With impressive peaks, record breaking gondolas and pristine glaciers, Whistler is the perfect spot for a winter vacation (check out my summer guide here). Located just two hours north of Vancouver, it’s accessibility and stunning terrain make this one of the world’s most expensive ski resorts. But before you think it’s out of reach, read on to discover how you can enjoy Whistler without busting your budget…
Whistler has three immaculate hostels
Properties on Airbnb can quadruple in price during the ski season, but that isn’t the case with the local hostels. There are three of them in the vicinity (listed below), each with their own perks such as free wifi, hot tubs, shared kitchens etc.
Don’t be put off by bad experiences in the past; Canadian hostels tend to be modern, well maintained and clean. The only real drawback is the location as they tend to be slightly off the beaten path, but if you’re happy hoping on a bus to the nearest ski lift, then this could be a great cost saver. A private double room will set you back around $80 CAD a night for 2 people (approx. £50), with shared dorms being even cheaper.
Consider staying outside Whistler Village
If budget were no question, then I would say stay in Whistler Village; it has the best ski lift access and amenities. But if budgets are tight, then there are other options, see below. Don’t worry about being away from the action – a free shuttle bus runs between areas, and you’ll find free ski parking in Whistler Creekside.
- Whistler Village – the hub of Whistler with shopping, restaurants, supermarkets and the best ski lift access.
- Whistler Village North – great for families and groups looking to save.
- Whistler Creekside – five mins drive/bus from the main village, but with its own lift up the mountain and all the amenities you need.
Check out this full guide.
Book accommodation super early
Vancouverites love to plan ahead. So do what the locals do and book early!
The good news is accommodation in BC tends to have very liberal cancellation policies, often with full money back guarantees. So if you do book early and then your plans change, you should be able to get a full refund.
Most apartments in Whistler will come with a kitchen of sorts. Eating out can be hugely expensive in resort towns, so buy in food from the local supermarket and get cooking!
Consider visiting during quieter (cheaper) times
Whistler is a popular resort with many hotels selling out as early as the summer months. The season typically runs from the end of November to May. If you’re on a budget, then avoid mid December until late February as these months tend to be the most desirable and therefore more expensive. That is aside from the two weeks following the holidays when the majority of crowds have left. Also do your research into Canadian ad US public / school holidays and avoid these.
Save money on lift passes
Whatever you do, don’t turn up at the kiosk and buy a same day ticket; you’ll pay way more than necessary. Purchase tickets at least seven days in advance for the biggest savings on the Whistler Blackcomb website.
- Check the rates at local retailers including 7-Eleven and Costco.
- Opt for the half day pass and just go skiing in the afternoon.
- Ski later in the year and save $$$. Whistler closes its main lifts around April, but Blackcomb Mountain is usually open for at least a month later at a reduced rate.
- Planning on skiing in more than one resort or even country this season? Then check out the Epic Pass which offers unlimited access to over 60 resorts across 8 countries. The pass applies to all Vail-owned ski resorts, of which Whistler is one.
- If you are a resident of Canada or Washington State then look into the Edge Card. There’s no cheating this one, you’ll need to provide proof of your home address to collect the pass.
Look for deals with your lift pass
If you’ve purchased the Epic, Edge or Whistler Blackcomb Season Pass, then check out the deals. From discount at restaurants to ski lodging, it’s a great way to save and keep your budget down.
Kids under six ski free
New this year, kids under six can ski free; that is if you’re a Canadian or Washington State resident. The kid may also be eligible for free lessons and gear. More info here.
Plan your day with Epic Mix
The Epic Mix app by Vail Resorts (the owner of Whistler Blackcomb), allows you to view last season’s lift times so that you can plan ahead and make the most of each day. Of course this is only relevant to the most organised of travelers!
Be smart with transport
Don’t waste money on a hire car that you won’t use for your entire stay, opt for one of the cheaper shuttle buses instead.
Pacific Coach Lines runs a service from the airport which costs just $65 CAD (around £40).
Whilst a return journey with Epic Rides will set you back just $35 (approx. £20) and runs from downtown Vancouver to Whistler center. We’ve used Epic Rides before and everything about the ride was perfect.
Check out the Tourism Whistler site which for more info.
If you feel like splashing the cash and arriving in style, then why not arrive on your very own float plane?
Free and cheap stuff to do
You don’t need to be staying in a fancy hotel to enjoy a nice warm swim after a long day skiing. Check out Meadow Park Sports Centre, with admission from $8.75 for adults (less than £5).
In Whistler Village you’ll find Whistler Core – a friendly gym environment complete with rock climbing and fitness classes, prices from $13.50 (under £10). In Creekside, Whistler Creek Athletic Club costs from just $10.95 (around £6).
Whistler Blackcomb host free Mountain Tours ranging from avalanche awareness to sightseeing tours for those not hitting the snow.
Watch the Fire & Ice show, a free event run every Sunday evening at the Skiers Plaza in Whistler Village.
Travelling with young ones? Check out the Magic Castle on Blackcomb and the Tree Fort on Whistler Mountain. These adventure playgrounds are 100% free!
Visit one of two Nintendo gaming lounges on the mountain and chill out playing Mario Kart with friends, for free. Wow how things have changed since when I was a kid learning to ski!
For the adventurous types, check out the MANY snow parks filled with rails, bowls and jumps galore!
Vancouver-based yoga brand Lululemon host both restorative yoga and sweaty run sessions from their Whistler store, and they’re free!
For more ideas of cheap and cool stuff to do in Whistler, check out this list.