Ski Travel: Whistler
Whistler, photo © Linde Waidhofer


from the February 1999 issue


Where Big is Beautiful...and a Bargain

Whistler, British Coloumbia, North American's biggest and - many would say - best ski resort, is a revelation, a challenge, generally a delight and occasionally a disappointment. It hasn't disappointed me. But then, the weather gods were smiling when my wife Linde and I spent a glorious April week at Whistler... We saw no sign of the drizzly, wet, maritime weather that tends to make waterproof GoreTex skiwear a Whistler fashion statement. My story about this trip, POSTCARDS FROM WHISTLER, appeared in last month's issue of Skiing magazine. For those who missed are a few of my favorite scenes:

....It’s a vertical story. Up and up and up. My eyes lift, search for the top of the mountain - either mountain, Whistler or Blackcomb - and don’t find it. Long, forested slopes stretch up and back from Whistler village, rounding off over foreshortened ridgelines, way the hell up there. I still can’t see the real skiing, the alpine bowls I know are up there, that have made the reputation of this place, a reputation of immense proportions, a reputation I’ve come to probe and test and, I hope, transform into pleasure, into memory. The handful of white ribbons snaking down through the long forests look like what they are, ski runs, but not many, not much. Lower mountain stuff. They have the ski dimension of Colorado resorts off the I-70 freeway corridor. I’ve been promised more, I want more. It’s up there but out of sight. Patience: we’ve only just arrived, tomorrow morning we’ll be high above everything I can see tonight. Off to the north, a cluster of distant peaks and crags are poking their heads around the left edge of Blackomb mountain, catching the last western light in pink afterglow, alpenglow....

....Mountain shapes. For some skiers, bigger is better. I’m one of those skiers, and both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are big. Together they make up the biggest ski domain this side of the Alps. How big? Both halves of this twin-mountain-resort have over 5,000 vertical feet of skiing. But big means more than vertical drop, it means space to move, to cruise, to explore. It means not repeating yourself run after run. It means that after a full week of thigh-burning skiing you are just beginning to learn your way around these mountains. And you know you’ve only scratched their white surface....Here mountain shapes come in three flavors: foreground, what you’re skiing on now; middle ground, what you’ll be skiing soon, maybe this afternoon; and background; shapes you daydream about skiing, someday. Whistler’s background is a 360-degree diorama of heavily glaciated peaks in Garibaldi provincial park: Tremor Mountain, Decker Mountain, Mount Trorey, Mount Macbeth, Mount Fitzsimmons, Mount Overlord, the vast and wrinkled Overlord glacier, Fissile Mountain and Cheakamus Mountain with its glacier, the Tusk, puncturing the western sky. White peaks as far as you can see, as far as you can imagine.…

....Sometimes nature imitates art. And sometimes commercial art. This endless ring of glaciers and white peaks surrounding Whistler’ ski mountains reminds me of Canada’s popular Kokanee beer cans, wrapped with a photo of equally endless blue glaciers and craggy summits. No question; these are art directors’ mountains....

....The dollars and cents of Canadian skiing escape me. Whistler’s two mountains have as many or more, high-tech, high-speed lifts as any other ski resort in North America - three ultra modern gondolas and seven detachable quads, plus a big spider web of conventional lifts - yet an all-day ticket here only costs around 35 US dollars. How do they do it? What if resort operators in the States could redo their arithmetic and come up with a daily ticket price this low? They might yet save skiing from its slow self-inflicted demise....

....On the sunny terrace of the Horstman Hut, perched on a dorsal-fin ridge high up near the top of Blackcomb mountain I get a sudden inkling of just what an international resort Whistler is. A noisy babble of languages and accents. Different nationalities are easy to tell apart. The British are resolute in their indifference to ski fashion, their solid-color parkas and pants ill fitting without ever being stylishly oversized. Germans are all luxuriously turned out in silk-screened one-piece suits and Willy Bogner experiments with embroidery, beads and fringes. Canadians and Americans from the northwest favor mountaineering chic with an undercurrent of Wal Mart. The runaway champions of international ski fashion are clearly the Japanese. Couples sport identical and perfectly accessorized outfits, everything matches, everything. White pants and jackets with floral-print patches. bright computer-generated faux tie-dye prints, oversize logos: Onyone, Phoenix, Mizuno... The United Colors of Whistler....

....Meringues of hoarfrost and ice cover the summit rocks: white shoulders, snowy terraces, trail signs, skiers. To the southwest cumulus clouds are towering up over the coast. This is as high as we go, the top of Whistler Mountain via the Peak chair, a white-knuckle triple that swings up some pretty radical granite cliffs just below the summit. You can ski every which way from here, as long as it’s down.....

For the full text of my story on Whistler, see the February 1999 issue of Skiing magazine

And for more information about Whistler, write:
Whistler Resort
4010 Whistler Way
Whistler B.C. V0N 1B4 Canada
or phone 1 800 944 7853
or visit Whistler's website at
or visit the Whistler Resort Guide at:   Ski Travel: Whistler
All contents of this web site
© Lito Tejada-Flore unless otherwise credited.