“You’re going to Whistler, in the winter?
But you don’t ski (or snowboard for that matter)!
What are you going to do there?”
Some places are so inextricably linked to an activity it becomes hard to see the place outside of its neatly labelled box – particularly when the raison d’être of the place in question has been fueled by five bids over fifty years, culminating in a Winter Olympics being held there in 2010.
But there’s a lesson to be learnt here –
Just as there is more to Paris than Romance and there’s certainly more to Munich than Beer – Yes, there is more to Whistler than Skiing!
What to do in Whistler if you Don’t Ski
Before 1960, when a group of Vancouver businessmen came to the region with their dream of bringing the winter games to the then called London Mountain – renamed Whistler in 1965 for its resident ‘whistling’ alpine marmots – the draw card had been Alex and Myrtle Philip’s Rainbow Lodge on the shores of Alta Lake as a summer fishing destination.
Today – It’s a very different place.
Whislter-Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America with 8,000 skiable acres –
1. Take a Peek on the Peak 2 Peak
Even if you’re not into snow sports, it makes sense to start off your time in Whistler by having a taste of what most people come here for ~
After all, its not only the skiers and snowboarders who can have the fun of taking a gondola up the mountain and riding 4.4 km (2.73 miles), 436 metres (1,430 feet) above the valley floor between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains on the world record breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola ~
You can buy a non-skiing day pass and then take the Whistler gondola from the village. After a 25 minute ride, there’s a short walk across the snow to the Peak 2 Peak Station.
The Peak 2 Peak is an awe-inspiring engineering feat breaking 3 world records for –
- The longest unsupported span in the world (3.024 km/ 1.88 miles)
- The tallest lift of its kind (436m/(1,430 feet)
- Links the largest continuous lift network
While there is a steady flow of gondolas coming in and departing, there are only two glass bottomed gondolas (look out for the separate queue for these) which come in every 11 minutes, the time it takes to cross the span.
You can go backwards and forwards between the two mountains, and get on and off on either side, as many times as you like!
2. Have Lunch Up On the Mountain
Even though you’re not skiing doesn’t mean to say you can’t hang around to soak up the atmosphere by dining on the mountain –
While there’s a wide choice of food outlets, rather than grab a snack why not sit back and enjoy a full table service dining experience at either Christine’s on Blackcomb, or Steeps on Whistler.
Having gone Peak to Peak across and back on the gondola I found myself on the Whistler side, so came out of the cold and into the welcoming Roundhouse Lodge which was buzzing with skiers and snowboarders exchanging stories from their morning’s adventures. The air felt mildly steamy from wet and damp snow-sports clothing drying out in the warmth and the flat footed way of walking in rigid ski boots made everyone look stiff from their mountainside exertions.
3. Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre –
Whistler’s First Nation
Visiting from Australia, a country that like Canada has a modern history, I was keen to draw back the curtain of this recently developed resort to see what had gone before.
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is a short walk from the main village.
Whistler is situated on ground that forms the border between the Squamish people, whose territory runs down to the coast, and the Lil’wat people who occupy the inland mountains.
The Cultural Centre is therefore run by members from both groups –
There is a daily greeting ceremony involving traditional song and drum beating followed by a tour that includes going out into a long house to see cedar bark soaked and then twirled to create string –
The fun here is that it is an interactive demonstration, where you too get the opportunity to create some –
I made mine (shown on the left as I twirled it) into a little bracelet.
There’s also a lovely café here, and a retail gallery with many indigenous arts and crafts for sale.
4. Walking Nature Trails
Leaving the Cultural Centre I chose to walk back to the village via the Fitzsimmons Accessible Nature Trail – It’s 800m long, so you’re only ever a stone’s throw from civilisation but it’s so quiet and peaceful you feel as though you’re way off out in the wilderness.
Enjoying this ancient cedar wood tranquility I come across a sign…
I was pleased it was winter and they were all busy hibernating!
However, this wasn’t the only trail –
There’s a 40km paved Valley Trail for walkers and bikers, which connects the outer suburbs to the village hub.
A great piece of infrastructure planning.
I was staying out at Alpine Meadows and was able to walk to Rainbow Park – the birth place of Whistler – crossing the River of Golden Dreams along the way.
Just because you don’t want to ski doesn’t mean to say you’re not up for a little thrill seeking – pushing the envelope and taking yourself that little bit beyond your comfort zone makes you know you’re alive – And is just what holidays are all about!
I was therefore excited by the prospect of doing a Ziptrek Ziplining tour so (nervously) put my hand up to have a go.
I planned on starting out gently doing the Intro version – the Bear tour for beginners – the one that said
“The perfect tour for first-time zipliners”
I’m not quite sure how I therefore managed to find myself on the Eagle Tour – The one that said:
“This breathtaking tour features five different ziplines, including a 2000-foot, awe-inspiring monster that drops 20 storeys! This tour is perfect for anyone who has ziplined before or just wants a heart-pounding, mind-expanding adventure experience.”
Hold on! But I haven’t ziplined before, and dropping 20 storeys is not what I have in mind as “fun”.
But serendipity has a wonderful way of wheedling its way into travel plans and if anyone is thinking should I?/shouldn’t I? go for the more experienced run – even as a first-timer…
GO FOR IT!
You’ll be so thrilled you stepped up to the challenge!
You’ll love it 😀
If you can’t see the video above – Click here for the link
There’s a comprehensive list of winter activities on the Tourism Whistler website but here’s 10 more ideas of what to do in Whistler if you don’t ski, which caught my eye:
- bobsleigh – Check out Janice’s solo travel blog recounting her experience going down the Olympic luge course!
- snow shoeing at Lost Lake
- tree top walks
- eagle viewing
- dog sledging
- horse sleigh riding
- tubing at the tube park and toboganning
- skating on the rink in the village at Olympic Plaza.
- Meadow Park Sports Centre for swimming, sauna & hot tubbing
- Scandinave hot Spa
- And don’t forget to spend some time journalling to record all your wonderful adventures!
You can grab an accordion/concertina travel journal like the one I used while in Whistler here.
Have you visited a holiday destination renowned for one thing, but then peeled back the facade to reveal more to the place than at first glance?
Do tell and share in the comments below
That’s interesting – being a non-skiier I wouldn’t have thought of going to Whistler. But I’d be interested in the walking and finding out more about the First Nations.
The history of a place and nature walking are always both high on my list when travelling so it was great as you say to learn more about the first nations and also walk the valley to visit the site of Rainbow Lodge to envisage the pioneering work of Myrtle Philips 😀
I have to say, I’d also have loved to have gone Bald Eagle watching!
Wow! We have just moved to Seattle temporarily and wanted to go to Whistler and wonderful exactly that: What to do if you no longer wish to ski or board? I watched as much of the video as I could, but my heart was racing! I am so impressed! Were you scared? Did you enjoy it? PS. I LOVE your travel journals – they are so beautiful!
Having total faith in the harness is the secret!
It is designed so you can swing upside-down and round and round – and you’ll still be attached 😉
I therefore pre-decided that on my first zipline I would take my feet off the ground with my arms outstretched so as to both surrender to and embrace the fact I could fly!
And it worked – it was wonderful – and as you heard, I was spontaneously giggling, which is not what I thought my reaction would have been!
I recommend you give yourself a chance to surprise yourself 😀
I’ve always wondered if I’d enjoy zip lining as I have a wicked fear of height, but it just looks like so much fun and doing it in Whistler seems super pretty. I always enjoy seeing examples of your creativity!
The height thing is a huge thing for me too LOL (hence you will NEVER see any mention of parachuting here!!)
But in the throes of reading reviews before I went someone had said how they regretted leaving doing an upside down zip till the last run and wished they’d taken the leap of faith sooner ~ So I was determined not to waste any runs simply hanging on for dear life 😉
I didn’t know you could go dog sledding at Whistler! We were there in Spring when the ski lifts turn into bike lifts and the downhill slopes have mountain bike riders flying over them instead of skiers.
I would imagine that there’d be beautiful walks available at that time of year, with the mountainsides covered in flowers?
If you get back – Here’s the dog sledding link 🙂
Couldn’t see any flowers from the chairlift. There was still snow around. Thanks for the link.
As a wussie skier who ends up on my arse most of the time, I’d definitely stick to your lists of non skiiing things to do. The ziplining looked amazing, but a nice lunch in a snug restaurant with a view (after a walk of course) would be my thing probably.
The lunch was wonderful! I don’t usually drink at lunch time but I did splash out with a half bottle of bubbles to go with a gorgeous 3 course meal that was delish, while watching skiers come down the mountain and listening to my surrounding diners buzzing with that sensation of having spent a morning being active on the slopes 🙂
Whistler looks beautiful in winter, but I avoid cold whenever possible! The ziplining would be available in summer, wouldn’t it? When I read about that cable ride that’s so long, I thought it looked terrifying, but ziplining is WAY outside my comfort zone! You made it look like fun, though!
Yes – the ziplining is all year, so you could do it in the summer ~
I was a little concerned that ziplining could be outside of my comfort zone too (LOL) so I have to fess up…
During the week before, when going out for a walk, I’d go down the road thrusting my arms out while visualizing myself stepping off the platform and taking flight!
Olympians do visualization… so why not us mere mortals?!
And it works – When I got there I surprised myself at how comfortable I felt – It really was fun 😀
Tell me if you do it 😉
I love the idea of walking as I am not a skier either, but I quite fancy zip lining x
I can highly recommend the ziplining – particularly if you enjoy walking too, as you wander through sections of beautiful woodland between the ‘flights’! 😀
I will definitely skip the skiing in Whistler and have lunch on the mountain!
It was fun going up in the gondola and the lunch on the mountainside was delicious!
I ate at Steeps, which had full table service 🙂
The scenery is certainly just as fantastic even without skis on your feet, so riding up for lunch is a great idea. Never would have thought of ziplining in the winter though. Why not, I guess?
Ziplining in winter is a great way to fly down the wintery slopes but with no chance of falling over and doing yourself any damage, so is a perfect alternative to a snow sport! LOL
And riding up the mountain for a leisurely lunch sans skis was a delight 🙂
Thanks so much for this terrific post. I come from Canada and have spent time in Vancouver. However, I’ve never made the journey to Whistler because I wasn’t quite sure what I would do once I got there. Thanks for enlightening us!
The road trip up to Whistler alone is worth doing for the stunning Sound scenery.
But once there, if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, there are so many options of things to do you’d be hard pushed to fit them all in!
I visited Whistler and do not ski, so I recognize many of the attractions you list.
Charles McCool recently posted..5 Minutes With Paul Theroux
Whistler really does have endless possibilities beyond what it is renown for!
I LOVED Whistler, and also do not ski. It is such a beautiful place with so many lovely walks and hikes I think it is worth a visit for any non-skier!
Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out recently posted..5 Fun Solvang CA Things To Do – California Road Trip Stop
It’s hard to beat a place surrounded by mountains at the best of times isn’t it?!
But add in outdoor activities that embrace the natural beauty of the environs and you’re really onto a winner… even as a non-skier 🙂
I do ski and I’ve been wanting to ski Whistler for years, but I love all of the other activities you found, too. Nice to have options and it’s probably enough just to enjoy being in such a beautiful place. I really like #2 — having lunch on the mountain! Seriously, when I go skiing it’s a highlight of my day. Steeps Restaurant looks like a lovely spot.
For skiers and snowboarders there’s such an array of runs – and the fact the two mountains Blackcomb and Whistler are now connected by the Peak 2 Peak means you can start on the top lifts of one mountain and 11 minutes later having covered the span, be skiing the top lifts on the other mountain – so the variety is virtually endless!
But if you have the situation of one wanting to go skiing and one not – this is a perfect destination for keeping both parties fully entertained 😀
I love this post and I’ve commented before today but I just wanted to thank you for commenting on my WA Lighthouses story. Such an insightful and then amusing reply. Thank you x
A good post is always worth commenting on Jo ~
I’d love to walk the Cape to Cape… Such a stunning area 🙂
Pingback: A Travelling Tale... or, How I Finally Got to Whistler
Now this topic is for me. I can’t ski and I really would love to travel places like this. Never thought I can still enjoy the place even without skiing. Thanks for the info 🙂 Love it!
Some places are so synonymous with an activity one can’t picture it other than in its box!
Perhaps their marketing is done a little too well so it excludes seeing all aspects of it 😉
I know this post is about Whistler, but if you’re ever in Anchorage, Alaska and wanted to go to Alyeska for skiing – there is an AMAZING restaurant up there that overlooks everything. It’s a bit pricey but well worth the trip. OMG so nice!
Thanks for the tips on Whistler by the way. I’ve been up there many times – to snowboard of course :).
Hung Thai recently posted..I was assaulted in Japan. It was awesome.
No plans for Anchorage at the moment – But as a great believer in serendipity – I’ll bear it in mind for as and when 🙂