Snow-covered spots around the world go out of their way to woo parents these days, but Mother Nature makes it easy for families to love Whistler. With two mountains, more than 8,100 acres of slopes and a season that runs from November well into May, skiing and snowboarding at this famed British Columbia resort is a given. But that’s not all Whistler is about — some of the best wintertime family adventures don’t require lugging heavy equipment out of the closet.
Whistler has a reputation for scenic views, but spend a few hours trekking through treetops and you’ll see this charming Canadian town in a singularly spectacular way. Using a series of dangling bridges, suspended stairways, boardwalks and hiking trails, families can explore an old-growth, coastal temperate rain forest on a TreeTrek Canopy Walk. The aerial course, also used for zipline tours, takes adventurers approximately 150 feet over glacier-fed Fitzsimmons Creek.
Thanks to the steepness of the terrain, loggers have stayed away from this stretch of forest, and as a result trees like “Big Doug” — a Douglas Fir believed to be 750 to 850 years old — remain. The walks aren’t strenuous, but they are snowy and can get icy, so come dressed in boots and ski clothes. Kids of all ages are welcome.
Satisfy a need for speed at the Whistler Sliding Centre, the fastest ice track in the world. Used in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Sliding Centre now offers a one-of-a-kind adventure for families traveling with teenagers. After a detailed training session, speedsters hop into a four-person bobsleigh driven by a trained pilot. What happens next involves twists, turns, speeds of 70 (and possibly more) miles per hour, and 4 g-forces. Sliding sessions, including the safety orientation, last about two hours. The minimum age is 14, and kids between 14 and 16 must ride with a parent or guardian.
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Tubing is one of the easiest ways for a family to have fun in snowy Whistler — simply grab a tube and go at the Coca-Cola Tube Park, located in the Base 2 Zone on Blackcomb Mountain. Tubes come in two sizes, and in addition to half a dozen main tube lanes, there’s also a shorter “kids only” lane. A tube conveyor, a.k.a. magic carpet, means very little walking to the top of the tube lanes. Children must be at least 3 years old and 36 inches tall. Only one person can ride in a tube, but adults are allowed to hang onto their child’s tube in the kids’ lane.
Located at the base of both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the Village hosts a number of activities for snow-loving families. The Village is divided into three areas: Upper Village, Village North and the Village Centre. Village North is home to Whistler Olympic Plaza, a must-visit for families. Along with a playground, the space is home to a snow play area, complete with a bunny hill that’s perfect for little ones to slide or be pulled on a sled. Steps away, the outdoor Whistler Olympic Plaza Skating Rink offers free daily skating sessions. Skate rental is just $6; helmets are free and encouraged; and skate aids (to help folks stand and prevent falling) are available for beginner skaters.
Whistler knows how to do après, and the whole family is included on Monday and Wednesday afternoons December through March. Meet Whistler’s sled dogs, make maple syrup taffy in the snow or get crafty with hands-on projects. A variety of free kid-friendly activities and entertainment takes place in Olympic Plaza along Village Stroll every week during Family Après.
Bundle up and get to the Fire and Ice Show early — you’ll be rewarded with a better viewing spot and get to watch athletes practice their moves before showtime. As if seeing Whistler’s best skiers and snowboarders twist, flip and fly through the air isn’t amazing enough, there’s a blazing ring of fire (or two) and fireworks to up the ante. The complimentary Fire and Ice Show takes place every Sunday at 7p in Skiers Plaza, at the Whistler Village base between the Whistler and Blackcomb gondolas.
Located at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler offers ski-in/ski-out convenience, but families will also appreciate the non-snow-related amenities. The indoor/outdoor pool is large and there are numerous hot tubs to choose from after a busy day on or off the slopes. Kids 5 and under eat free off the children’s menu, and kids 6 to 12 eat for half price off the regular menu at The Wildflower and The Chalet restaurants. Child-size bathrobes and complimentary babies’ and tots’ amenity kits are also available. Babysitting services can be arranged.
Editor’s Note: Dana’s trip was sponsored by Tourism Whistler, Destination BC and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Dana Rebmann except where noted.
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