So you’re going to ski Whistler Blackcomb (in Canada).
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?
Whistler vs Blackcomb
Here’s our guide to skiing and snowboarding at this awesome resort.
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 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 ski lift tickets
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:
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.
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:
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 or Blackcomb for beginners?
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).
Best intermediate runs at Whistler Blackcomb?
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.
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.
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!
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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