My name is Chelsey and I have lived in Whistler, British Columbia for the past four years.
Whistler can best be described in these five words:
- enchanting; and
Women should consider visiting Whistler because it’s the ultimate girls getaway, family vacation or romantic couples retreat. The beauty of mother nature, coupled with the active social vibe of the resort, makes Whistler an ideal mountain escape.
Plus, there’s so much to see and do besides hitting the slopes!
Whether you’re an intrepid mountaineer or a non-skier who loves to get a dose of fresh mountain air, Whistler is arguably the best all-season mountain resort in North America (okay, I may be a little biased).
Whistler British Columbia
How do you get to Whistler?
Whistler is a two hour drive from the city of Vancouver along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway. You can get here by charter bus, car, the Whistler Mountaineer train (summer season) or float plane.
What’s the best way to get around?
On foot! Whistler’s pedestrian-friendly village makes it easy to meander the main stroll or access the gondolas at the base of Whistler mountain. There’s also a frequent transit service, including a free shuttle which loops around the main and upper village locations.
What’s the best time to visit Whistler?
The winter months of February and March usually bring the best snowfall (along with the masses), and you can still ski or ride in April/May when spring starts budding. July through September is optimal for sunshine and summer leisure activities.
What are the different areas of Whistler?
Whistler’s vibrant main village stroll is where the magic happens, with easy access to the gondolas for both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, as well as accommodation, shopping and dining.
Just off the main beaten track, Whistler’s Upper Village is less than a ten minute stroll from the main village with direct access to Blackcomb mountain and luxury hotels such as the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Four Seasons.
Most Whistler locals live in the forested residential neighbourhoods nestled along the Sea to Sky Highway, which vary from full-time family homes, staff housing, seasonal cabins, time share condos and luxury log mansions.
What should women pack for their time in Whistler?
In the winter, pack extra layers! The temperature can drop drastically when the sun goes down, so definitely bring a spare fleece and warm woolen mittens.
In the summer, all you need is your bathing suit and some shorts/tees, plus a pair of closed toed kicks if you plan to go hiking, sightseeing or trail running.
What is the most common misconception about Whistler (and why)?
Whistler is commonly pinned as a winter (only) ski resort. But some might argue that the summer season rivals winter!
Come summertime, the resort transforms into a warm, lush oasis with lakeside lounging, hiking, golfing, cycling the Valley trail, sightseeing on Whistler Blackcomb, roaming the Farmers’ Market and basking in the alpenglow after a solid day of outdoor adventures.
Whistler also hosts a handful of summer outdoor art exhibits, concerts and events such as the Deep Summer Photo Challenge, Ironman Canada, Wanderlust Yoga and Crankworx Freeride Mountain Bike Fest.
For a portion of the summer, you can still ski or ride on the Blackcomb Glacier, and the Whistler Bike Park hosts weekly ladies nights for beginning and experienced riders – a great opportunity to try downhill mountain biking!
Is there a gender divide in Whistler?
There’s more of a ski versus snowboard divide, and many ladies dominate both of these snow sports. Women travelers can expect less pressure to put on a pair of heels and makeup since the resort vibe is ultra laidback, and the dress code is typically loose fitting flannel plaid, leggings and all-terrain boots. I like to call it Whistler boho chic.
Are there any culture shocks in Whistler?
The après-ski culture is in full force, so it’s common to see ski boots and snowsuit clad groups in every establishment. Whistler is also a very dog-friendly resort, so pooches are welcomed in grocery stores and even some restaurants.
What are three things every woman must do in Whistler?
- Explore the outdoors in any way you’re most comfortable with. Whistler’s backyard playground is suitable for all athletic abilities – no matter how outdoorsy you are (or aren’t).
- Dive into the outdoor hydrotherapy bath experience at the Scandinave Spa, and perhaps a Swedish massage while you’re there. This is one of my favorite sacred sanctuaries in Whistler.
- Go for après in the village. Even if you don’t ski or snowboard, you can still take in the relaxing, social ambiance and entertainment at one of the local pubs. In the summer, I recommend the mountain top BBQ on Whistler mountain – amazing views and a fresh take on al fresco dining!
What’s the most over-rated thing to do in Whistler?
Waiting in the separate queue for a glass-bottomed sky cabin on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. This world record-breaking gondola connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, and two out of the 28 sky cabins feature a small centre enclosure with a glass view of the Fitzsimmons Valley down below (so the entire floor isn’t actually glass).
You’ll be so captivated by the surrounding mountain vistas while riding a regular Peak 2 Peak cabin, the glass-bottom may seem a tad underwhelming.
If you happen to be at the gondola entrance when one of these ‘special feature’ cabins swings by, then you’ve lucked out with a bonus view – but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the extra wait.
What meal should every woman try in Whistler?
Sushi in Whistler is a must-eat social dining experience. The legendary Sushi Village is renowned for their grade A rolls, sake margarita jugs, and fun lively atmosphere. When I go for sushi with the girls, we usually order the B.C. roll (BBQ salmon) and the Beautiful roll (scallop, salmon & avocado).
What’s your favorite restaurant AND bar in Whistler and what do you order?
My favorite restaurant in Whistler is Creekbread in Creekside, located a five minute drive south of Whistler’s main village. They take a natural approach to pizza with organic and locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant also boasts a giant wood fired cauldron for master pizza baking, which adds to the warm, cozy ambience. Mopsy’s Kalua Pork pizza is a popular choice, and the ‘No Boundaries’ organic salad is a great addition to any pizza (or as a meal on its own). They also offer gluten-free pizza crust and a vegan pizza option.
For finer resort dining, I love Alta Bistro and 21 Steps for some true Pacific Northwest-inspired cuisine.
Insider’s tip: if you’re heading to Whistler in the off season (roughly May and November), many restaurants offer discounted course menus and special offerings.
My favorite bar in town is the Crystal Lounge, a great locals’ gathering point! With live music and drink specials, it’s a terrific launch pad or a mellow spot to chill out with friends. I almost always order their famous Canadian Caesar. Located right at the base of Whistler mountain, the Garibaldi Lift Co. (better known as the GLC) is also a prime après-ski spot with an animated crowd and live music from local bands like the renowned ‘Hairfarmers’.
Where’s the best photo opportunity in Whistler?
The iconic Olympic Rings in Whistler Olympic Plaza. As the host mountain resort venue for the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, Whistler has some major bragging rights when it comes to performing on the world stage. Whistler Olympic Plaza was the official site of the Victory Ceremonies during the Winter Games, and the rings are likely the most photographed artifact of the 2010 Olympics. Whistler is also a desirable destination for bachelorette (and bachelor) parties, so you’ll likely come across a bridal party taking selfies in Olympic Plaza.
Besides the Olympic Rings, another terrific photo opp is on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. As the longest spanning lift in the world, you’ll catch some stunning coastal mountain views while soaring high in the sky!
Where’s the best place to go shopping?
Whistler’s main village provides plenty of retail therapy with an impressive line-up of trendy local and brand name retailers like the Gap, Aritzia and Lululemon.
For a truly authentic souvenir, the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre has a super neat gift shop with original artwork, jewelry and crafts made by BC First Nations artists. From June to October, you’ll also find creative handcrafted souvenirs and local treats at the Upper Village Farmers’ Market.
And if you’re a postcard collector, many shops carry the notorious postcard collection of nude skiers and snowboarders on the mountain (with the important bits strategically covered, of course).
What’s the best outdoor activity in Whistler?
Winter: Skiing or snowboarding on fresh powder! And if you don’t ski or snowboard, there’s a ton of other exhilarating winter activities like snowshoeing, snowtubing, zip trekking, testing out luge at the sliding centre, skating at Olympic Plaza, hot tubbing or simply strolling the village.
Summer: Heading out on one of the local hikes nearby, enjoying a picnic lunch at Alta Lake and finishing the day off with a sunset canoe ride.
What’s the best indoor activity in Whistler?
Stretching out sore muscles at one of the yoga studios in town (YYoga, White Gold Yoga and Yogacara to name a few!), exploring the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre, or sampling the vodka ice room at the Bearfoot Bistro.
What do you do to get off the tourist trail?
In peak season, the village is usually bustling with action so it’s nice to know you can easily access it, or find yourself surrounded by nature just a few steps away.
I love exploring the nearby hiking trails, skiing on less busy weekdays, volunteering at the local Women’s Centre, taking a puppy for a walk at Whistler’s dog shelter WAG, attending a performance at Millenium Place Theatre or listening to a free seminar at the Whistler Public Library.
What other tips do you have on Whistler?
To fully embrace Whistler, it’s best to get comfy and take in the natural alpine surroundings (i.e. no worries if you forget your makeup bag and hair straightener back at home). But if you’re in need of a cosmetic fix, you can easily locate most urban amenities in the village (with storefronts that resemble a woodsy chalet).
Whistler also offers plenty of ways to connect and socialize, or simply unwind with mother nature.
Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?
Many travelers come to experience Whistler for one season, and end up staying for much longer!
Commonly coined as ‘Never Never Land‘ or ‘Whistralia’ due to the abundance of Australian travelers here on visas, Whistler is a diverse cultural hub with transient visitors and long time locals. It’s rare to meet anyone originally from Whistler, and you’ll soon realize why everyone falls in love with this charming mountain town.
What did you think about this city guide?
Join the discussion and leave your comments, tips, and personal experiences in the comments below.
Author bio: Originally from Vancouver, Chelsey grew up playing in her backyard coastal mountains and exploring Whistler on weekends. Since moving to the resort following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, she has immersed herself in Whistler’s unique community and culture. As a holistic nutrition student, wellness writer and digital marketing strategist, she loves embracing her inner mountain goddess! Follow Chelsey on her blog missinsulin.wordpress.com and Twitter.