If there’s one thing that having gigantic twin mountains linked together across an impossible expanse by a swooping Euro-like tram guarantees, it’s a lot of terrain. The most in North America, in fact, with 8,171 sprawling acres split between former rival mountains Whistler and Blackcomb, operating under the same banner now since 1997. Not surprising then that readers rank Whistler Blackcomb (WB) second overall for terrain—there’s just too damn much of it to go wrong, at any skill level.
And if there’s one other thing that being the apex beast of the North American resort scene for 24 years also guarantees, it’s that the amenities are dialed. WB ranks No. 2 with readers for Lodging, No. 4 for Dining, and annihilates all others for Après at No. 1. Yup, there’s a party for everybody in Whistler. “I attend Gay Ski Week most years because it is such a great experience and the whole village welcomes us,” says one reader. Of course, those types of celebrations will likely take different shape this winter— if the border even opens for U.S. skiers—but the spirit and culture remains. Conversely, amongst the only gripes when it comes to spending time on these lofty sisters are weather, lift lines, and cost.
What can we say, barring the frequent Coastal tempests that plaster the place with snow but make it hard to see sometimes, perfection ain’t cheap, nor secret (“Almost the perfect resort.”) Back down in town, the village is likewise curated to meet every need. What WB commands better than almost anywhere is a complete package of terrain and entertainment. “If you only have the time to hit one place in a season, this is it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says one happy reader. And while that experience will involve wearing a mask on resort property and in lift lines this winter (you can take it off on/in the lift, with your pod), you’ll still have the same euphoric feeling sliding downhill as ever, and perhaps a bit more room to yourself when indulging in the adapted social stuff. — Matt Coté
2021 Reader Rank of Whistler Blackcomb: No. 7 in the West
- BRAGGING RIGHTS: Ride the Peak Express to West Cirque, a double black with a dauntingly rocky entrance that gives way to a steep pitch. Not quite up for that? Detour to Peak to Creek, a 5,000- vertical-foot descent over nearly seven miles.
- APRÈS SPOT: Settle in at Bar Oso for tapas and a gin and tonic—the Spanish-influenced menu boasts six different types.
- DOWN-DAY ACTIVITY: The best entertainment these days is outside, and you can switch it up from the resort by sliding the Valley Trail instead. Departing right from town, a portion of the 25-mile paved path is groomed for Nordic skiing in the winter.
Catch up on No. 8 in the West: Steamboat, Colo.
See who beat WB: No. 6 in the West – Telluride, Colo.
Whistler Blackcomb’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 6th in the West
Always a contender, Whistler Blackcomb’s addition to the Vail Resorts empire three seasons ago hasn’t stunted it. It’s consistently the king resort of Canada, with the most skiable acres in North America (8,171). What you get here is literally everything: the most complete big mountain experience there is, winning No. 1 outright for Terrain. “Best inbounds in North America,” one reader insists (along with a choir). The two whopping mountains are meticulously lift-serviced (“First-class lift system!”), and the ratio of beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiing is so exactly right it’s like it was poured by a mixologist at Whistler’s chic new Raven Room cocktail bar. Inbounds glaciers and ski-movie-caliber faces dominate the alpine, while the world’s best freeskiers call the expansive terrain park home. Racers, casual skiers, and families likewise gorge on the perfectly curated lower reaches of these twin peaks.
Not surprisingly, the town of Whistler—a cultural metropolis packed into a pedestrian village— also podiums for Nightlife, Après, and Dining. “So many dining and entertainment options!” another reader beams. The biggest compromise here is you won’t be alone. Whistler is easily accessible from Vancouver International Airport (two hours away), and perfection holds a mighty draw. Also, keep in mind the Canadian dollar offers a hearty discount most of the time, but it’s likely the only one you’ll get. Still, one diehard devotee says, “If I could ski at only one resort, this would be it.” — Matt Coté
- DOWN DAY ACTIVITY: Visit the Audain Art Museum for cutting-edge West Coast architecture and a definitive showcase of B.C. art dating back to the 18th century.
- DINNER PICK: Downtown Whistler’s Sushi Village taps Pacific roots to serve the best Japanese food of any Canadian ski town.
- OFF-THE-MAP TRAIL: Corner Pocket on Whistler Mountain.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
Two side-by-side ski giants rise from a lush and lake-dotted valley, climbing high past tree line into a sprawling alpine arena of glaciers, crags, and awe. This is where 8,100-plus seamlessly connected acres offer weeks of intermediate cruising, expansive kid zones, the continent’s largest serving of true expert terrain, and a whole separate universe of tree skiing.
Expect big snowfall—over 450 inches annually—easy-to-manage altitude, and variable temperatures that deliver mixed blessings. At the base, the little ski city of Whistler and its car-free center buzz and hum with internationalism, vitality, and a nonstop spirit of fun. Both mountain and town are booming, with 2018 bringing a combined $90 million in upgrades from Whistler Blackcomb’s new parent Vail Resorts, the town’s big hotels, independent businesses, and the municipality itself.
The not so good? Prices have risen dramatically, particularly for lodging and lift tickets—although the favorable exchange rate and an Epic Pass dulls the sting. But with more than three million annual visitors from around the globe plus the weekend surge from Vancouver and Seattle, nothing is slowing this meteor down. – Susan Reifer Ryan
- Lift upgrades: A 10-seat gondola on Blackcomb replaced the Wizard and Solar quads. On Whistler, the Emerald Express quad became a six-pack.
Come for the…
- APRÈS We’re partial to Basalt, Bar Oso, or Mallard for cocktails and chef-styled snacks.
- LODGING Look for big renovations at the Westin, Fairmont, Four Seasons, and Nita Lake Lodge, plus Pangaea Pod Hotel debuts.
- CHALLENGE Test your limits in Saudan Couloir on Blackcomb; Harmony Horseshoes on Whistler.
- BRAGGING RIGHTS Hike up and over Blackcomb’s Spanky’s Ladder to the serious expert terrain of the Gemstone Bowls. Go with a guide if it’s your first time.
- BREAKFAST NOOK The Dirty Bowl or a bacon-maple doughnut at Portobello.
- DON’T MISS Whistler Mountain’s new year-round Peak Suspension Bridge hovers in thin air over the heights of Whistler Bowl, spanning 1/10th of a mile and proffering 360-degree views.