4 Ways to Ski Whistler – No Lift Ticket Required

ski touring group stopping to talk

4 Ways to Ski Whistler – No Lift Ticket Required

When planning your adventures this winter, it’s fun to think outside of the chairlift from time to time. With a bit of creativity and effort, you can expand your boundaries beyond Whistler Blackcomb’s boundaries. Here are some tips on how to do just that.


I once heard that anywhere is walking distance if you have enough time. Whistler, and the surrounding mountains, are filled with pristine chutes and bowls just waiting for you to lay some turns into. With the right gear, safety knowledge, and a bit of fitness, the mountains can become your playground.

ski touring group stopping to talk

Skin track chat is the best chat. PHOTO MEGAN WILSON

Before You Go

Travelling in the backcountry is a whole other beast from carving inbound turns. You need to make sure that you’re fully equipped with the essential gear and supplies, and most importantly, the training and know-how to keep everyone safe.

Where to Go

The best way to venture into new zones is by being guided by someone familiar with the area. Don’t stress if you don’t know anyone with local knowledge, Mountain Skills Academy and Extremely Canadian have guides who can take you to all the best stashes and give you some invaluable tips along the way.

If you’re looking to do multiple days of touring in a row, I recommend staying at the Journeyman Lodge in the Callaghan Valley. You’ll enjoy easy access to great turns, and the cozy lodge is a great place to trade stories at the end of the day.

Insider Tip
Thinking about giving touring a try? Fellow insider Emily Wright shares some lessons she learned from her first time adventuring into the backcountry:
6 Things I Learned from my First Foray into the Backcountry

2. Cat-Skiing

If you’re looking for a day of multiple, untracked laps without having to sweat your way back up, cat-skiing is for you. Beyond getting to ski deep, untracked pow, cat skiing is very social. It’s impossible not to catch some stoke when sharing stories from your previous run in the cat with your fellow riders on the way back up.

Some groups can get as many as ten laps in a day, but the deep turns could have your legs crying for mercy after five. You may want to book in a massage at the Scandinave Spa to help with your recovery afterwards.

group of people loading into a snowcat on a snowy day

Half bus, half snowcat, 100% awesome. You’ll have just enough time to share stories from your last lap before arriving back at the top. PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Before You Go

If you’ve never skied powder before, I don’t recommend cat-skiing for your first time. When you’re first learning to ski pow it can be easy to get stuck, resulting in a lot of time lost digging yourself out. A day with an instructor can go a long way to learning how to keep those tips up in the deep stuff.

Insider Tip
Cat-skiing works up a healthy appetite. Make sure to book your dinner reservations before heading out for the day. For more tips on keeping fuelled check out: Avoid Being Hangry: Dining in Whistler in Winter.

3. Heli-Skiing

Having a helicopter whisk you away to an untracked alpine bowl is one of life’s great luxuries. If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, going out for a day of heli-skiing should be on your bucket list.

Beyond traditional heli-skiing, you could also book a day of heli-touring with Extremely Canadian. Often, when touring, you spend most of your time and energy just getting to the top.  Combining the day with a heli ride out allows your group and guide to go further, faster.

helicopter landing with guests about to get on

How to instantly feel like an action hero. PHOTO WHISTLER HELI SKIING / NEIL BROWN

Before You Go

Don’t let your gear ruin your day. Here are some essential things you’ll want to get right:

  • Powder skis/board – your gear can either work with you or against you. If your skis or board are too skinny, instead of floating on top of the snow you’ll sink deep and have to work hard for every turn. Leave that carving gear at home and consider renting gear made for our conditions from a local shop.
  • Comfortable boots – don’t let sore feet ruin what could be the day of a lifetime. Keep your feet happy with these tips –  Whistler Ski Boot Secrets: 6 Tips For Comfier Feet
  • Waterproof/breathable gear – When out heli-skiing you will be alternating between adrenaline thumping fun, and sitting still in the heli. Having gear that not only stops moisture from getting in but also lets your sweat out, will keep you from catching a chill. Most locals around here gear up with GORE-TEX to get the job done.

4. Nordic

Being on skis doesn’t always mean going downhill. For something a little different, try strapping on some cross-country skis and spend the day Nordic skiing through our forest trails.

people cross country skiing on a blue sky day

Same same, but different. Give a different type of skiing a try. PHOTO DAVID MCCOLM

Before You Go

You can cross country ski with any fitness level, but it is a whole lot more fun when you’re in shape, so make sure to put in some sweat time at one of our local gyms. The other thing to think about is possibly taking a lesson so that you’re not just trying to muscle through, but learning how to do it from a seasoned pro who can make that process a little smoother.

Where to Go

We’re pretty spoiled for Nordic skiing venues in Whistler. You can strap on some skinny skis for a lap around Lost Lake, spend the day exploring Whistler Olympic Park, venture deep into the Callaghan Valley, or even ski for free between Rainbow Park and Meadow Park. Operation dates are weather dependant, so make sure to check conditions before you go.

Of course, if you’re not ready to give up the lift just yet, we have plenty of that too with Whistler Blackcomb’s 8,171 acres of terrain. You can lock in the best rates by booking your lift tickets and accommodation in advance, so come join us for a winter adventure.

Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson

Megan is a mountain adventurer guilty of breaking the golden rule, telling everyone her mountain secrets (ok, maybe she keeps a few to herself). Ontario by birth, and now Whistler by choice, even a decade later, the mountains still take her breath away.