Family Fun in Whistler

Whistler ski resort in British Columbia, Canada—ranked number one in North America and the site of the 2010 Olympics—offers an incredible assortment of thrilling winter activities for the family.

“Ready on four,” our Zip Trek guide radios to her counterpart on the other end of a cable traversing icy-white mountains 200 feet above the ground at Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, Canada. My 8-year-old is about to “zip” 1,100 feet along the cable from one tree house to another—a mini Tarzan in the wintry forest, strapped into a harness that securely hooks to the cable. Her knees are in a tuck for maximum speed as she whirls, or should I say whistles, along the treetops. She makes it to the other end and nonchalantly says it was “cool.” Then it’s on to a shorter “free form” cable perfect for tumbling upside down for those that dare. I do, and it’s a thrill.

Crazy adventure seeker? Hardly. Five in our small group are younger than 10 years of age, and all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It’s just one of a multitude of wintry activities to whet the appetite in Whistler, one of the most popular ski resorts in North America, where it’s hardly necessary to be a skier to revel in the area, but it’s a good start.

Largest Ski Terrain on the Continent

I started out my most recent visit skiing, finding the conditions as good as ever with fluffy snow pounding the slopes day after day. In fact, there’s so much snow that I complain about its abundance as it’s hard work to plow through two feet of fresh snow for days on end. In the whiteness, I explore the two mountains that make up the resort area, Whistler and Blackcomb, or some call “rockcomb” of the latter for its towering rocky peaks. Together they represent the largest ski area on the continent with more than 8,000 acres of ski terrain.

It’s a toss up as to which mountain is preferred, but I like Blackcomb for its runs between the trees and is where I feel more one with nature. Blackcomb features two ski-able glaciers, one cresting a run among the longest in North America. Whistler Mountain has more vast openness, which others might prefer, along with a new bowl that I’m told is like “skiing a beautiful field.” But regardless, the mountains are both vast and varied for ability levels. “We’re still discovering new spots on the mountain,” says a local who has been skiing Blackcomb for more than 30 years. Certainly, a visitor would be hard pressed to get bored.

The Perfect Snow

The only real threat to the perfect skiing or snowboarding vacation is moderate coastal temperatures that cause occasional rain.

Whistler/Blackcomb management, however, is addressing that, having invested millions in new state-of-the-art snow-making equipment. They are preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which the resort area will host in tandem with nearby Vancouver. The resort can now transform the downhill ski course from rock bare to race conditions in two-weeks’ time, its new systems capable of pumping snow onto 650 acres. Olympic events held in Whistler will include all of the alpine ski challenges such as the downhill and slalom events, Nordic events such as cross country skiing, along with ski jumping, luge and most Paralympic events.

Tubing, Mini-Snowmobiles and More

Blackcomb Mountain has a small tubing park where thrill seekers anywhere in age from 4 to 64 can careen down a number of slippery runs. Relatively new to Whistler is a “Mini-Z” snowmobile track where children as young as 5 can navigate laps on pint-size snowmobiles made especially for ages 12 and under, no driver’s license required. As my 5-year-old hit the gas before I realized it, I frantically lunged toward the vehicle, only to be left in a cloud of snow, my daughter happily tackling turns down the track like the next Speed Racer. I was beside myself in amazement; my children were exhilarated with the experience, with the vehicles extremely light and easy to maneuver.

The list of activities goes on at Whistler/Blackcomb—snowshoeing, dog sledding, cross country skiing, sleigh rides and fondue dinners mountaintop via snowcat, among other wintry wonders. They all add up to Condé Nast Traveler naming Whistler the top ski resort in North America for five straight years in a readers’ poll, in large part due to the vast range of activity offerings. Add with its role in co-hosting the upcoming Winter Olympics, and you might say that Whistler is on a run. Who can keep up with all there is to do at the resort area? I got exhausted trying. There will just have to be a next time for me sometime soon.

Getting There

Whistler, situated in British Columbia on Canada’s western coast, is about a two-hour drive from Vancouver. Major airlines flying into Vancouver International Airport include Delta, United Airlines and Air Canada. A passport is required. Perimeter’s Whistler Express bus line, services Vancouver to Whistler.

Destinations: Whistler

Themes: Family Travel, Outdoor Adventures

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding