Your Complete Whistler, BC Travel Guide
Whistler, BC, is a town that needs no introduction. With a worldwide reputation as a mecca for outdoor adventure, visitors from around the world travel to Whistler all year round. It’s got stunning mountain views, countless adrenaline-pumping activities, fine dining, and a quaint, European-style pedestrian village. Oh, and there’s a ski resort too…in fact, it’s the biggest ski resort in North America. No big deal.
There’s something for everyone in Whistler, whether you’re here for a day or a week. The trick is to do your research beforehand to make sure you try all the best activities and get the best deals. To help with your research, we’ve put together Forged’s comprehensive Travel Guide to Whistler, BC. You’ll find key facts, locals’ tips and must-do activities. Travelling to Whistler is the holiday of a lifetime. We want to help you get it right!
When to Visit Whistler
Despite it’s (deserved) reputation as one of the best ski resorts in the world, Whistler is really an all-season town today. There is world-class mountain biking in summer, tons of year-round activities like ziplining, and amazing deals in the spring and fall. When you travel to Whistler will depend on what you’re looking for.
The depths of winter in Whistler are magical. From December to February you can expect deep, fresh snow and sub-zero temperatures. The pedestrian village is transformed into a Santa’s grotto, and the whole town is buzzing with festivities. Skiers and snowboarders will be in heaven, but if that’s not your bag, there’s still plenty to do here in winter. There snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dogsledding, even bobsled tours. Check out our full guide to Whistler for non-skiers for more inspiration.
If you’re a jack of all trades, spring is the time to visit Whistler. You can ski, mountain bike, hike, golf, and more, all on the same day. As temperatures increase from March onwards, you can enjoy sunny bluebird laps on the mountain, and conditions for apres on one of Whistler’s many patios. Or explore the valley, where spring is in full swing. Why not rent a paddleboard or a kayak and explore Whistler’s lake? And of course, don’t miss the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in April!
Things really heat up from June onwards. The mountain bike season is in full swing, culminating in the legendary Crankworx festival in August. Alpine hiking trails, accessible from the gondolas, give access to pristine wildflower meadows and crystal-clear lakes. Adrenaline junkies can try whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, ATV tours and loads more. Summer is a popular time to visit Whistler, so plan ahead to secure accommodation and activities.
As the season’s change, the fall colours set off the mountains to create some of the best views you’ll get in Whistler. Fall is quieter, which means there are loads of great deals to be had. Many adventure activities – like RZR tours – are discounted at this time of year. And year-round activities like axe-throwing are a great choice in fall too. Fall is also festival season in Whistler. Whistler Beer Festival, Cornucopia and Whistler Film Festival all offer unique ways to experience Whistler in the fall.
To find out more, read our full guide to the best time to visit Whistler – according to the locals.
How to Get to Whistler
Travelling to Whistler is fairly straightforward. Whistler is located on the west coast of British Columbia, in a region called the Sea to Sky corridor. The closest major city is Vancouver, 120km away. For a mountain resort, it’s very accessible, which makes it a great choice if you want to avoid long hours travelling.
- By Air
The closest international airport is Vancouver (YVR), 130km from Whistler. You can fly from nearly anywhere in the world to Vancouver. And it’s easy to hire a car or catch a shuttle bus from the airport directly to Whistler.
If for some reason you can’t fly to Vancouver, then it is possible to get to Whistler from Bellingham or Seattle airports. The drive is significantly longer, but sometimes you can get an amazing deal on flights that makes the extra travel worth it.
- By Car
From Vancouver, Whistler is 120km north along the Sea to Sky highway (Highway 99). It’s almost worth renting a car just for the joy of driving this beautiful mountain highway for yourself. The highway was expanded when the 2010 Winter Olympics came to Vancouver, so it’s in great condition and takes in some spectacular views.
It normally takes around 2 hours to drive from Vancouver to Whistler. Be aware that in winter, and at busy times (like Friday night), it can take a lot longer. And from October 1 – March 31, you must have winter tires on your vehicle to drive on the Sea to Sky, as the road is very often covered in snow.
- By Bus
If you don’t feel like renting a car (or don’t need to), there are lots of companies that run shuttle buses to Whistler. Epic Rides and Whistler Rides offer affordable transfers (from $32 round trip) from the centre of Vancouver. You can easily catch the Skytrain from the airport to central Vancouver – it takes around 30 minutes.
If you’d prefer a shuttle straight from the airport, SkyLynx is a good option. Their transfers are $55 each way, including free drop off at many hotels. You can change your booking for free if your flight is delayed, and there are discounts available if you travel early or late in the day.
To travel around Whistler, the public transport is excellent. If you’re staying anywhere in the main village, there are free shuttle buses in peak seasons. Even if you’re a little further away, it’s only $2.50 per journey and the bus will drop you right by the slopes.
Whistler Weather and Climate
Whistler’s climate offers the best of both worlds. Winters are cold, but not brutal, with temperatures hovering between -10°C (14°F) and 0°C (32°F). There’s consistently high snowfall too – we average 11.6m per year. On the other hand, in summer the average temperature is 20°C (68°F) to 30°C (86°F), with clear blue skies most days.
In spring and fall, the weather is more mixed, with temperatures between 10°C (50°F) and 20°C (68°F). Being in a temperate rainforest, we do get a fair bit of rain. But that’s never stopped us getting out for some muddy mountain adventures. And the rain is mixed with fresh, sunny days and perfect temperatures for getting active.
Travel Whistler – Know Before You Go!
We often get asked the same questions about Whistler. So, before you travel to Whistler, here’s the answers to some of the most common questions we get asked. We’ve got more tips on how to make your Whistler vacation a success too.
- What is Whistler Blackcomb?
A common mistake people make is to confuse Whistler Blackcomb with Whistler itself. While they can be synonymous, there is a difference.
- Whistler Blackcomb vs…
Whistler Blackcomb is the name of the ski resort that’s accessed from Whistler Village. It’s over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, 200 runs, and 37 lifts spread across two towering mountains. It’s the home of the Whistler Bike Park, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and the Cloudraker Skybridge. You’ll find that Whistler Blackcomb also runs some of the rental shops, restaurants and bars around the village too. If you’re planning a ski or mountain bike trip, you’ll want to find out more about Whistler Blackcomb for sure. But…
- What is Whistler Village?
Whistler is more than just Whistler Blackcomb. It’s a sprawling mountain town with nearly 12,000 permanent residents. As well as the resort, it’s home to five beautiful lakes, endless hiking trails, cross-country biking trails, and tons of additional adventure activities run by great local businesses.
Whistler also packs in dozens of fine dining restaurants, trendy bars, independent cafes, award-winning museums, and of course, an axe throwing venue! In short, don’t limit yourself to just exploring Whistler Blackcomb – make sure to check out the other side to Whistler too.
- What currency do you use in Whistler?
The Canadian dollar is the main currency used in Whistler, although some restaurants and shops will accept American dollars too. There aren’t many places to pick up currency in Whistler, so we’d recommend getting some at home or at the airport before you arrive.
- Am I expected to tip in Whistler?
Canadian tipping culture is similar to America. It’s normal to tip at least 15% in restaurants, cafes, bars, and tour companies. If you get great service, tip 20%. Tips are an important part of many servers’ wages in Canada. You will find you get excellent, friendly service from most of the staff you come across, so hopefully, you won’t mind parting with a few extra dollars to show your appreciation.
How Do I Get the Best Deals in Whistler?
With so much to do and see, travelling to Whistler can get a little pricey at times. But there are a few things you can do to get the best value for your money:
- Book ahead. In particular, accommodation can book up months ahead in Whistler. Likewise, lift tickets and rentals are more expensive if you buy on the day, so purchase online before.
- Visit in the shoulder season. Like we said, spring and fall are great times to visit Whistler, and prices are often lower as the town is quieter
- Look out for early booking offers. Lots of tour operators and hotels run these deals, where you can save up to 30% on standard prices if you book in advance
- Check out some of the many free activities to do around Whistler – there’s more than you might expect
5 Must-do Activities in Whistler
It’s hard to pick just five must-do activities in Whistler, but we’ll give it a go. If this isn’t enough for you, we’ve also chosen our top 15 activities in Whistler. Or if you want something really comprehensive, how about our mammoth list of 100 things to do in Whistler?
- Mountain Biking
Downhill mountain biking has exploded in Whistler over the last decade. The Whistler Bike Park remains one of the best in the world, offering challenging descents and incredible views. They also run some brilliant introductory mountain bike lessons and courses for those trying the sport for the first time. This is mountain biking like you’ve never seen it before, so read up on what to expect in the bike park before you go.
- Skiing & Snowboarding
Of course, you can’t talk about Whistler without talking about skiing and snowboarding. Snow sports remain one of the best reasons to come to Whistler. There’s endless terrain, lots and lots of snow, and a whole lot of fun to be had. It takes time to get to know the biggest ski resort in North America. So you’ll be rewarded for doing your research on the Whistler ski season and Whistler Blackcomb’s best lifts to hit for the ultimate ski day.
- Axe Throwing
We created Whistler’s first axe throwing venue in 2017, after we remembered how fun it is to throw sharp objects at wood with our friends. Since then, it’s safe to say people have really taken to it. Come and try it for yourself at Forged Axe – open all year round, for everyone from age 10+. We’ve found bachelorette parties particularly love axe throwing, and they tend to be pretty damn good at it too. Whoever you travelled to Whistler with, axe throwing is a great way to pass an afternoon with friendly competition, lots of laughs, and an addictive new hobby.
Another unmissable Whistler activity is a zipline tour. Take to the skies and soar above the valley like a bird. The views are remarkable, and it’s a serious thrill too. There are two zipline tour operators in town – Ziptrek and Superfly Ziplines. Both offer long, fast ziplines with spectacular backdrops. The longest is Ziptrek’s Sasquatch, a whopping 2km zipline between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. A lot of people don’t realize that ziplining is a year-round activity. Just remember your gloves in winter, it’s pretty chilly up there!
Adrenaline junkies: make time for a snowmobile tour. Exploring the Whistler backcountry on your own sled is a totally unique experience, and far from the crowds on the ski slopes. Companies like Canadian Wilderness Adventures, The Adventure Group and Blackcomb Snowmobile offer a variety of tours for all abilities. Some even include mini snowmobiles for kids to try out too! One of our favourite tours includes a gourmet fondue dinner served at the top of the mountain – long after the lifts are closed.
Whistler | Travel to the Best Mountain Resort in the World
Our Whistler, BC travel guide has hopefully given you answers to some of the questions you’ll have about visiting Whistler. As you can probably tell, there’s a lot to this small mountain town! Whenever you visit, you’ll never forget the views, the adventures, and the memories you create. We’ve got something for everyone, and we can guarantee you won’t want to leave after only a week here!