With 8,171 acres of terrain, Whistler and Blackcomb are two mountains with attitude -- so much attitude that they're like the Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash of ski hills. From hundreds of trails and more than a dozen bowls, to six terrain parks and some sweet, sprawling backcountry, you could spend a week at the largest resort in North America without revisiting the same run twice. And much like the mountain, Whistler Village is an easy place to get your post-ski on -- there're enough bars, restos, and brew pubs to keep you from Groundhog Day-ing.
Miami: The Ultimate Local's Guide
When to go: The Whistler Blackcomb season usually begins in late November and runs through mid- to late-April. If you enjoy incredible Spring skiing, live tunes, and watching some of the world's best compete, though, put April 11th on the calendar -- that's when the World Ski and Snowboard Festival kicks off.
How to get around: Several of the larger hotels offer complimentary shuttle service, while Whistler Transit maintains a number of gratis routes to/ from Whistler Village Gondola.
Three runs not to miss: 1. With amazing views of the village, the Dave Murray run on Whistler Mountain is excellent for intermediate-level skiers/ boarders eager to try a black diamond. 2. Blackcomb Glacier is a stunningly beautiful black diamond. To get there, take the Showcase T-Bar and hike for about 5min. Once you’re on the lip of the glacier, you’ll immediately be rewarded with majestic mountain views of Garibaldi Provincial Park. 3. The entirety of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb soaks up the sun, so it’s a perfect spot to warm up on a cold day.
Dining: From a fireside meal with friends to gourmet British Columbia cuisine, Whistler’s got your mountain-fueled hunger covered. Alta Bistro's your play for local, naturally-raised game and microbrews or hand-crafted cocktails. South of the Border (SoBo… spread it!) fans flock to the The Mexican Corner for the tableside-prepped salsa; in fact, the restaurant's so popular that it's actually opening a small taqueria this season. Want to impress your group by taking them to the newest spot in town? No? Well, if you did, it'd be the upscale Grill & Vine, which opens at The Westin Resort & Spa in December. Araxi Restaurant and Bar is a favorite of farm-to-table aficionados. But hey, maybe you just want an awesome pizza, which is totally cool. For that, roll over to Caramba Restaurant.
Local brews: Whistler Brewing Company is your go-to local brewery in town and -- in addition to offering tours -- their tap house stays open 'til 10p on Fridays (and 8p on Saturdays). While their Powder Mountain Lager's a local fave and top seller, a couple of must-try seasonals include the Winter Dunkel and Black Tusk Ale, which boasts chocolate and coffee notes and two World Awards.
Après: All the best spots for après at Whistler are also tops for watching late-afternoon skiers bust on their final runs of the day. Start on the patio at the Garibaldi Lift Company (GLC), located above the Whistler Gondola building at the base of the mountain. Right across from the GLC is the Longhorn Saloon, a favorite for more than 25 years. Over by the Creekside Goldola, Dusty’s Bar and BBQ is the place to go if you shoot stick or only drink in joints that evoke a Western ski lodge vibe. Finally, over at Blackcomb Mountain and the Upper Village is Merlin’s Bar and Grill -- right near the Wizard chairlift -- with bartop dancing and DJs spinning.
Nightlife: If you’re looking to wind down rather than up post-après, try the living-room-esque Brandy’s. If après was merely a precursor to a long night of partying and rocking out to live tunes, Whistler's got a serious list of hotspots; Tommy Africa’s plays a mix of music, from house to ‘80s to hip hop, and the go-go dancers are certain to hold your attention while you catch a second wind. For some of the best live shows, make a path for Garfinkel’s, which humbly bills itself as Whistler's "hottest and most relevant party spot". Finally, if you're still looking for one more place to make an end-of-the-night poor decision, finish the the evening at Maxx Fish.
Other than skiing/ boarding? 1. Home to the official Nordic venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Whistler boasts more than 80 miles of groomed trails, and is a prime spot for strapping on your cross-country skis. Even better, you can also strap on a .22 caliber rifle and learn the Biathlon. 2. Did you know that dog sledding is one of Canada’s oldest official sports? You can learn to drive the huskies yourself on any number of sledding expeditions. 3. Try a guided snowshoe tour around the shores of Green Lake, Lost Lake, or on Whistler Mountain. Routes range from beginner to challenging, and a special evening walk includes a gourmet three-course fondue dinner.
Where to stay: The Nita Lake Lodge is perfect for high-maintenance luxe types, especially if your idea of luxury includes a ski valet, full-service spa, and suite with its own private elevator. Equally comfortable but less-expensive properties include the Aava Whistler (just a short distance from Whistler Village) or the recently renovated Pinnacle Hotel. Or, if packing your crew into a slope-side condo is the move, there are plenty of options (each with their own star rating) in one of five locations, including the Upper Village or Whistler Valley.