The Olympics came, the world saw and Bode and Lindsey conquered. But none of February’s estimated 3.5 billion TV viewers could experience what all skiers ever wowed in person by this Canadian icon know so well: Skiing this giant is a game-changer. The sheer size and scope of this high-alpine kingdom are like nothing else with chairlifts in North America—a truth that holds equally for intermediates gliding the groomed as for experts who challenge the steeps. White expanses extend like a sea. Glaciers crawl off surrounding peaks. Rocky spires reach toward the sky. And the red cabins of the Peak 2 Peak glide through the heights, connecting the twin peaks seamlessly. “It would take weeks to ski it all.” What surprises most, however, is how intimate such a sprawling mountain experience can feel. Atop Whistler, skiers linger in the sun outside Harmony Hut over cocoa and banana bread. Inside Crystal Hut, a log cabin nestled just below Blackcomb’s treeline, diners cozy up to communal tables for lunch of fire-roasted salmon and regional wines. While it’s possible to find oneself navigating down an end-of-day ski freeway amid a dizzying number of caroming bodies, it’s equally possible to clamber over Spanky’s Ladder into the vastness of Ruby Bowl with only your own ski mates in sight. Skiing Whistler Blackcomb gives new meaning to the concept of yin and yang. Consider the notorious Pacific Northwest weather. Sometimes bright sunshine. Often billowing powder. Other times shrouding midmountain clouds. “It’s hit or miss.”
What is guaranteed, however, is vivid fun. The village—more ski city than ski town (with all that implies, including “too many chain stores” and high-priced parking)—is dynamic and diverse. Located at a comfortable altitude, its offerings cover the spectrum from hostel (in new Athletes’ Village digs) to rarefied luxury (notably the Four Seasons Private Residences), and from forested hot pools to thumping nightclubs. While the uncertain weather and newly biting sales tax can be discouraging—and a ski vacation this cosmopolitan is not for everyone—this is a winning destination for those in search of bold experiences. “When the weather cooperates, it’s the best of everything.” —Susan Reifer
/ What’s New / A hand-carved Salish spirit pole welcomes visitors; off-slope, try biathlon or bobsled action; final highway improvements shrink airport drive time.
/ Mandatory Run / Ski from Whistler’s Peak to the Creekside base to experience the most exciting sections of the Olympic race runs.
/ Local Tip / Weather on the valley floor is often deceiving; check online weather and mountain webcams.