Technically there are still a few weeks before the hectic urgency of true “last minute shopping” kicks in but time can slip away quickly with fresh snow in the mountains so we’re starting the last-minute shopping now.

Here at the Whistler Insider we think the hottest gifts this year will be experience-based. Most of us have too much “stuff” in our lives as it is, so think about gifts that provide adventure, reveal life’s secrets and create memories your loved ones can cherish for years. (Plus, gift certificates are easy to wrap.)

Here’s our top picks for this year’s real-life, hands-on, give-it-a-go gifts:

Heli-Skiing & Boarding

This is one of those bucket list items, and for good reason: just flying around in a helicopter is totally surreal and incredibly fun, but then being dropped at the top of a perfectly untouched mountain of powder… it’s life-changing. Besides actually feeling like a dream-come-true one excellent thing about heli-skiing is that it’s even better if you do it with a friend, so really this can be a gift to yourself too.

Cat skiing and snowboarding is also a game-changer and a more affordable option for experiencing assisted backcountry skiing. The ride back up the hill after each run offers some of the most unique bonding and stoke-sharing time available in the mountains and the added bonus is that the snow cats can run on those big stormy pow days when the birds can’t fly. More info on heli-skiing or cat skiing.

Build Your Own Shred Sticks

Boutique ski companies are popping up all over the place so why not give the person who has everything a chance to get in on the action and handcraft their own one-of-a-kind snowboard or skis? The Whistler Adventure School offers 3-day ski or board building courses in their private production facility with trained professionals who ski and ride here every day. Every turn is better when you have personally invested time and energy into your boards and there is no better chairlift conversation starter. More info.

Discover the Backcountry

There’s a reason backcountry touring is the fastest growing segment of the snow sports industry. Yes, it’s still all about deep, fresh powder but the sense of accomplishment from having “earned your turns” by hiking up is perfectly matched with the peace and quiet of a day outside in the snow. The physicality of touring is rewarding as well but the slow pace and empty wilderness also gives you time to think about the world and your place in it.

Check out this Insider video of a backcountry day with Extremely Canadian.

The backcountry can (and should) also be intimidating. There are real dangers in the mountains and no one should ever venture out there without the proper knowledge, equipment or guides. Which is why a Whistler Backcountry Tour is the perfect gift for anyone interested in stepping beyond the ropes. Certified guides show you the ropes and get you out into some of the best lift-accessed backcountry terrain in North America (Bonus: pair this with an avalanche safety course for the ultimate backcountry starter-pack gift). More info or check out this Insider blog on the Whistler backcountry safety.

Skeleton: Speed and Gravity

Got someone on your shopping list who likes speed and adrenaline? Send them hurtling face first down an icy chute at the Whistler Sliding Centre. The public bobsleigh program pairs sliders with a professional driver who can get you to speeds of up to 120 km/hour on the same track used in the 2010 Winter Games. The public skeleton rides are where the real fun is, though. It’s just you, gravity and the fastest ice track in the world. The only skill required is the ability to lay still and face your fears. Skeleton riders get two laps because the first one is literally a blur. More info.

Check out this skeleton mini-movie from The Little Things series.

Mountain Top Fondue

Whistler is well known for world class dining but the most memorable table in town could very well be the fondue in the Crystal Hut onBlackcomb Mountain. The creamy, gooey awesomeness of a cheese fondue is amazing anywhere but at 6000 feet with the lights of Whistler Village twinkling below it can be transcendent. There’s no taxi service here either, it’s either a snowmobile or snowcat ride up, making the night extra memorable. High alpine gourmands may also be interested in eating dinner in a snowmobile-accessed backcountry yurt catered by the Bearfoot Bistro. More info.

Whistler Village

No, you can’t buy Whistler Village but as a pedestrian-only area it is a great place to run around and knock off some last-minute shopping. Armchair Books in the Village Square is a great place to start but there are lots of solid options for brand name, locally made, or “outside the box” gifts to slide under the tree. Gift cards to spas and yoga studios or West Coast Float always go over well and a trip to any of Whistler’s art galleries can help cross off that “impossible to buy for” list.

Most importantly, remember that it’s the people around the tree that are important, not the gifts under it. And it almost always snows on Christmas Day, which might be the greatest gift of all.

Find all your Christmas and Holiday answers at, plus gift certificates and new mobile gift cards for dining, retail and nightlife.


Feet Banks moved to Whistler at age 12 so his parents could live the dream and ski as much as possible. He ended up living it too. After leaving home Feet did a few good stints in warmer climates and 4 years of writing school before returning to the mountains to make ski movies, hammer out a journalism career and avoid the 9-5 lifestyle as long as possible. He’s been a hay farmer, a hole digger, a magazine editor and has a jump named after him on Blackcomb Mountain, Feet’s Air. It’s tiny.