you want to share a pitcher with your posse, El Furniture Warehouse has a casual atmosphere and plenty of cold beer. You can’t go wrong heading back to Sushi Village, either, for a strawberry margarita.
Explore Your Surroundings
Whistler boasts an unprecedented area of backcountry, accessible both by splitboards and snowmobiles. If you plan to head in the hills, backcountry and avalanche safety and knowledge is mandatory. There are plenty of experienced outfitters to go out with if you’re less familiar with the area or just if you want a guide to lead you to the best snow.
Always bring your beacon, probe and shovel and have knowledge of the conditions, snowpack, and overall backcountry skills and safety. If you have a down day, check out the Scandinave Spa, just down the road from the resort. Its mountainside pools, and saunas will ease sore muscles. Tacking on an extra day to explore Vancouver isn’t a bad idea, either. The city is loaded with great food, great sights, and great skateparks and it doesn’t get a lot of snow in winter so it’s easy to explore no matter the time of year. Regardless of how you spend your time at Whistler, you’re sure to have an amazing trip. Enjoy your stay at this majestic mountain and make sure to come back in summer, the mountain biking is some of the best in the world, too!
Source: TransWorld SNOWBoarding