Insider’s Guide to Alpine Sightseeing & the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola
A ride in the cheery red cabins of the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is one of the most iconic things to do here in Whistler, summer or winter. Visible from Whistler Village as a delicate string of beads stretching from mountain to mountain, the appeal of riding the gondola is clear but how one actually gets up there? Not so obvious.
We’ve collected some of the frequently asked questions about sightseeing on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains into a handy guide to the ultimate day in the alpine. So grab your cameras and smart phones and let’s go…
What is the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola?
The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola links Blackcomb and Whistler, the two mountains that make up part of our skiing, biking and hiking paradise. It’s a feat of engineering boasting the longest unsupported lift span in the world (3.024 kilometres or 1.88 miles). It’s also the highest lift of its kind with an elevation of 436 metres (1,427 ft). Needless to say with those numbers it offers some pretty spectacular views of the village, valley and surrounding mountains – 360 degree views in fact.
Sightseeing on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is available almost all year round, with scheduled downtime in spring and fall for maintenance. Always check the Hours of Operation before planning your visit.
Where do I get tickets?
The tickets to ride the gondola are called PEAK 2 PEAK 360 Experience tickets and they can be purchased online in advance with or without accommodation, at the Whistler Visitors Centre (on the day only) or at any Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations office or ticket booth, located at the base of the lifts.
How much are tickets?
Check out the current advanced ticket price – note tickets bought on the day are a little more expensive, which is another reason to buy early.
Is the new Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge included in the ticket price?
The new Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge is included in the price of a PEAK 2 PEAK 360 Experience ticket. Please note that access to the bridge is via the Peak Chair, which is only available for sightseeing in summer, when weather conditions are favorable. Always check the chairlift operating times before planning your trip.
I’ve got a season pass for the Whistler Bike Park – can I take a day off biking and ride the PEAK 2 PEAK?
Absolutely. If you hold a bike park season pass for the current year OR held a Whistler Blackcomb winter seasons pass the previous winter, you get unlimited access to the PEAK 2 PEAK and can go straight to the lift with your RFID card. There are also discounts for EDGE cardholders, Twilight pass holders and multi-day bike park passes – pop in to Whistler Blackcomb Guest Relations to get the discount on your PEAK 2 PEAK tickets.
What does the ticket include?
The ticket includes much more than just the ride on the PEAK 2 PEAK. It also get you:
- Access to all the open-air chairlifts and gondolas operating that day including upload, download, the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, the 7th Heaven chair and the Peak Chair
- A behind-the-scenes look at the machinery and incredible engineering behind the Gondola from the PEAK 2 PEAK Viewing Gallery
- Inspiring alpine videos and talks in the Samsung Alpine Theatre (times vary)
- The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games display inside the Roundhouse Lodge (Whistler Mountain)
- On-mountain dining for purchase at multiple restaurants on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains
- Access to over 50 km of hiking, running and interpretive walking trails in summer
- New for Summer 2018: Access to the Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge (accessible off the top of the Peak Chair when running)
Can I buy a multi-day ticket?
Ask at Whistler Blackcomb’s Guest Services about a PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola seasons pass if you think you might like the flexibility to come and go multiple times.
What are the operating dates and times for the gondola?
Check out our mountain hours of operation for more information – the times vary during the year. The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola closes for scheduled maintenance at regular intervals, so check the dates as you plan your trip to avoid disappointment.
Where should I park for the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola?
The closest parking to the lifts is in the Day Lots, located between the Upper Village and the Village Stroll. Depending which Day Lot you park in the walk is between 5 – 10 minutes.
I’m catching a BC Transit bus or the shuttle, how far is the bus loop to the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola?
If you are catching a BC Transit bus the bus drop-off is right by the base of the lifts in Skier’s Plaza, while the shuttle from Vancouver drops you about a 5 min walk away through the Village.
What should I wear to go sightseeing?
It depends on the season! Weather conditions and temperatures will change as you go from Whistler Village in the valley to the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola in the alpine. It is often 5 – 10 degrees (celcius) cooler on the mountain, and layers are recommended so you can adjust your temperature accordingly – check out the alpine weather conditions on the day for a better idea of what to expect.
SUMMER: The sun can be strong up high so sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are recommended – just be careful they don’t fall off when you are peering down from the chairlift! A light jacket can help cut wind chill and comfortable, sturdy closed shoes can stop your toes getting cool as you ride the chairlifts – they are also great for walking around on the mountain top.
WINTER: In winter time you will need to walk through the snow to get to the terminal so dress warmly in snow gear and wear waterproof boots with good, grippy soles for comfort.
Do I need to bring anything else?
A sense of adventure and your camera or phone for photos are a good start! There are restaurants, washrooms and shops on the mountains. If you plan to hike the alpine trails other gear is recommended such as hiking boots, food and water as well as a trail map.
Right. I have my tickets. How do I get up there? **Note Changes for 2018**
The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola terminals are approximately two-thirds up the mountains so to get there you start your journey by uploading from the Valley.
Normally, you would be able to upload either Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain. As a result of Whistler Blackcomb replacing lifts on Blackcomb Mountain in 2018, there is NO option to upload on Blackcomb this year.
You can choose to upload Whistler Mountain via the Whistler Village Gondola OR Whistler Creekside via the Creekside Gondola and Big Red Express open-air chairlift. You can download either way and you don’t need extra tickets for these lifts, it’s all included in the price.
The access points may vary from season to season.
Can I upload at the Creekside Gondola and access the PEAK 2 PEAK? **Note Changes for 2018**
Yes, you can.
New for summer 2018, the Creekside Gondola will be running for both sightseeing and bike park access, connecting with the Big Red Express Chairlift which will deliver visitors (with and without bikes) to the Rendezvous and the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola terminal.
Is there any way to create a sightseeing loop, with no Blackcomb upload in 2018?
In previous years visitors had the option to complete a sightseeing loop by downloading on Blackcomb. This year, you can upload in the Village and complete a loop with different views of the valley by downloading at Creekside (or vice versa if you are staying in Creekside).
Please note Whistler Creekside is approximately 5 k south of Whistler Village, so you’ll need a plan for your return. Options for getting to and from Creekside are to walk along the Valley Trail (approximately 5 k) or take a bus or taxi.
Whistler Transit buses run between Creekside and the Village regularly – look for the number 20X express, 20 or 25. Buses are free on weekends from June 15 – September 15, 2018. If travelling midweek, you will need $2.50 in change for a one-way fare on the bus. You can also grab a sheet of 10 tickets from the Whistler Visitor Centre or the Whistler Grocery Store.
Do I need to book a time to board the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola?
No. There are no reservations required for the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola as it runs continuously during the day. Simply upload and walk the short distance to the terminal to catch your ride.
Do I only get one shot at riding the gondola?
You can go back and forth on the gondola as many times as you like to soak up the views while it is operating – plenty of time to check out the views on all sides, take photos and simply enjoy the ride. If it is busy you might be asked to disembark on either side so other visitors can take their turn.
Will I need to wait in line? **Note Changes for 2018**
It depends on how many people are on the mountain that day – wait times vary. Lines are usually longer on weekends and during holiday periods so you might need to allow yourself extra time to board the gondola.
With the Whistler Village Gondola the only Village location for upload in 2018, there may be higher volumes of visitors accessing the mountain. Plan ahead and ride midweek, get tickets in advance, go early and upload at Creekside to avoid peak times.
How long does it take to ride the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola?
The gondola ride is 11 minutes long, making it 22 minutes if you want to go for a round-trip (Note in 2018 round trips will be mandatory, as there is no download on Blackcomb Mountain). However (here’s the important part) it takes approximately 25 minutes upload to the PEAK 2 PEAK and 25 minutes to return to the Village. So we recommended you leave at least 2 hours, minimum for the sightseeing experience to give you time to upload, ride the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola and return to the Village.
If you plan on doing any of the other things included in your ticket (dining, hiking, viewing the gallery, riding the Peak Chair) or taking lots of photographs then give yourself more time. That way you can avoid scurrying to make your tee-time/dinner reservation/massage appointment.
When is the last ride of the day?
The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola stops running overnight, and the times of the last ride vary during the season. As a general rule, uploading after 3 PM isn’t recommended as it means you will be hustling to catch the last ride of the day – or could miss out on the gondola ride altogether.
Important Note for 2018: As there is no download on Blackcomb Mountain in 2018, you will need to plan your day to ensure you catch the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola back to Whistler to connect with the Village or Creekside downloads.
What exactly is there to see up there?
All the majesty. At higher elevations the landscape completely changes and this sightseeing trip is a fantastic way to experience the pure and rugged beauty of the Canadian Coast Mountains.
The experience changes with the season. In spring, the alpine hiking trails are still covered with snow, but Whistler Blackcomb digs out the road up to the Peak Chair for hiking, meaning you can walk between walls of snow from last winter. The snow walls are only available for as long as they last, so this is a unique, once a year experience and well worth a trip in late May or early June.
In summer the forest makes way to wildflower meadows and scree slopes, boulder fields and towering peaks like the mighty Black Tusk. You can discover jewel-like hanging lakes under distant peaks and massive glaciers in ancient valleys. Depending on the day and season you might see wildlife: bears, deer, marmots, chipmunks and whiskey jacks are common. You also get a great view of the Village, plus watch people hiking, biking, climbing and more. We did a post on the unique things you can see and do in the alpine in summer, check out the photos for a better idea of what’s up there.
In winter the mountains are covered in snow and the chances of seeing wildlife are greatly reduced, but there’s nothing like gliding above the ski fields on a bluebird day and watching the skiers and boarders fly past below.
Is there anywhere to eat?
Absolutely – each mountain has several restaurants for casual and full service dining. It’s safe to say the on-mountain patios have some of the best views in town, so a meal or even an ice-cream break up here is well worth it.
Friday, Saturday and Sundays during summer you can stay up in the evenings and have dinner with the Mountain Top Summer Feast – a separate ticket is required for this and it pays to pack a light jacket in case the temperature drops as the sun sets.
Are there any hiking trails on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain?
Yes, there is a trail network on each mountain, offering a range of trails from short loops on easy gravel paths to longer more technical hikes to hidden lakes and lookouts. Depending how much time you have you can choose a short loop of an hour or less or a more advanced hike (2 – 4+ hours). View the Whistler and Blackcomb trail maps here and check out our Insider’s Guide to Alpine Hiking for more information.
Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below. For more ideas on what to do this summer from lakes to peak, visit Whistler.com.