Advanced skier’s guide to Whistler Blackcomb

Black Tusk

View of the revered Black Tusk from top of the Peak Chair

Whistler Blackcomb, located in the rugged mountains of British Columbia in Canada, is consistently rated the top ski area in North America and it’s quite possible it’s the best ski resort on the planet. The superlatives are endless, from the vast terrain (over 8,000 acres), the varied steeps, smoothly graded intermediate slopes, top notch instructors and safety crew to the charming and vibrant pedestrian village and world class restaurants.

Whistler was my home mountain for three years, and for the last 15 years I have made a yearly sojourn to revisit my favorite place to ski. Having met a rowdy bunch of locals early on I have been humbled more than once by these boomer-aged experts skiing me into the ground at speeds worthy of a world cupper. Through these long-time residents I’ve learned a thing or two about where to find the best snow.

Advanced skiers visiting a ski area for the first time are sometimes at a disadvantage by virtue of not being familiar with the terrain. Beginners should take a lesson and intermediates benefit from well marked and obvious trails. Extreme experts can look up and negotiate just about anything. But the advanced skier who wants to test his (or her) mettle against the mountain but not get in over his head can be reluctant to strike out on his own. The following is a guide to our favorite advanced runs at Whistler Blackcomb that are fairly accessible with a trail map and are negotiable for skiers with advanced skills. These have been vetted by a solid group of advanced skiers who have season passes at Whistler Blackcomb, some of whom work on the mountain.

Peak Chair

Peak Chair, where many advanced runs originate

If you ski KT 22 at Squaw Valley you’ll be fine on these runs. If you normally ski at a smaller ski area and aren’t sure about the rating system at Whistler Blackcomb, consider attending a free orientation tour of the mountain, where the Mountain Host will point out these classic runs. Orientation tours are offered on both mountains at 11:30 AM every day and are divided by skill level.

A good option to learn where these and lesser known advanced runs are is to take a 2-day or customized Extremely Canadian ski clinic to learn some steep skiing skills and get a good introduction to the terrain. They’ll likely show you some hidden spots that would be too difficult to describe and aren’t marked on the map. We’ve taken several of these clinics and can highly recommend them. Clinics are offered throughout the winter at Whistler Blackcomb, and at other locations around the world year round. The cost for a 2-day clinic at Whistler Blackcomb is $399 CAD.

The runs below are listed roughly in order of technical skills and accessibility so if you tackle them in order you can determine when you’ve had enough. I’ve included the chair lift that offers access to the start of each run.

Whistler (for detailed information about each run see related article at Inga’s Adventures)

  1. Peak to Creek, Big Timber (from Peak Chair)
  2. Robertson’s (from Harmony Chair)
  3. Boomer Bowl to Gun Barrels (from Harmony Chair)
  4. Cockalorum (from Peak Chair)
  5. Stefan’s Chute (from Peak Chair)
  6. West Ridge to Christmas Trees (from Peak Chair)
  7. Flute Bowl (from Symphony Chair)
  8. The Cirque (from Peak Chair)
  9. The Couloir (from Peak Chair)
  10. West Cirque (from Peak Chair)

Cockalorum

Looking up at the entrance to Cockalorum

Blackcomb (for detailed information about each run see related article at Inga’s Adventures)

  1. Gladed tree runs: Where’s Joe, Overbite, Outer Limits and others (from various chairs)
  2. Cougar Chutes, from Secret Bowl (from Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven)
  3. Blow Hole/Blackcomb Glacier (from Showcase T-bar)
  4. Pakalolo (from Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven)
  5. Spanky’s Ladder to Ruby, Garnet, Diamond, & Sapphire Bowls (from Glacier Express)
  6. Couloir Extreme/Big Bang (from Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven)
INFORMATION:

Lift tickets:

  • Whistler Blackcomb : Daily lift ticket at Whistler Blackcomb is $95 CAD + tax.
    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 $60 CAD/ticket.
  • 7-11: The 7-11 store in Squamish, on the way to Whistler, sells discounted tickets, usually about $10 off. The 7-11 at Whistler does not sell them so you must pick them up in Squamish or Vancouver. The 7-11 in Squamish is located right off the highway next to McDonald’s so it’s an easy pit stop.
  • Edge card-If you’re a resident of Washington state or Canada, consider getting an Edge card for discounts of up to 20-25%.

Guide Book:

Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb, Advanced/Expert Edition by Brian Finestone and Kevin Hodder (Intermediate Edition also available). To find detailed maps and descriptions of the runs I’ve recommended, plus many more, pick up this guidebook at local ski shops, or on Amazon. Most of the runs I’ve listed are double black diamonds. The book lists many triple black diamond runs as well.


Getting There:

To reach Whistler from the U.S., 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 the convenient Perimeter bus that drops off and picks up passengers at several locations around Whistler and makes 10 trips per day for $118 (YVR to Whistler core). The pedestrian-friendly village makes driving truly optional.

Couloir Extreme

View of the Couloir Extreme above the Peak to Peak Gondola station

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