Whistler was already well known prior to its debut as a co-host for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, but that event really brought the world’s focus onto this relatively small village, two hours north of Vancouver. If you’ve never been, you might wonder, what’s the draw? The number one mountain resort in North America seems to have it all: natural beauty, mountains, fantastic ski terrain, fine dining, shopping, spas, and 5-star hotels. Whistler consistently ranks among the world’s best ski resorts and has developed into a four season destination for skiing, golfing, biking and other outdoor activities.
The Curious Travel Mama and kids ready to ski and ride
Somehow, Whistler manages to retain its quirky charm as a small village, even during its busiest season—winter. The heart of Whistler is its pedestrian-only Village, where you’ll find hotels, shopping and restaurants all in close proximity to the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The Village is a great place to people watch while enjoying après-ski at the Garibaldi Lift Company, or tasting Beavertails at Zog’s Dogs.
In addition to many ski and sporting good stores, there are boutiques and shops like Lululemon, the Body Shop and the Gap, that will appeal to those who enjoy shopping as sport.
Whistler is a truly family-friendly getaway that your kids may not wish to leave. There are many hotels and condos with pools, hot tubs, full kitchens, and laundry amenities, as well as local babysitting and family services that rent baby gear, such as toys, high chairs and cribs, that can be installed before you arrive.
Walking around Whistler Village, my tween remarked about the sense of busyness, of feeling ‘the vibe.’ There are visitors from all over the world in Whistler; young and old, families, the well-off rubbing shoulders with ski bums, and it makes for a fascinating mix of its own mini United Nations of sorts. You’ll hear ten different languages just walking from one part of the Village to the other, one of the key differences from many other ski resorts we’ve visited. Whistler is down to earth, yet very cosmopolitan at the same time.
Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics
Skiing and Snowboarding for Kids
The Whistler Kids Ski School offers every level of ski and snowboard instruction for children 3 years and up. The Whistler Kids Training Centre on Whistler Mountain features a large skills zone and beginner learning area, as well as catering facilities serving lunch for all-day lessons. The Ski School uses the Flaik GPS system to ensure kids’ safety by making their location known at all times.
Flaik GPS system tracks children’s whereabouts on the mountain for safety and parents’ peace of mind
For the 2012-2013 season, Whistler introduced a new “Family Certified” program. The Family Certified icon is displayed on ski runs, in stores, on Whistler Blackcomb’s website, and in Whistler Blackcomb food and beverage locations to indicate kid-friendly areas, products and services. New signage has also been added to on-mountain ski/snowboard areas to better mark children and beginner-friendly terrain. A helpful touch.
Excited to slide down the Coca-Cola Tube Park hills
Beyond the Ski Slopes
The Magic Castle on Blackcomb, and the Tree Fort and Enchanted Forest on Whistler, offer a break from skiing or riding, and children the chance to explore the on-mountain playgrounds.
In addition to skiing, snowboarding, and ice-skating, the Coca Cola Tube Park on Blackcomb offers more snow play adventure with 1,000 feet of sliding fun on six lanes with varying degrees of speed and height. (Note: Don’t do what I did and start with the steepest run!)
Coca-Cola Tube Park
It’s true that skiing makes you hungry. Luckily, Whistler has restaurants and cafes to cater to every taste and budget. From pizzas to fine French dining, you can find something tasty within close distance of any hotel. Some of our family favorites include the 21 Steps Kitchen & Bar, Caramba Restaurante, Pasta Lupino, Crepe Montagne, and Sushi Village. These are all local, family-friendly restaurants with kids menus and helpful staff. If you’re looking to hire a local sitter and enjoy a couple’s night out, dinner at Araxi’s or the Bearfoot Bistro would be unforgettable.
Beautiful view of the Garibaldi Mountains
Whistler Blackcomb Mountains
The mountain operations of Whistler and Blackcomb merged in 1998 to form the biggest ski resort in North America, and one of the largest in the world. With an epic average annual snowfall of 39 feet and mild coastal temperatures, the two mountains have great appeal to skiing enthusiasts.
Whistler Blackcomb has over 200 marked runs, seven terrain parks, 8,171 acres of ski-able terrain and 26 ski lifts, plus the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola (opened in 2008 and spanning 1.88 miles, it connects both mountain summits via an 11-minute ride). You can ski Whistler Blackcomb for a week and still not have skied every run.
Have you been to Whistler with your family, or are you planning a ski holiday? Share your comments or questions below!
A note from The Curious Travel Mama: Thanks to Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb for hosting our stay. As always, all opinions and views are honest and my own.
All photos by Claudia Laroye.