A Local’s Guide to Whistler Blackcomb’s Gondolas and Lifts
You won’t ever hear us complaining about the fact that Whistler Blackcomb has over 8,000 acres of skiable terrain. But we do know that navigating your way around the largest ski resort in North America can be a little overwhelming, especially when you’ve only got a week to spend here. You want to cover some serious vertical, and sample the very best of the epic terrain here. But with so many lifts in Whistler to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin.
It’s bad enough that there are two mountains and four gondolas just to get you off the valley floor. And then once you’ve ascended over 1000m into the sky, the choices just get bigger. Do you choose steep alpine chutes, wide open powder bowls, or playful tree runs? Do you ride the Peak to Creek all the way to the valley, or do hot laps under Garbo’s to make the most of the early morning snow. Your choice of lifts can make or break your day, especially during the holidays or on powder days, when everyone and their mother is trying to score the freshest runs and shortest queues.
But don’t worry! Your friends at Forged have spent just a little bit of time exploring these mountains. When you have to be at work in the afternoon, you quickly learn the locals’ tips and tricks on how to make the most of your time on the hill. And because we love you, we’re going to share some of our insider knowledge on Whistler’s lifts, gondolas and unforgettable skiing with you.
The Basics: What You Need to Know About Whistler’s Lifts
In case you’ve never been to Whistler, let’s start at the very beginning. Whistler Blackcomb resort is home to two huge mountains, both over 2,100 metres tall. Unsurprisingly, they’re called Whistler and Blackcomb. Across these two mountains, there’s a ton of terrain for pretty much every snow sports lover out there. And to access it, there’s a grand total of five gondolas, sixteen Chair-lifts, and three T-bars, making up a whopping 24 lifts altogether. It’s estimated that at full capacity, Whistler’s lifts and gondolas can move over 67,000 people per hour. Luckily, it’s never quite that busy here!
Buying Whistler Lift Tickets: For Skiers and Sightseers
One thing we’d definitely recommend is buying your lift tickets in advance! No one wants to wait in a line all morning while everyone else is surfing the powder. Head to the lift ticket office under the Whistler Gondola to buy tickets. At the time of writing, an adult day lift ticket costs $178, while for teens it’s $139, and $82 for children. Kids under 6 ski for free!
But lift tickets change with the seasons – check out the full lift ticket guide here to find out how to score them at discounted rates.
It is possible to get deals online if you book in advance, so make sure to check out Whistler Blackcomb’s website to find the best price for you. You can also grab discounts if you book multiple days at once. So plan your trip ahead of time and make sure you get the best deal.
You might be surprised to hear that Whistler Blackcomb isn’t just for skiers in the winter. Sightseers can purchase a lift ticket for only $63 for adults ($54 for teens and $32 for children). This gives you access to the stunning mountain-top views, as well as the record-breaking Peak-2-Peak gondola and plenty of chances to eat, drink and relax at altitude.
Whistler’s Lifts in Summer
If you’re here in the summer, don’t worry. There are still loads of ways to make the most of Whistler Blackcomb. Plenty of lifts open for sightseeing, including the Whistler, Blackcomb, and Peak 2 Peak Gondolas, and the Peak chairlift. There’s also the world-famous Whistler Mountain Bike Park, served by plenty of chairlifts so you don’t even have to pedal uphill. Even if you think you know Whistler in winter, it’s well worth heading up the mountain in summer too. You’ll be amazed by how different the views are, and enjoy wandering around up there in just a t-shirt.
Plan Your Day Right: Whistler Lift Opening Times
Whistler Blackcomb always aim to open the lifts for 8.30am (sometimes earlier if you’re lucky!). If you want a really early start, you can steal the best laps of the day with the Fresh Tracks Breakfast. You’ll get up Whistler mountain at 7.30am, enjoy a mountainous breakfast buffet, and be out of the slopes while the rest of us are still in bed.
In the afternoon, keep an eye on lift closing times. Until the end of January, lifts close at 3.00pm. During February, it’s 3.30pm, and then from March onwards it’s 4.00pm. But beware that alpine lifts often close earlier, so no one gets stranded out there. Keep an eye on the signs at each lift, or you can see the full hours of operation online.
One thing to bear in mind is that it can take a while for the alpine lifts to get open in the morning. If you’re up early, plan to warm up your legs on the mid-mountain before heading to the alpine while everyone else is still down in the village.
Making the Most of Whistler’s Lifts and Gondolas
While it is possible to fit all of Whistler’s lifts into one day (more on that later), you’d need legs of steel and a very early alarm call. So instead, most days skiing at Whistler Blackcomb require making some choices. And to make good choices, you need to be armed with good information. So bookmark the Whistler Blackcomb lift status page in your phone right now! You’ll have up-to-date information about which lifts are open, how long the queues are, and what the weather is like. It’s also helpful to download the Epic Mix app, which has real-time lift updates. It also tracks you as you slide around the mountain, so you brag about getting the most vertical metres in the bar later!
To give you some starting points for planning an epic day on the hill, we’ve chosen some of our favourite lifts. Here are some highlights, and why we (the locals) love them:
A trip to Whistler Blackcomb isn’t complete without riding Peak Chair. The highlight of a trip for those looking to experience the toughest of Whistler’s terrain, it’s still worth a ride for intermediate skiers. That’s because the views at the top are the best in town, looking south towards Vancouver and the never-ending coastal mountains. Plus, even if you don’t feel like skiing chutes and deep alpine powder bowls, you can take the famous and beautiful Peak to Creek right back to the valley. The 11km run is a true classic. Just remember to take lots of breaks to appreciate the views (your thighs will thank you for it!). In summer, Peak chair also gives sightseers access to the new Cloudraker suspension bridge – if you can stomach it!
Peak 2 Peak Gondola
The record-breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola is a pretty unique experience as ski lifts go. Open to sightseers all year round, as well as skiers and snowboarders, it takes the quick route from the top of Whistler to Blackcomb mountains. At over 400m from the valley floor, it spans a huge 4.4km. Don’t forget to bring your camera and a head for heights for this one! If you’re skiing or snowboarding, use the Peak 2 Peak to nip between mountains in just 11 minutes, saving a thigh-burning ski to the valley, and a long lift back up.
With a name like 7th Heaven, this lift sets expectations high. And it delivers. Providing access to the high alpine terrain on Blackcomb mountain, 7th Heaven is a quick ride to some of the best skiing you’ll ever do. On a powder day, you’ll find some epic lines through trees and alpine bowls that often stay untracked longer than the rest of the mountain. Or if you’re more of a groomer-cruiser, well these are some of the best groomers out there. Choose from several sweeping blue runs that just beg to be carved. Just remember to leave time to ski home, as 7th Heaven closes earlier than most other lifts.
The latest addition to Whistler Blackcomb’s lift system, the Blackcomb Gondola was born for the 2018 season. It’s made it a whole lot quicker to get up to the top of Blackcomb mountain and access some of the best skiing in Whistler Blackcomb. It also gives those staying in Upper Village a dry and warm way to get up the hill, saving two long (and often damp) chairlifts to the top. It also gives sightseers a cool new experience – ride up Blackcomb Gondola, enjoy lunch at one of the mountaintop restaurants, then ride the Peak 2 Peak across the valley and head back down Whistler Gondola, to make the most of the mountains views (and in summer, the bear-viewing opportunities.)
Garbanzo Chair is a locals favourite, although you might not think it. Squarely in the mid-mountain on Whistler, on a windy powder day (and we have a few of those), it’s the place to be. There’s always great tree skiing off here, as well as access to other great lifts like Emerald and Big Red. But one of the main attractions of Garbanzo chair is its unique access to the Dave Murray Downhill. The course for the 2010 Olympic Men’s Downhill Skiing races, Dave Murray should be on all Whistler bucket lists. It’s easy to kid yourself that you’re actually an Olympian as you push off through the gate and carve wide sweeping turns down the perfectly groomed, flowing piste.
Whistler’s Lifts and Gondolas: Endless Fun, and Not Just For Skiers
Whistler Blackcomb have done a great job of making these mountains accessible to everyone. Whether you’ve never seen snow before, or are a hardened, grizzled alpinist, there’s something here to make you very happy. You just have to know where to go.