The Snow Report
Whistler is a powerhouse—its numbers stay almost unbelievably high in nearly every category, and it scores better than most in terms of snow conditions, terrain quality, and ski-related amenities. A typical year here dumps 469 inches, and the powder-day percentage is an impressive 22 percent. The huge stats go on to encompass 8,171 skiable acres, 5,445 vertical feet, 200 runs of all kinds, and 37 diverse lifts with an hourly capacity of 65,500 people. Three high-speed gondolas include a newish 22-car (28 total, with 6 standing) peak-to-peak mover.
Ten rental spots keep you geared up through Whistler’s long season, and the school stocks more than 1,100 ski and snowboard instructors from around the world, more than 50 of whom are Level 4s. If it’s a notable freeskier you want to learn from, ask for Wendy Brookbank, Derek Foose, or Peter Smart.
Whistler is one of the rider-friendliest places on this list. It’s got an array of terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders, halfpipes, and extra-wide lift lanes to let pals stand side by side. For those who prefer belly-sliding, the tube park is extensive: Its eight lanes are 1,000 feet long (a conveyor lift gets you to the top) and vary in speed from green to blue to black.
Whistler’s only strike against it is that it’s fairly expensive—it’s even worth wondering whether this Canadian resort could have nabbed our number-one spot if it were more affordable. With lift tickets pushing $100, an average gear package priced at $72 (half-day rates are only slightly less than full-day ones). While there are early booking offers (5 nights at $96 per person for full accomodations) and a Gold Card ($67 per day, no blackout dates) coming here can still become a major investment.
You do get what you pay for, though: safety is taken seriously at Whistler—its ski patrol packs a whopping 326 members, 113 of whom are full-time. Overall, 3,500 employees work here during peak season, some at exquisite hotels like the Four Seasons, the Fairmont Chateau, the Hilton, and the Westin. Three shopping villages present more than 200 stores and 150 restaurants—if you appreciate fine dining, don’t miss Araxi or Bearfoot Bistro. After dark, the nightlife scene takes over, with bars and clubs that rage even harder during annual events like the Whistler Film Festival (November 28 to December 2), the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (April 12 to 21), and WinterPRIDE (February 3 to 10). For the best drinks and dancing, go to Buffalo Bills, Garfinkels, Maxx Fish, and Tommy Africa's.
The Sea-to-Sky corridor connects Vancouver to Whistler via a 3.5-hour train ride, and it’s worth even a one-day trip to take in the majestic scenery. Though there's no passenger train service in the winter, a new highway lets your make the drive in about two hours from Vancouver International Airport. It’s hard to describe Whistler without mentioning its gorgeous wildlife, and therefore its vast list of sustainability efforts, which is too long to itemize here. But some notable eco-accomplishments include committing $1.5 million to “Operation Green Up,” replacing more than 11,000 lights with LEDs, and enforcing recycling and composting programs that have reduced waste by more than 40 percent. The energy-reduction goal here is five percent per year, and an employee carpooling program saves almost 23,000 fuel gallons and prevents more than 200 tons of emissions per year—the better by which to keep Whistler’s crazy amounts of fresh powder coming.
CONTACT: (800) 766-0449, whistlerblackcomb.com
SEASON: Late November to mid-May
TICKETS: General: $96, ages 65 and older: $81, children: $48, ages 5 and younger: free