Early visions of Whistler as a ski resort saw potential for an Olympic Games caliber venue. But a gravel service road north of Vancouver, B.C., and a mountain named London, hence fog associations, seemed to be an inauspicious start. With paving the road and swapping the name of the mountain to honor the sound of its summertime marmots, Whistler Mountain popped onto Canadian ski maps. The ski area opened in December 1966 with a four-person gondola, a double chair and two T-bars.
Fast-forward 50 years, and Whistler Blackcomb has become the largest ski resort in North America, attracting skiers from around the globe. Now, 37 lifts climb around two mountains, and one connects the two mountaintops. About those Olympics? The resort made good on the founder’s dreams, hosting some competitions for the Vancouver 2010 games.
Enjoying sun and slopes at Whistler Blackcomb.
Copyright: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler
For this anniversary season, skiers and snowboarders can get treated to new experiences, starting on opening day for 2015/16 on Nov. 26. Here are six new things to do at Whistler during this winter’s anniversary:
1. Race Your Buddies for Vertical
Download the new free WB+ to track your skiing stats while at the resort. Every time you go through a chairlift gate, the RFID technology in your day pass will log the vertical gained by skiing that lift. Afterwards, access your stats via computer or phone, brag about them on social media and make the buddy with the lowest vertical buy the beer.
2. Ski Horstman Glacier
At the summit of Blackcomb Mountain, Horstman Glacier has been melting rapidly, as much as 500,000 cubic meters each year. At that rate, it may not last too long into the future. Loop up to Horstman Glacier to take note of the resort’s test project to combat the effects of climate change. Early season, four new low-energy consumption snowmaking guns near Horstman Hut will spray snow out over the glacier. The project aims to preserve the glacier for summer and early winter skiing. If successful at maintaining the size of the glacier and cost effectiveness, more guns will be installed to ensure the future long-term viability of the glacier.
Whistler is testing a pilot program to help preserve Horstman Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain.
Copyright: JP Walker/Whistler Blackcomb
3. Lunch at Rendezvous Lodge
On Blackcomb Mountain, Rendezvous Lodge opens this season with a $5.4 million revamp. A new chef leads its headliner restaurant Christine’s, where you can sit down to table service, gourmet dining, international wines and views that sweep from the valley floor to mountaintops. Make reservations (604-938-7437). For a faster lunch, hit the new food court counters for made-to-order sushi, wok-fried rice and noodle bowls, burgers and south-of-the-border fare. The menu now includes hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken and beef.
4. Soak in Scandinave Spa
Instead of plunging into a pitcher of beer post skiing, dive into the pools at Scandinave Spa, one mile north of Whistler Village. For this winter, the spa has added a new 4,144-square-foot building with a steam room, sauna, yoga studio, relaxation room and sun deck. Visit the new digs, plus the original outdoor hot and cold pools, to rejuvenate sore muscles.
Soaking in an outdoor hot pool at Scandinave Spa at Whistler.
Copyright: Tourism Whistler
5. Dine in Whistler Village
In Whistler Village, two new restaurants are sure to lure in skiers this winter. For tapas, Bar Oso (4222 Village Square, 604-962-4540), a sibling of the Araxi, plans to serve up house-made charcuterie and small plates influenced by Spanish flavors. Savor Iberian Peninsula specialties—bocadillos, pinxtos, Iberico ham and chilled seafood—and balance them with handcrafted cocktails. For tapas or dinner, bask in the Basalt Wine and Salumeria (4154 Village Stroll, 604-962-9011) in the Crystal Lodge. The menu features shared platters of European-style meats and cheeses that can be paired with international wines. Full plated meals center around locally sourced ingredients.
6. Experience One-of-a-Kind Luxury
The new Head-Line Mountain Holidays (604-902-6415) customizes luxury travel experiences, many featuring helicoptering to the Pemberton Ice Fields. Explore ice caves, soak in backcountry hot springs, lounge in an ice castle or overnight in an igloo.