A family ski trip to Whistler
Skiing in Whistler versus Europe
We have found a family holiday we all love: Skiing! It’s full of adventure, exercise, lots of family time and well, it’s just a lot of fun. We’ve spent two fabulous holidays in The Alps: Once in Val D’Isere, and the second time in Alpe D’Huez. We thought both these resorts were fantastic and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to other families, but we had an itch that needed scratching – a family ski trip to Whistler.
We used the wonderful people at Alpine Answers, and we booked up to travel to Whistler in February of this year with Ski Independence. It was a different format to the previous European holidays; we’d be staying in a condo within a hotel. We were completely self catered, whereas in France we’d always stayed in a fully-catered chalet. We’d also travelled slightly later in the season and enjoyed wonderfully sunny days. In Alpe D’Huez we were practically down to tee shirts when skiing. There had been lots of sunbathing, sitting in deckchairs and an awful lot of food – very idyllic! Would Whistler match such amazing memories?
The journey is a lot longer than travelling to The Alps. A nine-hour flight to Vancouver, followed by a two hour transfer. From leaving London to getting to our hotel room, it was 16 hours travelling. Combine it with the jet-lag, that’s a tiring journey for anyone. Luckily we arrived in the evening and we went straight to bed more-or-less. Our son suffered a little with a very early wake up, but actually we all reset to Canadian time relatively easily.
This is where Whistler comes into its own. The average snowfall is over nine metres during the Winter, but due to its coastal proximity, the temperatures are relatively moderate. The average daily temperature for Whistler village hovers around 5 degrees celcius, and the temperature rarely gets lower than -10. And while we were there, the weather certainly played to form! We had snow pretty much every day, and whilst temperatures were regularly above freezing in the village, they certainly weren’t up the mountains! The peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb were regularly at -8/9.
This really affected how we and the kids dressed: You needed to be warm! The wonderful folk at Nipper Skipper provided the children with some fantastic base layers* from Helly Hansen. Nipper Skipper is a company to provide ‘functional and fashionable clothing for outdoor adventurers’. Indeed that is true! The kids were cosily wrapped up in their base layers, a fleece and jacket and were perfectly warm. The fleeces were so great they were worn to the pool at night, and even on the flights home. My son has continued to wear his for cold mornings at football, and my daughter often wears hers as lounge wear.
Although we wore sun screen everyday, we certainly didn’t need to top up continually like in France; no goggle marks for a change! However, the mix of sun, wind, snow (yes lots of that!) and rain took its toll, so I was grateful for the wonderful lip primer* from the Green People, it kept both mine and the children’s lips hydrated and moisturised. See my Instagram post for more on it.
OK, let’s cut to the chase: Is it better than Europe? I love the ski area of Espace Killy, and I wondered if it could match its magnitude. It did. Whistler and Blackcomb are two side-by-side mountains which combined offer over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers. That’s plenty of skiing to get your teeth into. Added to that the fresh powder we skied in most days made the skiing experience completely brilliant.
However, the first weekend we were there was also a US holiday, combine this with the European holidays and the queues over on Whistler were unbelievable. We regularly queued for over 20 minutes to get on lifts. After giving up and skiing to a mid-station, we asked a very helpful lifty where would be quieter, and he told us to get over to Blackcomb, so we hopped on the Peak to Peak gondola (a spectacle in itself, especially if you go on the glass bottomed lift!) The slopes are just as brilliant, and generally quieter. We loved the runs around the Jersey Cream bowl, and found plenty to keep us occupied. We also loved the runs at the top of Seventh Heaven – simply stunning and relatively quiet.
Food is always a large part of skiing – you need your energy! The first day on the slopes, we made the error of eating in a lodge. Although they offer every food option under the sun, they are hideously busy. We bypassed these for the rest of the holiday and only ate in the huts. Our favourite was Crystal Hut over on Blackcomb, which served delicious soup and turkey chilli (seriously good!). It was reasonable placed, and had a great terrace to eat on. We also enjoyed the pastries and coffees at Horseman hut!
We ate out every evening in the village. Due to the school holidays in the US and Europe, it was very busy. Reservations are a must otherwise, you do find yourself walking around the village a little aimlessly and hungry. We found the perfect answer though: The Whistler Keg. Often, families can take a table in the mezzanine where the full menu is served (and they have a kids’ menu) without a wait. We ate here a couple of times and had great meals. My son loved it too, as the mezzanine had TVs showing ice hockey and basketball!
The best meal we had while we were there was at Satchi Sushi. This place has turned sushi into an art form. We love eating sushi, and this is quite easily one of the best places we have had sushi. Make a reservation, or get there as it opens; you will not be disappointed.
Kids / Family
The kids always go to ski school, and we booked them into Whistler Kids – Adventure Camp. This was 5 days skiing from 830 until just after 3pm every day. I thought this might be a bit long for them, but they loved it! There was a real international feel to ski school, with instructors and from Holland, Canada, America, UK, Australia and New Zealand. With no more than six children in each group, the children were also an international crowd. We dropped in to the children one lunch time to a crazy canteen full of children, the pop music was blaring, instructors and kids were dancing – it was a really fun atmosphere. Oh, and my daughter can now do the cup song perfectly, thanks to one of the instructors!
The instructors were top notch. The kids progressed huge amounts this time, and they confidently skied the bowls and diamond runs, and shamefully they can ski moguls much better than I can … Whistler Kids is pricey, but in my opinion, completely worth it for learning and the fun factor.
Whistler is very child-orientated. From playgrounds up on the slopes (really!) to dedicated evenings in the village for ‘Kids apres’, where there is ice skating, ice hockey and sledging. It’s a fabulous place for families and just so much to do. We often just wandered around the village in the evenings. We had one magical evening, where the snowflakes were falling, the children were dizzy with excitement. They wore there gorgeous Lala and Bee hats• so we could always see them in the crowds, and were kept nice and cosy. Always take spare hats and gloves skiing – everything has a tendency to get wet!
Whistler attracts people from all over the world. This makes it a truly international village. I have never been to such a friendly ski resort: On every single lift, someone would speak to us, we met so many interesting people from all over the world, and I felt truly welcomed.
Whistler is brimming with life, yes it is a fantastic to place to go and ski, but it is truly special corner of the world. Book a family ski trip to Whistler: Go and visit and embrace all it has to offer.
Please note the items marked with an * were sent to us to review, all words, opinions and pictures are my own.
Do watch our video on Youtube from our great holiday in Whistler: