Whistler-Blackcomb is a two-mountain top-rated ski resort that has a young hip image, but is also terrific for families.Location is 1-1/2 hours from Vancouver BC, via the scenic "Sea to Sky" highway: read more about Whistler-Blackcomb
, site of the 2010 Olympics.
Below are some of the best features for families.
Huge Terrain Means Uncrowded Areas
The Whistler-Blackcomb mountains have over two hundred trails, 8000 acres of terrain, a mile of vertical drop on each mountain, thirty-eight lifts... So even on busy days, there's a lot of mountain for people to spread out on and enjoy.
The two giant Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are now joined by a showpiece gondola. The Peak2Peak Gondola stretches 2.73 miles with only two towers on each mountain -- which makes for a spectacular 11-minute ride. The Peak 2 Peak operates in summer season too, for hikers and tourists.
Speaking of gondolas... Whistler-Blackcomb has many! If conditions are unusually cold or snowy, gondolas make a nice shelter from the elements.
Huge Vert, at Low AltitudeNo need to worry about altitude sickness when visiting this ski resort:Whistler's base elevation is only 2214 feet (675 metres), and all of the lodging plus the large pedestrian village with shops and restaurants is at this level. From this base, both mountains rise up nearly one mile, giving skiers and boarders two of the largest vertical rises -- and some of the longest ski runs-- in the skiing world. (Rocky Mountain ski resorts start at much higher elevations: for instance, Vail, Colorado's base elevation is 8,120 feet, and summit is at 11,570 feet.)
By mid-April, most ski resorts have closed, but at Whistler-Blackcomb the extensive top sections of the mountains stay open even when spring is in full swing (think golf swing) down at the base. Blackcomb typically stays open until mid-May, and Whistler even later. The drive up on the Sea to Sky highway is scenic, with perfect road conditions; the lifts have no lineups; the weather's enjoyable.
Both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains have extensive Slow Zones. (The flag in the photo says "Family Zone"). On Whistler, the Olympic Station Area has many green runs and "Family" and "Go Slow" zones; feed kids easily at the outdoor snack bar, then ride back up the mountain in a sheltered gondola built for six.
Also at Olympic Station, near the Whistler Kids Children's Learning Centre, is an easy place for little kids to try skiing, with a pint-sized rope-tow. Blackcomb has a similar area by its Whistler Kids Centre at the mountain base.
Easy Terrain Park, Children's Adventure Zones
Kids and novices of all ages can try out skills in this an easy terrain park on Blackcomb mountain, with a small-size 50-50 box, snake-run, and nice rollers at the end. Both mountains also have children's adventure ski areas: for example, on Blackcomb kids love to zoom on short runs through an enchanted forest and a ski-through castle.
On each mountain, Children's Learning Centres offer many ski and 'board programs (and also childcare for toddlers.) Kids like the Adventure Camps that keep a group together, with the same instructor for five days (two days, on weekends.) Parents can leave infants and toddlers in daycare, and keep in touch with Pager Parent programs. Check "Whistler Kids" for current programs and rates: sign up early for peak weeks!
Meanwhile, for teens and tweens: Whistler has a rep for being young and hip, and that's lucky if you have teens who want to be cool. Kids age 13 and can Ride Tribe ski and snowboard programs. Kids can also join Park Freeride Groups in two age groups (10 to 12 and 13 to 18) a max of 3 skiers/riders go out for the day to "shred in the parks and pipes".
This extensive car-free village at the foot of the Whistler and Blackcomb gondolas -- with over 300 shops and restaurants-- has plenty to offer party-ers, gourmet diners, and families. A family fave is the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant, with 3-course kids' meal plus bottomless drinks for very reasonable prices; but you can find kids' menus at many restaurants, even upscale. At the far end of the village is a grocery store, McD's, and video rental, close to attractive townhomes where many families stay.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Fido is welcome at many resorts and hotels at Whistler -- even upscale choices such as the Four Seasons Resort Whistler
; you can find dog-friendly townhouses and condos too. And there's a doggie day-care right in Whistler Village.
For evening fun, go tube-sliding on a tubing hill with green, blue and black lanes; then ride a magic carpet to get back to the top. The tube park has snacks, a fire pit, and a play area.
Summertime Adventure Zone
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Whistler-Blackcomb is a highly popular in summer-time, for hiking, lake-swimming, and lots of golf. Extra fun for kids: the Summertime Adventure Zone at the Blackcomb base has trapeze, "Kiss the Sky" trampoline (part bungee, part tramp), climbing wall, the "Westcoaster Luge" ("ride your own sled through banked curves); minigolf; and more.
Shuttle BusesIn winter, free shuttle buses run frequently between the Upper Village (with Blackcomb ski lift) and the Lower Village, and also serving areas where families rent condos and townhouses, and when you've got little kids trudging in big ski boots, shuttle buses are a welcome sight indeed.