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Whistler vs Blackcomb: Which has better skiing?

So you’re going to ski Whistler Blackcomb (in Canada).

Lucky you!

It consistently rakes in awards for being one of the world’s top ski resorts. Readers of Ski magazine ranked it #7 in Western North America ski resorts for 2021. The British Telegraph newspaper rated Whistler Blackcomb the best ski resort in the world in 2020.

You can cruise down 200+ ski runs (and go heli-skiing too), shred the gnar on six terrific terrain parks, stay at fabulous lodges and eat and drink at over 100 restaurants and bars.

In a word, the skiing and riding is epic! (As is the après ski…)

But if you’re a first-time visitor, the most pressing question you probably have is… Whistler vs Blackcomb: Which of the two side-by-side mountains is best for skiing and boarding?

Surrounded by fabulous scenery, skiers take a break from skiing

Whistler vs Blackcomb

We’ve lived in British Columbia (in Vancouver and the capital, Victoria), most of our lives. And we’ve gone skiing at Whistler and Blackcomb umpteen times!

Here’s our guide to skiing and snowboarding at this awesome resort.

Cool Whistler facts:

  • Whistler Blackcomb is North America’s largest ski resort (by skiable terrain).
  • Blackcomb Mountain has the second highest vertical drop in the continent – an almost unrivaled 5,280 feet.
  • Many of the 2010 Winter Olympics games were held in Whistler – from alpine skiing and the biathlon to ski jumping, luge and skeleton.

Whistler snowfall history

Before we get into the nitty gritty, you’ll be jazzed to know that both mountains consistently record great dumps of snow.

The average Whistler Blackcomb annual snowfall is almost 38 feet a year.

Some years have been over-the-top.

More than 45 feet of the white stuff fell in the 2011-2012 season; a staggering 52 feet of snow fell the year before!

More recently, the 2020-2021 season welcomed almost 37 feet of snow.

Whistler Blackcomb is the biggest ski resort in North America.
In winter, you’ll discover acres and acres of beautiful snow at Whistler Blackcomb!

Whistler Blackcomb snow conditions by month:

In terms of snow, if you’re looking for the best time for skiing Whistler Blackcomb, plan your ski vacay for November or January. These are typically the months with the most snowfall.

For example, in 2020-21, over 11 feet of snow fell in January; the previous year, January saw almost 16 feet of snow.

But really, any time in winter and spring is a good time to ski or snowboard here. You can’t go wrong choosing Whistler Blackcomb for a ski holiday!

Whistler weather history:

For detailed Whistler snowfall and weather information by month and year, see this history and stats report.

Whistler snow forecast:

See here for the Blackcomb and Whistler snow report, with current snow conditions and ski forecast.

Whistler ski lift tickets

With your lift ticket, you can ski Blackcomb and Whistler in the same day.
With your lift ticket, you can ski Blackcomb and Whistler in the same day

When you buy a ski ticket, it allows you to access all lifts and gondolas on the whole Whistler Blackcomb ski area.

You can buy 1-day Whistler ski tickets (for skiing or riding on a particular day) right up to 5-day lift tickets (to use any 5 days within an 8-day window).

See the Whistler Blackcomb site for online lift tickets, with complete ticket pricing and more information.

Whistler Blackcomb ski lifts and gondolas

The combined number of lifts and gondolas is 32.

Whistler has 19. Blackcomb has 12 lifts and gondolas. And then there’s the Peak 2 Peak Gondola (covered below).

Together, they whisk up and away some 70,000 skiers per hour.

New lifts and gondolas:

In 2019, Vail Resorts (which owns Whistler Blackcomb) invested $66 million in a massive upgrade, including two new lifts and the new 10-person Blackcomb Gondola.

And it’s going to get even better in future!

The big news is that over a dozen new chairlifts are being installed to further reduce wait times.

In particular, the 6-person Creekside Gondola at the base of Whistler Mountain will be swapped out for a high-speed, 8-person gondola. And the Big Red Express quad will be replaced by a new high-speed, 6-person chair.

The $320 million upgrades should be finished before the 2022-2023 ski season.

Where to upload on the mountains?

The Whistler Blackcomb ski resort has four main locations where you can upload on the mountains:

Creekside Village

It has a large indoor free parking lot and is popular with locals  driving up from Vancouver. The Creekside Gondola takes you up Whistler Mountain.

Whistler Village

If you’re staying in Whistler Village, you can upload via the Whistler Village Gondola (which takes you up Whistler Mountain), the Excalibur Gondola (which goes up Blackcomb Mountain) or the Fitzsimmons Express (a short, 4-person ski lift which accesses easy green runs on Whistler Mountain).

Whistler Blackcomb Upper Village

From the Upper Village, the new 2019 Blackcomb Gondola takes you up Blackcomb Mountain to the Rendezvous Lodge. This 10-person gondola, by the way, is the highest-capacity gondola in North America, ferrying 4,000 skiers per hour.

Base II, Upper Village

In the Upper Village, you can also get on the Excalibur Gondola. While this gondola starts in Whistler Village, it slows down at Base II for unloading and uploading passengers.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola:

The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is the first lift in the world to join two side-by-side mountains

Remember too that your lift ticket includes riding between both mountains on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola (or Peak to Peak Gondola).

So you don’t have to choose between Whistler or Blackcomb.

Your ticket gives you access to over 8,100 acres of skiable terrain on both Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.

Okay, now here’s the quick and dirty on Blackcomb vs Whistler…

Whistler vs Blackcomb - both are great for skiing and snowboarding!
Whistler vs Blackcomb – both are great for skiing and snowboarding!

Blackcomb Mountain

Blackcomb Elevation:

Blackcomb has an elevation of 7,494 feet and a vertical rise of 5,280 feet.

Steeper terrain:

Most people think Blackcomb is the more difficult mountain. Runs are generally steeper, and you’ll find lots of black diamond runs.

Blackcomb also has more tree runs and more cut trails than Whistler.

Best expert terrain?

If you’re an advanced skier, check out Spanky’s Ladder. Consisting of four bowls (Ruby, Diamond, Garnet and Sapphire), it’s riddled with chutes, cliffs and other fun stuff that gets extreme skiers drooling.

When it’s a white-out:

In a snowstorm, Blackcomb is often easier to find your way down the mountain.

Best place for lunch:

Christine’s is the finest on-mountain spot for lunch (in our opinion) – a stylish restaurant for those who deem wine with their lunch an essential part of their day.

Local favorite:

Locals tend to prefer Blackcomb.

Whistler Mountain

Whistler elevation:

Whistler has a top elevation of 7,160 feet and a vertical rise of 5,020 feet.

Green runs:

One main difference between Whistler and Blackcomb is that Whistler offers more green runs than Blackcomb. It’s thus better for beginner skiers. And there are lots of green runs high up the mountain.

Best green run? Burnt Stew Trail – easy, mellow and in the true alpine.

Expert skiing:

Yes, Whistler has more easy skiing, but some of the steepest terrain in North America can also be pounded from the Peak Express chair lift, which climbs up to the summit of Whistler Mountain.

Alpine bowls:

Whistler has more alpine bowls than Blackcomb. A local fave? Bagel Bowl off the top of the Peak Express.

Sunshine:

It’s usually sunnier on Whistler Mountain in the mornings (that’s why Blackcomb is jokingly called “the Dark Side”).

And when the sun shines, Whistler offers spectacular views from the bowls!

Whistler or Blackcomb for beginners?

There are plenty of gentle slopes and learning areas at Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains welcome newbie skiers and boarders

There are plenty of gentle slopes and learning areas at Whistler Blackcomb for beginners to test out their ski legs.

We’ve already mentioned that beginner skiers trying to choose between Blackcomb or Whistler will mostly want to hang out on Whistler Mountain. For beautiful green terrain, the Burnt Stew trail is one of the best Whistler ski runs.

Another beginner-friendly place on Whistler Mountain is at the Olympic Station (mid-station up the Whistler Village Gondola).

The terrain at the Olympic Beginner Zone is gradual and gentle, with magic carpets and bermed areas – the perfect place to begin your skiing or riding journey. And as it’s fenced off, you don’t have to worry about people whizzing by you.

But don’t give up on Blackcomb!

Right at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, the slow and beginner-friendly Magic Chair takes you to a great bunny hill. At this learn-to-ski area, you’ll find a magic-carpet lift and another one of the best runs in Whistler Blackcomb for newbies – the Yellow Brick Road (short, wide and smooth).

Want to learn to ski? The adult ski school at Whistler will get you sliding down the slopes!
Want to learn to ski? The adult ski school will get you sliding down the slopes! (Credit: Whistler Blackcomb)

Best intermediate runs at Whistler Blackcomb?

Blackcomb wins.

Hit the Crystal Ridge Express. You’ll find lots of lovely cruising blue runs like Ridge Runner off this high-speed quad chair.

And when it’s a sunny day with bluebird skies, there’s no better place to be than Seventh Heaven! At the top of Blackcomb, it’s known for its long fall-line skiing, with great groomed slopes and exhilarating views.

Ski Whistler Blackcomb, and you'll be beaming like this too!
Ski Whistler Blackcomb, and you’ll be beaming like this too

Couloir Extreme Whistler

Dubbed “one of the world’s most terrifying ski slopes” by Conde Nast Traveler, Couloir Extreme on Blackcomb (renamed Saudan’s Couloir in 2017) is probably the most difficult of all Whistler Blackcomb runs.

It was once the site for the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme (named after extreme skier Sylvain Saudan) – where racers would do a backflip (or other ski trick) from the top then hurl themselves down the almost “2,500 vertical feet of thigh-burning hell.”

Try it if you dare!

Whistler ski resort tips

Take a free mountain tour:

You can discover the mountains with a mountain host on a free orientation tour. Both Whistler and Blackcomb offer free mountain tours.

Pay for a lesson:

It’s worth taking a lesson to try and improve your techniques. As a bonus, the ski or snowboard instructor will likely take you to a tucked-away area you might not find on your own.

Start early:

Yes, there are four base locations from which you can start your Whistler skiing day. And you may not like to get up early.

But to avoid lift lines, aim to be up and out on the mountain before 8:30 am. The winter daylight hours are short, and everyone is starting to head back down the mountains by 3:30 pm. So to maximize your skiing or snowboarding time, hitting the slopes early is the way to go.

Friends who have a second home in Whistler tell us they like to ski non-stop (maybe with just a short latte break) from 8:30 am to 1:00 or 1:30 pm or so. Then they have lunch after. This way, they squeeze the most skiing out of their day. (Plus they still have leftover afternoon time for a spa treatment or to read.)

Whistler ski season

Whistler and Blackcomb boast a long ski season.

The mountains usually open for skiing and riding in November. (They opened on November 26, 2020 for the 2020-2021 season).

Whistler’s ski season then ends in April, but Blackcomb often continues with spring skiing until May.

And then it’s still not over, because Blackcomb Glacier is open for summer skiing in June and July. How cool is that!

Fancy skiing in your skivvies? Blackcomb Glacier is open in July and August.
Fancy skiing in your skivvies? Blackcomb Glacier is open in July and August

We love hiking in Whistler in summer too! The Joffre Lakes hike is rad!

Final thoughts on the Whistler vs Blackcomb debate

To ski Whistler? Or to ski Blackcomb? Is one better than the other?

Toss up a coin. The debate is really academic. Some people prefer Whistler; others prefer Blackcomb.

We love both, depending on our mood. But if we were forced to choose? We’d say Blackcomb is the better mountain – it’s the Dark Side for us…

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Whistler vs Blackcomb: Which has the best skiing?

About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Tom Dougherty

Monday 15th of May 2017

It's skiing and you're in the mountains. Cold is part of the adventure. I've been out in about -30 C...and loved it.

galanda23

Wednesday 7th of December 2016

I haven't tried any one of these ski resorts yet, although a few years ago we were very close to going to Whistler. We always end up in Lake Tahoe, California, because it is much closer and the temperature is milder. I've heard that Blackcomb can get very cold.

Janice and George

Thursday 8th of December 2016

Blackcomb and Whistler are pretty mild - compared to, say, Sunshine and Lake Louise in Alberta. When we lived in Calgary and skied there, we would always freeze! Don't know how temps between Whistler/Blackcomb and Lake Tahoe compare though...

Frank

Tuesday 29th of November 2016

Gorgeous! Mountains out west are fantastic, would love to go skiing there sometime.

Frank

Janice and George

Tuesday 29th of November 2016

And it's not as cold as Sunshine and Lake Louise in Alberta :-). We used to ski there before moving to B.C. Brrrr!!!

Charu

Thursday 25th of October 2012

I've not done either, so I wouldn't be the best person to ask, but I hear nothing but amazing things about the powder in Whistler...

Janice and George

Thursday 25th of October 2012

You'd enjoy Whistler! Even non-skiers love Whistler in winter. Its pedestrian village is charming, with many top restaurants - not to mention the spas and other activities (e.g., bobsledding anyone?).