Christmas is supposed to be about giving and spending time with the important people in your life so here at The Insider we’ve compiled a list of fun things to do with your loved ones, while also giving yourself a bit of a thrill. These are the 12 days of Christmas, Whistler-Style – so strap in and get ready for snow, excitement, twinkling lights, good times, great food and fantastic winter enjoyment.
No partridges, no pear trees (although there may be some tree skiing.) Happy Holidays.
The First Day of Christmas – Sleigh Ride
The popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” starts with someone getting a partridge in a pear tree. Here in Whistler that isn’t really an option— the kind of climate and elevation that makes for a white Christmas and world-class skiing is not that conducive to growing fruit trees. We do have ptarmigans, which are like partridges, but they turn ghost-white in the winter and are pretty tough to spot.
So rather than follow the lyrics too literally why not just get into the general spirit of the season and Jingle-Bell it up by taking the family for a horse drawn sleigh ride?
Sleigh season begins today with different tours options that will take your through forest, lake or mountain settings. With daytime or evening departures you can go for sparkling snow crystals or romantic starlight, you can even pick one that ends in fondue. Hot chocolate and cozy blankets will keep everyone toasty and it’s no secret that kids love horses. A Whistler sleigh ride really is a pretty awesome way to kick off your Christmas vacation.
The Second Day of Christmas – Tube Park
Okay, it’s the second day of Christmas in Whistler, you definitely won’t find two turtle doves floating around but we do have a Tube Park! The Whistler Blackcomb Tube Park is located next to the ski slopes up above Blackcomb Base 2 and they start their tubing season today.
“We have one of the longest Tube Parks around,” says Steve McFadden Tube Park Manager. “it’s almost 1000 feet long and one of the steeper tube parks out there. It can really get exhilarating.”
Steve and his crew have been hammering away the past week to get the park into primo shape for the holiday season. “It’s looking good,” he says, “and as we get more and more snowfall it’s only going to get better.”
The Tube Park is accessible by taking the Excalibur gondola out of Whistler Village (it’s free for foot passengers) or by driving and parking in Lot 8, and is open till 8pm nightly. The ride is family friendly (Steve doesn’t build jumps in the middle) although children must be three years old and taller than 91 centimetres (3 feet) to partake. “Make sure you wear decent winter boots, not ski boots,” Steve adds. “We have a conveyor belt to get you up the slope but there is still a bit of walking around and ski boots are no good for that.”
Admission tickets are sold in one or two hour chunks, hit Whistler.com for hours and info. Last winter the Tube Park saw over 40,000 participants. And you know forty thousand tubers can’t be wrong. Have fun!
The Third Day of Christmas – Fire & Ice Show
A 45-foot ski jump is nerve-wracking to most people, toss in a flaming ring and a live audience and it gets downright terrifying. For the men and women of Whistler’s weekly Fire and Ice show, however, it’s just another day at the office. At least, it is once they get the first jump of the season out of the way.
At 7:30 PM the Fire and Ice performance will take place on the lower slopes of Whistler Mountain (right beside the Garibaldi Lift Co.) The stars of the show are Whistler Blackcomb ski school instructors, with a few pro-athlete ringers, who will take the skies and launch tricks through a 12-foot diameter flaming hoop as the crowd “oohs” and “awes” below.
The show is not as dangerous as it sounds, these people are professionals, and in over a decade of performances pro-skier Myles Ricketts is the only guy to ever actually hit the flaming hoop and crash. He escaped unscathed though, and now works as a coordinator on the event to make sure no one else suffers the same fate.
“You’re definitely nervous the first time but it’s also really fun. You’re concentrating on the fire but once you get into the air you can’t really see anything anyhow so instinct and training take over,” Myles says.
Here’s a video to give an idea of what is in store.
The Fourth Day of Christmas – Ziplining
Reindeer aren’t the only things flying over the Whistler treetops this holiday season. A Whistler Zipline tour allows you to click into a steel cable and essentially fly through the coastal rainforest treetops at speeds that can only really be described as “exhilarating plus.”
Whistler offers plenty of different zipline options but the key tour this holiday season is the Twilight Eagle Tour from Ziptrek Ecotours, which includes a 2000-foot monster zipline that drops over 20 stories. As dusk settles and the moonlight begins to hit the snowy trees, this is one way to get the adrenaline pumping and the good times rolling.
With platforms and bridges perched high in the forest between ziplines and LED lights twinkling in the night, this is really one of the most memorable holiday experiences Whistler has to off. Plus, Twilight tours are $20 less than the busier daytime trips and, with darkness come early as the shortest day of the year draws near, you can still make it back to the Village in time for dinner. Book a zipline trip here.
The Fifth Day of Christmas – Speed Sliding
Winter in Whistler is certainly never boring but perhaps this holiday season could use a full-blown shot of pure adrenaline and that fear-fueled mental clarity that only the most unique and exhilarating activities can deliver. Well, how does rocketing headfirst down a frozen track of ice at speeds up around 100 KM/hour sound?
Anyone with a serious need for speed should hit up the public Skeleton and Bobsleigh rides offered at the Whistler Sliding Centre throughout the holidays and into the New Year. Whistler boasts the fastest ice track in the world and anyone over 16 years old that meets the health, height and weight requirements can hop in for the ride of a lifetime.
Skeleton participants slide solo on what essentially looks like a large cafeteria tray on skates. Your nose is literally inches from the ice as your rocket through down the track. Bobsleigh riders pile in with a professional driver and both activities offer the exhilaration of reaching highway speeds while experiencing one of Whistler’s great Olympic Legacies firsthand.
You know the ride will be a once-in-a-lifetime when the official Sliding Centre “Know before you go” handout reads: “Participants should use the washroom before the start of the run (due to gravitational pressure on bladder during runs).”
The Sixth Day of Christmas – A Snowmobile Fondue
As the snow continues to fall in the mountains around Whistler, the sixth day of Christmas is all about discovering a new way to shred pow. Ditch the skis, snowboard and/or snowshoes and hop on a snowmobile—it’s a fresh, new world of good times.
Whistler snowmobile tours range from three-hour afternoon trips in the local forests or ski hill Mountain to epic seven-hour powderhound journeys into the wilderness of the incredible Callaghan Valley. Regardless of where you go, there’s something really fun and awesome about being able to hammer a throttle and bust through white fluffy powder in a way you never will on skis or boards.
The must-do sled tour this holiday season is the Mountaintop Fondue. Guides from Canadian Wilderness Adventures lead a convoy up Blackcomb Mountain to the Crystal Hut for a candlelit fondue dinner accompanied by live acoustic melodies and a single glass of fine wine at 6,000 feet above sea level.
Few things are as magical as being in the high alpine after dark with Whistler Village twinkling below and the winter moon reflecting off the sea of glaciers and peaks. Throw in a cheese fondue and a few hundred horsepower of motorized good times to get you there and back and the experience becomes “all-time.”
Or you can opt to ride a snowcat to the top rather than snowmobile, and Canadian Snowmobile is offering two seatings of the Mountain Top Fondue on New Year’s Eve. There’s no better place to ring in the New Year than the top of a mountain.
If you fancy going a little further afield then there’s always the Callaghan backcountry Steak Dinner option. As dusk falls you venture up Sproatt Mountain for a three-course steak dinner cooked on an old-fashioned wood stove grill. How Canadian is that? Your Angus beef sirloin is served with garlic mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a feature dessert prepared by the Bearfoot Bistro.
Book the New Year’s Eve Fondue or any other snowmobile trip at Whistler.com.
The Seventh Day of Christmas – XC Adventure
With all the recent valley snowfall Whistler’s snowshoe and Nordic-ski trails are filling in nicely. What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than a peaceful glide through a winter wonderland.
Lost Lake Cross Country Ski & Snowshoes trails offer the perfect wilderness winter experience just minutes walk from Whistler Village. The 525-acre park has over 30km of trails crisscrossing throughout the coastal rainforest and around one of Whistler’s most treasured lakes.
“Lost Lake Park is an absolute gem of wilderness,” says Ian Goldstone, owner of Cross Country Connection, the Whistler valley’s epicenter of Nordic skiing. “It’s an urban park, vibrant, but still very full of nature. And it’s literally a four-minute walk from the Village.”
Cross Country Connection is located at the entrance to the park and Ian and his team are always ready to set you up with rentals or instruction. Ski trails are groomed for either skate or classic style and the 3.5 KM “Lost Lake Loop” is lit at night until 8 PM.
Lost Park is located just off Lormier Road in between the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and Whistler Marketplace. Skiers and snowshoers arriving by vehicle can park for free in Lot 5 and follow the valley trail over. Contact the Whistler Visitor’s Centre (in the Whistler Village Taxi loop) for more directions and information, or check out the on-trail webcam for real-time look at conditions.
You probably won’t find seven swans a swimming on this 7th Day of Christmas, but frozen-over Lost Lake is certainly beautiful this time of year. Enjoy.
The Eighth Day of Christmas – Here Comes Santa
Santa arrives in Whistler tomorrow! Not for Christmas, but to get a few laps on the ski hill. Every December there’s an annual “Dress like Santa Day” on Whistler Blackcomb. That morning, the first 75 people to show up at the Garibaldi Lift Company dressed as Mr or Mrs Claus will receive a free lift ticket. Those early risers will then meet up with a bunch more seasonally clad rippers and upload the Fitzsimmons Express chair at 8 AM. Once they reach the top the Santa-posse will gather and ski en-mass down to the Emerald Chair.
While 100+ Santas bombing down the slopes together may require some explaining to the younger spectators, the event is a lot of fun and the perfect way to “out-Christmas” your friends back home. “Oh you got a photo sitting on Santa’s knee at the mall?… Cute, now check out this shot of me and Santa throwing 360’s in the terrain park.”
The Ninth Day of Christmas – Bouncy Castles
With the children out of school many people’s holiday experience kicks into high gear this weekend so to help keep the little ones occupied the Whistler Conference Centre is transforming into The Whistler Holiday Experience, a 23,000 square foot extravaganza of games, crafts, and bouncing childish glee – and it’s all free.
“Everyone loves a bouncy castle,” says Sue Eckersly, who conceived the Holiday Experience with her team at Watermark Communications. “So we have five bouncy castles, that is our main draw and the younger kids go bananas. Then we have air hockey and table hockey and mini put and video games for the older kids, plus we’ve teamed up with the Whistler Multicultural Network and they are putting on lots of crafts from 2-4 PM Thursday through Sunday. I’m stoked to have a more international feel this year.”
Another highlight is the arrival of Santa. Today (Saturday Dec. 22) Santa will roll up to the Whistler Holiday Experience on a fire truck at 1PM and hang out with the kids (and their wish lists) until 5 PM. Santa has also managed to fit a visit in on Sunday too (1-5 PM, Dec. 23).
The Whistler Holiday Experience also features a small café with kid-friendly meals (mac and cheese!) at very kid-friendly prices. With food and warm indoor activities for all, this place can be a true day-saver for exasperated parents who just want a warm, safe place to let their kids run around, have fun, and burn off some of that youthful exuberance.
“We started this 6 years ago,” Sue reflects, “Which means there is now a whole generation of Whistler kids who have grown up coming here every winter break. That’s pretty cool.”
Cool, fun, safe, free. And most importantly, kid-approved.
The Tenth Day of Christmas – Ice Skating
Whistler guests and locals can enjoy public skating on an outdoor ice surface at Whistler Olympic Plaza.
Skating at the Plaza was introduced in December 2011 and with over 15,000 skaters hitting the ice last year the Plaza rink is back bigger than ever.
A public rink right in the Village gives everyone a chance to skate under a disco ball amongst pristine alpine peaks of North America’s premier winter resort. From the distinct sound of cold steel gliding across the ice to watching your breath fog in the crisp winter air – Skating at the Plaza is more than just free family fun, it’s a chance to glimpse what it means to be Canadian.
Skating at the Plaza is open daily from 11am – 4pm and 6pm to 9pm (10pm on Fridays, Saturdays. Hours are reduced on December 25 and 31.)
The Eleventh Day of Christmas – Eat, Shop, Sing
The day before Christmas can be hectic as procrastinators and the unprepared rush to and fro attempting to squeeze in an entire holiday season’s worth of last-minute shopping. Luckily, most everything in Whistler Village is within walking distance of each other so that makes for a much more civilized (and scenic) day of running around.
With more than 200 shops in the Village last minute gift-givers have options on everything from shiny jewelry to vinyl records to ice axes to toques. And while there’s nothing wrong with shopping till you’re dropping, Whistler is also about having fun and appreciating the finer things in life so don’t forget to throw a few snowballs around, check out the free skating rink, or partake in a fine meal at one of Whistler’s many world-class dining establishments.
Araxi restaurant is world-renowned for their fine wine, inviting atmosphere and a delicious locally sourced menu. While their nighttime reservations are booking fast, Araxi offers an incredible Après Ski Fondue everyday from 3-6 PM. Ski towns and fondue go together like chocolate and cheese and Araxi’s central location in Whistler’s Village Square make it the perfect spot for a pit stop.
The main event for Day 11 is the 29th Annual Christmas Eve Carol Service, an interdenominational celebration of traditional carols and choral music. Going strong for almost three decades, this is an evening of good times and sweet sounds, and the overall message is peace and goodwill to all. Hosted by the Whistler Children’s Chorus, the Christmas Eve Carol Service takes place at the Westin Resort and Spa from 6:30-7:30 PM and admission is by donation.
The Twelth Day of Christmas – Merry Christmas!
One awesome thing about Christmas in Whistler is that Santa or Ullr (the unofficial god of Snow) or whoever is in charge usually blesses us with fresh snow. Many Christmas mornings in Whistler have seen fresh snowfall and skiing on Christmas is how most true locals celebrate the big day.
“While everyone else is back home opening presents we are out ripping and empty hill,” says Whistler artist Chili Thom. “And it’s usually covered in fresh pow so you just get up and enjoy being with your family or friends.”
And there’s the kicker, the real meaning of Christmas. Snowboard photography pioneer Dano Pendygrasse has been riding Christmas Day in Whistler for as long as he can remember. Last Christmas he summed it up perfectly for us:
“Well I think when I was young,” Dano says. “Skiing on Christmas was a pain because I just wanted to get back to the presents but as I got a little older I recognized the light crowds and started to appreciate that. Later on when life got really busy it became the only day I got a chance to ski with both my parents and my brother so I really looked forward to it. Real locals always ride on Christmas. I distinctly remember catching one of the first few chairs on the Peak one Christmas day—dropping into untracked just under mid station and hearing (former World Cup Downhiller and local legend) Robby Boyd and his wife Sherry cheering me on from the chair. In the end, I don’t remember the socks and sweater I got as presents that year, but I’ll always have that memory, and that’s the best present you can get.”
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth to all. (Now get off the computer and go enjoy a day on the hill with the people you love.)