There are a few things every snowboarder should aspire to do before they die: get on the sidelines of the U.S. Open halfpipe, crank a Jamie Lynn method, go on a winter road trip with your bros—and ride the twelve Alpine bowls, three glaciers, over 200 trails, and 33 lifts at Whistler/Blackcomb.
Despite the 80s implications, “awesome” best describes the 7,071 acres of freeriding, the Superpipe, and Nintendo parks. The only way to characterize the plentiful nightlife might be another loaded word—”extreme.”
Whistler/Blackcomb is really two separate but complementary mountains. Whistler excels in steep freeriding, and Blackcomb goes heavy on the park, pipe, and tree-riding. Come prepared for wet Pacific Northwest weather, but don’t be surprised by the epic dry snow in the higher elevations. The best time to visit is during March and April, when there’s a good base and the park is soft.
When the pow is fresh and the weather is good, locals run straight through town square with their muffins and lattes and jump on the Whistler Village Gondola to the top of the Peak Chair. Whistler locals Jon Cartwright and Annie Boulanger agree, the best thing about freeriding here is the “peak to creek”—a run from the top of the Peak Chair to the creek in the valley below.
There’s a week’s worth of terrain features in the Peak area alone, including cliff lines, tree sections, ridges, chutes, and the steep, fall-line West Bowls. Over the ridge from Peak Chair is the Harmony Express—accessing airtime cornices, thread-the-needle thick trees, pillow lines, and killer views. The amount of terrain off these two chairs alone equals the entire rideable acreage of some “big” U.S. resorts.
Blackcomb has two parks and a Superpipe. The Nintendo GameCube Terrain Park off the Catskinner Chair is separated into two sections—intermediate and advanced. The advanced park requires wearing a helmet and paying an extra fifteen bucks a year for a park pass. It’s worth it to dial in those advanced tricks on the 40-to-60-foot tabletops without worrying about landing on top of a skier family, though.
The Superpipe is also in the Nintendo GameCube Terrain Park. Hot snowboard action by top pros goes down in this beast daily. Intermediate riders can jump into the twelve-foot regular pipe found next to the Emerald Chair at Whistler. Last season, Blackcomb started running the Magic Chair Thursday to Sunday nights for Night Moves, a legit rail course (also open to snowskates) for only ten bucks.
Blackcomb is filled with unique freeriding runs. Locals go deep into the Outer Limit trees off of the Crystal Chair. The run is like a tour of the climates of the Northwest, starting in a dry pine forest and ending among damp moss-covered firs. Another choice is to take advantage of clear skies for a trip out to the mile-wide, three-mile-long Blackcomb Glacier—accessed by the Glacier Express Chair to the Showcase T-bar and a short hike. Be ready for the long ride back on the Glacier Traverse Road. Spanky’s Ladder is also located off the Glacier Express Chair. This is a shorter trip out to the big powder stashes of Garnet, Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire Bowls. While this area is avalanche-controlled and entered though a control gate, it’s still your own ass in Canada, so bring backcountry gear or register for a free daily avalanche awareness tour at the Blackcomb Daylodge Guest Relations desk.
Whistler-Blackcomb has placed first in the TW SNOW Resort Poll as the Best All-Around Resort and a lot of that has to do with Whistler Village—it’s worth a visit just for the après scene, the food, and the all-night dance clubs. An edited must-do list should include catching live music at the Crab Shack or The Amsterdam Cafe, a visit to Sushi Village, pies at Shakespeare’s, and hanging out in Village Square. Go soon—the Canadian dollar is getting stronger against the American every day.
“Come too Whistler with strong legs and be ready to ride really fast.” —Jon Cartwright
Average annual snowfall: 360 inches
Summit elevation: 7,494 feet
Vertical drop: 5,280 feet
Number of lifts: 33
Shreddable acres: 7,071 acres
Pipes: 1 Superpipe, 1 regular pipe
Snowskate park: Thursday—Sunday nights
Lights: Blackcomb Emerald Chair, Thursday—Sunday
Nearby skatepark: Whistler Skatepark
Local shop: Showcase Snowboards (604) 938-7519
Ticket price: $65 Canadian dollars
Web site: www.whistlerblackcomb.com