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- 6,340 Posts. Joined 10/2004
- Location: Bellingham / Skykomish
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They are visible here. MacBook Pro, 10.11.5, on Firefox 47.0
Its awful, there is too much snow, you don't want to come here in Feb.
Just kidding. I retired to live here. I have worked in Colorado and I'll just point out the essential fact of human performance that everyone appears to ignore; people who live at or near sea level do not tend to enjoy sleeping at 9500' and skiing at 10500'+. I love Colorado but would not suggest it for the typical US 5-6 day power trip. The I-70 is also a zoo. Breckenfridge is long and flat and then crazy steep and you guesed it - cold!!! Vail claims to have as much terrain but forgets to tell you that it requires multiple lifts to get up and over the three ranges that make up its ski area.
From December 2007 until April 2008 I skied about 90 days at 18 different mountains from A-Basin to Silverstar (it was an epic winter road trip) and I have to say for terrain choice and variety nothing comes close to Whistler.
The best single day's skiing, from a powder snow POV, I have had was Alta in Feb 2008. 96" of powder in a week and we skiied the 14" Monday, 12" Tuesday and the 28" Bluebird Wednesday when they closed the access road and the mountain had about half its usual mid week numbers. Total bliss. So that would be a consideration but if you stay up at Alta you are skiing and sleeping, there is nothing really else to do. You could stay Park City and have more apres choice.
My best overall ski experience in North America was at Bridger Bowl but you are an intermediate so don't bother. Bridger is great if you consider mandatory avalanche gear, skiing with a partner and steep chutes to be your idea of a fun ski day. The intermediate terrain is pretty limited. The town of Bozeman is pretty cool though. We arrived for three days skiing and stayed for ten days.
Whistler has several zones (eight depending on how you break it down), any one of them is larger than most other resorts entire available terrain on any given day. In early Feb you might get those lovely days where there is powder from top to bottom. Stay in the Village if you want the central experience without any rental car requirement or waiting for buses. Creekside is cheaper and appears as an attractive option by apres skiing options are limited by comparison. As someone else commented, if you choose incorrectly (as wind direction and strength is just as important as cm of snow that fell) then Peak to Peak it to the other mountain and try there.
As good as the mountain hosts are you will actually get a better tour (and lift line priority) if you hire an instructor for your first day. Set your intention as less learning about skills and more about being introduced to as much intermediate terrain as possible and it will set you up for a good stay. Your skills will improve as well. And a lesson on the first day skiing is money well spent (encourage good technique and discourage old bad habits).
My best day ever was on Whistler, skiing with guests. 40 cm of new snow, expert skiers, fat skis, reasonable light, no wind and lovely knee to waist deep powder for every run. We skied through on energy bars and bottled water. We then ate lunch as the restaurant closed at the end of the day and downloaded with a 'power' coffee (add your favourite nip of spirits) and two guests fell asleep in the gondola. One, a FIS ranked racer, said she was so tired her fingers hurt but it was the best day's skiing she had ever had in 23 years of skiing.
Whistler is special and you can only find out if you come and explore. Just my 2 cents worth and I hope it helps your decision process.
You're in Portland. Hop, skip, and jump away from Whistler compared to the southeast. You'll have a blast at the Gathering!
We spent 4 days in Whistler this past March. The snow was truly awesome. But as others have mentioned, the conditions are highly varied from top to bottom. The upper part of the mountain, during our visit, received snow, I think, every day or evening. This made skiing tremendous for those experts who can handle deep snow. In addition, much of the higher terrain is above tree line and with the low clouds, snow etc, makes skiing a bit, challenging. My wife didn't like it,...at all. She's a good skier but wants to see exactly where she's going. Also, I had a hard time getting my hands around the fact that during our stay, it rained/drizzled most of the time in the village, but of course was snowing up high. I kinda like the aesthetic of walking through the village when it's snowing. That was just a very narrow window in March.
I would consider Sun Valley as an option. The mountain is set up really well, usually no lifelines and the general pitch of the mountain is really nice. I always thought that for intermediate skiers, the front side trails would be a test but would probably not be too intimidating.
Ketchum is a really neat town too. Ok, yeah, it's off the beaten path.
Ski vacations are the greatest, so wherever you end up you'll have a great time!
I just took a trip to Whistler this past April. I skied for 5 days. Unfortunately, on 2 of the days the weather kept me from skiing what I wanted to ski. The first day that the weather affected my skiing was my first day on Whistler.
The day started blue bird and I was skiing the Big Red Chair/Emerald Chair area and then it started snowing pretty decently around 11am. My plan for the day was to warm up around the Big Red and Emerald chairs and then venture to the Harmony and Symphony areas for the rest of the day. I decided that I didn't want to miss out on the alpine, so despite the lights flashing at the base of the Harmony chair which warned of extremely poor visibility and that the conditions up there made the terrain double black and expert only, I decided it was probably an exaggeration. I was wrong. By the time the chair got to the top of Harmony, I literally couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of me; it was legitimate whiteout conditions. As I had never even been to the Harmony area, it was incredibly unsettling to know that I was skiing atop a big mountain ridge and if I strayed too far from the path (which was hidden by the whiteout conditions) that I could fall off the edge of a cornice that I couldn't even see. I was forced to ski the orange and green reflectors post to post; one at a time. It was the most uncomfortable I have ever been skiing. I managed my way back down to the Roundhouse area on Whistler and I was forced to stay from that area down as the alpine conditions remained unchanged. Instead of having a day of skiing the alpine and exploring, I was stuck skiing from about mid-mountain down (though the skiing was still great, of course). The last day I was there I experienced a similar situation of horrendous alpine visibility on Blackcomb, but there was also pea soup thick fog from mid-mountain down; I couldn't even ski the mid mountain runs with any semblance of visibility - I took the Peak2Peak over the Whistler and again had to lap the lower Whistler runs.
That being said, I have already decided that I will take a week-long ski trip to Whistler every year. It is just that good. The terrain, local culture, and vibe make the risk of skiing in poor visibility worth it. Also, now that I know the mountains better, I will perhaps be a little more comfortable skiing them in poor visibility.
Time for some more pictures. These were all taken on 2/27/2016 which was my only day free-skiing WB as the preceding two days and my first two days ever @WB were in a steep skiing clinic. First is the Olympic Rings at the Roundhouse on Whistler at 7:45. I got in line for the 3800' vertical gondola at 7:10 as I had signed up for the Early Up breakfast.
Note the moon above the gap between blue and black rings and the cloud layer on the right.
Symbol from Whistler Olympics at the top of Peak Chair = top of Whistler.
Skied to bottom and moved to Blackcomb. I never took the 7th Heaven chair on this crowded Saturday and waited a while for line for Horstman T-bar to go down to what I thought was reasonable. This picture is taken near bottom of Glacier chair which disappeared into the clouds before rising above them into the sun.
None of my pictures do justice to the the rollover past line of cliff area signs our guide took us down into Sapphire Bowl on 2nd day. I remembered it well enough to repeat it twice solo.
That is long intermediate Blackcomb Glacier run in sun below and the cables on upper half of picture are probably used for avalanche control.
If you've gotten this far and want more details, see http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=12064&p=75742 and http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=12066&p=75714
If you felt that the blues were steep at Telluride, I would caution you about going to Jackson Hole next year unless you really make some good strides this season (now Grand Targhee is an entirely different matter). Utah probably has a lot more terrain to your liking with Snowbasin, Deer Valley, Park City, Brighton, and even Alta having lots of really nice blue cruisers. I can't wait to hear how you like Whistler. I am hoping that I will be able to make it to the Gathering there this year during the first week in March.
Powder day, Harmony area.
View from the top of Sun Bowl run, Harmony. That's Symphony chair in the background and the bowl with the big cornices is Flute bowl, hike-to terrain only.
Went there last March towards the end. Week before they had tons of snow top to bottom. On the first day of skiing for me it was raining top to bottom. At the top it was heavy wet snow and absolutely zero visibility. Second day of skiing good deep powder at the top of whistler got skied out in half hour, glacier skiing Blackcomb side lasted longer but by the mid day it was all heavy at the top and slushy at mid mountain with poor visibility. All good skiing was was only in expert terrain. Third day was better two hours of decent visibility and complete whiteout all over. by the end of the day I fractured my fibula (first time in my life) trying to make it back home in a complete whiteout. They have a funny way to mark their catwalks - the rope ended, I turned at zero visibility and dropped 5 feet on hard icy flat surface. Next two days my fam skied w/o me and was crowded at the top with rain at mid mountain and frequent periods of fog and poor visibility. The mountain is absolutely huge and has amazing amount of very diverse terrain, but a lot of it is a subject to frequent rain fog etc. The top snow is more reliable but on a rainy day it is crowded. the trip from the east coast will take at least 12 hours. When it comes to extreme terrain it is rather limitted and telluride, big sky, Aspen Highlands, Taos, Snowbird, KH and Revy will have more options with better snow on average. For intermidiate skiing I would try Big Sky, Canyons, Snowmass, Steamboat. A lot easier to get to, no crowds, better chance for goodconditions. Even better bite the bullet and don't buy any airfare or accomodations and wait till its just 10-7 left to your vacation and you will be rewarded with great skiing.
I go to Whister 2 to 4 times a year. Go! Just the scenery on the drive alone Howe Sound on a clear day is worth the trip. The view from any of the peaks or sub-peaks at Whistler on a clear day is amazing. The skiing is usally great. When it isn't, it's character building.
Yes, it gets the maritime climate, and can get foggy. Ski in runs cut through trees, and you'll do great.
The exchange rate varies closely to the price of crude oil (Canada's largest export). Presently it is about US$0.80 to CDN$1. Use a charge card with no foreign exchange surcharge (3% is common, but some don't have the surcharge). Use you ATM card to get some Canadian money from an ATM. Let your ATM card issuer and credit card issuers know that you're traveling to Canada on those certain dates. Check your medical insurance. If you don't have foreign coverage, buy trip insurance (buy it anyway for protection in case you or a family member gets sick before you go; you'll get your money back.)
I've skied there for years but I never seem to remember the names of stuff. Thanks.
My 2 Cents on Whistler
GO!! Hah, OK a little more detail:
Whistler is an amazing place, if you have never been and have a chance just do it. The Whistler/Blackcomb complex is huge and there is lot's of terrain to keep all levels of skiers smiling from lower level to top level skiers. As others have mentioned, the weather can be finicky, you are in a Maritime Climate affected by The Pacific. The conditions can be fantastic, however there is a fluctuating freezing level where rain storms might come in ( even in January) and things go to crap in the lower elevations. All you can do is pick a date and keep your fingers crossed.
Dealing with Canadian money, one thing to think about is maybe buy some Canadian funds before you go at your local bank to bring with you. Maybe it might work out in your favor, I'm not a financial guy not sure with the current exchange how that all works. Something to look into anyway.
One of my (many) favorite things at WB, is to come screaming off the traverse and dive into the top section of the sunnbown, which is why I remember it. Oh, and, of course, McConkey's up there on the right.
Just about everyone I know who has been to Whistler tells me two things: (1) they have been rained on, and (2) the terrain there is big and awesome. Personally, I don't know what to make of those things especially since the #1 marketing point of W/B is the huge vertical, yet it seems that the vertical is largely irrelevant since the conditions are so different from top to bottom. Every time I hear "yeah but the middle will be good" or "there is tons of terrain in the alpine but you may have to wait a while in the lift line at the bottom to get there" I hear "crowded place with limited terrain."
The acreage stat is the meaningful one, not the vertical. The vast majority of the WB acreage is at higher altitudes on the mountains, with just a few trails leading to the bases. Vertical just helps you get above the rain. Few people want to regularly ski from the peak to the base in one go (though it is an option, and people will often do it just to say they've done so).
The flipside: it could rain. Whistler does occasionally go through multi-day rain spells, as could many (most?) resorts. But in a la niña year, your odds of getting great snow are quite high. 2016-2017 is the year to go.
Whistler Blackcomb is an awesome ski resort, but it's definitely a haul from the East Coast. If you're going for at least a week I think it's totally worth it. There are tons of high alpine intermediate runs--the views are spectacular! Spend a night in Vancouver on your way to or from Whistler--it's a really cool city. Great dining and nightlife!
To get the full Whistler experience, be sure to stay in lodging somewhere in the main Whistler Village. That's where all the best restaurants and nightlife are.
In terms of weather, I'd say early to mid March is always a safe bet. In April, the bottom portion of the mountain can get really sloppy and you might even have to download, ie not be able to ski back to village.
It, for sure, is not ALWAYS a safe bet. Better than Jan and Feb - maybe, maybe not. If there's anything certain about WB, it's uncertainty.
You're right, it's not ALWAYS a safe bet. I shouldn't have typed that, but you're more likely to have the best snow conditions of the season in early to mid March. Plus, the beauty about Whistler is that it's often really good at the top of the mountain, even it's bad lower down.
And the terrain on top is superior to that of the lower mountain, at least for intermediate and above skiers. It's above the treeline and more spectacular, even if the groomers are similarly pitched. Only when the fog or high winds roll in is it better lower on the hill.
I must say, with everyone going agog about the views from the Alpine zone, if you like them you should try to make a stop at Mt. Baker while you're in the vicinity. Catch it on a blue sky day and it will blow the Whistler views away. It's also good for a fun day of skiing, especially for advanced skiers.