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Ski Resort Life

What’s New in BC’s Not-So-Hidden Gem, Whistler Blackcomb

Whether you’re sneaking in a spring skiing trip, or looking ahead to next season, here’s a run-down of what’s new in Whistler this year.

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Historically, March is snow-filled in Whistler, and April looks to follow suit in 2023. While we’ve been caught up gorging on pow and fist-bumping everyone in sight, I reflect on exactly why 22/23 has felt like an extra-special season. The frenzied bureaucracy of Covid-19 regulations has settled down, visitation has resumed to normal levels, and the long-awaited dreams of local business owners are becoming a reality after a pandemic-induced pause. I know I’m not the only person ecstatic about the return of live music and have been relishing the feeling of belting out ‘Wagon Wheel’ with friends at every après session. While lift upgrades usually get the celebrity spotlight, they aren’t all new to Whistler this year. We’ve welcomed a new, locally-owned coffee shop with a rock’n’roll theme, two new restaurants with another on the way, the revival of our beloved World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and a new heli camping ski experience. Whether you’re sneaking in a spring skiing trip, or looking ahead to next season, here’s a run-down of what’s new in Whistler this year.

World Ski and Snowboard Festival returns to Whistler.

(Photo: Photo: Oisin McHugh)

Whistler’s beloved World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) returned in April, marking the first in-person WSSF since 2019. This year’s WSSF featured two iconic sporting events: The Saudan Couloir Extreme and the industry-favorite Slush Cup. The biggest audience, however, was for their famous multimedia events, which seek to elevate local creatives in (potentially career-changing) healthy competition. New for 2023, Intersection invited five film crews to shoot, edit, and submit a 4-6 minute winter action sports edit, all filmed within BC, within a 12-day timeframe. A panel of previous winners and industry experts judged the films on grassroots grit, originality, imagination, and storytelling. Out of Service – led by veteran Geoff Brown – took home the award with their mountain culture spoof of South Park. Local snowboarder Tyler Ravelle took home Best In Show at the Photo Challenge, an event bringing together some of the best photographers from the Sea to Sky to share their all-time favorite images capturing sport, culture, and the human spirit. “Would You Rather,” produced by Two Dontas One Proctor (three Whistler friends that share a passion for filmmaking), won first at the local’s favorite 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown. For this challenge, selected teams had to shoot, edit, and produce a 3-5 minute short film within 72 hours within 100 km of Whistler on a recording device. The event was a sellout success, with palpable energy in the room leaving attendees stoked on Whistler’s (almost unreasonable) level of creative talent.

Two new lift upgrades are complete, with another one on the way.

On the mountain, Whistlerites rejoiced as two core Whistler lifts have received significant replacements this year: Big Red Express and Creekside Gondola. Construction for the upgrade to Fitzsimmons Express kicked off in March, going from a 4-person to an 8-person high-speed chair. For Big Red, replacing the previous high-speed 4-person lift with a high-speed 6-person chair. This has massively increased lift capacity and reduced wait times, meaning more time riding and less waiting – music to my ears. Creekside, located a stone’s throw from the central hub of Whistler village, is known for its slower pace and old-school vibe, and has been the lucky recipient of a shiny new high-speed 10-man gondola to replace its older 6-man. This has been a massive milestone for Whistler Blackcomb after a year of uncertainty surrounding supply chain issues. The upgrades are instrumental in getting traffic through the resort on high-capacity days.

Creekside steps up its gastronomy game.

A gondola isn’t all that’s new in Creekside. Since the 2018 opening of Altitude Gym, a sparkling, state-of-the-art fitness center disguised as a Courchevel chalet, locals have been anticipating some gentrification in its wake. BReD, Whistler’s only vegan bakery, opened in 2019, drawing crowds of locals and visitors to try their sourdough loaves and cinnamon buns. The vast majority of their ingredients are locally sourced and organic. In 2023, BReD added B-Corp certification to its highly esteemed status and continues to evolve its plant-based offerings. Whistler Creekside’s highly anticipated new cafe, Rockit Coffee Co., opened this season and has been an instant hit. Designed by award-winning Vancouver interior designer Daniel Meloché, Rockit brings a refreshing and unique 70’s vibe to Whistler’s coffee scene, with accent furniture, funky colors and mirroring, and consistent old-school tunes. The owner, Pepe Barajas, is no stranger to Whistler’s culinary scene, opening popular casual spot Mexican Tacos La Cantina its classy sister restaurant, the fine dining, yet come-as-you-are, The Mexican Corner. Next on his list? A new Thai restaurant is slated to open in Whistler Creekside this spring… watch this space.

Some new additions to Whistler’s dining scene.

When Restaurant Director Neil Henderson left Araxi to open Wild Blue, he took the crème de la crème of Whistler’s hospitality workforce. His exquisite decor and decadent menu have dominated the Whistler food scene in just four months. The dining room indulges the senses, dripping with a palate of stained oak, black walnut, velvet, and glass. While they have established themselves as a boutique fine dining restaurant focusing on locally-sourced seafood, their cocktail menu is also one of the best in town. Back in Whistler’s Creekside, Nita Lake Lodge (Whistler’s only lakeside resort and spa) brought a new dining experience to one of their two in-house restaurants — The Den. Their modern yet woodsy decor includes soft, forest-inspired colors, rawhide furnishings, and intimate lighting. This new spot offers seasonal farm-to-table dishes with a strong emphasis on plant-based dishes, such as Vegan Rigatoni Bolognese, Curried Squash and Jackfruit Cassoulet, and Truffled Mushroom Risotto.

AlpX brings the ultimate heli-accessed camp adventure.

Blackcomb Helicopters’ new adventure tourism branch – AlpX Expeditions (AlpX), has launched a new overnight backcountry & guided backcountry skiing adventure out of Whistler & Pemberton. From the same operator that brought a new heli-biking experience to the Whistler Valley in 2022, AlpX has expanded its backcountry offerings to adventure enthusiasts with the new AlpX Yurt. Accessible by helicopter from Pemberton or Whistler Heliport, a short flight transports skiers to their unique homes for the evening. Fully equipped with off-the-grid heating, electrical, and a composting toilet, the space sleeps six guests for multiple nights in comfort and warmth.

“Surrounded by incredible ski touring terrain as well as beautiful alpine vistas, this will provide an unforgettable backcountry experience for all outdoor lovers, year-round,” said Jordy Norris, Director of Marketing, Tourism & Sustainability for Blackcomb Helicopters.

Safe to say, 2023 has been good to Whistler so far. With even more new and notable experiences on the cards for summer, I can’t wait to see what’s slated for the 23/24 season. If this post has you dreaming of Whistler, Blackcomb Mountain remains open until May 22, and spring is a great time to snag a deal on accommodation. Spring is usually synonymous with fewer crowds and soft snow, but this year it feels more like fewer crowds and more snow. Fun fact: Whistler Village was designed to maximize sunshine in the outdoor seating areas. Enjoy patio season at one of the aforementioned locations on the sunnier days. If you’re a foodie, check out my guide to Whistler’s food scene to get the most out of your next trip to Whistler.