You’ve just arrived for your ski vacation in Whistler. Snow is on the ground, holiday lights decorate the streets and pumpkin spice lattes are flying off the barista line. This is lining up to be the ski trip of a lifetime. The only issue is, thousands of other visitors chose the same week as you to visit Whistler, and that means queueing up for things. But with a few local’s insider tips, you’ll be circumventing the busy crowds to spend less time skiing and more time waiting. Here’s 10 ways to avoid queues in Whistler (or any busy ski resort) this winter.
1. Rise early, ski early
This may seem like an obvious one, but if you upload as soon as the lifts open, you can feel like you’ve got a day’s worth of skiing in before 11am. The base lifts (that upload from Whistler Village, Blackcomb Base and Creekside) all have an opening time of 8:30am but will often start loading 10 to 15 minutes early if Ski Patrol allows. Once up on the mountain, enjoy your first three laps with little or no lift line.
2. Download the Whistler Blackcomb Live App
When the sun is out and the snow is soft, skiers and snowboarders will arrive in droves. Stay one step ahead with the Whistler Blackcomb Live App, which displays lift status and wait times in real time. This handy app also features grooming reports, weather updates and a GPS map to help you navigate around the largest ski area in North America.
3. Avoid peak dining times for lunch
Skiing is a physical sport and as such, requires fuel for the engine. In a perfect world, we could all stroll into an on-mountain restaurant at 12:30 p.m. and sit in a comfortable lounge in front of a roaring fireplace while a waiter serves top-shelf wine. But the reality is (at least in Whistler) that between noon and 1:30 p.m. in the on-mountain restaurants it’s nearly impossible to find seating. Then there’s the line of eight families in front of you waiting to pay the cafeteria clerk while everyone’s food gets cold.
The best way to make sure your group is adequately fed is to dine early and be seated in the lodge by 11:30am. That way you head out to ski the rest of the afternoon while everyone else is bottle-necked inside. Alternatively, ski to the bottom and eat at a restaurant at the base of the mountain (such as Dusty’s or GLC) any time you like.
4. Ski Mid-week
The weekend in Whistler sees thousands of more people arriving from Vancouver and Seattle, so beat the rush by skiing more on the mid-week days. There’s plenty of non-skiing activities to do around Whistler on weekends (like a snowmobile or zipline tour) which have maximum group numbers, so skip a busy day on the hill and check out some other adventures in town.
5. Take a lesson
Ski school lessons are not cheap, but they will make you a better skier while having fun at the same time. And the best part? Ski school groups skip the lift lines – all day. That means more laps and more fun.
6. Venture off the Village Stroll
The Village Stroll (between the Whistler Gondola and Olympic Plaza) is a beautiful walk, but can get congested at times. There are plenty of interesting shops, restaurants and apres spots in the Upper Village, on Main Street and in Creekside Village, where your wait time for a coffee can be reduced by a factor of 10.
7. Rent skis from your hotel room
Lineups for ski gear rentals can be one of the most frustrating. Ski rental shops experience rushes at the start and end of the day and you have to return gear to the shop yourself. Thankfully, services like our own Black Tie Ski Rentals bring the gear to you! Get fitted for gear in the comfort of your hotel room and at the end of the day staff will come pick it up slopeside or at a prearranged location.
8. Mind the Highway
If you did bring a car to Whistler this vacation, you’ll probably want to use it as little as possible. Parking lots fill up quickly and traffic can sometimes slow to a standstill during peak hours. If you do need to drive, avoid Highway 99 northbound on Friday afternoon/evening and southbound on Sunday afternoon/evening. This is prime traffic time for regional visitors.
9. Always reserve
When it’s busy in Whistler, the only way you can guarantee a spot for your group is to book ahead. That means calling around to restaurants (preferably a few nights ahead) and checking availability of seats for the tour the night before. Putting in the time from your room calling around (or having a concierge call for you) can save you hours of waiting during your time-precious vacation.
10. Be Patient
As much as these tips will help you avoid lineups, sometimes it is unavoidable. Keep a positive attitude, learn from some mistakes and remember the staff are often doing the best that they can.
Remember, winter in Whistler is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Enjoy every second of it!