It's easy to see why Whistler was chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. During winter, Whistler is a skiier's paradise, with 8,000 skiable acres spread across two mountains, more than 200 trails, 17 alpine bowls, and four wide-open glaciers. And with an average of 33 feet of snow each year, the conditions are unmatched. But the fun doesn't stop with skiing. Your family can try every imaginable snow sport, from dog sledding to snowshoeing. During summer, go hiking, mountain biking, or golfing. And don't forget to take a wildlife tour to see the bears, awake from their winter nap! When you're done playing in the outdoors, you'll find nearly endless shops and restaurants in Whistler Village, nestled at the base of the mountains. With non-stop outdoor adventures and energetic village life, this four-season resort is fun for everyone.
Winter is peak season at Whistler, consistently voted best ski resort in North America. Even if you don't plan to go skiing or snowboarding you'll find plenty of fun activities, even for the youngest children. Summer has an entirely different feel, when the mountains turn into bike central and the ecology tours give you a glimpse into nature at its wildest.
Whistler enjoys a fairly mild winter, even though it's so far north. During January (the coldest month), temps average a low of 18 degrees and a high of 28. It's warm enough to be comfortable, but still cold enough for the average 33 feet of snow that fall on the peak of Whistler Mountain each year. July and August are warm and dry, with temps ranging from 52 to 80 degrees, so you'll definitely need a light jacket at night.
Driving from Seattle to Whistler takes about five hours, depending on the wait to cross the Canadian border. Here's an insider tip, though: Take the border crossing for trucks on H Street. It's often much quicker, and passenger cars are perfectly acceptable. On the way, stop in Vancouver for a meal or just to stretch your legs. If at all possible, drive during the day -- the Sea to Ski Highway is narrow and curvy in spots, and poorly lit at night. Daylight is safer, and -- bonus! -- the views are breathtaking.
If you're flying, consider landing in Vancouver and taking the Whistler Mountaineer train. The kids will love the train itself, and the scenery is breathtaking. Van and shuttle services are also available from Vancouver.
Keep in mind that passport requirements between the U.S. and Canada are changing. As of June 1, 2009, all U.S. travelers need valid passports regardless of their age or mode of travel. For the most current passport requirements, see travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1082.htm.
Once you've arrived at Whistler, forget about the car. The Village itself is pedestrian-only, so parking is around the outer perimeter of the Village or underground. If you're staying in the Village, you'll be in easy walking distance of ski lifts, shops, and restaurants (even if you're traveling with young children). If you're staying outside Whistler Village, many lodgings and properties have free shuttles. You can also use Whistler's year-round public bus system, WAVE. Unless you buy a pass, exact change is required, so check the website for current fares and maps. WAVE busses have exterior ski racks in the winter, and bike racks in the summer.
During ski season, Whistler hosts nearly non-stop races, cups, and competitions, with weekly fireworks and world-class nightlife. But the fun doesn't stop once the snow melts. Here are some other family-friendly celebrations throughout the year.
If you're driving to Whistler from Seattle or Vancouver, go during the day. The Sea to Ski Highway is narrow and curvy in spots, and poorly lit at night. Daylight is safer, and -- bonus! -- the views are breathtaking.
Skiiers and snowboarders take note: Blackcomb Mountain is great for beginners, plus those who like tree runs and cut trails. It's also a little more sheltered, and makes for easier skiing and riding on snowy days. When the sun shines, though, you can't beat the spectacular views from Whistler Mountain, which also has more advanced trails and open alpine bowls. No matter what the weather or how long you're staying, try to ski both mountains. Your lift pass will work throughout the resort, and thanks to the new Peak-to-Peak gondola, it's easy to cover lots of ground.
Trimming expenses is easy if you start online, before your trip begins. Check www.whistlerblackcomb.com and look under "Tickets & Passes" for ski deals. If you order your lift tickets there you'll get a significant discount, and the tickets can even be delivered to your hotel or condo. And be sure to check with your accommodations; many lodgings offer "Kids Ski Free" packages.
There's no camping on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains or in the Village itself. However, the 150-mile Whistler corridor offers plenty of spectacular camping adventures, from RV sites to log cabins to tent camping. For an overview of what's available, seewww.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks.