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Things to Do in Whistler During Winter

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Developed in the 1960s as a downhill ski resort, Whistler is at its finest under a mantle of snow. During winter in the village you can ski to the back door of hotels, clump into après ski bars wearing your outdoor gear, or simply enjoy how the chilly weather contrasts the warmth of indoors.

1. Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

© Chloë Ernst
Long before the Winter Olympics arrived in 2010, Whistler boasted a world-class ski resort. And setting off down the slopes is still the best (and most obvious) winter pastime. Covering two mountains -- Whistler and Blackcomb -- the resort's runs offer more than 3,307 hectares (8,171 acres) of terrain. For snowboarders, there are five parks on the two mountains and a super pipe.

2. Snowshoeing

© Chloë Ernst

For non-skiers, snowshoeing wins out as an easy-to-learn and family-friendly activity. Most summer hiking trails are suitable for snowshoeing come winter, but Whistler also has some great areas with marked trails, mapped routes, and gear rentals.

Take a short excursion on snowshoes along the nature trail in Lost Lake Park. Located in the southern end of the park, the outfitter Cross Country Connection sells day passes to the trails, rents equipment, and gives lessons. The park and surrounding area have other trails too, such as the route along Green Lake and through Nicklaus North Golf Course.

Another developed snowshoeing area lies southwest of the village, in the Callaghan Valley's Whistler Olympic Park (read a review). Trails lead to waterfalls, past frozen lakes, and through wilderness forests. Some trails are pet-friendly.

Both areas also offer cross-country skiing (see below).

3. Nordic Skiing

Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley has 56 km (34.8 miles) of groomed trails that range from beginner loops to advanced excursions. The routes accommodate both classic cross-country skiing (when the skis are parallel) and skate-style skiing (ski tips angle outwards). The majority of trails are available to skiers, but snowshoe trails also loop through the wilderness. The park offers daily lessons and equipment rental.

A five-minute walk from the village, Cross Country Connection in Lost Lake Park is the home-base for Nordic skiers. The routes circle through the forests around namesake Lost Lake to form a 25 km (15.5 mile) trail network. Some routes are lit for night skiing and the municipality grooms the trails each evening.

4. Outdoor Ice-Skating

© Chloë Ernst
Opened in December 2011, the ice rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza is a great free activity. Skate rentals cost extra, but once you have your blades on the ice you can stay in the main rink area or circle out through a waving track.

5. Après Ski and Dining Out

Whistler turns out not just for the skiing, but also for the after-parties at local restaurants, pubs, and bars. Heated patios are common along the Village Stroll in Whistler, and some spots have ski racks stationed at the doors. For a casual après ski spot, drop by Merlin’s bar at the base of the Blackcomb Gondola. At the base of the Whistler Village Gondola, Dubh Linn Gate Pub has a similar casual feel. There’s a more polished resort style at the Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort, which has large stone hearths and fine furnishings.

For a delectable meal, get changed out of your ski gear and hunt out Rim Rock Café south of the village. The restaurant serves Whistler’s best seafood and often ranks top in local polls. Other favorite dining options in Whistler Village include the Bearfoot Bistro, which boasts a vodka tasting room make from ice blocks, and Araxi for its fresh market-driven cuisine on the Village Square.

You'll find Whistler's nightclubs tucked underground, yet the basement bars are thriving spots for dancing and drinks until the early morning hours.

6. Driving the Sea-to-Sky

© Chloë Ernst

An added experience to visiting Whistler in winter is the journey: the 120 km (74.6 mile) drive from Vancouver along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. In winter, snow covers the surrounding mountain ranges and makes for stunning views. On a clear day, the sharp turquoise and deep blues of Howe Sound stands out against the white mountain backdrop. Snow also covers Black Tusk -- normally a dark, sooty core of an extinct volcano.

Stop along the highway at Tantalus Lookout, about 17 km (10.6 miles) north of Squamish, to photograph glacier-covered mountain ranges and evergreen river valley below.

7. Zip-lining

© Chloë Ernst
It's a chilly pursuit, but flying over snowy valleys is like no other winter activity. Superfly Ziplines (read a review) runs its guided zip-lining tours in winter as well. The routes encompasses the highest and longest zip-lines in Canada, and let you take in the superb views of mountains, forests, and river valleys.
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