As director of ALLTRACKS Academy, provider of ski instructor courses in Whistler, I’ve been visiting this leviathan of Canadian ski resorts for over a decade. Although I do visit alone on business, I often travel with my wife and two children, currently aged 8 and 10. As such, I’d like to think I can offer some first hand knowledge on what makes for an amazing ski holiday to Whistler with young children in winter.
Here’s my top ten tips (with plenty of input from the kids too)!
1. Go Skiing
Obviously first and foremost Whistler is a ski resort, and so if you’re visiting anytime from November to May, skiing should be on the cards. Whistler has an incredible ski school (Whistler Kids) that will get your little ones moving on snow safely. For the particularly young, the school combines an introduction to skiing with lots of other fun activities such as building snowmen, sledging and indoor games when they get tired or the weather worsens. For children who are already strong skiers, there is still plenty to learn. The enthusiastic and competent ski coaches will ensure that your kids progress as far as possible during their vacation building their technique correctly while having loads of fun.
Lessons can be booked either in the resort or online. However, I strongly advise booking in advance as availability is limited, especially over the busy holiday periods like Christmas, New Year, Presidents Week and Easter.
2. Ice Skating
Whistler hosted the major skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics and part of the legacy is a fantastic Ice Skating Rink at Olympic Plaza. This was where the medal ceremonies took place during the “Games” but is now home a wonderful open air public space. The ice skating rink forms the centrepiece and kids of all ages can have a great time here. There is always a very pleasant family atmosphere with lots of cafes, coffee shops and a children’s play park in the immediate vicinity.
3. Get an Ice Cream from Cows
After skating, why not grab an ice cream from nearby Cows? Making gourmet ice cream of over 32 flavours, there’s something for everyone. Just one though….
4. Waffles in the Crystal Hut
While we’re on the subject of food. If your kids are enrolled in ski school and able to ski in the alpine environment, their instructors will probably take them to the Crystal Hut for homemade waffles on their final day as a treat. If you’re skiing with the children instead, I recommend doing the same! The Crystal Hut is the antithesis of bland, cafeteria style ski lodge cuisine. Built in a traditional log cabin style, this cozy hut offers up delicious waffles with tasty toppings. If waffles are a little sweet for your taste, delicious home style buffalo stew is also available.
My insider’s tip is to get there early- this place is pretty small and it gets busy from 11am.
5. Give Snowboarding a try
If you’re kids are already proficient skiers, they might enjoy giving snowboarding a go. The Whistler snowboard school has instructors who are well trained in teaching snowboarding to young ones. The snowboard school has access to all the same facilities as the ski school and they can offer lessons to complete novices all the way up to experts.
6. Rock Climbing at the Core
If your kids are an energetic as mine, they might still need some activity even with a full day of skiing or snowboarding. Indoor rock climbing at Whistler’s Core Gym is an ideal option. Anyone under the age of 13 does need to be accompanied by an adult. The Core offers a “New to Climbing” Lesson if you and/or your children are interested in learning about this exciting sport. If the kids really take to their skiing and want to explore the backcountry when they’re older then an understanding of climbing is certainly a useful addition.
The Core is conveniently located right in the centre of the village and open from early morning to late in the evening.
7. Trampolining at Bounce
Whistler’s indoor trampoline centre is world class. It has various ball pits and trampolines for toddlers who want to play to teenagers keen to learn new tricks and manoeuvres, especially those who are looking to advance their freestyle skiing. There are drop in times or you can book out the facility if you are coming as a group. Located at Function Junction you’ll need to drive or take the bus to get there. Buses run between the Village and Function Junction regularly throughout the day and evening.
For some light hearted fun with a dash of adrenaline be sure to check out the Coca Cola Tubing Park. Located at Blackcomb Base 2, it is easy to reach and a lot of fun. It is basically sliding down the mountain on a large inflatable ring and who does not love that? Children do need to be 3 years or older and at least 91cm tall. No previous experience is necessary but children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets can be bought from the Guest Services kiosks in the village.
There are a number of swimming pools around in Whistler. Many of the large hotels have lovely swimming complexes and are a great way to spend an hour or so after a day on the slopes. Hopefully you can enjoy a quiet 5 minutes on the hot tub too. If your condo complex or hotel does not have a swimming pool, don’t worry. You can by a day pass for access to many of the hotel pools and there is the Aquatic Centre at the Meadow Park Sports Centre too. This is home to a 25 metre pool, a lazy river, spouting bears, eight foot slide and basketball hoops. You can get your tickets either on the phone or at the reception at the centre.
10. Ride the Peak 2 Peak
Regardless of whether you or your children ski or not, a trip on the majestic Peak 2 Peak Gondola is an absolute must. The Peak 2 Peak links Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains crossing the Fitzsimmons Valley. It is the largest unsupported ski gondola lift, spanning over 3 kilometres and up to 436 metres above the valley floor. Not only is it an engineering wonder, the views are astounding. You and your children will marvel at the surrounding beauty of mountains, glaciers and forests. Time it right, and you can up the ante even more by bagging one of the glass bottomed gondolas.
I hope that you have a great holiday in Whistler and that one or two of these tips are helpful. Look out for our next blog on things to do if you’re visiting over the summer months.