For many of us, it’s almost ski season, but in Whistler, it’s ski season almost all year ‘round (November through April). And because Whistler can accommodate a range of budgets and skill levels hitting the slopes is easy breezy for you and your family.
Located in the stunning Coast Mountains of British Columbia just two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler features two majestic mountains – Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain – with incredible skiing and snowboarding, hiking trails, snowshoeing, ice skating, a vibrant community, four championship golf courses, restaurants, bars, and one of the best mountain bike parks in the world.
Over two million people visit Whistler every year and for families who love outdoor activities in a picturesque setting, Whistler is the ideal destination. Plus, Whistler vacation rentals provide the space and amenities needed to have a stress-free “home base.”
Vancouver-based Lisa Nelley and her family – comprised of husband, David, and two school-aged children, Calvin and Rose, visit Whistler four or five times a year.
“From the wide variety of kid ski lessons to the enormous playground and ice rink in the middle of the village to the community center bubbling with kid-friendly activities to the kid menus at every joint, Whistler is a snow-loving family utopia,” says Nelley.
Here are a few tips and suggestions to ensure that your vacation is, literally, mountains of fun.
The “pre-ski” plan
To make the most of the Whistler experience, you might want to sign up for a few lessons for yourself or your kids before or during your stay. The Whistler Blackcomb Snow School offers private or group lessons that provide students of all levels and ages with heightened skills and confidence.
Also, if you plan early, there are awesome deals that, during certain timeframes, allow kids to ski for free and receive discounted lessons.
For families living in the Seattle area, Mini Mountain School of Ski and Snowboarding offers indoor and on-snow ski and snowboard lessons. Depending on your needs, single or a package of lessons are available. Rental and tune-ups are available, too.
Whistler is very accessible from the Vancouver International Airport. It’s about a two-hour scenic drive and non-stop shuttles and bus services are available.
Parents will appreciate that Whistler is very easy to navigate and, in general, extremely family friendly. There are family skiing areas on both mountains and thanks to the amazing Peak 2 Peak gondola – the longest and highest-from-the-ground lift in the world – it’s very easy to travel back and forth.
Whistler, Blackcomb & Callaghan (oh my!)
Both of these mountains, connected by the gondola, offer family-friendly runs and activities. The Enchanted Forest, Family Zone, and Bear Cub run on Whistler Mountain are all great choices for your crew.
Magic Castle on Blackcomb Mountain and the Tree Fort on Whistler Mountain allow you and your family to enjoy the numerous on-mountain playgrounds.
And if you suddenly need some screen time, there are free Nintendo gaming lounges in the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler, the Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb and at the Wizard Grill at Blackcomb Base.
Callaghan Valley offers some of the best cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the world and it is where the Olympics were held. They also have wonderful dog-friendly snowshoe and cross-country trails.
Salom down then chow down
Because a trip to Whistler is a very active experience, consuming calories is not only an indulgence – it’s absolutely necessary to keep energy levels and spirits high.
Whistler has visitors from around the world, and the cuisine reflects this diversity. “Brave Ski Mom” recommends Sushi Village, Earl’s and Dusty’s. Babysitting services are also available, so if parents want to sneak away for a “grown-ups” dinner, she suggests a sleigh ride and fondue dinner at Nicklaus North golf club.
Many hotels have the convenience of room service which can often be a lifesaver with tired and hungry kids. Grocery and liquor store delivery is also available from many establishments.
Hidden history lessons
Learning new information about your vacation destination can be as much fun as actually experiencing the environment. Whistler has history – and an Olympic legacy – that is worth sharing with your kids.
A quick Wikipedia skim offers interesting tidbits, like the fact Whistler declined an offer to host the 1976 Olympics but accepted to be the Host Mountain Resort of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. And when traveling to mountainous areas talking to kids about glaciers and how dramatically they affected the terrain is always a fascinating topic.
Whistler rarely gets below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, which is one of the reasons why it is such a safe family ski spot. However, that’s still pretty darn chilly, so having the appropriate gear is absolutely necessary. A few extra pairs of dry socks and gloves or mittens can be a lifesaver. We love this great packing list for skiing families.
Most kids will complain about being cold from time to time and depending on your parenting style, resort to having treats in your pockets or, if bribing’s not your bag, have encouraging words on the tip of your tongue.
No matter where you are, remind kids that life is an adventure. Sometimes as grown-ups we need to remind ourselves of this as well.
This post is in partnership with LuxuryRetreats.com. We still maintain our own opinions.