Drive along the Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler and you’ll ponder the thought of relocation. Across the sound the snow-capped mountains frame your view. The water is deep with hues of blue from a bright sky and the towering pines along the base of the shore are at attention as if requiring any visitor to stop and enjoy the scenery. Look high above and you’ll see the bald eagles soaring and look across and you might see a few whales drifting. If there is such a thing as “God’s Country” it must be in British Columbia, Canada.
Winter brings a stark contrast to this section of the country as the evergreens are dusted with white powder from the sky and the sunshine is replaced with skies filled with precipitation. The mist across the treetops begs for a warm drink and soft sweaters but the snow it brings demands sharp edges and deep powder turns. A winter day in Whistler, B.C. might be anchored by skiing on the enormous mountain but a getaway for a ski vacation is about far more than just lift lines and sore legs.
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The village stroll is simply a winter must do for any bucket list. You walk through the village that is bordered by shops, restaurants and various forms of diversions. The snow falls from above as the atmosphere is an equal part holiday winter wonderland and adventure travel destination. Take in some outdoor ice skating in the shadow of the Olympic rings or grab a drink at the base of the mountain or order two scoops of ice cream and walk around in the snow with some ice cream. (Yes, it does happen often)
Whistler is actually two mountains with an endless collection of lifts that are connected by the long extremely high Peak 2Peak chair. This lift system allows your day to be filled with gladded runs, powder runs, groomed runs, and a long glacier descent when the day is done. If you like to rack up vertical feet there really is no better place. End your day on Blackcomb Glacier and ski in a glaciated valley between towering mountains and over a giant, moving, piece of ice. The snow is deep and the entry is steep but the views and the endless turns make this an experience that will not be soon forgotten.
Happy hour at Arazi is a must do if you feel like coming off of the mountain early to get some oysters and bubbles. Bearfoot Bistro is the white tablecloth experience that you might want for a special occasion and the Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar& Grill is where your beer comes to you while you still have your ski boots on.
Whistler Details: 37 lifts, 8171 acres, 528ft vertical drop, 200 runs
More Winter Ski Travel Options:
Mammoth Mountain, California
Details: 28 lifts, 3500 acres, 3100ft vertical drop, 151 runs
The mountain spreads out over 4 main base operations and terrain varies from flat for beginners to scary bowel losing drop-offs. This small mountain town draws its crowd from southern California so that means that midweek skiing is uncrowded and wide open for those seeking long days of endless uncrowded skiing. Groomed runs are plentiful all day and the powder here will require more than a massage at the end of the day. Don’t worry, Mammoth Brewing Company has what you need to ready your body for day 2 of skiing.
Details: 43 lifts, 5547 acres, 4406ft vertical drop, 329 runs
While Snowmass is a personal favorite this entire area as a ski destination is why you’ll pay a premium to visit. Four mountains make up a diverse skiing experience but the après ski activities drive this destination’s popularity. World class restaurants and inviting nightlife make for a ski vacation that gets going long after the ski boots are unbuckled.
Deer Valley, Utah
Details: 21 lifts, 2026 acres, 3000ft vertical feet, 101 runs
Plush and luxurious just like you need when you are skiing. The runs are groomed and the food on the mountain is perfect. This feels more like a resort to go wine tasting but don’t hesitate to challenge yourself while being pampered. Just a quick shuttle ride from Main street in Park City this is the ski hill for those of us who also enjoy a little luxury with our snow play.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Details: 12 lifts, 2500 acres, 4139ft vertical drop, 133 runs
Steep and deep. This is the wild west of ski mountains so you’ll find plenty of challenging terrain and enough adrenaline to keep your heart pumping late into the evening. Fine dining in town and a great scene in Teton Village. Stay at the base of the mountain if you are a die-hard who needs first tracks or stay in town if you like a bit more entertainment with your ski vacation.