One of the most famous ski resorts in the world, Whistler is located 78 mi north of Vancouver. Its population is nearly 12,000 (2016), but over 2m people visit each year, mostly for alpine skiing and snowboarding and, in the summer, mountain biking.
Whistler has been voted among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines since the mid-1990s. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler hosted most of the alpine, Nordic, luge, skeleton, and bobsled events. And its pedestrian village has won numerous design awards.
Whistler is accessible via Highway 99, aka the “Sea to Sky Highway.” The Rocky Mountaineer provides elite-class rail service. A shuttle bus service from the Vancouver Airport (YVR) and Downtown Vancouver is provided by the Whistler Shuttle and YVR Skylynx. YVR is the main international airport for Whistler residents and tourists. The Whistler area is a collection of microclimates. Whistler itself is considered humid continental, with cold wet winters and drier, warm summers.
The first British survey by the Royal Navy took place in the 1860s. The area acquired the name “Whistler” due to the call of the indigenous hoary marmot.
The area began to gain recognition in 1914 when a couple of settlers, Myrtle and Alex Philip, purchased 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land on Alta Lake. Originally from Maine, they established the tourist resort Rainbow Lodge. Other resorts followed, thanks to the completion of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway. The train provided easy access to the area from Vancouver.
However, Rainbow Lodge’s reputation was as a summer destination. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that four Vancouver businessmen formed the Garibaldi Lift Company with the intention of bidding for the 1968 Winter Olympics. Whistler Mountain opened to the public in 1966.
In the meantime, logging had become the booming industry. The area is home to coniferous mixed forest with western hemlock, mountain hemlock, and Whistler hybrid spruce. At its peak, four mills operated in the area. Prospecting and trapping were pursued as well.
The resort’s fame has grown with its appearances in movies and television. TV series include the 2006-8 drama Whistler and the reality TV shows Peak Season and Fresh Meat II. The community has been featured in episodes of The L Word, The Real Housewives of Orange County, Extreme Weight Loss, and Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. Movies shot there include Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and Disney’s White Fang 2: Myth of the White Wolf.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012) were not filmed in Whistler proper, but north and south of town. Celebrities who own homes in Whistler include the comedian Chelsea Handler.
According to the Whistler real estate reports, in the summer of 2021, the average sale price for a single-family home was $3,495,481. The previous year, it was $3,264,947.
The average sales value for townhomes rose by approximately 11 per cent, to $1.596 million (median $1.275 million).
Condo sales activity increased 25 per cent, with a five-per-cent rise in value to $885,000 (median $779,000).
According to the 2016 census, nearly 12,000 people make their home in Whistler. This marks a rise of 21.4 per cent since 2011. According to whistler.ca, the population in 2020 rose to nearly 14,000. The majority of the population, 44 per cent, ranges in age from 20-44.
Whistler Schools are part of the Sea-to-Sky School District which stretches from Squamish to Whistler and everything in between. Whistler in specific currently has one elementary school and one secondary school.
Whistler is most famous for its downhill skiing. Whistler features run difficulties of various degrees, from (easiest to hardest) green (circle), blue (square), black (diamond), and double black (diamond). In 1997, Intrawest merged with Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation. The new holding company integrated the two previously separate ski areas of Whistler and Blackcomb into one operation. Together, Whistler Blackcomb forms the largest ski area in North America at 8,171 acres (33 km2). The Peak 2 Peak Gondola connects the tops of the two mountains.
The area attracts visitors for other outdoor sports as well, including cross-country skiing, skate-skiing, ice-skating, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, telemark skiing, and tobogganing. Summer activities include golfing, fishing, trail running, mountain biking, outdoor yoga, and hiking.
Outside of alpine sports and recreational activities, Whistler offers adventurous excursions all year round, as well as picturesque campgrounds.
Among Whistler’s attractions is the Audain Art Museum. Established in 2016, the Museum focuses on the art of British Columbia. Highlights of the permanent collection include historical and contemporary Indigenous art, paintings by Emily Carr, and works by Vancouver’s photo-conceptualists. The Museum hosts three temporary exhibitions per year that feature artists and collections of national as well as international significance.
The village/resort also has its own film festival. The Whistler Film Festival, inaugurated in 2001, welcomes selections from all over the world. The festival has built up a reputation as one of the most important Canadian film festivals and has increasingly attracted more distributors and sales agents.
Whistler also hosts events year-round, including the World Ski & Snowboard Festival in the spring, a children’s festival in summer, the Whistler Village Beer Festival in the fall, and the Fire & Ice Show in winter.
Whistler has also become renowned for its food culture. Restaurants known on the international scene include Araxia Restaurant & Oyster Bar, which features a world-class wine list; Barefoot Bistro, home to the coldest vodka-tasting room in the world, according to dailyhive.com; and Alta Bistro, which specializes in creative cocktails such as the Alta Basil Grande (strawberry-infused vodka, cranberry cynar, basil Triple Sec and lemon).
Whistler Village is home to several galleries where patrons can view and purchase one-of-a-kind artifacts. One example is Black Tusk Gallery, which specializes in native artworks from the Northwest Coast. Locals and visitors flock to Armchair Books for fiction, non-fiction, and regional guides. Sporting goods stores include Evolution, a high-end snowboard and mountain bike shop, and Surefoot, for all your custom-fitted ski-boot needs. Lululemon Athletica and Roots Whistler offer sporty and casual fashion.