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If you’re planning a ski trip to Whistler with your family, there are some tips you need to know before you head out on your family ski trip! Whistler is an amazing ski resort town located in British Columbia, Canada, about an hour and a half north of Vancouver, but it’s huge size and variety of terrain can make it a challenge if you don’t have a plan in advance. With world-class skiing and snowboarding, excellent terrain, and plenty of family activities and amenities, it’s no wonder that Whistler is a great ski destination for families with kids. In this post, we’ll give you some ideas for how to plan your trip so that you can enjoy it to the fullest.
What Makes Skiing Whistler With Kids Special?
Whistler is one of the absolute best ski areas in North America and has something for everyone in the family. After hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 2010, the entire area became even more accessible and family friendly. Whistler has terrain unlike almost any other ski resort that we’ve skied with kids. The mountain is HUGE and the terrain can be intense.
Even though skiing Whistler can be very extreme, there is also a lot of family-friendly ski terrain at Whistler to balance that out. Whistler is shaped like a giant V with the base of the mountain having a small amount of terrain and as you go higher on the mountain, there is more and more terrain.
As a general rule of thumb, the beginner terrain is located closer to the base (or around where the gondolas let people off mid-mountain), and the more advanced terrain is at the top. We also love that Whistler is a very family friendly town that’s also very walkable. The Village area has everything that you could need, so a car really isn’t even necessary once you get to Whistler with kids.
Navigating Skiing Whistler With Kids
Whistler is a giant mountain is having a plan to get around the mountain is important to figure out in advance. We skied at Whistler for 3 days and didn’t even come close to skiing all of the terrain there.
Base areas at Whistler
There are three main base areas at Whistler: Creekside, Whistler, and Blackcomb. To simplify your day logistically, plan to park as close as possible to where you want to ski. All of the base areas have gondolas to take you to mid-mountain or higher so plan that in advance.
Creekside Base Area
Whistlers Creekside Base area isn’t a place that you do a lot of skiing, but rather where you can ski FROM. Several longer blue runs ski into Creekside, but the gondola to take you up to Whistler Mountain is where most people spend their time, and make staying in Creekside convenient to ski out.
Whistler Village Base Area
Whistler Village Base area is the most crowded of all of the base areas at Whistler Blackcomb. It has lots of hotels and restaurants in the village and has lifts and gondolas to take you up to both Whistler mountain and Blackcomb. This is a fun base area to ski down to if you want to take in the apres ski scene (there are usually performers there on weekends, which the kids love). The Whistler base area is the most crowded on weekends, so plan on arriving early to avoid super long lift lines.
Blackcomb Base Area
Blackcomb base area at Whistler is our top pick for skiing with beginners at Whistler. If you’re just learning to ski, get a super cheap ticket to the Magic Chair for cheap skiing at Whistler. Otherwise, take the gondola up higher for some of the steepest terrain at the top of Blackcomb mountain. To get between Whistler and Blackcomb mountain, the Peak 2 Peak gondola is your best option. The whole ride is about 15 minutes and over 2 miles long and makes getting between the mountains super convenient.
Family Ski Areas At Whistler
There are several designated family ski areas at Whistler, which we absolutely LOVE. Here you’ll find lots of slow signs, fun runs for kids and gentle terrain that’s perfect for families. While these areas get a lot of attention, we think that there are two other areas at Whistler that are even MORE FAMILY FRIENDLY!
Tree Fort at Whistler Mountain
The Tree Fort is a fun little hideout in the woods above mid-mountain on Whistler. It’s the perfect place for kids to take their skis off, climb around for a bit and let their little legs recharge. This would make a great spot to stop and have a snack or to enjoy a thermos of hot cocoa.
Magic Castle at Blackcomb Mountain
The Magic Castle area is really popular and with good reason – it’s super fun. Kids will love the giant slides, fun ski trails in and out of the area, and the bridges to climb and explore. The Magic Castle is located off the Catskinner lift which has a large terrain park and is a bit steep, so we recommend sticking to the green cat track with younger kids for more gentle terrain.
Kids Ski School At Whistler
Ski school at Whistler is INCREDIBLE. Truthfully, it was some of the best ski instruction that we’ve ever seen. At most other resorts, group ski lessons can feel a little bit hit or miss – sometimes you have a great instructor and other times a mediocre one. At the Whistler kids ski school, every instructor that we saw was doing a phenomenal job.
As a former ski instructor, I can tell you that there is a big difference between a kids ski lesson where the instructor gives basic instructions and hopes the kids catch on and one who gives individualized instruction to each kid. The Whistler kids ski school instructors were taking time to critique each kid’s skiing, give them tips to improve and discussing their progress as a class. It was clear that the overall training of kids ski instructors at Whistler is phenomenal.
It’s also worth mentioning that while many kids ski schools start to phase out when kids start to ski black terrain, Whistler ski school for kids just keeps going. We saw classes of kids skiing double blacks, learning to jump cliffs and navigating technical chutes together. If you don’t put your kids in at least one day of children’s ski school at Whistler, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.
Adult Ski School At Whistler
Adult ski school IS NOT just for beginners at Whistler. In fact, adult ski lessons at Whistler were absolutely incredible (and I’m so upset that I didn’t know about how great they were and missed the opportunity). Whistler has a ski school for adults that are designed for the type of terrain you want to ski, so you learn exactly the skills that you need to work on.
We were especially impressed with the Whistler Extremely Canadian clinics that were focused on steeps and extreme terrain. The skills that they were teaching here were HIGH LEVEL and I was also impressed that they have many women-only classes that are taught by women as well. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Whistler ski school has something for you! If you’re looking for the perfect combination of family ski school at Whistler, I recommend having the kids in 2 full-day ski school lessons and then taking 2 half-day adult lessons so you can still have 2 half days of skiing without the kids. For the rest of your Whistler family ski trip, ski all together.
Drawbacks To Skiing Whistler With Kids
While we absolutely LOVED our ski trip to Whistler, there are some drawbacks to skiing Whistler with kids. The hardest things about skiing with kids at Whistler is how long the runs are. For younger kids, even if they have good skills, this can be a challenge because completing a full run takes A LOT of stamina.
Another difficult aspect of a family ski trip to Whistler is that the terrain is generally steeper than at many other resorts. At Whistler, many of the runs that were marked as blue would have been considered a black at our home mountain of Park City, Utah, even though both resorts are owned and operated by Vail Resorts.
This steeper and longer terrain can make it a bit of a logistical challenge for mom and dad to ski more advanced terrain while finding alternative routes down that work well for kids. For our family, we decided that for future trips, we likely wouldn’t bring our kids to ski at Whistler until they can ski a black diamond confidently, so we can enjoy the trip to its full potential.
Early Closing Times at Whistler
While most ski resorts in the US are open from 9-4 or 4:30, Whistler is open from 8:30-3:30 (though most lifts are closed by 3:00). To plan for this, make sure that you’re on the mountain early so you can get as much skiing as you want to before the resort closes.
Skiing For Cheap At Whistler
While most ski resorts are getting a reputation for being incredibly expensive there is another great option for cheap skiing at Whistler. If you’re just a beginner or skiing with beginner kids, you can get a lift ticket for the Magic Chair only (at the Blackcomb base) that gives you access to a gentle beginner run. This cheap Whistler ski ticket only costs $20 and is a great option for skiing with beginners at Whistler.
Best Places To Stay In Whistler With Kids
There are SO MANY places to stay in Whistler with kids, and nearly all of them are fantastic. Instead of detailing a specific hotel or resort, I’m going to suggest that you book around a specific area instead. The best place to stay in Whistler with kids is around the Olympic Village. This is about 2 blocks north of Whistler Village, but it escapes the louder party scene of Whistler Village and trades it in for family-friendly activities and a calmer atmosphere.
Apres Ski Activities With Kids at Whistler
Whistler is full of super fun activities to do with kids. Here are some of the best apres-ski activities for kidsin Whistler:
Our top pick is skating at the Olympic rink right in the village. Bring your own skates if you have them because admission is only $2, but skate rental is $8. The rink is small but perfect for kids.
The Whistler Snow Zone for kids is another favorite and we think it’s perfect for kids ages 8 and under. Here you’ll find giant piles of snow, slides, snow tunnels and even some sledding hills. If you forgot a sled, head to The Circle (just 5 minutes away) and buy a sled. The store will buy it back from you and give you a $10 store credit.
The Kids Treehouse Playground in Whistler is another super fun area for kids to explore. While they don’t maintain it in the winter, most areas were in great condition for playing when we were there on our February ski trip.
The Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop is right next to the Treehouse Playground and is a great place to get a quick treat for the kids. We were super impressed by the variety of candy in this shop.
Armchair Books on the north end of Whistler Village has an incredible selection of outdoor and nature focused books for children. Honestly, this is one of the best outdoor book selections for children that we’ve ever seen, so don’t miss a stop in here!
Whooloa Toys is the best toy shop in all of Whistler, so if you’re looking to let the kids get a souvenir from this trip, this is the place to go for great toys.
The Whistler recreation center, the Meadow Park Sports Centre is an excellent and affordable option for faimly fun. With indoor squash courts, a swimimng pool, fitness center, and an indoor ice rink, this is the perfect place for affordable fun with kids in Whistler.
Do I need a car to visit Whistler with kids?
No, you don’t need a car. In fact, Whistler is one of the easiest ski resort towns to get around on foot since so much of the town is centrally located.
How much does it cost to ski at Whistler with kids?
Adults cost $199CAD, teen lift tickets at Whistler are $169 and kids lift tickets at Whistler are $100 CAD. For the best deals, buy lift tickets online and in advance for usually cheaper prices. If you’re planning on skiing more than 4 days, it’s worth investing in an Epic Pass which is a season pass to all Vail resorts.