Two prime reasons why most of the ski events for the 2010 Winter Olympics were held at Whistler Blackcomb were its sheer enormity and the masses of snow (last year’s base reached 1,579 cm, or 51.8 ft.). With 12 bowls, two adjacent mountains, three glaciers, 200 trails and 8,100 acres of skiable terrain, families may feel daunted by the scope of the place. Therefore, a strategy is key: ski the right terrain at the right time. That’s precisely why some folks hire a private guide to shepherd them around the secret stashes of both mountains. Not only will a guide whisk you to the front of the queue, but these pros know how to work both mountains, allowing you to triple the number of runs you ski.
If you’ve got a family of gung-ho skiers, cut straight to the steeps of Secret Bowl, Secret Chute and Jersey Cream on Blackcomb Glacier. On Whistler, the blues off Harmony Express Chair are ideal warm-up cruisers and the drops, walls and sinks of powder in Whistler Bowl will leave most families whooping. Wee ones love the Magic Castle and the long, loopy Green Line on Blackcomb and Whistler’s equivalent, the Pony Trail, as well as Ego Bowl and the Family Zone.
Stay at the comfy Westin Resort & Spa (with a ski valet at the base who conveniently whisks your gear to the lobby) and eat brekkie in a fully stocked kitchen (groceries delivered by the Whistler Grocery Store), have lunches on the mountains (17 restos dish up everything from bowls of pho and curry platters, to pork-braised poutine and Belgian waffles) and then splurge at night. Don’t miss a night at the 25-year-old Sushi Village or a stop at Zog’s Dogs (gourmet hot dogs are available until 2 a.m.), but, be forewarned, the new, über-cozy Alta Bistro might just steal your stomach. With its changing menu featuring producers from Pemberton to the Fraser Valley, you’re likely to swoon over the Amber beer-braised beef with horseradish mashed potatoes, and the halibut cheeks spiked with an artichoke salsa and zippy red curry lentils.
Ranked No. 1 most family-friendly ski resort in Canada by Ski Magazine readers, both Whistler and Blackcomb offer ski lessons for those as young as three, and daycare for those as young as 18 months. From the kids-only beginner zone and the starter “terrain garden,” to the tucked-away Magic Castle and Tree Fort, there’s terrain, special tot-sized rental gear, lessons, camps and packages galore. Plus, there’s a Nannies on Call program (877-214-2828), and a Climb and Dine package for kids at The Core climbing and fitness centre (604-905-7625).
Discover Whistler Days are discounted chunks of time that knock 30 per cent off lessons, camps and weekend ride-tribe programs. Also check out the free Fire and Ice show, every Sunday, at the base of Whistler. New this winter is the 188-bed hostel used by athletes during the Olympics. Rates start at $31 a bed. Find out more about Kids Stay, Ski, Rent and Shuttle for Free programs offered.
If skiing doesn’t leave your family knackered, have another workout at The Core where weightlifting, spinning classes and wall-climbing are on the menu. Do downward dogs next to Olympians at the Solarice Wellness Spa yoga studio; walk a shelter dog with Whistler Animals Galore (WAG); whoosh down the eight-lane tube park or zipline across Fitzsimmons Creek in the dark. Visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, where kids can do a craft while learning about the history and culture of the Squamish and Lil’wat nations.