Winter Camping Whistler: Car, Tent, and Long Term
Camping in Whistler is extremely popular in the summer and warmer months. But some diehard skiers take the same attitude in the snow and partake in winter camping in Whistler.
Hotels can be expensive during the ski season and tend to sell out over holidays. So to avoid paying that premium, people are pitching tents in the snow or rigging up their vehicle to sleep in.
Winter camping in Whistler is cheaper than hotels, lets you escape from the crowds, and gives a sense of adventure. However, it isn’t as simple as pitching a tent and hanging out. You need to be prepared.
Winter Camping in Whistler in a Tent
Whistler in winter looks like it’s straight out of a Christmas movie—there’s snow everywhere. And we aren’t exaggerating; Whistler sees an average of 11 metres (37 ft) of snow from November to April.
So you might be thinking, is it even possible to winter camp in Whistler in a tent? We at Forged Axe Throwing believe it is. You just need to pick your dates.
Not every month sees a snowstorm; however, November and late March will see fewer big dumps of snow, so there’s less of a chance of having to dig out your tent.
They are both warmer months compared to the middle of the season, which means rainier days. However, this shouldn’t be an issue because, if you’re camping in the winter, you should already have a waterproof tent.
You will also need an extremely warm sleeping bag. Even in the spring, temps will be dipping below zero degrees.
Places to Camp in a Tent in Winter
Finding a spot to camp is the next challenge. Unfortunately, most provincial and recreational campsites are closed during the winter.
Cal-Cheak, a very popular site in the summer, is also open for camping during the winter. It’s a first come, first served system and free of charge between November and March.
Located 3km North of Brandywine Falls Provincial Park on Hwy99, take the Daisy Lake Forest Service Road (also known as the Cal-Cheak Fire Service Road, or FSR) and you’ll find the first campsite about 100m down the road.
There are 55 campsites to choose from. However, you might need to drive further down the FSR to find a vacant one, as this is also a popular winter RV camping spot.
Riverside, a camping and RV site just north of the village is the closest option to the ski resort for winter camping. They offer a Voyageur walk-in tent rate of $30 a night for a non-powered site.
As the snow melts in April and May, you can explore fire roads and take a more summer-style camping approach to pitch your tent.
Car Camping in Winter in Whistler
If camping in a tent in the snow seems a bit too much, car camping could be more your speed.
Car camping in Whistler during the winter is a much more common practice than tenting for those looking to shred Whistler Blackcomb and save a few dollars on accommodation.
Walking around town, you’ll see more than one old Chevy Astro decked out with a mattress, sleeping bags, and sometimes even a built-in kitchen. Some locals prefer this to renting in the winter because it’s so cheap and easy.
Because you’re sleeping in a vehicle, you don’t need to worry as much about the snowfall. Of course, you will still need to buy a shovel to dig the car out, but you don’t have to worry about your tent collapsing.
You’ll also need a strong car battery, jumper leads, or a mini car jumper pack. The cold eats batteries—if you only move your car for a short time in the colder months, the battery will die.
Being proactive is the key to car camping.
Lots six, seven, and eight are free to park in during the day, so you have somewhere to leave your car while you ski. Make sure you get there early as they fill up quickly, especially on a powder day.
Now to find a place to park up overnight.
Do not—and we mean this—do not park overnight in the day lots. You will get towed.
Places to Car Camp in Winter
The Whistler RV Park and Campground is a common go-to for car camping in the winter. A short 16-minute drive south of Whistler Village, the grounds are set up for winter access.
Rates start at $45 a night. This might seem a little steep, but the campground has backcountry sledding access and a fully functional cafe.
If you want to avoid paying for a site, you can pull up at the Cal-Cheak site we mentioned above or venture north of Whistler towards the Parkhurst Ghost trail. This is a popular spot for car campers and is an off-the-beaten-track free spot to stay.
A classic Whistler car camping tip is to use the Meadow Park Sports Centre for showering. Getting in will cost $9, but their facilities are outstanding and well worth it.
Again, as the snow melts, more FSRs will become more accessible, and you can take a summer camping approach to pull off the highway. Things to be wary of are snowplows and no-parking signs in the winter—you don’t want to be caught sleeping in the latter.
Or you can always find a friendly local at the bar and see if you can park up at their place for the night. It might only cost you a six-pack of beer.
Long-Term RV Camping in Whistler
Long-term camping with an RV is the easiest way to camp in Whistler. When you think about it, it’s a home with wheels.
The driving conditions are the most significant thing to consider when planning your winter RV trip to Whistler. The Sea to Sky Highway is known for being tricky to navigate.
Having your RV decked out with good winter tires (winter tires are legally required from Oct 1st) is a must for the ice, sleet, rain, and snow you will encounter entering Whistler.
Once you arrive in Whistler, you’ll need to park your RV in Lot 3, as it is the only oversized parking in town. It’s $5 an hour or $28 for the day. Unfortunately, you can’t sleep here and will be fined and towed if you do.
Places to RV Camp in Winter
Starting at $85 a night, Riverside offers electricity, water, and sewer plus free limited WiFi and is complemented by bathrooms, coin-operated showers, and heated floors, which are a godsend in the winter.
For $50 a night, Whistler RV Park and Campground provides full hookups for all back-in and pull-through RV sites, including sewer, water, and electricity. All sites are also equipped with a picnic table and fire pit.
Going off the beaten track with an RV in the winter is a little bit trickier than with a car or van. The FSRs are not maintained in the winter, and you might get stuck if you tow a camper.
If you are confident, a popular camper spot to park overnight is at the Wedgemount parking lot north of the village. However, the roads past the bridge get steep, so those with bigger rigs are advised to stay near the entrance.
Can you Camp in Whistler for Free in the Winter?
Winter camping in Whistler is not going to be free, unfortunately. Most of the accessible sites that are free are north or south of the village.
As mentioned, some fire roads lead to crown land. However, we do not recommend taking your mom’s Prius up these roads. You will need some serious 4×4 ability to navigate the untamed winter fire roads.
If you’re up for an adventure, make your way to the Callaghan. There are quite a few private spots that you can pull into for the night. Checking iOverlander.com is a great idea to learn about other people’s experiences with private camp spots.
Winter Camping in Whistler
The key to winter camping is to be prepared, whether you’re going to set up a tent, sleep in the back of your car, or arrive in an RV. Each type of winter camping needs a plan as you don’t want to be left out in the cold.
Car camping is the way to go if you’re looking for the cheapest and most straightforward way to camp. We have seen our fair share of car campers come through the Forged Axe Throwing doors with a smile.