By Magee Walker
Longer days, bluebird skies, thinning crowds… there’s a lot to be said for spring in Whistler. While winter and summer tend to get all the glory, true locals know that spring is one of the best times to enjoy everything the town has to offer.
Take it from the team members at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler: when they’re not busy at the hotel, they’re out enjoying what just might be their very favourite season. Here, six staffers share their top pics of where to go in Whistler in the spring.
Whistler Spring Skiing
While many ski resorts in the Northern Hemisphere are closing up shop, skiing and snowboarding on Whistler Blackcomb continues well into late spring. And though Whistler’s been known to get the occasional surprise spring snowstorm, this time of year is all about sunshine, extra-long days on the mountain, and fast groomers. What’s not to love?
“There’s something to be said about riding down your favourite runs in a flannel and sunglasses,” says Emma Goddard. “Even though the snow has melted in the Village, there is still lots to play with on the mountain.”
Padraic O’Rourke, the Chateau’s resident golf pro, agrees. “Spring skiing is about the groomers, spending time with some friends, getting a nice lunch, and enjoying the sunshine and the views.”
Another perk? The lack of crowds. “With the longer days, Whistler Blackcomb stays open quite late, but the ski crowds are largely gone by mid-afternoon,” says Ian Bartley, Fairmont Gold supervisor. “Fast ski laps in the warm sunshine for a few hours after work are hard to beat, especially when you can ski right back onto the lift [without lines] every lap.”
Hiking in the Valley
When the snow and ice begin to disappear from the trails down in the valley, it can only mean one thing: the return of hiking in Whistler.
“My favourite activity in the spring is to visit Lost Lake Park as they re-open their trails after being closed for cross-country skiing through the winter,” says Julie Perrin, conference services manager. “I have two dogs who love to hike with me through all the great trails within the park. Being so close to the hotel, it’s a great place to unwind after a busy day in the office and on the conference floor.”
Though you typically won’t need your snow boots to hike the valley this time of year, it’s a good idea to pack some waterproof footwear. “When spring comes, you get less slippery hiking trails and more mud,” says Whistler Experience coordinator Dani Berezowsky. “It’s fun to get out and get a little dirt on your hands.”
Return of the Farmers’ Market
“The farmers’ market opens for the season mid-May and is my favourite Sunday morning ritual,” shares Goddard. Whistler’s Farmers’ Market, which also runs Wednesdays through mid-October, begins just outside the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and winds all the way through the Upper Village. The market features everything from sweet treats to local produce to unique mementos handmade by Whistler-area artisans. Perrin recommends trying the sweet-and-salty kettle corn and the snow cones as you stroll.
When it comes to unique Whistler traditions, nothing compares to Gaper Day. “Gaper Day is the last day of the ski and snowboard season,” explains Berezowsky. “Most people in Whistler are sad to see the mountains close, but they make sure the last day is unforgettable.”
“Everyone gets dressed up in ‘70s and ‘80s ski gear and heads up the mountain for a day of spring skiing. It almost seems like Whistler went back in time,” says Joel Kaastra, the general manager of Portobello. While Gaper Day is about enjoying one final day on skis or a snowboard, it’s also incredibly entertaining. “The odd time, people find a small pond that many attempt to ski across — usually falling in,” he says. “It is quite the scene.”
While Gaper Day falls on a different day every year, it typically occurs after the Victoria Day long weekend (which falls the Monday before May 25th), conditions permitting.
“I live here for the biking,” says Bartley. “As things warm up, more and more awesome trails dry out right here in your backyard.”
Bartley isn’t alone — at the first signs of spring, many locals are eager to swap out their skis for mountain bikes, either for riding the local cross-country trails or for heading up to the bike park on Whistler Mountain, which typically opens mid-May. From first-timers to seasoned riders, anyone can register for lessons in downhill mountain biking through Whistler Blackcomb, while those curious in exploring cross-country biking can check out the local trails through the Fairmont’s Whistler Experience program.
And if you can’t decide whether you prefer to ski or bike — why not do both? “There is a really special period where you can get up early and go skiing or boarding for some fast laps on the mountain, then you can jump on your bike, head on over to the lake, or even play a round of golf in the afternoon,” says Kaastra. “Where else in the world can you do that?”
Featured Photo: Tourism Whistler / Vince Emond
Book your spring holiday today and save 25% off 7+ night stays with the Stay Longer, & Save offer.