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Your Whistler Planning Checklist

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You’ve made the excellent decision to travel to Whistler for your vacation this year. The dates are set, your flights are booked, now what? The time has come to start planning, but you might be wondering what to pack, what to leave at home, what activities to book weeks in advance and when to simply wing it. We’ve taken the speculation out of these questions and devised a handy insider’s guide to help set you up for one hell of a holiday.

Whistler Essentials for the Winter

A man looking over a cliff on skiis in a winter landscape

Hat? Check! Skis? Check!

Whistler in winter sees moderate temperatures rarely falling below -10°C (12°F) in the valley and -15°C (5°F) in the alpine. Compare that balmy winter time weather to other Canadian ski resorts such as Banff where the temperature can dip below -30°C (-22°F).

With that in mind, be aware that when you come to Whistler you’re entering a large mountain environment where the weather in the alpine can be drastically different from the village. Temperatures up top are generally 7 to 10°C cooler than base level, so bear this in mind when you’re packing and bring extra layers for skiing or snowboarding.

If you’re planning to travel to Canada this winter to experience our world-class ski resort you’ll want to make sure that you’re equipped with just the right gear. We’ve devised a list of winter essentials so that you stay toasty in those sub-zero temperatures.

  • Helmet

Protect your brain and if you’ve had a big crash in it before, purchase a new one for this trip. Better safe than sorry.

  • Ski Goggles

A good pair of goggles for those low vis days. Our top picks are the Smith I/O series or a pair from the Oakley Prizm range. There’s nothing worse than fogged up lenses getting in the way of your shred.

  • Baselayers

Invest in merino wool base layers. Yes, they might be a tad on the expensive side, but believe us they’re worth it. This fabric can absorb up to 30% of its own weight before it starts to feel wet, so even when you’ve gone from a sweaty mogul run to a cold chairlift, they will keep you toasty. 

A woman in rain jacket holding a cup of hot chocolate

In winter come prepared for rain at the base of the mountain.

  • Gore-Tex 

Being in the Pacific temperate rainforest means that Whistler experiences a lot of precipitation. Heavy storms from the Pacific bring moisture hurtling towards this area so good quality waterproof base-, mid- and outer-layers are vital. To ensure that your outerwear jackets and pants are functional for our coastal mountain climate we’d recommend buying GORE-TEX gear. Although it comes with a heavy price tag, you’ll be thankful for it when you’re warm and dry on the mountain on a heavy snow day.

  • Skip the Fleece 

Don’t dig out your huge fleece in the hope this will keep you warm on the mountain. Not only is this a bulky addition to your suitcase, but it is also not as effective as wearing a number of lighter layers. You can keep a layer in your backpack for when it gets chilly, and adjust as the temperature changes. Whistler winter weather, especially up top, can be fickle and fluctuating and layers are the most effective way to deal with this!

  • Ski Accessories

Also vital are a face warmer, gloves (we love GORE-TEX mittens to keep all fingers nice and warm), high SPF sun cream, and a few pairs of ski socks (our favourites are Icebreaker socks). Hand and toe warmers can keep your extremities from getting too cold on those particularly frigid days up the mountain. No need to bring these with you from home – buy them here.

  • Ski or Snowboard Boots

One of the biggest decisions in terms of packing for a ski holiday is whether to bring along your boots and skis/snowboard. Let’s being with the boots dilemma. Properly-fitted boots can make or break your day on the mountain. There’s nothing worse than aching feet preventing you from enjoying that glorious fresh pow. If you’ve got your own ski or snowboard boots, pack them.   

  • Skip the Skis and Snowboards

But we’ve got different advice for your skis or snowboard – Rent them! Baggage fees and plane changes just add hassle to the matter, so wait until you’re in resort and choose from a huge selection of gear. Whistler Blackcomb has sophisticated rental shops and you can even have your equipment delivered directly to your hotel or condo door. They stock the latest inventory, so whether you’re a skiing novice or an avid snow bunny you’ll have a massive choice of freshly-tuned equipment choose from.

  • Street-Wear

When it comes to your time in Whistler off of the slopes, you don’t need to pack a ton of outfits. Whistler’s dress code is casual, comfortable and practical – you definitely won’t be needing your stilettos. Even the high-end restaurants don’t specify a dress code so throw in a couple of flannel shirts and you’ll fit right in. A few extra notes: Be sure to pack a swimsuit for the spas and waterproof footwear for the Village.

  • Forget Something?

Whistler is a shopping mecca, so along with gifts and goodies, you’ll be able to pick up anything you’ve forgotten from one of the many shops in town.

Whistler Essentials for for the Summer 

Alta Lake Whistler

The Lakes are calling in Summer – pack a bathing suit.

Your trip to Canada in the summer will be all about the outdoors. There’s an outrageous number of activities to keep you and the family occupied. When imagining Whistler in summer think long days, golden sunshine, lush green forests and pristine lakes. Summer here spans from May until early September, with the highest temperatures gracing us in July and August. Bring sunscreen and bug spray (or buy them here).

While temperatures range between the 17°C (62 F) to 27°C (80F) we cannot totally rely on a hot, rain-free summer in this part of the world. Along with your swimwear, hiking shorts, and t-shirts, pack some base-layers and a rain jacket, especially for the evenings.

Unlike travelling to Whistler in the wintertime, during the summer you can pack light. Be sure to bring some comfy, sturdy shoes, that are versatile for biking, hiking and exploring this spectacular area.

Whistler Essentials for the Spring or Fall 

A father and sun sit on a river bank outside of Whistler

Spring and fall bring showers, pack accordingly.

If you’ve planned to travel to Whistler in the spring (March to May) or fall (September to October) be prepared for showers! Mother Nature is remarkably indecisive during these months. It’s not unusual to experience glorious sunshine followed by a rainstorm in the space of a couple of hours.

A waterproof jacket, one that you can easily stuff into a backpack when the sun breaks back through the clouds, is a must. Also a good pair of hiking shoes or runners. Be prepared for rain, but don’t forget your sunnies! March and April are the months for patio beers after a long day of slushy skiing under blue skies.

Should you Book in Advance During the Winter Season or Wing it? 

  • Book Your Bed (In Advance)

We’re consistently voted among the world’s best vacation resorts, so don’t turn up without accommodation and expect there to be lots of availability. Whether it’s a hotel, condo, or Airbnb, secure your accommodation early, especially if you plan to visit Whistler during the busy winter or summer months, on weekends, or Holidays.

Why not check out our ultimate guide on where to stay?

  • Equipment Rentals (The Night Before)

As we mentioned above, we recommend renting  your skis or snowboard rather than bringing them with you. Another top tip is to pick up your equipment the night before you want to head up the mountain (after 4 pm, the day before your first rental day). There’s nothing worse than waiting in line on the morning of a fresh powder day! 

Family on a ski lift

Booking in advance can mean big savings on lift tickets.

  • Reserve Your Lift Tickets (In Advance)

Without a doubt, you should buy your lift tickets online prior to arriving in resort. Not only is this the most economical option, but it also avoids the inconvenience of queuing at a ticket window (sometimes these lines can be long). To guarantee the biggest savings, make sure you book your lift tickets a week or more before you arrive in Whistler. And with an EpicDay Pass, you can add more days online!

  • Book A Lesson (In Advance)

If you want to improve your technique, work on your carving turns, or just ski with an expert who knows these mountains inside out, sign up for lessons with Whistler Blackcomb Snow School.

Whistler Kids Snow School and Private Lessons sell out fast, especially during the Holidays and weekends, so definitely book in advance to avoid disappointment.

By booking online, you’ll be guaranteed the lowest prices, and there are no fees for cancelling outside of 48 hours if you change your plans. If you’re looking to enrol your little’ns into Whistler Blackcomb’s Daycare Program make sure that you also organize this pre-trip.

  • Diner and Dining (In Advance)

Many visitors descend on the Village each year, meaning that although Whistler is jam-packed with award-winning restaurants it’s not always easy to get a table. If you’ve got your heart set on a particular restaurant for a special occasion, definitely make a reservation in advance.

There are some establishments which are notorious for having a line outside, Earl’s being one of them. But if you’re happy to wait, just put your name on the list, grab a beer while you wait at a nearby location.

Should you Book in Advance During Summer or Wing it? 

In the summer, there’s an abundance of activities to choose from, meaning that there’s less need to book everything up in advance.

For example, don’t worry about booking The Adventure Group’s epic Superfly Ziplines prior to arriving here – in the peak of summer. These tours run every 30 minutes from 8 am to 7 pm.

Certainly, do a bit of research pre-trip (check out our top 10 guide to Whistler summer activities), but also make sure that you have a stroll around town in the sunshine to see what tickles your fancy.

Visiting in Shoulder Season (Wing It!)

During the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, the pace of Whistler Village drastically slows down. As well as fewer tourists, these months (May, June, October and November) are also great for the killer dining deals that many restaurants put on. Even the classy establishments, like Il Caminetto and Rim Rock Cafe, offer spectacular menus at a fraction of the price that you’d usually have to fork out.

Planning a Trip to Whistler with Kids 

moment factory Vallea Lumina

A magical adventure deep into the woods of Whistler

Vallea Lumina, new to Whistler in 2018, is one of our town’s most popular summer activities. Escape reality on this 1.5 km night walk and be enthralled by this spectacular, multimedia experience. You’ll walk through a trail network and be led on an enchanted journey through the old growth forests of Cougar Mountain. This is one of our top family-fun adventure picks, but do we aware that due to uneven ground, strollers are not permitted. Bring your baby carrier instead!

Whistler in winter, with its glistening snowfall and twinkling fairy lights, is a magical place. Add a horse-drawn sleigh ride to the mix and you’ve got yourself a truly unforgettable experience. Blackcomb Sleighrides operate from the end of November until the end of March (depending on snow conditions) and can be enjoyed by anyone, any age (tots under two go free). Ride up to a cosy cabin and enjoy a hot chocolate by the fire.   

If you’ve got energetic kids in tow, check out the Family Adventure Zone at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. This hub of activity in the Upper Village is open from mid-June to the beginning of September and features bungee trampolines, mini-golf, a Nintendo gaming zone, and more. Let the kids burn off some steam, while you relax in the sunshine.

And of course, don’t leave Whistler without coming to check us out at Forged! We’re Whistler’s only indoor axe throwing venue, where you can drop in for an hour and try your hand at this spectacularly fun sport. Kids can join as long as they’re over 10 years old, so you can get competitive with the whole family. Don your plaid shirt, grab an axe and come play!

Start Counting Down The Days!

Whether you’re visiting Canada this summer, winter, fall or spring follow our tips above to ensure you have the perfect getaway. Pack the essentials, leave the rest at home, and get ready for an adventure-filled vacation!

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