I’ve been visiting Whistler every spring for the past 15 years, and while the town is beautiful at any time of year, I can confidently say that it comes into its own in the winter. Powdery slopes, fresh mountain air, and festive lights make a winter visit to Whistler a truly unforgettable experience, and there are so many things to do in Whistler in the winter that you’ll never get bored.
You all know that I love being outdoors, whether it’s a whirlwind ski run down Blackcomb or a leisurely skate around the Olympic Plaza on ice skates. While spring and summer in Whistler are wonderful, the winter season ushers in a new, cozier flavor of fun. Everyone can find their perfect winter activity in Whistler, from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and relaxing après-ski gatherings (and there are plenty of options here).
Whether you’re an avid skier or prefer to sip hot cocoa by the fire, you’ll love visiting Whistler in the winter. I’ll let you know the best things to do, info to know about getting there, and where the best places to stay are, so let’s get planning your trip!
22 Things to Do in Whistler in the Winter
Here are some of the best winter activities in Whistler, whether you ski or prefer apres-ski only.
1. Ski or Snowboard at Whistler Blackcomb
We’ll start this list with probably the most popular thing to do in Whistler in the winter – snowboarding or skiing (don’t worry, I have plenty of options coming later for you non-skiers).
Whistler is known for its world-class slopes, so what better way to explore this area than by snowboarding at the Whistler Blackcomb resort? It’s one of North America’s largest ski resorts, so there is tons of space when you’re looking for Whistler winter activities.
There are actually two mountains here – Whistler and Blackcomb – so with over 200 runs, 36 lifts, and 1,925 hectares of skiable terrain, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out. There have been many times I’ve come up where I snowboard one mountain, and my husband skis the other, and then we meet up for lunch at the top (he’s much more advanced than me, so this is easier on our marriage this way!).
The resort also has lessons for kids, teenagers, and adults, starting at $140. I hesitated to take lessons for years, but recently I’ve been taking both beginner ski lessons and advanced snowboard lessons so I can improve both of my skills, and it’s definitely worth it.
2. Do Some Backcountry Skiing
Another fantastic way to experience Whistler’s unparalleled natural beauty is by going backcountry skiing.
This is one of the winter activities in Whistler that is definitely for more experienced skiers, as it is usually in unpatrolled regions such as Garibaldi Provincial Park. This is away from all the crowds and resorts, so make sure to check the weather reports and have your phone charged.
I always recommend going backcountry skiing with at least one other person. If you’re traveling alone and feeling a bit unsure about hitting the slopes, you might like going on this guided backcountry skiing tour. It includes up to five runs and is around eight hours long.
3. Go Snowshoeing
Another fun winter activity in Whistler is to go snowshoeing. There are quite a few trails to use, especially in Lost Lake Park, Whistler Olympic Park, and Ski Callaghan. Here, you can pay an entrance fee and rent snowshoes if you don’t have any already.
Prefer not to pay? Check out the Sea to Sky Trail, the Train Wreck Trail, and the Cheakamus Trails. These aren’t as well maintained, but they’re still fun to spend a day at.
Lastly, the Medicine Trail snowshoe tour is a terrific option for those looking to learn more about the area. You’ll spend three hours walking along this trail while learning about medicinal plants and endemic trees.
I like snowshoeing on the days I don’t feel like going as hard on the mountains, plus it’s a great activity if you have little ones with you. It’s one of the easier Whistler snow activities that you can do.
4. Go Hiking
Whistler is exceptionally well known by hikers who love to climb its gorgeous peaks, and you might not have known that hiking is a year-round activity in this region (similar to the many Washington winter hiking trails). While summer in Whistler is the best time to go, I’ve also hiked during the rainy spring and cold winter. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Whistler in winter.
If you’re into trekking, you should bring the appropriate hiking clothes for the winter. For starters, a durable pair of waterproof hiking boots and some insulated gloves will do wonders to keep you warm.
The Train Wreck Trail is a great way to get started, as you won’t need snowshoes, especially if there’s low snowfall. It’s got some vibrant graffiti art and waterfalls along its route, so it’s a fun way to explore the outdoors. We’ve taken our kids here twice, and they loved seeing the brightly colored cars.
Brandywine Falls, Alexander Falls, and the Valley Trail are other great places to hike when looking for things to do in Whistler in winter.
5. Experience Whistler from Above
Whistler is a truly majestic place to visit, with its snow-capped peaks, alpine forests, and glacial lakes. This makes it a pleasure to walk, ski, hike, and snowboard in this resort town. The only limitation is that you can’t see it all at once.
When looking for things to do in Whistler in the winter, why not see the area from a bird’s-eye view? A once-in-a-lifetime experience is taking a helicopter tour of the region, and it’s the ideal thing to do in Whistler in winter for non-skiers. On this tour, you’ll see the Blackcomb, Whistler, and Black Tusk peaks, the Cheakamus Glacier, and Garibaldi Provincial Park.
6. Visit the Audain Art Museum
Not all of Whistler involves being outdoors, so if it’s an exceptionally cold day and you’d prefer to stay warm, why not pay a visit to the Audain Art Museum? This museum is huge, at over 56,000 square feet, and includes an extensive collection of British Columbian art.
I actually happened to be here the first day it opened many years ago, and I’ve been back since to see new exhibits when looking for Whistler non-skiing activities.
This comprises an exhibit of around fifty 19th-century First Nation masks, as well as Australian Aboriginal art, Edward Burtynsky photographs, and Emily Carr paintings. An Audain Art Museum admission ticket costs $15 per person, and the museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
There are also plenty of fun things to do in the winter in Vancouver.
7. Stay Warm at a Spa
Another great rainy day activity in Whistler is going to the spa. That’s because the town is home to many spas and the perfect idyllic atmosphere. It’s also great in Whistler in the winter, as you can enjoy a pampering treatment for your dry skin or a warm soak in the baths.
One of Whistler’s best spas is the Scandinave Spa, a 20,000-square-foot facility where you can get Scandinavian massages, Finnish dry saunas, eucalyptus steam baths, and soak under a thermal waterfall. I went here years ago and absolutely loved how peaceful it is (there’s no talking or phone allowed outside of the locker room), and I try to go as much as I can every time I come back.
It’s easily one of the best things to do in Whistler in winter when you want a break from the busy village and need to warm up. Packages start at $55 per person, and it’s easily one of the best things to do in the PNW.
8. Wander Whistler Village
If you’re looking for something simple to do during your visit, taking a walk through Whistler Village is great. There is so much to explore in the town, such as art galleries, clothing boutiques, bookshops, and charming eateries.
Getting a bit hungry and looking for somewhere to eat? There are some amazing coffee shops in Whistler, with my favorites being Purebread, Caffe Artigiano, and Ecologyst. I start every morning at a different cafe, as there are so many good ones to choose from.
9. Try the Local Drinks
Whistler is also becoming increasingly known for its locally-made beers produced by three craft breweries: High Mountain Brewing, Coast Mountain Brewing, and Whistler Brewing. These three breweries all make a wide range of beers, from sours and fruity ales to more traditional lagers and IPAs. They’re also very kid-friendly, which is perfect if you’re on a family vacation in Canada.
We always make an afternoon of doing a hike around Whistler and then stopping at one of these breweries, and it’s now become a tradition for our family.
That’s not all in the alcoholic beverage scene; there is also a fantastic craft distillery. Montis Distillery specializes in gin and vodka, which you can try on one of their tasting tours. A brilliant option is this distillery tour, which offers transportation to and from your hotel. It includes a tasting and a food and drink deal at The Raven Room, a top cocktail bar in Whistler.
10. Go Ziplining
Another great Whistler winter activity is zip lining (and it’s also a fun thing to do in Whistler in summer). That’s because it gets your heart pumping and is an exceptional way to see this area’s incredible natural beauty.
I did this the very first time I came here almost 15 years ago, and now I take all my friends who come with me every time. That said, it’s also one of the best things to do in Whistler in winter besides ski, as not all my friends like the snow.
It may seem a bit unorthodox to zipline in the winter, but it’s perfectly safe – albeit a bit chilly. Just pack a warm jacket, and you’ll be good to go as you zoom down the line at up to 75 miles per hour. This zipline adventure in Whistler includes transportation from Whistler Village (a two-and-a-half-hour ride) and all the necessary safety equipment.
11. Try Ice Climbing
Whistler has so many outdoor activities in the winter that you’re bound to find something you’ve never done before. For instance, ice climbing or ascending mountains on routes made of frozen water is definitely one of the more challenging things to do in Whistler in winter.
Now, it’s definitely not something to do alone, especially if you’re inexperienced – but I’ve got a terrific option for you. This ice climbing experience involves learning all about the basics and using crampons and an ice axe.
Top tip: If you go ice climbing when looking for Whistler snow activities, make sure to pack a lunch and drinks for yourself, as well as suitable warm clothing.
12. Attend the Whistler Film Festival
Dates: November 29-December 3, 2023
An interesting fact about Whistler is that it annually holds the Whistler Film Festival in late November and early December. This is a fantastic way to see Canadian talent, Oscar contenders, and short films.
It also hosts a Content Summit, where you can attend keynotes, panel discussions, and workshops online and in person. In-person tickets usually go on sale at the beginning of November, so book a ticket pass online in advance to reserve your spot at one of the best Whistler winter events.
13. Do Some Fine Dining
The area may be famous for its Whistler snow activities, but you may not know that it also packs a punch with its culinary offerings. This ski resort is home to some excellent fine dining spots. Being close to Vancouver means it’s also supplied with fresh seafood, plus it’s in British Columbia, so you know the wines are going to be amazing.
One of the top spots is Araxi, which has been Whistler’s Best Restaurant for a decade. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for locally sourced ingredients, top-notch service, and a terrific experience.
I also just tried Sushi Village when I was there this past spring and loved their seaweed salad, sushi rolls, and sake. It’s perfect for a date night, as it’s tucked away on the second floor of a building away from the busy streets of the village.
Additionally, you could always go on a fine dining tour in Whistler, so you can experience a bit of everything. This includes four full courses and learning how to saber champagne, making it one of the most unique things to do in Whistler during winter.
14. Visit the Whistler Museum
Another indoor activity to do in Whistler is to visit the Whistler Museum. Here, you can learn all about the town’s history, including its hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and how Whistler Blackcomb was created.
It’s an insightful way to learn all about the region’s heritage, including how it was transformed from wilderness into a world-class ski resort. It’s also great because it’s one of the best free things to do in Whistler in winter, but you can always donate if you feel like it.
15. Be Enchanted at Vallea Lumina
Whistler is full of memorable activities to do in the daytime, but what about after dark? Vallea Lumina is a multimedia night walk in the town where lights, sound, and lasers take you on an adventure.
It’s an enchanting journey as you walk through and past magical light displays, and it is an immersive experience that’s definitely worth doing, whether you’re visiting Whistler with kids or just as a couple.
The Vallea Lumina night walk takes around an hour to complete and is roughly 0.6 miles.
16. Drive Down the Sea to Sky Highway
If you drove to Whistler from Vancouver, it’s highly likely that you drove along the Sea to Sky Highway. This scenic drive is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest; trust me, I would know, as I’ve been doing this for 15 years.
There is so much to explore along the highway, from the majestic 1,100-foot-tall Shannon Falls and the Howe Sound to charming picnic areas and impressive peaks. Plus, there are museums, a gondola, parks, and cute towns along the way.
You’ll also love the drive around Vancouver Island during the winter.
17. Make a Day Trip to Squamish
Next up, going on a day trip to Squamish goes hand in hand with driving along the Sea to Sky Highway. That’s because Squamish is roughly halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, and is one of the best things to do in Whistler in the winter if you want a break from all the snow.
If you’re looking for places to eat, I love Joe’s Pesto Wood Fired Pizzeria when I’m in the mood for a few slices as well as 1914 Coffee Company for a latte.
Besides this, it’s also under an hour’s drive from Whistler and incredibly beautiful. I’m talking about panoramic views of the Canadian landscape, plus hiking and biking trails, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and the Britannia Mine Museum.
Feel like going further south? You’ll love taking a day trip to Victoria, BC.
18. Go Ice Fishing
Another unique thing to do in Whistler in winter is ice fishing. It’s a popular winter activity in Canada and has a long history that goes back to several First Nations in North America.
To do this, you’ll need to obtain a fishing rod, create a hole in the ice, and fish away! If this sounds tricky, don’t stress; I have a great option – this half-day ice fishing tour in nearby Pemberton. It includes all the equipment you’ll need, plus an experienced guide who will help you. I actually did this years ago during a trip to Alaska in the winter and had a lot more fun than I anticipated!
19. Do Some Sightseeing
Of course, this may seem elementary in Whistler, but sightseeing is a fun way to take in all the town has to offer, from its cultural heritage to its magnificent surroundings. There are multiple ways you can do this.
Yes, you can do a sightseeing tour by car or plane. However, this tour offers you a glacier sightseeing experience by floatplane – how’s that for memorable? You’ll get to see Garibaldi Lake, glaciers, and dense forests while your pilot shares insights into the area’s geography.
Prefer to stay on land? This Whistler sightseeing tour stops at 11 popular attractions in the town, including Green Lake Lookout, Rainbow Park, the Whistler Olympic Plaza, and more. Plus, you’ll be in a climate-controlled vehicle with bottled water and all admission fees included.
20. Try Axe Throwing
Looking for some more indoor fun to add to your Whistler itinerary in winter? Give axe throwing a try at Forge Axe Throwing, which is one of the best things to do in Whistler in the winter if you want to stay warm. It’s an immensely thrilling activity to do, no matter what the weather is like. I first did this as one of my Camano Island activities when visiting the area, and I absolutely loved it.
Firstly, you’ll be given a safety briefing before any throwing is done. Additionally, all participants must have closed shoes on, and there is netting between each lane. That said, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think once you get the hang of it (I think it took me about 10 minutes to start landing the axes).
A one-hour axe-throwing guided experience costs around $34 per person, so it’s not too expensive of an activity. What’s more, local beers, wine, and light snacks are available for purchase here.
21. Go Snowmobiling
One of the best Whistler attractions in winter is heading to the snowy slopes to go snowmobiling. You can drive through the snow without worrying about doing any work – that’s up to the snowmobile’s engine.
Whistler is the perfect area for snowmobiling, as there is tons of open terrain, and thanks to all the snow, it’s one of the best things to do in Whistler in December. This makes it ideal, whether you’re a novice or a pro, as they also have guided snowmobile tours available.
This two-hour snowmobile tour lets you explore scenic trails with the help of a professional local guide. What’s more, it includes a hot drink and a snack, plus winter gear if you’ve forgotten any.
22. Visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
Last but certainly not least, there is the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, the first of its kind in Canada. Here, you can learn about the culture and history of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. There are several permanent and temporary exhibitions that look into all aspects of Squamish and Lil’wat life, from daily practices to ancient artifacts.
It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission costs $15 per adult and $5 per child.
Tips for Visiting During Winter in Whistler
Whistler becomes a winter wonderland as soon as the snow starts to fall. With this, many people come here for skiing, snowboarding, and numerous other snow sports. Planning to visit this delightful holiday resort? Here are a few tips to prepare you for a fantastic winter vacation or an epic weekend in Whistler.
- When packing for a Whistler winter, make sure to bring a waterproof jacket, warm gloves, a toque (that’s Canadian for beanie), and all your ski equipment. While there are tons of gear rental shops, it’s not worth forking out extra money if you already have.
- Traveling to this magnificent town but on a tight budget? Check out this list of cheap eats in Whistler to save some cash.
- Another way to save money is by booking tours, lift tickets, and accommodations in advance. This way, you can get more for less and even splurge on a fun night out in town.
Getting Around Whistler
This area is an easy place to move around, which is convenient when there are so many things to do in Whistler in the winter. It’s pleasant to walk here, as the Whistler Village is car-free, and the Whistler Valley Trail is a convenient way to get around the town.
The public transportation system is also fantastic. The Whistler Public Transit System offers free daily shuttles between Whistler Village and the Blackcomb base. However, if you prefer to drive, rest assured that plenty of parking space exists.
Weather in Whistler in Winter
Although it can snow here from November until April, the best time to visit Whistler for skiing is between December and March. This is because winter is in full swing, and the slopes are powdery and perfect for speeding down.
Additionally, the town becomes alive with festive cheer in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year’s (you’ll also love checking out the things to do in Vancouver at Christmas). Still wondering what the weather’s like during this time?
You can expect temperatures to range from the high 10s to the 40ºFs.
Whistler in December
The weather in Whistler begins to get quite chilly as early as late November. However, December is officially the beginning of winter in Whistler. Expect lows to range in the 20s and highs to be in the 30s.
Visiting Whistler is a busy time, as many come here to celebrate Christmas with their families. What’s more, the town hosts the Whistler Film Festival during the first week of December and some events of the Luge World Cup during mid-December.
Whistler in January
January definitely has the coldest weather in Whistler. This period also has a lot of rainy days, with a monthly precipitation of 200 mm. This does mean you’ll have more stormy weather, but the snowfall is usually excellent around this time.
The beginning of January is quite a busy time for Whistler, as many visit for New Year’s Eve. These crowds tend to die down a bit after the first week. The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival also happens in the last week of January, so it’s a fun time to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community.
Whistler in February
With the month of love, many couples head to Whistler for a romantic winter getaway for Valentine’s Day. It’s also one of the best months for skiing, as there is a lot of snowfall – ideal for powdery slopes.
Moreover, on the third Monday of February, it’s Family Day, which brings in a lot of families to the town. If you’re considering visiting with your family, check out this list of fun things to do in Whistler with kids.
Whistler in March
Winter begins to wind down in March as the weather starts to get a bit hotter. It’s still cold, with the lows in the mid 20ºFs and the highs in the mid 40ºFs.
Whistler becomes exceptionally busy in the last two weeks of March as the Canadian Spring Break brings in students from across Canada. However, with lower rates and many powder days, it’s still a great time to visit.
Where to Stay for Whistler Winter Activities
Now that you know a bit more about what to expect weather-wise, you’ll need somewhere brilliant to stay. Here are a few options for your winter trip:
- Pinnacle Hotel Whistler: This charming hotel comes with all the ideal amenities for a winter stay. This includes spa baths, gas fireplaces, and flat-screen TVs in your rooms, plus, it’s next to a bus stop and only 1,800 feet from the nearest ski lift. (Rates start at around $105 per night)
- Blackcomb Spring Suites: With exquisite vistas of Whistler’s nature surrounding you, this chic hotel is tranquil, plus, it has a hot tub, free Wi-Fi, a gym, and board games. (Rates start at around $123 per night)
- Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre: For a luxurious stay, you can’t go wrong with this hotel. It has two hot tubs, a heated pool, and a seating area with a gas fireplace. The hotel’s Raven Room offers curated cocktails, local craft beer, and a seasonal menu. (Rates start at around $164 per night)
You’ll love all these things to do in Whistler in the winter, even if you don’t ski.