A place where your winter postcards become real: Whistler in the winter. Vancouver gives easy access to plenty of spectacular mountains, but Whistler takes it to another level. Being only two hours drive from the city, it’s a wild kingdom of high mountains, home to an incredible number of hiking and mountain biking trails and one of the best ski resorts in North America. Whistler is also a lovely mountain village, with five lakes, pleasant outdoor terraces and fairy tale light decorations for the holiday season.
Living in Vancouver, we loved visiting Whistler in every season. It could be a day trip, but also a weekend or long weekend getaway. Winter is long here, and there’s plenty of fun things to do in Whistler in winter, even for non-skiers. If you’re wondering what to do in Whistler in winter (other than skiing), this post is for you. I’ve collected the best snow activities in Whistler for every age and activity level.
Looking for more winter fun near Vancouver? Check out these articles:
The most popular Whistler winter activities
Enjoy skiing or snowboarding in the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort
Obviously, there’s no list of “best things to do in Whistler in winter” which doesn’t mention skiing and snowboarding. Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America and offers one of the longest and most reliable winter seasons. There are 200+ skiing trails on 8171 acres, and skiing season lasts until mid-May.
No surprise that skiing and snowboarding are the most popular winter activities in Whistler.
Go snowshoeing to Lost Lake or Ski Callaghan
Skiing or snowboarding might not be for everyone, but snowshoeing is. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe”, they say, and it’s really a fun winter activity that needs no special skills. You can choose your pace, and you can enjoy just as magical winter landscapes as on the ski slopes.
Whistler offers plenty of snowshoeing trails, some are maintained while others are not. If you’re a beginner and would like to explore on your own, the snowshoe trails of Lost Lake Park and Ski Callaghan are ideal for you. Their snowshoe trail network is clearly signed and well-maintained, with detailed maps, but you need to pay an entrance fee to use them. You can rent snowshoes at any of the day lodges.
Take a guided snowshoeing tour
There are longer, more challenging snowshoe trails that spoil you with breathtaking scenery. If you’re confident, you can go on your own, but winter hiking has more risks than summer hiking. These trails are not maintained, so you need to be able to assess conditions and safety risks. Guided tours are also available, so that a professional guide takes care of all the safety questions, and you only need to enjoy the wonderful powdery landscapes.
Whistler in winter for non-skiers
Are you not a ski fan? No worries, Whistler offers plenty of winter activities which are not skiing, still you can enjoy the same wonderful winter wonderland as skiers.
Take the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola for magical snowy mountain views
The PEAK 2 PEAK gondola is just as great to experience in winter as in summer, if not more. Giving access to both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of Whistler Village, endless mountain peaks, glaciers and snowy pine forests. Lakes are under snow and ice in winter, and you can’t hike from the top of the gondola either, but the white wonderland easily makes up for it.
Allow at least a few hours to truly enjoy this experience. First, you need to ride the Whistler Gondola up to the PEAK 2 PEAK (~30 minutes), then comes a 11 minute ride, followed by another ride down to Whistler Village. However, you’ll spend time taking in the views (and taking pictures), maybe dining, too.
Buy your ticket in the Whistler Visitor Center.
Have fun sledding
Remember those fun sledding days from your childhood? Recreate the memory in Whistler. While you should keep away from the ski slopes, you can take your sled to any hill in the village and enjoy the free and fun rides. The gentle hill at Whistler Olympic Plaza and Rebagliati Park are popular sledding places, but we liked the path to Alexander Falls just outside of Whistler, as well. It’s a very gentle path which was ideal for the first sledding with our two-year-old, and the waterfall is a nice addition.
Visit bubly Tube Park for snow tubing
Fancy something more extravagant than sledding? You’ll love snow tubing on the curving lanes of bubly Tube Park at Whistler Blackcomb. You need to buy a ticket to enter the park, but it includes the tube, as well, and the conveyor belt will take you back to the top at the end of the ride.
There are height requirements for children. They should be at least 91 cm (36 inch) and 3 years old, and they can only use the mini kid’s lane until they reach 104 cm (42 inch). Older kids can use all the seven lanes, including the adrenaline-pumping fast lanes.
Parking is free and convenient in parking lot 8, and our best advice is to avoid weekends. Weekend lineups can be so long that they’re simply not worth it.
Go on a snowmobiling tour
Snowmobiling is fun and easy! If you have a driving license, you can drive a snowmobile, too. Tours are offered to all levels of experience, and you’ll get a short training on how to drive a snowmobile in the beginning, then you’ll follow your guide across rugged Callaghan Valley, among frozen lakes and powdery vistas.
Sign up for the tour here. You should dress as if you were going skiing, including warm layers.
Try winter ziplining over the Fitzsimmons Valley
For those looking for an adrenaline rush, there’s a zipline to try all year in the Fitzsimmons Valley, between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. In winter you’ll be spoiled with swirling snowflakes and wonderful white landscapes around you. The Ziptrek Eagle Tour has five different ziplines, including a 2400 feet long one, and they do make you feel like an eagle soaring through the sky.
Again, I recommend wearing the same clothes you’d wear skiing or snowboarding.
(Note: this is not The Sasquatch, the longest zipline in North America. It doesn’t operate in winter, but there are other fun zipline rides to try.)
Get amazed by twinkly lights while ice skating
I have to admit I’m not really an adrenaline junkie, but I appreciate traditional winter fun which definitely includes ice skating outdoors.
Part of the Whistler Olympic Plaza in Whistler Village transforms into an outdoor ice rink each winter, lit up with twinkly lights once it gets dark. Skating there after a stroll through the heart of Whistler Village, with all the fabulous festive lights all winter long, is a nice way to wrap up the day. Winter hours of the skating rink are: 11 am – 1:30 pm, 2:30-5 pm and 6-8:30 pm. Entrance costs 2 CAD (if you bring your own skates), and you can also rent skates.
Wander the Valley Trail
This 46 km long car-free, paved trail takes you to the lakes, viewpoints and parks in Whistler, allowing easy access for anyone. Many of the sections are plowed for easy winter walking, but you can still experience the icy lakes and surrounding snowy views. Walking on the Valley Trail is among the easiest outdoor things to do in Whistler in any season, great for families and people with mobility problems, as well.
We particularly like the section between Meadow Park and Green Lake. If you’re up to a longer walk, you can continue from Green Lake to Lost Lake.
Take a walk at Green Lake
While you can’t walk all around Green Lake, the Valley Trail runs on its southern shore for 1.3 km. It leaves the lake after the seaplane port, heading towards Lost Lake, but you can continue walking to the sandy spit where Fitzsimmons Creek flows into Green Lake.
You might call it a “beach”, but it’s a bit misleading even in the summer, because the lake is fed by a glacier and remains very cold all year. In winter it’s completely frozen over and covered by snow. Yet this lakeshore walk is an ever favorite of ours, no matter the season. The snowy mountain peak views are wonderful, and even more so when lit by the early winter sunset.
You can park in the small parking lot at Golden Bear Place to access the lakeshore walking route. It’s suitable for about 10-15 cars, but we were usually able to find an available spot.
Experience a dogsledding tour
One of the most unique things to do in Whistler in winter is a dog-sledding tour. It’s an activity that’s over 4000 years old and was once a necessity in Northern Canada. Today it’s a memorable winter experience for visitors, available between mid-December and mid-April.
Let the Siberian or Alaskan huskies pull you through incredible mountain landscapes, or join your professional musher, learn the commands to mush the dogs and the tricks of handling a sled. It’s one of the most special Whistler attractions in winter for both couples and families.
Sled dogs are treated well, they’re trained from an early age and enjoy running.
Climb a frozen waterfall
Can you imagine yourself climbing a frozen waterfall? Make it happen. This full-day ice-climbing tour with a professional guide enables anyone to get a taste of ice-climbing or improve their skills. With crampons and ice axes, you’ll tackle challenges suitable for your experience level. To access some of the sites you need to ski or snowboard, while others don’t require skiing at all.
Ice-climbing is not easy, and it’s not something that you can safely try on your own. But my experience is that with a professional guide it can be a fun and fulfilling experience even as a timid first-timer.
Hike the Whistler Train Wreck Trail
The Whistler Train Wreck Trail is one of the easiest hikes near Whistler, ideal for families (and photographers!). The 2 km return trail is extendable if you’d hike more, and you can do it all year. However, my favorite time is winter.
The railway boxcars painted with vibrant colors and hidden under snowy pine trees is a magical sight. The Cheakamus River is rushing, and it’s fun to search for small waterfalls. You’ll cross the river on a suspension bridge while enjoying nice views. Can you ask for more in only 2 km?
Explore the Parkhurst Ghost Town
Parkhurst Ghost Town existed before Whistler. It was an old logging town between the 1920s and 1950s, but it was abandoned later, turning into a popular, quirky attraction by today. An attraction that requires some hiking – easy and doable all year.
It’s one of the best winter walking trails that let you experience the snowy forest, marvel at the surrounding snowy mountain peaks and explore what remained of Parkhurst Ghost Town. The collapsed wooden houses and wrecked trucks are certainly the prettiest under a fresh white blanket of snow.
The best way to get there is the Parkhurst Ghost Town Trail (also called Parkhurst Ridge Trail) that takes you to the Parkhurst Loop. It’s a well-worn winter track, we did it in sturdy hiking boots with microspikes, and found it obvious for the most part. (But following other footsteps doesn’t always work well, I might add. Have a trail map.)
You can park before or after the bridge over Green River, leading to Riverside Drive. You probably won’t be able to cross the bridge with a normal car in winter, because it’s not plowed.
Sit on the passenger seat on a bobsleigh ride
Hop into a bobsled and speed up to 125+ km/h with a trained pilot. The Whistler Sliding Centre has one of the world’s fastest bobsleigh tracks, built for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, and it’s the only bobsleigh ride that’s open for the public in Canada. It’s also a training venue for athletes and hosts races regularly.
No previous experience is needed as your pilot will be in charge, and the staff will help you get in and get out. Just enjoy the ride.
Go ice fishing
Local lakes are frozen in the winter which is exactly perfect if you’re up for ice fishing. Don’t know how to do it? Join this small-group tour, let your guide drill a hole into the ice and set up a shelter, then try your luck catching wild rainbow trout.
Watch the Fire and Ice Show
One of the best free things to do in Whistler is watching talented skiers and riders spin and twist through burning hoops from 7 pm every Sunday throughout the winter. It takes place at the Skiers Plaza in Whistler Village, and they start practicing at 6.30 pm. It’s a spectacular show to watch, with DJs, fireworks, and fire spinners!
Visit Brandywine Falls in the snow
Some of the best things to do in Whistler – other than ski – in the winter is venturing out onto the snowy trails, either with snowshoes or with microspikes.
The snowshoeing (or hiking) trail to Brandywine Falls is one of those routes which is relatively well-trafficked (so that it might be doable without snowshoes, like we did it in our hiking boots with microspikes), but still very quiet and you’re not likely to meet with many people. That – if you follow the proper winter route to Brandywine Falls.
Because the parking lot in Brandywine Falls Provincial Park is closed in the winter months. There’s a concrete barrier, but you can still see people parking in front of that barrier to do the short walk to the viewing platform of the waterfall. Don’t do that, it’s not allowed and you can get towed. How to get to Brandywine Falls then?
On a longer route from the Cal Cheak Campground on the Sea to Sky Trail. It includes the Lava Lake Trail and the Cal Cheak Suspension Bridge, and the snowy forest is peaceful and beautiful. Brandywine Falls in a snowy setting is the highlight at the end.
Explore Whistler’s dining scene
After an exhausting day on the slopes or snowshoe trails, enjoy an evening filled with delicious courses and wine tasting. This fine dining tour is about 3.5 hours, and in addition to the great food and drinks you’ll get some fun culinary education.
This “hidden gem” dinner tour takes you to places like local cafés, a brew-house, an award-winning tapas point or a chocolate shop. The tour is limited to 15 people so that everyone can get personal attention.
Relaxing things to do in Whistler
Visit the Scandinave Spa Whistler
One of the best places to visit in Whistler in winter if you’d like to relax is the Scandinave Spa. It’s a Nordic-inspired outdoor spa, and offers a fantastic variety of steam rooms, saunas, hot and cold pools. They’re unforgettable, especially as you see the snow falling, and the surrounding forest makes you feel like being out in the wild.
You can get a traditional Scandinavian massage, as well, and couples can book a duo massage.
There’s no Wi-Fi, you’re encouraged to enjoy the spa in silence, and it’s a kid-free place (guests must be 18+ years old.) The Scandinave Spa is open from 10 am to 9 pm every day. Find more info here.
Soak in a hot tub with mountain views
Stay in one of the many hotels or lodges that have their own outdoor hot tubs with mountain views – and they’re exclusively for guests!
Nita Lake Lodge has a fabulous outdoor spa, and it’s only 500 m from the Creekside Gondola.
Four Seasons Resort Whistler is a luxurious getaway, and it has a heated outdoor pool and three hot tubs for guests. It’s only 8 minutes walk from the base of Whistler Blackcomb ski lifts.
The Westin Resort & Spa also has an outdoor pool and two hot tubs, and you can even swim through a doorway from inside to outside. The hotel is just 2 minutes walk from the Whistler Blackcomb ski lifts.
Stroll in Whistler Village
Finally, the Village Stroll. Go shopping, eat in amazing restaurants, marvel at festive lights as you stroll through the pedestrianized Whistler Lower Village. Walk from Mountain Square to Village Square, window-shop or people-watch, or just enjoy the “alpine Disneyland” feeling.
Don’t miss Purebread, one of the best cafes in Whistler where you can also choose from savory and sweet baked goods.
How to dress up for Whistler snow activities?
Whistler gets a ton of snow, but it’s not that cold – which I can appreciate sooo much. I’m simply not made for -30°C Canadian winters, but the average low temperature in Whistler between December and February is about -5°C (24°F), while the average high temperature is 1°C (34°F). You’ll have the best chance for fresh snow in December and January.
So you need to dress up warm, but Whistler has average winter weather, it’s not extremely cold. If you plan to ski, snowboard or other snow sports, make sure to have your ski jacket, insulated pants, waterproof gloves, goggles and helmet. For snowshoeing you might not need insulated pants, but a waterproof outer pant layer with shoe gaiters is still a good idea.
For walking on the Valley Trail or in Whistler Village, a waterproof jacket comes handy, with a puffy down jacket underneath for the colder days. In any case, make sure to wear a pair of warm gloves and a beanie (or toque, as Canadians call it). Forget about elegant shoes in Whistler, insulated winter boots are what you need.
But don’t forget your bathing suit so that you can enjoy the spas and hot tubs.
Where to stay in Whistler
Accommodation in Whistler is not cheap, especially in the winter. You can save some money if you visit mid-week.
Whistler Village is the area that’s right by the Whistler Blackcomb ski lifts, but Whistler spreads out into several different neighborhoods. If the proximity of ski lifts is not your priority, you have more choices. (There’s also a free shuttle that takes you to the ski lifts. But we all know that walking or taking the shuttle is a difference – maybe a small difference for some, and bigger for others.)
Where to stay in Whistler Village?
So let’s see where to stay if you want to be walking distance from the ski lifts and right in the heart of Whistler Village.
Mid-range: The Listel Hotel. It’s close to shopping and dining opportunities in Whistler Village and 7 minutes walk away from the Blackcomb Excalibur Gondola. It has great ratings for both location and comfort. Check prices here.
Luxury: The Westin Resort & Spa. Westin is a truly luxurious experience, with an outdoor pool, two hot tubs, an on-site spa and wellness center. It’s only a 2 minutes walk away from the Whistler Blackcomb ski lifts. Check prices here.
Where to stay in Whistler Creekside?
Whistler Creekside is a more peaceful location, but you can still be close to the Creekside Gondola which connects with the rest of the Whistler resort (and there’s the free shuttle service to Whistler Village, as well).
Where to stay in Alpine Meadows?
The Alpine Meadows neighborhood is ideal for those who seek peace and don’t care much about the ski lifts. It’s the local’s favorite neighborhood, great for walks on the Valley Trail, and Whistler Village is only a few minutes drive away.
Belle Neige Suites offer apartments with the comfort of your home, and each one comes with a private balcony or patio. You can rent skis, and they help you book zip-trekking or heli-skiing tours. Check prices here.