The snowy mountain peaks of Europe have always been our ski home, but over the last few years the lure of North American skiing had been creeping up on us. With an enviable snowfall record, whilst that of Austria, France and Switzerland has become increasingly hard to predict, the uncrowded pistes and the sheer choice of non-ski activities to mix up the holiday, all began to appeal.
Of all the North American resorts, Whistler got our vote. With a relatively convenient overnight flight, easy transfer, a ski area twice the size of the next biggest in North America (8,171 Acres), avalanche control, a huge efficient lift system and tube and terrain parks mixing up the activities… we bit the bullet and booked it.
From December through to April, Whistler is becoming an increasingly popular destination for the skiing Brit. Average annual snowfall is around 12 metres, which gives a pretty good chance of ideal conditions both on piste and across the acclaimed back country.
The sheer scale of the ski area is vast with a mile high vertical drop, making the Creek to Peak run 7.5km long. With a vertical drop of 1,521 metres the vistas are beyond stunning AND mountain rescue and insurance covers you across the entire area. We were told not to judge Whistler Blackcomb on the number of marked runs, but the thousands of unmarked ones through trees, off cornices and in deep powder that make the skiing so memorable. That in itself was worth us making the journey West.
Whistler Blackcomb’s management of the mountain is streamlined, coordinating lift systems, 7 terrain parks and a wealth of on-mountain restaurants. Not to mention the 1400 ski and snowboard instructors, mountain ‘hosts’, who help monitor lift queues (forget any pushing in or sliding to the front here), and the smiling ‘speed police’ dressed in bright yellow at key intersections.
The choice of accommodation is vast, but be prepared that central locations get booked up to a year ahead and you have to be organised to secure family rooms. The same can be said for the town’s numerous top restaurants; Sushi Village, Bear Foot Bistro, Araxi, Hy’s Steak House…all have huge demand during the peak holiday weeks. And so they should. They are excellent. We discovered local wines, superlative service with a smile, stunning and healthy menus…and of course Whistler’s signature Caesar cocktail is always a top choice from breakfast through to dinner.
So why should Brits jump ship from Europe and give Whistler a try? There really isn’t any other resort that compares in terms of the sheer volume of skiing for every ability across mixed terrain.
The bowl-based structure of the mountains means it is also very hard to get lost as skiers are funnelled from one bowl to the next (there are 16 in total), and then clearly signposted back down to the embrace of the village.
Children are enticed and encouraged to play on the slope side Tree Fort with crazy slides and towers to climb. The enchanted forest is kid heaven as they learn to navigate skiing through the trees. The jump parks are huge and there is plenty of space for children to ride alongside the pros perfecting their 360s.
Will we return? With the cost of skiing in Europe increasing every year, it is hard to ignore the strength of the pound against the Canadian dollar in our decision making. Family lunch up the mountain came to £30 …that’s hard to beat anywhere, let alone when you are 6,000ft up and have an afternoon of fresh powder to tackle.