With mid-winter and spring breaks right around the corner, we know what you’re thinking—it’s time to hit the slopes with the kids! And it doesn’t get better than Whistler when you’re looking for an easy vacay destination. Whether you’re driving up for the duration or just looking to make a quick weekend of it, we’ve got your ultimate guide of what to see and do on your trip (hint: skiing tops the list). Read on for all the deets!

photo: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

PLAY

Explore Whistler
Families have been flocking to Whistler since the late 1960s to ski. But hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics put this now internationally recognized ski town on the map. Home to two ski mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb), as well as a charming, walkable village, it’s easy to see the appeal of this family-friendly vacation spot. Simply put, there’s a little something for everyone. If skiing and boarding are what you live for, Whistler’s got you covered. With over 200 trails between the two mountains, as well as 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers, skiers and boarders can put their skills to the test here. Then add in fun extras like a Fresh Tracks Breakfast, a ride on the record-holding PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola or watching Sunday night’s free, family-friendly Fire & Ice Show and you’ve got your vacation planned.

photo: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

Get (Ski) Schooled
Sure you can teach your kids to ski by doing the whole backwards down the mountain thing. But registering them for ski school gives you the benefit of having qualified instructors to take them through the steps, using creative games and activities as learning tools, and leaving you time to ski those black diamonds you’ve been eyeing. Whether your kids have never skied before, or are looking to sharpen specific skills, the instructors at the Whistler Kids Ski School can get them from point A to point B in no time. They offer full-day, daily ski or snowboard lessons for groups, as well as three or five-day camp programs, for kids ages three through 12.

photo: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

It’s truly amazing how much progress your kids can make in a short period of time, thanks to the individual attention, patience and practiced techniques of Whistler’s instructors. They make it fun and safe, no matter what level your kids are at. Lessons run from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., daily, with drop off between 8:30 a.m.-8:45 a.m. Look for the blue Whistler Kids tents at the gondola base, and bring your kids, bellies full, dressed for the weather and ready to learn on the day of your lesson. Psst…to make it an easy morning, complete your registration and waivers the day before. Lunch and snacks are provided, so parents can cross that off their morning to-do list and head straight to the slopes themselves, worry-free. At the end of the day, expect big smiles and excited stories detailing everything your kids learned on the mountain. Don’t worry if you don’t catch all of it though, because the instructors fill out a progress card for each student, detailing what they learned and where they’re headed tomorrow (or at their next lesson). The cards also provide login information for flaik.com, so you can see exactly where your sidekick skied that day.

photo: Chad Chomlack/Tourism Whistler

Insider Tip: It’s easy to save some green (about 25%) on your kiddo’s ski lessons during Whistler Days (April 9-22, 2018). Spring break ski trip, anyone? 

Après With the Kids
Whistler is all about families, and their après ski is no exception. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., Whistler holds a free family-friendly après at the Olympic Plaza Stroll. Drop in any time during the three-hour window to grab a cup of hot cocoa, dance to family-friendly bands or indulge your creative side with a winter-themed craft. Depending on the day, you might also find maple taffy making, street performers or games set out along the walkway. Look for the white tents set up between the playground and the sledding hill to find your people. Then sit back, relax and swap ski stories with the fam!

photo: Mike Crane/Tourism Whistler

A Tube-tacular Adventure
Half way up Blackcomb Mountain is the Coca-Cola Tube Park, where families can spend a whirlwind hour speeding down blue, green and black diamond lanes on single-rider tubes. We couldn’t think of a better way to take a break from skiing without sacrificing the thrill and speed of the sport. To ride, kids have to be at least 36” tall, and those between 36” & 41” must use the special shortened children’s lane, half way up the magic carpet. (Psst… kids ages 3-6 also get a “mini” ticket, not available for advance purchase, and a smaller tube to use). All other riders get their pick of the seven chutes that’ll send them rocketing down the mountainside. We love that riders can hang on to tubes, so you and your sidekick can take the track together. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, up to four tubes can go at a time (weather conditions permitting) so you, your better half and your mini crew can all feed the need for speed together. It’s a total Go-Pro moment you’ve gotta try. The tube park is open for business at 11 a.m. on weekdays and an hour earlier on the weekends, but the hours are subject to change.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Insider Tip: Weekends at the tube park are super busy, so if you want to maximize your number of runs, we suggest hitting the park on a weekday afternoon. It’s the best time to avoid big crowds and tire out the kids while you’re at it.

Snow, Glorious Snow!
Finding snow around Seattle is, well…challenging. So if your kids are jonesing for snow play time, the Whistler Olympic Plaza is the place to take them. Here, families can take advantage of the free sledding hill, ice rink and playground that’s surprisingly playable, even when it’s covered in the white stuff. The sledding hill is accessible during the day, and its easy gentle hills are just as fun to run around on as they are to slide down. Your kids are also sure to find a few snow tunnels while they explore. The ice rink opens at 11 a.m. daily, and families are welcome to skate in the covered area, outdoor area or even play a pick-up game of ice hockey in the middle rink during any of the day’s three, 2.5-hour-long skate sessions. We love that there are walkers for newbies to use, and helmets available too. Like the sledding hill, the playground is open during the day. It’s divided into two sections, for older and younger kids, and is a great place to slide and climb on a sunny afternoon.

photo: Justa Jeskova/Tourism Whistler

Insider Tip: This is a “bring ‘em if you’ve got ‘em” kind of adventure. So don’t forget to pack your sled and skates to take advantage of the free factor. Or you can rent what you need between the hours of 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. for just $6 at the on-site rental shop.

Snowshoeing and Snowmobiling and Zip Lining. Oh, My!
Skiing and snowboarding are just the tip of the adventure iceberg in Whistler. Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and zip lining are what lies beneath. For the days you want to get outside and explore, but want to try something different, venture out with The Adventure Group (TAG). A good starting point for families is the Natural Mystic Snowshoe Tour ($89). It’s an hour-long trek around the snowy backside of Blackcomb Mountain, led by an experienced guide, who not only teaches you the basics of snowshoeing, but probably knows a thing or two about the forest you’re walking in too. The tour departs three times daily, at 9:30 a.m. and then again at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and is something even kids as young as six can do. Psst…they also provide the basics if you need them, like snowshoes and boots for first timers.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

TAG also offers a Family Snowmobile Tour ($189/adult) to get you out in the fresh mountain air. Kids have to be at least four feet tall to ride, but as long as they are, they get the chance to ride their own mini snowmobile if you give the green light. Otherwise, they can ride for free with an adult. Both the Fresh Tracks and Family Tour last about 2.5 hours with just under two hours of ride time. The Superfly Winter Zipline ($119/adult; $99/kid) is another favorite family activity, and we can see why. Families with kids seven and up can fly over old growth forests and backcountry valleys on Canada’s longest zipline on this adventure. If 600 feet above the ground and 100 m.p.h. sounds like fun, this adventure was made for you!

photo: The Adventure Group

Insider Tip: Mark the fam down for a TAG adventure on your arrival day. It’s a great way to start your trip without sacrificing a day on the mountain.

Making Cultural Connections
Did you notice the place name signs in First Nations languages on your drive north? If you and the kids are curious to learn more about the area’s indigenous cultures, there are two stops to add to your vacation itinerary. 

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
The first is the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Built in time for the 2010 Olympics, this cultural hub highlights the two First Nations who have lived in the area for centuries, through stories, films and artifacts on display. We recommend taking the guided tour, which starts every hour on the hour, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Led by tribal members, it’s a fascinating and in-depth look into the tribes’ shared and disparate histories that includes a welcome song, short film and a chance to weave your own cedar bark bracelet. Best for parents and older kids, families can also join in or break off from the tour group when they need to. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and it’s $18 for adult admission and $5 for kids six and up, or get a family pass for $42.

Insider Tip: Don’t forget to hit the Thunderbird Café, where they serve up traditional First Nations’ foods like venison, salmon and bannock (fry bread) that’s locally sourced whenever possible.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Audain Art Museum
Make the Audain Art Museum the second stop on your cultural tour. The museum showcases British Columbia art and artists. But the real highlight of the museum, and the inspiration behind Vancouver philanthropist Michael Audain’s vision, is the collection of 19th and 20th century First Nations masks he and his wife have collected from around the world over the years. In addition to paintings and special exhibits, visitors can view the masks as part of the permanent collection. Take the fam for a visit on Monday, Wednesday or weekends from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., or on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Kids get in for free and it’s only $18 for adults.

Insider Tip: The Audain Art Museum has a play-and-learn space for kids, tucked in to a corner off the Stone & Sky exhibit. It’s the perfect spot for kids to explore their artistic side after being inspired by the many collections on display.

STAY

The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler
Savvy parents know that a hotel can make or break a family vacay. And with a ski trip, the stakes are even higher (oh, the gear!). That’s why we can’t get enough of The Westin Spa & Resort in the Village. It’s like they had families in mind when they built the resort because everywhere you look, things are designed to make your stay easy and stress-free. Each room is a thoughtfully-designed suite that includes a kitchenette (with a fridge and dishwasher), a living space and a dining area. So whether you choose to say in a deluxe studio, or a one- or two-bedroom suite, you’ll have plenty of space to spread out, store your things and prepare meals or snacks for your day’s adventure. (Psst…the east tower has recently been remodeled so snag a room there, if you’re able). Then there are the little touches that really make your stay. We love the lavender essential oil you’ll find perched at your bedside. It’s like they knew your kids would need extra help slowing down after an exciting day on the mountain. Or how about the Netflix-ready T.V.’s? Just login and curl up for a fireside flick with your crew on a snowy winter evening after après-ski.

photo: The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Convenience is another staple of a Westin Resort stay. Whether it’s convenient sit-down or grab-n-go dining options from the Grill & Vine downstairs (hint: a room service breakfast order makes mornings quick and easy), or the helpful ski concierge inside the CAN-SKI , it’s easy to do the things you want to do when you want to do them. Not to mention the Whistler Mountain gondola’s just a hop skip and a jump away, so you won’t need to rush through town to make lesson times or beat the crowds to the lifts in the morning. Of course, there’s also a pool in the West Tower. And the on-site Whistler Kids at the Westin program makes it easy for parents and sibs to ski, even if they’ve got Littles who aren’t quite ready or old enough to yet. Be sure to check out Tourism Whistler for the scoop on all the family-friendly properties in the Village.

photo: The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Insider Tip: The Westin Spa & Resort takes pets, so you don’t have to leave yours at home. Be sure to call ahead for details on accommodations and costs.

EAT

Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when it fuels your family’s skiing adventures. 

photo: Sara D. via Yelp

purebread
If you’re looking for fast and easy, there’s no better spot for coffee and pastries than purebread in Whistler Village. Located at the edge of the Olympic Plaza, this small bakery is big on offerings, and families will have no problem finding a delish sweet or savory grab-and-go item from their stuffed bakery case. Fair warning, choosing is the hard part here. We also love that they serve Stumptown coffee, so you know you’ll get a good cup to warm you up on a winter day.

photo: Live H. via Yelp

Wild Wood Pacific Bistro
If sit-down is what you’re in the mood for, go where the locals go—to The Wild Wood Pacific Bistro, located in the Crystal Lodge. Bennies are their specialty and we can see why. With half or full orders, this rich breakfast will fill you up without slowing you down. And it’s hard to beat their prices for kid’s breakfasts, too. For $3-$5 your little ones can fill up on eggs, pancakes or French toast before embarking on the day’s adventures.

photo: Gone Eatery via Yelp

Lunch
Grab and go is the name of the game at Whistler. And there are plenty of spots for food on the mountain, if you want to maximize runs for the day. But if you do come down, we recommend a cup of hot soup or a sandwich at the Gone Eatery, located behind Armchair Books in the Village Square. It’s the cozy, homemade taste you’ve been hankering for!

photo: The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Dinner
From upscale to casual, there are plenty of good spots to grab a bite after a day on the mountain. Here are two of our favorites.

The Grill & Vine
Family-friendly upscale dining is hard to find. But the Grill & Vine in the Westin Resort & Spa does both well. The menu is seasonal and sourced locally whenever possible, so there’s always something fresh to be enjoyed for mom and dad. And the kids menu has the classics, but with a twist, so your kids can feel a little upscale too. The kids tenderloin, linguine or salmon make for a nice change of pace from the typical kid’s dining scene. As for adults, you can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s Simply Grilled choices. And we can’t recommend the flatbread & dip snack enough. Trust us, eggplant never tasted so good!

photo: Chihi K. via Yelp

Sushi Village
If you boast adventurous eaters in your crew, Sushi Village is worth the wait. It’s frequented by locals and visitors alike, and has gained a reputation as the best sushi spot in town over the years. Casual is the name of the game here, but the rolls are far from ordinary. Try something new while you’re there, and pair it with a sake margarita to complete your unique dining experience. Cheers!

Good to Know
1. The drive up from Seattle takes about five hours, give or take. So make like the Griswolds, enjoy the scenery and consider “getting there” part of your adventure.

2. Remember your passports, parents! Kids 16 and under can still cross the border with their birth certificates.

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3. Snow tires are a must to make the drive. You never know what kind of road conditions you’ll find on the mountain.

4. At the time of this publication, the exchange rate favored the US dollar. That means you’ll get a little more bang for your buck on this vacation.

Whistler Blackcomb Mountain
Whistler, B.C, Canada
800-944-7853
Online: whistler.com

Have you skied Whistler with your kids before? Planning to soon? Share your must-do’s and experiences in the comments below. 

—Allison Sutcliffe

This trip was arranged by Tourism Whistler and paid for by Whistler Blackcomb, The Adventure Group and The Westin Spa & Resort, Whistler, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.  

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