Five Tips for a Ski Trip to Whistler

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To conclude the write-up of our recent ski trip to Whistler, I want to share five tips for families who plan to visit Whistler for a ski trip in the future.  If you are interested in Whistler, then here is our report on the Westin Whistler (complete with video review) as well as info on flying into and staying near the airport in Vancouver.  Whistler Blackcomb is the biggest ski resort in North America, so there is more than enough terrain to ski, and more than enough things off the mountain to enjoy.  Here are a few tips based on our recent trip to this amazing destination.

Whistler and Blackcomb Have Great “Snow School” Programs:

I was pretty impressed with the Snow School (aka Ski School) programs that both Whistler and Blackcomb have to offer.  We went for a one-day private lesson as my daughter very much needed a good ski school experience after some less than perfect experiences, but if we had been in town a bit longer the Adventure Camps sounded perfect!   Kids have the same instructor and friends in the class all week.  The package includes hot lunch and snacks daily, lift line priority, and a smaller class ratio of 4 children to 1 instructor for the 3-4 year old age group.  For the days we were there in early March, the price was just $496.30, which is a very good price for five days of ski school (in case you haven’t priced such things recently).  Some dates are $759 or $709 for the five days, depending on the dates.  These camps start on Mondays and there is a three day version at Creekside.

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I also loved that they put GPS trackers on the kids…especially since my kid has successfully run walked away from ski school before.

You Don’t Need a Vehicle Once You Arrive:

Likely you will be flying Vancouver and still need to get the rest of the way up to Whistler.  You can rent a car, take a bus, or if you are really fancy helicopters are available.  We rented a car for our family, but there are buses available, and that will make sense for some since once you get to Whistler you are in a pedestrian village and very well may not use your car at all while you are there.  Do the math for renting the car, gas, and parking for while you are in Whistler and see which route makes the most sense.

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Since the village is pedestrian, it is great for families to walk around and explore without fear of getting plowed by a car!

Take Advantage of “Fresh Tracks” for Great Skiing and Fewer Lines:

Like many popular mountains, there can be a bit of a wait for the gondola in the mornings at Whistler, but if you are willing to wake up a little early (which shouldn’t be hard for many traveling to Whistler thanks to the time zone), then you can participate in “Fresh Tracks” and be one of the first 650 people on the mountain.

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Tickets cost $19.95 for adults, $13.95 for kids 7-12, and kids 6 and under are free.  The price includes a buffet breakfast at the Roundhouse Lodge.  Board the Whistler Village Gondola at 7:15am and head up to the Roundhouse Lodge for a delicious, mountain-sized breakfast buffet.  Do yourself a favor and don’t ski all the way down as you will get stuck in the potentially long gondola line again.  Stay up on the mountain to enjoy the snow and avoid the lines for as long as you can!

Enjoy Some Good Food:

We ventured out into the village for a few meals and really enjoyed some of them…but bring some money as lots of places are not cheap (which is why many of our lunches and breakfasts were made in our kitchen).  One of the places we went was was 21 Steps and while it is not overtly a family oriented place, we still had a great time with our daughter eating in their “attic”.  They do have a kid’s menu for the little ones, but we were excited to enjoy things like Wild BC Salmon, the “21 Salad” (shown below), and hand-crafted drinks.

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We also enjoyed ice cream from Cow’s…though I think the fresh made waffle cones were as addictive as the ice cream!

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There are also family friendly options like pizza for delivery or take-out from places like Avalanche Pizza that we enjoyed.  Again, just be ready for a little bit of sticker shock if you aren’t used to paying around $30 per pizza!

Make Your Trip Less Expensive By Staying on Hotel Points and Buying in Advance:

This is probably a no-brainer for those that read this site with any regularity, but it is worth repeating that a very simple way to shave a fair amount of cash off the total cost of the vacation is to use hotel points to stay in hotels.  Hotels near ski mountains during ski season can be very, very expensive, so avoid that cash expense by using hotel points.  We did this at the Westin Whistler which goes for 12k-16k SPG points per night (though it is often just 12k), but there are other point/free night options.  These include the Fairmont Chateau Whistler (get two free nights via co-branded credit card), Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa (often 70k – 80k night during ski season), and the Holiday Inn Whistler Village (20k points a night).

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We would return to the Westin Whistler on points!

I’d love to hear other tips from those who have also been to Whistler.  We look forward to hopefully returning for another ski trip in the future!

 

Comments

  1. Agreed on the Whistler Kids program. It’s one of the best in the world and you can enjoy your day while the kids have a blast learning to ski. Plus, they’ll be worn out by 4pm.

    One point on the Fresh Tracks. If your hotel isn’t right in the village, take note that the buses don’t run that early, so you’ll need to take a cab/shuttle or hike through the village with your gear (which I don’t recommend). Fortunately, if you’re at the Four Seasons or Fairmont on the Blackcomb side, they both have shuttles that can get you to Fresh Tracks without issue.

    Finally, there are a TON of great restaurants. 21 Steps, as you mention, is great. We went to Hy’s in January and The Grill Room last year. Can’t really go wrong with any concierge recommendations there.

    Whistler is my home away from home, and I really enjoyed your review. Makes me miss the place all over again. 🙂

  2. I went several years ago and did a vacation rental with friends, which worked out to be quite cost-effective. It was a bit of a trek back compared to perhaps staying at a hotel on the mountain, but I found that to be a good warm-down and actually alleviated muscle soreness. I believe we left our gear at the rental place overnight so we didn’t have to carry it – just walled in our ski boots & day packs.
    The other thing was that I signed up for the 4-day package of group ski lessons. Same instructor & group for 4 days. I then realized that most people just buy the 3 day package, so Day 4 was essentially a semi-private lesson with just one other classmate. She left early to be with her friends so I ended up enjoying an afternoon private lesson without having to pay for one!

  3. As you mentioned in your review on the Westin, there is a $30 a night parking fee so that is important to consider when deciding whether to rent a car for the drive up or to take the bus.

  4. I have very fond memories of taking the ski train from Vancouver to Whistler. hope that’s still an option. the scenery was just gorgeous.

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