A dreamy winter holiday in Whistler

The low-down of a week spent snowboarding at North America's best ski resort

Sometimes even when you’re a travel blogger, you need a holiday. A holiday from endless holidays. Yes, yes I know, and the award for most self-indulgent whiny intro to a blog goes to…yours truly.

Moving on.

This year I went home for the holidays, which was really nice. I was mostly offline (except for my absurd Instagram Stories – seriously, follow me on there. I have no filter at all), and spending time with old friends and family back on the East Coast of the US. It was mellow and wonderful, and just what I needed to reset the old internal clock, and also weirdly make me appreciative of my life in New Zealand.

But come January after a few weeks at home, I was getting itchy feet and needed to get out of small town Virginia again. And ever since I got hooked on snowboarding at my home mountain of Treble Cone in New Zealand, I knew I had to squeeze in a cheeky trip at some point while at home.

Also, sidenote, I brought my snowboarding gear home with me because I got sent a ski bag, wait for it, called the Douchebag. Yes, it exists. Finally a bag for me!

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

Ok, I just have to gush about flying for a second; if you are not a travel nerd, skip this section.

Living in New Zealand, when I fly home to the US, I always try and fly Air New Zealand. Apart from being pretty much the dopest airline out there (so trendy, so funny, so quirky), two years ago I finally started collecting my miles with them to get status. Yes, I did in fact travel for almost a decade and never collected miles with any airline. CRINGE.

But, now that I have tasted the beautiful glorious benefits that come with airline loyalty, in addition to no longer being completely broke, I book pretty much with only airlines I have loyalty on. Last year I hit Silver status with Air New Zealand Airpoints, which means that I get one recognition upgrade per year. I managed to nab a great deal on a Premium Economy (the middle class) flight to San Francisco and then put in a free upgrade request to Business. And boom, got it the night before. Yay.

Once you’ve flown business class on long-haul international flights, your world will be rocked. Disclosure, I did this all on my own, nothing sponsored.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

The Air New Zelaand Economy Skycouch

Air New Zealand’s main North American hubs are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Vancouver. Knowing that I wanted to squeeze in a ski holiday, I booked my flights back to New Zealand via Vancouver, BC in Canada. And by happy chance I also managed to get upgraded to the secret Skycouch from Vancouver to Auckland. On Air New Zealand, you can get a whole row to yourself in Economy where the bottom of the seat pops up and converts the row into a flat bed with special bedding and everything. Holy crap.

And as luck would have it, North America was having the winter of a lifetime. And as a novice snowboarder passing through BC in January, there is one place you go – Whistler.

Whistler is pretty much the Mecca of winter destinations, and I had been hearing about it for years from all my friends in New Zealand who have done winter seasons there. It’s big. It’s epic. It’s famous. I had to see what all the fuss was about.

I wanted a solid week somewhere with great snow, easily accessible lifts and long, varied runs of all levels, where I could really focus on improving AND feel comfortable. Whistler ticks all of that. Also there is an entire cafe/shack on the mountain that sells different grilled cheeses called Ollies. SOLD.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

As a general rule, I don’t like hyped-up destinations. Setting the bar impossibly high will often leave you disappointed. Maybe that’s the pessimist in me speaking, but it’s true. Aim low and you’ll always be happy, I say!

Let’s not delve into my attitude around that any further though, shivers.

Anywho, I was nervous Whistler would be too commercial or too touristy, but holy crap I loved it. Like, I-looked-into-changing-my-flights-to-stay-longer loved it. It was just what I needed at just the right time. Yes, yes there is a reason it’s consistently ranked North America’s #1 resort.

So without further ado, here is the vaguely chronological journey of my week vacation in Whistler. Tag along. Pull up a chair and a cup of tea, get cozy and stay for a while.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

It’s no secret; most of the trips I do nowadays are for work. They are amazing and I love them, but they aren’t exactly a holiday. My trip to Whistler was a much-needed holiday, where I didn’t need to work 20 hour days and fry my brain.

I had only three things on my mind in Canada that week: snowboard, sleep a lot, and eat poutine. Repeat.

I also booked my whole trip the week before I left around Christmas for the beginning of January, which I advise you NOT to do as it is busy and peak season. All the good pickings for condos and apartment rentals were snatched up and I spent a small fortune on accommodation. However, I could literally ski to my door at Blackcomb which made it worth it. And there was nowhere else civilized and reasonable, also making it worth it.

Which also leads me to my second point, for those (like me) who are unaware, the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort is actually two mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb, makes sense right? There are dozens of chairlifts and gondolas that go up both, and there is an incredible freestanding gondola linking the two mountains with the village sprawling below along both mountains.

whistler winter travel

Breakfast poutine in town at Stonesedge is a must, the coziest spot ever

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

Maple bacon donuts are a MUST – The Portobello Bakery in the Fairmont

When I arrived in Vancouver, everyone was freaking out because it was snowy and icy. Um, hello Canada, that’s kind of your thing. But the locals ended up telling me that it actually doesn’t often do that in Vancouver. Sure.

Whistler is less than a two hour drive from the Vancouver Airport, so it’s easy to get there, though it was dumping snow the day I arrived, and yours truly was too cheap to rent a 4WD car. Luckily, most of the rentals have snow tires on them, which ended up being obligatory, and I did a slow cruise down to Whistler behind the snow plows on the scenic Sea to Sky Highway. No rush, I was on holiday.

With so much snow, I was fizzing. I knew the riding was going to be great, and oh my was the village of Whistler so cute. It was a real-life winter wonderland.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

So. Much. Snow. Yes, yes YES!!

My first day back I was rusty. I am such a cautious snowboarder, but I am determined to get better, which is why I book so many snowboarding trips.

If you want to work on improving in a comfortable resort, Whistler is the place to be. The runs are long are there are so many different ones of all levels, I didn’t really have to repeat any of them. I mean hell, they have a run that’s 11 kilometers long. They had runs that progressed exactly with my ability which was perfect for me.

My days were pretty similar. I would wake up, go get coffee and walk over to Whistler mountain, catch the gondola up and spend most of the day riding on the mountain before catching the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and crossing over to Blackcomb and riding down. I ate a lot, I spent a lot of time in my onesie, and I read. It was so chill and great. Each day I felt like I was riding better and better.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

I was also lucky enough to be there for the Deep Winter Photo Challenge, and managed to nab an invite. Six professional photographers are invited to Whistler to come and shoot for 72 hours in bounds at the resort and put together a slideshow with music of their story and shots and share them with a live audience on the Saturday.

Honestly, it sounds like one hell of a challenge, but amazing to watch. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was sure surprised when I showed up and pretty much all of Whistler turned out for it! It’s a huge event, and one of the biggest and most respected winter photography competitions in the world. Pay attention Liz.

It was such a fun night, meeting everyone at the event, watching the different shows and hearing their stories. For me, this whole ski/snow world is new, and I love getting these tastes for it with bright eyes.

The vibe was so amazing, and it reminded me so much of Wanaka. In fact, I kept feeling like I knew everyone, when in reality I didn’t know anyone. But they all could have blended right in in Wanaka! I got lots of feels and felt super inspired, and had a great time afterwards too and getting my first real taste of the Whistler nightlife. Oh my.

You can watch the winner’s show here, and follow him, Guy Fattal on Instagram. His shots are so inspiring and make me miss Whistler everyday.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

Finally I had my absolute best day ever snowboarding while I was in Whistler. I am not exaggerating. Every time I remember it I get the biggest, dumbest grin on my face. It was the best.

Halfway through my trip we had an epic powder day, around 30 centimeters, so epic for me. One of the amazing Whistler girls invited me along to try out Fresh Tracks, where you head up the Whistler Gondola at 7:15am, have breakfast at the the Roundhouse Lodge, and then you get to ride the mountain before it opens to the public. Oh, and it’s only $21.

We had planned to go and it happened to be a powder day, so we got there early to queue up – only the first 650 are allowed up – the tickets are not day specific.

whistler winter travel

Sidenote – it’s not usually -17 degrees, that was just a major cold snap

So after that morning, I truly understand what all the fuss is all about on powder days. I’ve had powder days before here and there, but nothing like this, and not where I was first on the mountain.

We basically had whole runs to ourselves, I was the first to make the tracks on them. It’s basically flying, guys.

Looking down my board was covered in snow and powder was flying all over me and in my face. I became fearless, falling couldn’t hurt me; it was like landing on a cloud. It was a huge step forward for me with my riding, and a day I’ll never forget.

If you were in Whistler on that day, I was the crazy loon in a yellow jacket screaming and hollering all morning as I carved out tracks. What a memory! Pure euphoria and joy.

Guys, I really get it now.

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

I rode until I couldn’t ride no more.

Unsurprisingly, the next day I couldn’t get out of bed. My body was so sore and it felt like I had been hit by a bus, so I did the only sensible thing you can do when faced with that situation; I went straight to the spa. This was my holiday!

After an amazing massage and a few hours spent soaking in the hot pools at the iconic Scandinave Spa, I felt like a new me, and was ready for the next round.

I went snowboarding until the day I left Whistler, and each day I felt better and more confident, and I was gutted when it was time to head home. But be warned. A week isn’t enough, and Whistler is one of those places that gets under your skin. I know I’ll be back.

Have you been to Whistler? Do you ski or snowboard? Are you a fan of winter wonderlands? What’s your dream holiday?

whistler winter travel

whistler winter travel

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38 Comments on “A dreamy winter holiday in Whistler

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  1. I’ve been reading your blog since forever and I’m a proud Canadian who loves hearing people tell travel stories about Canada so needless to say I love this!!

  2. I have been living on the west coast of Canada for 2 years now (Vancouver Island) and I have yet to go to whistler!!! Your pictures are AMAZING!!! Also side note: it really doesn’t snow in Vancouver and Victoria like ever, so this was a rough winter for West Coasters who aren’t used to snow haha!

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