As the southern hemisphere prepares for summer, the mountains of Canada are braced for another long, icy winter. But as the wildlife of British Columbia heads for hibernation, snow-worshippers from across the globe are preparing to journey north for an epic ski season on the slopes of Whistler.
Along with the Brits, Australians make up one of the largest tourist groups to visit Whistler each winter.
Here’s our essential guide for the winter 2018/19 season.
Ride the new gondolas and the new lifts
The opening day of the winter season will not only see the first day of skiing and snowboarding, but also the unveiling of the much-anticipated 10-passenger Blackcomb Gondola. Stay warm and dry in the new gondola as it ascends from the base of Blackcomb Mountain to the top of the mountain adjacent to Rendezvous Lodge and the existing PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Together – the new Blackcomb Gondola, PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and Whistler Village Gondola – form the first three-gondola connection in the world.
Try your hand at axe throwing, Canada’s favourite après-ski
Après-ski like a lumberjack at Forged Axe Throwing. As Canada’s alternative to a darts league, this exciting timber sport sees participants hurl axes at a target with the hope of sinking a bullseye. The friendly team at Forged will provide all the training you need to get you axe throwing safely, even helping you to nail a trick shot or two. This is the perfect group activity after a day on the slopes.
Experience how steak tastes better in a mountain log cabin
Brand new for this winter is the snowmobile and steak tour from Canadian Wilderness Adventures. Explore the best of Whistler’s backcountry on a scenic snowmobile tour before arriving at a rustic log cabin on Sproatt Mountain. Once inside, you’ll enjoy a Canadian three-course steak dinner comprising of Angus beef sirloin served with garlic mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a delicious dessert.
The Fire & Ice Show is back
There’s only one place to be each Sunday night in Whistler, and that’s at Skier’s Plaza for the legendary Fire & Ice Show. The event attracts Whistler’s best skiers and riders who jump and flip through blazing rings of fire accompanied by fire spinners, a DJ and fireworks.
See a new hotel that thinks ‘outside the pod’
While Whistler has an array of accommodation for every taste and budget, the Pangea Pod Hotel has well and truly mixed things up for winter 2018/19. In an effort to completely redefine shared accommodation, the hotel targets solo travellers who want to enjoy the cutting edge design of a boutique hotel yet still experience the social vibe of a hostel.
Check out the Roundhouse Lodge Umbrella Bar
This popular 60 seat umbrella bar was completed for winter 2017/18, offering skiers and riders a stunning way to relax and take in the view while on the mountain. For 2018/19, there’s an extended wooden deck capable of hosting large functions and accommodating even more guests.
Be a winter Olympian for the day
Après-ski like an Olympian at the Whistler Sliding Centre this winter. As one of the host venues for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the centre is offering bobsleigh and skeleton experiences between December 14th, 2018 and March 31st, 2019, meaning you can experience the world’s fastest ice track for yourself. Experienced guides will be on hand to ensure you stay safe while reaching speeds of up to 125+ km/hr.
Mush a team of Arctic snow dogs
Who hasn’t dreamt about hurtling through a snowy landscape behind a team of enthusiastic (and utterly adorable) Arctic snow dogs? Based in the Callaghan Valley, the Canadian Wilderness tour guides will escort you through snow frosted forests, and there’s even the opportunity to take the reins yourself, learning how to ‘mush’ your own team of dogs. Overall, an epic Canadian adventure.
Zipline through the treetops
There are two fantastic companies offering zip lining experiences this winter. Ziptrek Ecotours boasts the longest zipline in North America at over 2 km long and their Twilight Tour is particular popular with those skiing by day. Superfly Ziplines also provide plenty of opportunity to view the old forests and breathtaking mountain views from a totally unique perspective.
Shop ‘til you drop
There’s a brand new high-end retailer in town this winter, sure to prove an exciting and welcome addition for those fashionistas hitting the slopes. Jonathan+Olivia opened its doors for business in August 2018 and the store is the first multi-brand fashion lifestyle boutique in town. Whether shopping for Christmas gifts, souvenirs or just wanting to freshen up your winter wardrobe, Whistler is great for those seeking retail therapy while in town.
Christmas in Whistler
Whistler is the perfect place to spend Christmas. Expect Christmas card scenes, skiing Santas, and plenty of festive cheer. Head to the ice rink at Olympic Plaza for skating before walking through the village to check out the huge number of Christmas lights - over 280,000 bulbs! Dine on traditional or non-traditional dishes on the big day itself at one of the many Whistler eateries where world-class cuisine is served up by talented international chefs.
IF YOU GO
Whistler is situated just two hours from Vancouver International Airport. Shuttle buses depart directly from the airport terminal travelling along the Sea to Sky Highway where you’ll enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of British Columbia.
Daily direct flights operate from Brisbane and Sydney, while one-stop flights operate from Melbourne and Perth.