What’s Whistler’s Culture Like? Let a Local Tell You
A large proportion of Whistler’s population is made up of young people from all over the world who have come to Canada on working holiday visas (although you’ll soon notice that Australians and Brits are the strong majority!).
Despite the transient nature of this town’s workforce, Whistler has a strong sense of community at its core and a unique culture. Whistler is more than just an internationally renowned ski resort and a well-known party town. It has a flourishing arts scene and a population of people who care deeply about the town and the environment it sits in.
Whether it’s attending a lecture at the Whistler Public Library, spending a powder day up the mountain with friends, taking the kids out for a bike ride around Lost Lake, partying until the early hours at one of Whistler’s clubs, or watching an independent movie at the Maury Young Arts Centre, people in Whistler love to get up, get out, and get active.
A get-up-and-go attitude is at the heart of this mountain village.
Does Whistler have an Arts and Culture Scene
To tourists, Whistler is synonymous with mountains. To locals, this town is so much more than that. It’s a town with a thriving arts scene and a vibrant cultural landscape. Year-round you can enjoy art exhibitions, street performances, outdoor concerts, culinary events, festivals, and more. Look past the glitzy exterior of this town, dig a little deeper, and uncover its rich history through museums, exhibitions, and stories of the First Nations.
Audain Art Museum
The Audain Art Museum opened its door in 2016. This stunning building, with its huge glass windows and beautiful wooden design, is a work of art in itself. As well as showcasing work from other leading art institutes from all over the globe, this museum also produces its own exhibitions. The Audain houses up to three temporary art exhibitions per year.
Its permanent collection of nearly 200 artworks from British Columbia is spectacular and includes one of the most exquisite collections of First Nations mask that you will find on this planet. From yoga to evening art workshops, the Audain offers much more than simply an exhibition experience. Their admission fee is reasonable, at $18 per adult, and completely free for under 18s!
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
Step inside this beautiful cultural centre and feel the warm welcome of the Squamish and Lil’wat people, whose traditional territory we reside on. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, located in the Upper Village, close to the Four Seasons and Fairmont Hotels, celebrates the cultures of two nations. Once you walk through the doors you will immediately become immersed in the rich history and traditions of the Squamish and Lil’wat people.
General admission costs $18 and this includes a fantastic guided tour experience with an extremely knowledgeable cultural ambassador. These tours begin every hour, on the hour, from 10 am to 4 pm daily. At the centre, you’ll experience a traditional welcome song, witness an informative 15-minute film, and have the opportunity to partake in a cedar-rope bracelet craft.
In the heart of the village, just behind Whistler Public Library, is Whistler Museum. This is the place to learn about Whistler’s unique history, its mountain culture, and how this small valley town in British Columbia’s wilderness came to be the world-class resort destination that it is today. If you have an interest in the 2010 Olympic Games that were held here, Whistler’s resident black bears, or the pioneers that built this community, head to Whistler Museum and become engrossed in the interactive and educational exhibits.
The by-donation entry fee makes this activity a brilliant way to entertain the whole family for virtually free! They’re open year-round from 11 am to 5 pm daily, so pop in if you want to learn a thing or two about Whistler, and rest assured you’ll emerge boasting a wealth of knowledge about this town.
Arts Whistler, based at the Maury Young Arts Centre in Marketplace, has been supporting the development of arts and culture in this town since 1982. This non-profit works with local artists and the community to make the arts an integral part of life here.
From live performances and film screenings in their theatre to creative workshops and temporary, free, year-round exhibitions in their gallery, Arts Whistler strives to make art accessible for locals and visitors alike.
Art Galleries Galore
Whistler is home to some incredibly talented artists and there are many art galleries scattered around town where you can marvel at their work. This guide gives a comprehensive overview of the galleries around town and maps out a route for a self-guided tour.
Whistler’s Got Festival Fever
Whistler’s calendar is jam-packed full-to-the-brim with festivals. As the months roll by the town changes its colours and gears up for the next big event. From culinary delights and film premieres to live stage performances and family-orientated weekends, there is truly something for everyone to enjoy when it comes to festivals in Whistler.
Here are some of our favourites:
- Whistler Pride and Ski Festival (January 26 – February 2, 2020): For one week only, Whistler becomes home to one of the largest and most brilliant gay and lesbian ski weeks on the continent.
- World Ski & Snowboard Festival (April 2020): North America’s biggest and best mountain culture festival.
- GO Fest (Victoria Day Long Weekend): Enjoy physical activities, outdoor concerts, movies, and more at Whistler’s Great Outdoor Festival.
- Wanderlust Whistler (August 1 – 4, 2019): Celebrating all-things mindful living, through music, yoga, lectures, fitness classes, outdoor adventures, and the like.
- Whistler Writers Festival (October 17 – 20, 2019): Connect with authors, attend workshops, and meet like-minded writers at this annual, four-day festival.
- Cornucopia (November 7 – 17, 2019): A celebration of the best of British Columbia’s food and drink. A must-attend event for all the foodies out there.
- Whistler Film Festival (December 4 – 8, 2019): Choose from over 80 films, attend epic events and networking sessions, and partake in industry workshops and seminars.
What is Whistler’s Party Culture Like?
Along with a thriving arts scene, Whistler has an infamous party culture. If your friend’s tell you they’re going to spend a season snowboarding in Whistler, you can usually assume that they’re going to be taking part in similar amounts of partying. The two go hand-in-hand here.
Straight off the hill, you’ll notice snowboarders and skiers descend upon Longhorn Saloon & Grill. This is where the après drinks start flowing. From there, it all depends on what day of the week it is:
- On a Monday, the local haunt of choice is usually Maax Fish.
- On a Tuesday the crowds descend upon the recently spruced up Tommy Africa’s.
- If you’re out on a Wednesday, head to Buffalo Bills.
- Local’s night at Garfinkel’s is the place to be seen at on a Thursday.
- Fridays and Saturdays are usually rest nights for the Whistler partier. These weekend evenings are all about the out-of-towners.
- If it’s a Sunday you’ll want to head to the weekly glow party at Moe Joe’s.
Although Whistler locals sure love to party, we tend not to wallow in our hangovers. Whether it’s skiing, biking, hiking or jumping in a lake, we’re good at getting up, being active, and not letting the hangover win the day. There’s nothing like the cold mountain air to blow away the cobwebs.
The party scene in Whistler is one of a kind, and not for the faint-hearted, but partying underground isn’t the only option to enjoy Whistler by night. If shot skis, dancing on tables in ski boots, and general debauchery is just too much for you to handle why not head to one of the breweries in town for some delectable BC craft beer, enjoy exquisite cuisine at award-winning restaurants, or sip and savour divine cocktails at one of the many bars in the village.
What’s it Like to Live Here?
There’s no denying that Whistler, nestled in British Columbia’s striking Coast Mountains, is an absolutely beautiful part of the world. Spending time in the great outdoors is a huge part of life here.
In the summer months, locals love to soak up the rays at one of Whistler’s five lakes (Alta Lake, Alpha Lake, Nita Lake, Lost Lake and Green Lake). All are accessible from the village by foot or bike. As well as taking a dip in Whistler’s lakes, tearing it up in the bike park is a very popular pastime. Whistler Bike Park is often quoted as the number one lift-accessed downhill bike park on the planet. With 4,900 vertical feet and 80 kilometres of trails to explore, this playground is a biker’s heaven. It boasts trails for all ability levels, from cruisey greens to technical and feature-heavy double blacks.
Living in this magnificent part of the world also allows easy access to hiking – another favourite activity for locals on days off. From short, easy hikes like the Train Wreck in Cheakamus, to advanced wilderness adventures such as the 30-kilometre Panorama Ridge hike in Garibaldi Park, the amount of terrain in this area is extensive and there are always new places to explore.
When the snow falls, the locals dig out their winter sports gear and hit the slopes. It’s all about skiing and snowboarding at this time of year. A little cold weather doesn’t stop us here and you’ll find Whistler’s powder hounds up the mountain in all conditions.
Along with the outrageous number of outdoor activities on offer, there are numerous things that locals love to do here that are unbeknown to the average tourist:
- Whistler Park Run: A free, weekly, five-kilometre timed run around Lost Lake.
- Whistler Farmers Market: Every Sunday shop for local and fresh produce in the Upper Village.
- Whistler Public Library: Free art workshops for kids and lecture series’ for adults.
- Local’s League at Forged Axe Throwing: Every Monday, come down to Function Junction and unleash your inner lumberjack with a group of like minded locals. Get competitive, learn to throw axes, make new friends and you may find your self taking home the prize come week six. Locals league is our favourite day of the week!
- Whistler Cycling Club: Ride with fellow road cyclists every Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the summer.
- Art After Dark: A weekly art class held at the Audain Art Museum for you to unleash your creative flair.
Whistler is loved by its residents not only for its natural beauty and easy access to adventure but for its sense of community. It’s true that this resort town has a huge transient population, with tourists staying a couple of weeks and a large proportion of workers here for just a season or two. But dig a little deeper and you’ll quickly notice that Whistler is driven but a strong core community. People rally to help each other out here and that is ingrained in Whistler’s culture.
Although you might hear the odd quibble from locals at busy times of the year, complaining that the town is swarming with tourists, Whistler is a world-class resort destination and that’s what keeps this place thriving after all! People who call Whistler home are here because of the way of life it offers and the endless possibilities for adventure on their doorstep. There’s never a dull moment when you live in this town, and there’s always something to do, and someone to enjoy it with!