An enormous pedestrian, retail Village surrounds Whistler/Blackcomb, making it more a Canadian Mall of America than a ski resort. Restaurants, bars, shopping (it has a Lululemon!) and even a library await you at Whistler. Try to remember to ski.
Despite the hoopla of its Village, there are good ski reasons to choose Whistler/Blackcomb in 2015, during it’s 50th Anniversary.
1. Exchange Rate
If you are American, Canada is bargain in 2015. A dollar spent in Canada shows up as 76¢ on your credit card bill when you get home. Just make sure to use a card that doesn’t charge fees for foreign transactions. Booking your winter trip by August 31 gives you lots of lodging choices and can save you a lot of cash.
Whistler/Blackcomb’s base elevation is a low, low, low 2,214 feet. With a summit elevation of 7493 ft, Whistler/Blackcomb’s slopes drop nearly a mile.
Compare this to Colorado ski resorts, whose base elevations can start above 7,500 feet. Aspen/Snowmass, for instance, has the same vertical drop as Whistler/Blackcomb, but even Aspen’s base elevation of 7,879 feet could cause altitude sickness. To avoid altitude sickness, sleep below 6,500 feet.
The longest run is a thigh-burning 7 miles.
The run mix is perfect for the vacation skier:
18 % Green (Beginner)
55 % Blue (Intermediate)
27% Black (Expert)
4. Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Whistler and Blackcomb are both huge mountains. To transfer between summits, take the spooky, breathtaking, two-and-a-half mile Peak 2 Peak Gondola. I say spooky, because some of the gondolas have glass bottoms and you will be suspended almost 1,500 feet in the air.
5. Apres Ski Life: Dubh Linn Gate, Garibaldi Ski Lift Co. Bar and Grill, El Furniture Warehouse
The raucous Dubh Linn Gate made me nervous at first. Not only is it boisterous, it lives on the lobby level of the Pan Pacific Mountainside, where we were staying. Despite the loud band and the revelers who can hold their liquor (as well as someone else’s), we heard no noise from our condo.
In fact, Dubh Linn Gate’s maze of tiny, European-sized rooms, are a welcoming place after a day of skiing. Finding a table in this popular spot is an adventure in itself. But the Fish and Chips or Steak and Guiness pie are worth the hunt.
The Dubh Linn Gate is not just aprés ski. Before skiing, we had great breakfasts here.
Garibaldi Ski Lift Co. Bar and Grill’s location at the base of the hill can’t be beat. We watched the construction of a ski jump ramp one afternoon from the patio. That evening we witnessed skiers of varying ability soar from the jump, sometimes wiping out, sometimes landing on their skis. It is one thing to see this on t.v., another to stand next to a jump the height of a two-story building and imagine flinging oneself off.
El Furniture Warehouse. Yes, this is a restaurant. They serve quarter wings on Tuesdays. By that I mean 25¢ wings! These go really well with their dessert donuts.
The Nutshell on Whistler
I’m ambivalent about the Village aspect of Whistler/Blackcomb. The Village is cute and its size is probably appropriate for the number of skiers looking for dinner. If you are out and about in the Village during the day, however, retailers can seem downright desperate, barking from their doorways like State Fair carnies. And some of the shops seem silly. (Does anyone need to buy custom make-up or hardware on a ski trip?)
But Whistler/Blackcomb’s huge variety of runs, lodging and aprés ski choices, all at low elevation, make it a downhill paradise for our family. We shop at home and ski at Whistler/Blackcomb.