Whistler Blackcomb’s 8,171 acres of terrain draws skiers and boarders from around the world, having been rated the #1 ski resort in North America thirteen years in a row by Skiing Magazine, among many other accolades. Featured several times in extreme skiing films such as Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research, it is natural to attract advanced and expert skiers to the big mountain to test their mettle.
The sheer size of the two combined mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb dwarfs the acreage of any single North American ski area, while its vertical descent of 5,250 feet is second only to Revelstoke Ski Resort in the Canadian Rockies. In comparison, Tahoe’s Squaw Valley has a vertical drop of 2,389 feet in a mere 4,000 acres and even combined with newly acquired Alpine Meadows, with its added 2,500 acres, now totals only 6,500 acres. An interactive map on the Whistler Blackcomb website overlays the acreage of major ski areas on a map of Whistler Blackcomb to give an idea of the magnitude of the winter playground: Vail, Mammoth and Heavenly all pale in comparison.
The stats for Whistler Blackcomb, located 90 minutes from Vancouver, BC, are pretty impressive: 200 trails served by 37 lifts with an uphill loading capacity of 65,507 skiers per hour means that a lot of skiers can be distributed over a vast amount of terrain. However, even with four gondolas and a multitude of quadruple, triple and double chairs lines can get long on the weekends. Once on the top the mountain though, skiers can take their time getting down the longest run on either mountain, a thigh burning 11 km (7 miles) from top to bottom.
Between the two mountains terrain is available for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders. Approximately a quarter of the runs are beginner, one half intermediate and one quarter advanced, with many off-piste and backcountry options for more skilled skiers and boarders.
Many advanced skiers from other ski areas visiting Whistler Blackcomb for the first time are surprised by the difficulty of the black and double-black diamond runs at Whistler Blackcomb, especially as rating systems are not standardized across North America. It is recommended to warm up on some intermediate terrain to learn how the ratings might differ from what the skier is used to. In addition to the steepness and tricky entrances to some of the double-black diamond runs, the extreme length of some of the runs demands a high level of fitness and stamina.
For those skiers who want to test themselves against some of the classic runs at Whistler Blackcomb the following list representing the top ten advanced runs, compiled by a group of long-time die-hard skiers and volunteers on the mountain, is a good starting point. These are not the hardest runs so thrill seekers can expand from this list and certainly find steeper, narrower and trickier runs to scare themselves with. This is also not a comprehensive list of all advanced runs, but is an introduction, leaving others for skiers to discover on their own. Most of these runs can be found on the interactive or printed Whistler Blackcomb trail map, and are arranged roughly in order of difficulty on each mountain.
- Peak to Creek to Big Timber (from Peak Chair take Upper to Lower Peak to Creek)
- Cockalorum (from Peak Chair take Upper Peak to Creek)
- Flute Bowl (traverse from Symphony Chair, then hike 1600 steps)
- The Cirque (from Peak Chair go left toward the Saddle)
- The Couloir (from Peak Chair go left toward the Saddle)
- Cougar Chutes, via Secret Bowl (from Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven Chair)
- Blackcomb Glacier (short, easy hike from Showcase T-bar)
- Pakalolo, via Secret Bowl (from Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven Chair)
- Spanky’s Ladder (steep hike) to Ruby, Garnet, Diamond, & Sapphire Bowls (from Glacier Express Chair)
- Couloir Extreme/Big Bang (from Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven Chair)
More information and an expanded list can be found in related articles Top 10 Advanced Ski Runs at Whistler and Top Advanced Ski Runs at Blackcomb, or from the guidebook, Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb, Advanced/Expert Edition (see below).
Advanced skiers and boarders who want to hone their skills can get some pointers from the specialized instruction offered through the Extremely Canadian Freeskiing Clinics at Whistler Blackcomb.
Use common sense, don't ski beyond your skill level, wear a helmet and have a good time in the gigantic winter playground that is Whistler Blackcomb.
- Whistler Blackcomb : Daily lift ticket at Whistler Blackcomb is $96 CAD + tax.Purchase online for savings of 1-24%, depending on the number of days.
- Canadian Ski Council : Check out the Canadian Ski Council packages for significant discounts (some restrictions apply) on packages of 20 tickets. Tickets may be shared among family members and friends but may not be re-sold. The package that includes Whistler Blackcomb was $62 CAD/ticket for the 2011-2012 season.
- 7-11: The 7-11 store in Squamish, on the way to Whistler, sells discounted tickets, usually about $10 off. The 7-11 in Squamish is located right off the highway next to McDonald’s so it’s an easy pit stop. Not available from the 7-11 store in Whistler.
- Edge card-Residents of Washington state or Canada can consider getting an Edge card for discounts of up to 20-25%.
Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb, Advanced/Expert Edition by Brian Finestone and Kevin Hodder, lists single, double and triple black diamond runs (Intermediate Edition also available). Available at Amazon.
To reach Whistler, fly to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in British Columbia, Canada, then rent a car and drive 1.5-2 hours to Whistler Village. Alternatively, take one of the convenient express bus services from the airport to Whistler. The pedestrian-friendly village makes driving truly optional.
- Perimeter Bus: $135-175 per person + tax (depending on location within Whistler)
- Pacific Coach: $113-158 per person + tax (depending on location within Whistler)
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