I don't need to tell you that you should ski or snowboard in Whistler - the world already knows as much. But in those moments between sleep and snow, you might be wondering how best to spend your time in this snow-capped winterscape. For that, we've compiled 35 ski-free ways to entertain yourself, from indoors to outdoors, chilled out or adrenaline-packed.
Winter activities in Whistler for non-skiers (indoors)
Eat your way through Whistler Village
The dining in Whistler is world-class. Find the best hidden gems in the Village's non-franchise restaurants.
Most recently, my husband and I dined at Basalt Wine + Salumeria. This centrally located eatery boasts a cozy interior and a concise seasonal menu built around honest ingredients. Outside of performing a trust fall, I immediately and implicitly trust Olivia Halla - Basalt's approachable sommelier - to navigate us through our wine pairings. Olivia is as enthusiastic about curating our meal as we are to eat it - which I take as a sign of good things to come.
First, we explore a thoughtful selection of charcuterie and cheese, a staple Basalt favourite. For my main, the sweet-meets-sour flavours of honey and soy glazed pork belly garnished with house kimchi and wasabi aioli tease my palate. But it's a grilled caramelized pear, burrata, prosciutto, walnut and honey-glaze appetizer salad that steals the night.
After a day spent shredding some gnarly pow-pow (or snowmobiling, snowshoeing and day spa-ing for that matter), one should observe the slopeside practice of après.
You can't swing a ski in Whistler without hitting a tap room, social house or bar, so après specials abound. For a novel experience, check out Ketel One Ice Room.
Visit a craft brewery
Tip your glass at Whistler Brewing, Whistler Brew House or Coast Mountain Brewing to sample locally made craft beers. Names like Black Tusk Ale and Sea-to-Sky Fresh Hops playfully capture the personality of Whistler mountain life.
Sample the nightlife
When the sun goes down, Whistler nightlife heats up. There are plenty of watering holes but Garfinkel's, Tommy Africas, Maxx Fish, and Buffalo Bills are legendary institutions. Roll with the party crowd on an organized pub crawl with World Crawl Whistler or Bar Hop Whistler.
Mellow indoor activities
Spa - What's a mountain retreat without some R&R? Treatments options are plentiful as most hotels have their own spa in addition to standalone boutiques. From Javanese Lular scrubs to cocoa butter body wraps to matcha brightening facials, how you relax is up to you. Click for a current list of Whistler's spas.
Escape room - Put on your critical thinking cap and see if you can work your way out of a given scenario - before time runs out! Games last 45 minutes and cost $30 per person. Minimum 2 persons, max 6. Book here: escapewhistler.com
Catch a flick - Village 8 Cinemas is centrally located in Whistler Village and plays major blockbusters throughout the week.
Cultural-artsy things to do in Whistler
DIY art & culture trip - Drop by any Visitor's Centre to pick up the self-guided Cultural Connector brochure and map, which features the museums I've mentioned below. You can supplement your personal tour with any number of excellent local galleries. Here's a few to choose from: Crystal Lodge Art Gallery, Adele Campbell Fine Art Gallery, Black Tusk Gallery, James Stewart Sculpture, Mark Richards Gallery Mountain Galleries (Fairmont), Suzanne Johnston Art Gallery, The Gallery at Maury Young Arts Centre, Whistler Contemporary Gallery (Four Seasons & Hilton), and The Plaza Galleries.
Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre - This unique, longhouse-inspired Centre is dedicated to the history and culture of local First Nations. Admire and share in a range of exhibits, interactive workshops, ceremonies, dining events and tours. Don't miss the unique flavours served up at Thunderbird Cafe. (Where else can you try a bannock taco?) Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Audain Art Museum - Architecturally speaking, Audain Art Museum is as stunning as the treasures housed inside. Admire collections of Northwest Coast masks and Emily Carr paintings, the handsome portraits of B.C. life by West Coast artist E.J. Hughes, and a selection of photo art. Wrap up your visit with a rotating exhibition. Adult admission is $18; youth (16 and younger) and children are free.
Maury Young Arts Centre - This multi-use venue serves as Whistler's arts hub. Peruse the events calendar for workshops, documentaries, live entertainment, performance art and much more.
Whistler Museum - Discover the history of mountain life in Whistler, from the pioneers who championed the original vision, to hippies and ski bums, to Olympic legacy. A collection of photographs and artifacts - including an original gondola pod - are sure to delight. Admission is by donation. whistlermuseum.org
Indoor activities for visitors who crave some action
Forged Axe Throwing - We're feeling some strong Canadian vibes with this one. This offbeat activity has even spawned a local league of its own. You'll receive an orientation and then it's axes away. No experience is necessary but participants must be 10 years or older. $35 per player for a 60-minute session. forgedaxe.ca
Yoga - Nearby Vancouver is the epicentre of yoga athletic wear, so it's little surprise that you'll find plenty of opportunities to practice downward dog in Whistler. Besides, what better way to recover from a long day on the slopes?
Lululemon frequently organizes BYO-mat yoga sessions in venues across the village (check here). Local studios include Yogacara Whistler, Loca Yoga, White Gold Yoga, Neo Whistler (YYoga), and Bear Paw Yoga.
Shop - When it comes to shopping in Whistler, there's no shortage of retail therapy to indulge in. Shop the latest gear and equipment, and fashions from both local and international brands.
Winter activities in Whistler for non-skiers (outdoors)
No-sweat outdoor activities:
Scandinave Spa - Surrounded by a swath of wilderness, you can seriously unwind at this tranquil wellness retreat.
Enter via the lodge, don your swimsuit and a robe, then wander outdoors into a haven of silence. Follow a hydrotherapy circuit of hot (steam/sauna/hot tub), cold (plunge pool), relax (fireside seating/solarium). Repeat at least three times. Lounge a while; bring a magazine or book to stretch your visit. Admission is $70, so make the most of it.
Massages (Swedish, restorative, deep tissue, duo, prenatal, and RMT) are performed in the lodge. Reservations for the bathes are not required, but are certainly advised for massages. Snacks and beverages are served at the on-site cafe. Visit scandinave.com/whistler for more information.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola - This scenic gondola ride will whisk you above Whistler and Blackcomb mountains for a bird's eye view of the area's stunning winterscape. There's a lodge at the top to sip hot chocolate - a nice way to stretch this activity into an afternoon excursion. Cost: $55 per adult; $48 for youth; $28 for children. Learn more here: PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola
Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane
Dog Sledding - Did you hear that? It's the call of the wild. Make friends with some adorable four-legged friends while gliding through a winter wonderland. Outfitters include Blackcomb Dogsled and Canadian Wilderness Adventure. Excursions run 2.5-3 hours and cost about $219 per person.
Sleigh rides - Does it get any more festival than a sleigh ride? Bundle up for an hour-long ride to a cabin on Blackcomb Mountain. From this cozy vantage point, admire the twinkling lights of Whistler Village while sipping a warm beverage next to a crackling fire. $69 per adult; kids are $40; infants are free. 15 persons to a sled, max. Private sleigh rentals $350/$450 for 2/4 people. Book here: blackcombsleighrides.com/tours
Snowmobiling - Rev up the horsepower to gnaw through Whistler's snowy backyard. There are as many tour styles as there are operators: beginner, intermediate, experienced, backcountry, and moonlight rides, to name a few. Combine tours with fondue or breakfast at a backcountry warming hut, or keep it in the family with kid-friendly itineraries. Bookings can be made with Canadian Wilderness Adventure, The Adventure Group, Ride Whistler, Blackcomb Snowmobile and Whistler Snowmobile.
Tubing (season starts 12/9/17) - 1,000 feet of sliding fun await at Whistler Blackcomb Coca-Cola Tube Park. It's easygoing good times as a conveyor lifts you and your tube to the top of the hill. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. start on weekends and holidays. A lift pass/tube rental costs $22 per person. No sleds, toboggans or self-owned tubes are allowed. Concession and warming fires are on-site.
Winter bungee jumping - Summon some courage while standing on a platform overlooking the glacier-fed Cheakamus River. It's a 160-ft (50 m) plunge that's sure to keep you warm all day. Operated by the one and only Whistler Bungee.
Helicopter touring - Soar over the snowy majesty of the Coast Mountains. Depending on your tour, you'll fly over Cheakamus Glacier and Black Tusk, past dramatic mountain peaks, and touch down on a 12,000-year-old glacier. Book with Blackcomb Helicopters.
Ice fishing - A truly Canadian experience (though I'm not sure how many Canucks can call themselves regular wintertime anglers), ice fishing will bring you into an untouched winter wonderland. Venture beyond Whistler Village and out to a frozen lake. Admire the natural beauty while waiting for a bite. A three-hour, fully guided excursion with transportation included is offered by Trout Country Fishing Guides. Cost: $219 for one person; $139 p/p for two or more.
Bobsleigh (season starts 12/16/17) - Welcome to Whistler Sliding Centre, home of the world's fastest ice track. Channel the 2010 Olympics on the ride of your life as a trained bobsleigh pilot navigates you through 10 twists while reaching speeds of up to 125+ km/h. No prior experience is needed; participants are led through a safety orientation. Participants must be 14 years or older. $179 + tax per person, per ride. More details: whistlerslidingcentre.com/bobsleigh
Skeleton (season starts 12/16/17) - Fly face-first through six corners of the 1,450-metre track at Whistler Sliding Centre (the only place in Canada to try skeleton!). Your heart will race as you top 100km/hour. No prior experience is needed; participants 16 years and older are led through a safety orientation. Two solo skeletons cost $179.
Active outdoor activities that will keep you warm:
Snowshoeing - No skills, experience, expensive gear or pricey rentals required. As they say, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Snowshoe trails abound in Whistler. Grab a map and go independently or book a guided tour. Guided snowshoeing will last about 2.5-3 hours and cost $89+/- per adult (rental included). Snowshoe rentals at Ski Callaghan cost $18/day for adults; $15 for youth.
Ice skating - Lace up for a very Canadian winter pastime: ice skating. Each winter, a rink is set in Olympic Plaza. Admission is free and rentals are just $6. When the conditions are right, visitors can skate outdoors on nearby Alta Lake and Green Lake. Does it get any more whimsical?
Fat tire biking - Popularized in the last few years, fat biking allows bikers to pedal their way through a winter wonderland. Grab a rental at Whistler Olympic Park (you'll also need a trail pass, $15.50) and then set out along the designated fat tire trails. Bike rentals are $20/hour; $28 for electric-assist models.
Tobogganing - Bring your own sled, tube, saucer or crazy carpet to Whistler Olympic Park. Simply pay $15 per vehicle for sightseeing access. While you're here, be sure to explore this Olympic venue where more than a third of all medals were awarded.
Events-based things to do in Whistler
Whistler Blackcomb's Fire & Ice Show
Dates: Sundays, December 17 - March 25, 2018
Time: 6:30 p.m., except during March 11 - 25 when the show kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Location: Base of Whistler & Blackcomb gondolas (a.k.a. Skier's Plaza)
Winter literally heats up as some of Whistler's most talented skiers and riders turn up the thrill, stunt-flipping through a flame-lit ring of fire. Fire spinners, fireworks and a DJ dial up the fun. The Fire & Ice Show is free to attend and welcomes all ages.
When: Monday & Wednesdays, December 18 - March 28, 2018
Time: 3-6 p.m.
Location: Whistler Olympic Plaza Stroll
Après isn't just another word for Happy Hour, nor is it reserved exclusively for ski bums and bunnies. Starting in late December, Whistler Olympic Plaza Stroll will twinkle with lights and pulse with family friendly activities and live entertainment for the ultimate après.
Whistler Holiday Experience
When: December 22 - January 4, 2018
Time: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Location: Whistler Conference Centre
This family friendly indoor fun zone caters to active kids. Mini putt, table games, bouncy castles, craft stations and video games will keep the kiddos busy while parents hang out in the lounge area. Santa visits on 12/23 & 12/24 from 1 - 4 p.m.
Note: WHE is closed Christmas day and NYE, and won't open until noon on New Year's Day.
Made in Whistler Artisan Market
When: Saturdays, December 16 - March 31, 2018
Time: Noon – 6 p.m.
Location: The Westin Resort & Spa
Website: Click here
Find the perfect present at this pop-up market, which features artisans selling handmade goods. Shop jewellery, pottery, fine art, fashions, gourmet foodstuff and housewares. It's the perfect place to pick up a unique gift or locally made souvenir.
When you go:
Sleep: Crystal Lodge & Suites
Located smack-dab in the heart of Whistler Village, Crystal Lodge & Suites literally sits upon the doorstep of restaurants, shops, and Whistler and Blackcomb gondolas. Travellers might expect to might pay a premium for such a good location, but Crystal Lodge remains a firmly affordable mid-market offering. Mid-week winter rates start at $259; weekends start at $390.
How to get to Whistler:
Whistler is 121 km north of Vancouver and 134 km from YVR airport. The route follows BC 99, known as Sea-to-Sky Highway. Special care should be taken while driving this route. Drivers should account for weekend traffic.
Winter tires: From October 1 - March 31, BC 99 between West Vancouver and Whistler is a designated winter tire route. Appropriate tires will be marked with a three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol, or the M+S (mud and snow) symbol. Motorists may encounter winter tire inspections performed en-route by local police. Vehicles without winter tires may be turned away and/or face fines.
Coach bus services run daily between downtown Vancouver to Whistler:
Pacific Coach Lines ($100 round-trip; $55 one-way)
Epic Rides ($35 round-trip; $24 one-way)
Snowbus ($35 round-trip; $24 one-way)
Greyhound ($17-$37 one-way)
Perimeter Whistler ($110 round-trip; $55 one-way)
Whistler Shuttle from YVR ($69 one-way for adults; $32 for children)
Get around Whistler:
Taxis, private charters and more: click here.
What's your favourite thing to
do in Whistler, off skis?
Let us know - comment below!
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