By Dee Raffo
From the 5,000 strands of lights lining the Village Stroll trees to the 8,171 acres of powdery slopes, there’s no question about it: Whistler is a winter wonderland in every sense. An ice-skating rink under the stars, hand-warming mugs of hot chocolate served fireside, and orange-pink “alpenglow” skies add to the seasonal magic of the town, whether you’re here to hit the slopes or simply soak in a picture-perfect winter getaway.
No matter what brings you to Whistler, there’s something for everyone in this charming Canadian hamlet. Here’s how to make the most of a winter getaway to one of North America’s most beloved mountain towns, with the iconic Fairmont Chateau Whistler offering an idyllic home base for any adventure.
Epic Skiing and Snowboarding
With 200-plus trails to choose from, the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb are a skier’s or snowboarder’s paradise. And as the largest ski area in North America, its vastness also guarantees a certain peace — it’s not uncommon to find yourself blissfully alone for a moment, looking out across the valley and the seemingly endless mountain ranges of the West Coast.
One way to quickly get the “lay of the slopes” is to utilize the Fairmont’s Whistler Experience Guides, who offer insider tours of their favourite on-mountain spots. Can’t-miss stops include the inukshuk (a man-made stone landmark that’s used by the Inuit as a marker) at the top of the Peak Chair, the panoramic vistas at the top of Symphony Bowl, and the 360-degree views on the 2.7-mile PEAK 2 PEAK gondola (connecting the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb, it’s the world’s longest and highest lift).
After a day of working hard on the hill, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is just steps away from the base of Blackcomb Mountain, and their valet service means there’s no need to lug your gear back and forth — all you need to do is decide where you want to après.
Creating Après Ski Traditions
Post-slope celebrations are a classic part of Whistler’s vibe and culture, which means “après” is an essential part of the day. After all, sharing the day’s victories (or faceplants) is always better with a craft cocktail or local beer in hand.
The Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont is a favourite for visitors and locals alike. Whether you find yourself wrapped in a soft blanket aside an outdoor fire pit or cozied up on a sofa inside, you’ll feel part of the après action as live music sets the mood. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, pair your libation with a signature treat from the “Chocolate Bar” (the Honeybear Blonde Chocolate is even made with honey from the Fairmont’s rooftop hive).
For something more substantial, head to the postcard-perfect Chalet to discover a hidden gem dining option complete with twinkling lights and roaring fireplaces on the edge of the Chateau Whistler Golf Course. They’re famous for having the most decadent fondue in Whistler, along with artisan charcuterie platters (be sure to flag down the Schnapps Wagon as it passes by, too).
Beyond the property, experience the beer that makes Whistler buzz at the legendary Whistler Brewing Company, a leader in the BC craft beer movement. Here, you’ll taste award-winning ales and lagers and witness authentically crafted beers in the making.
If you’re looking for a more soothing après activity, a few laps in the Fairmont’s 60-foot outdoor heated pool will help release any tension built up on the slopes, or go for a soak in the hotel’s four whirlpools (one indoors and three outdoors). Smell cedar in the air? It’s likely coming from the barrel saunas, nicknamed “the twins,” located right on the pool deck.
On- and Off-Mountain Activity Ideas
If you’re looking for another snow sport with a sense of adventure, consider a snowmobile tour with Canadian Wilderness Adventures on the mountain after the last riders have descended, whiz down the lanes of the tube park, or soar over the valley on an evening ziplining adventure.
Ice skating and tobogganing under the stars also set a snow globe-worthy scene. Located by the rink in Whistler’s Olympic Plaza, where the medals were awarded during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, you can rent a pair of skates or borrow a sled and find that winter magic.
Whistler Experience Guides can also lead you on a winter hike to the 70-meter falls at Brandywine Falls Provincial Park. It’s a short walk along a flat path, so it’s doable for the whole family. You can also join an Experience Guide for an easygoing hike around Lost Lake, which offers breathtaking vistas and connects with the Valley Trail.
Off the Beaten Path
Whistler also has a vibrant arts scene. The architecturally stunning Audain Art Museum opened in 2016 and has continued to showcase the art of British Columbia since then. The permanent gallery includes an incredible collection of late 18th– and 19th-century indigenous masks, as well as works by some of Canada’s most celebrated artists including Emily Carr and E.J. Hughes.
For another enchanting artistic experience, don’t miss Vallea Lumina, a multimedia show set in the forest where a story is told using images, light, and sound projected onto the trees. It takes about an hour to stroll the one-kilometer path at the base of Cougar Mountain, and the tale unravels as you go.
Of course, magical memories can be made just by strolling around Whistler Village, wandering among local galleries and boutiques with a warm beverage in hand. And there’s no need to rush — though Whistler offers plenty of ways to enjoy the season, the trick isn’t to choose between them, but simply to visit again.
Featured Photo: Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane