How To Hike Whistler’s Snow Walls
Whistler winters are famous for accumulating 11.38 metres of snow, on average, each season. As amazing as this is for skiers, the snowfall also creates a unique experience for hikers.
In summer, the Whistler snow walls provide an extraordinary photo op. Located on Whistler Mountain, the snow walls are a great adventurous hike into the alpine to experience something you won’t find anywhere else.
However, you’ll need to visit them early in the season as they don’t stick around all summer.
What Are the Snow Walls?
Due to the astonishing amount of snowfall over the winter, the majority of the hikes in Whistler are under snow for most of the spring and early summer months.
The Whistler Blackcomb team decided to give early summer hikers a unique experience by clearing the snow on the road connecting Peak Chair, Harmony Chair, and the Roundhouse restaurant.
As they remove the snow, they pile it onto the sides of the road, creating a massive canyon-like snow wall on either side that hikers walk through.
Once the road is cleared, the snow walls tower over the route, standing at least 10 feet tall and running alongside the road for over a kilometre.
When Do Whistler’s Snow Walls Open?
The snow walls vary from season to season. If there is a lot of snow, it might take the groomers longer to clear the road.
Some people don’t realise that in the spring, although it’s raining in the village, it’s still cold enough to snow at the Whistler peak.
Sightseeing at Whistler Blackcomb starts around May 31st, and if the snow walls are cut in, you can access them by hiking.
Once Peak Express Chairlift opens in mid-June, you can access them by the lift.
You can also check online to see if the hike to the snow walls is open through Whistler Blackcomb’s hours of operations and select the Alpine Hiking drop-down.
Remember that the snow walls do not last all summer. Therefore, it’s best to see them as soon as you can, as that is when they will be at their tallest.
How To Access the Snow Walls
The snow walls are located on the top of Whistler Mountain, between Peak Express Chair and Harmony Express. They’re cut out on Pika’s Traverse Road.
If you’re driving to Whistler and wish to park your vehicle while you go up the mountain, you can leave your car in the day lots, Whistler’s main parking area adjacent to the Whistler Village.
From here, make your way to the base of Whistler and catch the Whistler Mountain Gondola to the Roundhouse. You have three options for the hike.
Pika’s Traverse connects hikers from the top of the Peak Express Chair to the Roundhouse.
If the Peak Chair is open, you can either hike to the top of the chair via Pika’s Traverse and download or walk to the bottom of the chair from the Roundhouse, upload, and then hike down.
You can also hike up the road and back down if you don’t want to catch the Peak Express Chair or it is not open yet.
The views from the chair are spectacular, and we highly recommend that you ride it at some point during the hike as it will give you amazing views of the valley.
The snow wall hike can also be linked to other hikes and experiences. For example, at the top of Whistler Peak is the Cloudraker Skybridge, the trailhead for the full and half note hike, and a massive inukshuk with an impressive mountainous backdrop.
How Much Does it Cost?
As this hike is accessed by catching the Whistler Gondola, there is a fee to see the snow walls.
A summer sightseeing ticket allows you to access the snow walls and any other hike on the mountain, including the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
- Adults are $85 per person
- Seniors and youth between 13 and 18 are $76
- Children between seven and 12 are $43
- Children under six are free.
If you have a Whistler Mountain Bike Pass or have purchased your Whistler Blackcomb Ski Pass for next year, you can use either as a sightseeing pass.
For those looking to hike over a few days on Whistler Blackcomb, you can purchase a Sightseeing Seasons pass.
- Adult season passes $139 per person
- Seniors and youth between 13 and 18 are $129
- Children between seven and 12 are $73
- Children under six are $15
How Long is the Hike?
The hike will take between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on your route.
If you want to hike from the bottom and the Peak Chair is not open; start from the Roundhouse Lodge and walk toward the top of the Emerald 6 Express. Here you will find Pika’s Traverse Road.
The distance from Pika’s Traverse to Mathews Traverse (top of Peak Chair) is 3.8 kilometres one way uphill.
If you prefer to hike down rather than up or the Peak Chair is open, you can make your way to the base of the Peak Chair from the Roundhouse.
Just be aware that there is a short 600-metre hike down some switchbacks to the chairlift, which takes about 10 to 20 minutes.
The chair will drop you at the top of Mathews Traverse, and you walk the road down into the snow walls and onto Pika’s Traverse, finishing at the Roundhouse.
What Should You Bring?
The snow wall hike can be misleading as it seems like a leisurely walk on the road. However, this is still an alpine hike, and although there is no scrambling, you must be prepared.
The weather at the top of the mountain is usually a few degrees cooler than you will find in the village, and the wind coming off the surrounding snow-covered peaks is exceptionally cool.
Taking a windproof layer or jumper is recommended, especially if you ride Peak Chair.
Appropriate footwear is also essential. A pair of enclosed shoes, such as running shoes, is a minimum as the hike has loose rocks. The grippier the shoe, the better.
You will see people wearing flip-flops and sandals. You will also notice the look of regret on their faces.
Snacks and water are also highly recommended. Once you pass Roundhouse, there are no stores or shops, and it is thirsty work hiking. Even if you don’t eat your snacks or drink your water, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Just remember that what you hike in, you hike out. No trash gets left behind.
One of the most overlooked items is sunscreen, especially on overcast days. There is no shade apart from the shadows the snow walls cast during the day.
The sun is just as strong, if not stronger, the higher you go up the mountain, so remember to protect yourself from sunburn. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
Is it Beginner Friendly?
Even though the snow wall hike is accessible by lift, it is not beginner friendly and is graded as a black hike (advanced).
The steepness of the road, especially closer to the bottom of Pika’s Traverse, mixed with loose rocks on the road, can cause slips and knee pain.
The elevation gain from the bottom of the hike to the top is 272 metres (892 feet).
If you haven’t taken your children on a hike before, this may not be the one to do so. Once they get tired, you will have to carry them, making the roads even more treacherous.
However, if you are a novice hiker and would like a challenge, as long as you take your time and take water and snacks, hiking up the road and downloading is an easy route that you can take.
The Great Snow Walls of Whistler
The snow walls are a must-do if you want a unique hiking experience in Whistler.
You can easily join other hikes onto the snow walls or add on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and check out Blackcomb Mountain and its cute whistling marmots.
It is a shame that these fantastic snow walls do not last all summer. However, any excuse to visit Whistler in early summer is a great excuse.