Whistler Season Dates To Plan Your Trip

Get the lowdown on important Whistler Season Dates

Below is an approximate outline of the lift calendar, winter and summer, along with the important dates for 2014. These dates change each year, and can sometimes be changed during the course of the season. Keep an eye on the Whistler Season website and Facebook page for news and updates.

Whistler Winter Season Dates

During the winter season, the lifts on Whistler normally open around mid-November, with Blackcomb following a week or two later. With this in mind, getting accommodation is the priority; many employers are only interested in hiring those who are resident in the town. The end of October is a good time to arrive and get your bearings, find accommodation and even get some bike riding done. While the Whistler Mountain Bike Park traditionally closes on Thanksgiving weekend, usually somewhere around Oct. 8-12, the cross country trails are still good-to-go for another few weeks!

The winter lift times change throughout the season, and lifts on Whistler close around a month ahead of the bike park opening day, usually the third weekend of May. Blackcomb stays open for another four weeks or so, meaning that if you have both a bike pass and a ski pass, you can ride freshly groomed pistes in the morning and world-famous bike park trails in the afternoon.

Whistler Summer Season Dates

The bike park has four lifts which all operate on different schedules throughout the year. The lower mountain is served by the Fitzsimmons Express and by the lower part of Whistler Village Gondola. The ‘Fitz Chair’ is the first to open for the season, and the last to shut. The upper mountain is served by the upper part of the gondola and by the Garbanzo Express. The ‘Garbo Chair’ opens around mid-June and closes at the end of August – operating on reduced weekend hours for a further few weeks into September. The Peak Express, from which you can ride the Top of the World trail, is open for a more limited time, normally around the start of July until mid-September. Due to the altitude of the trail, these dates are very much dependent on the weather and trail conditions. In a late snow season, opening day may be postponed. Those riders who buy the Earlybird season pass get a free ride on the Peak chair – a saving of approximately $15. If you want to make the most of it and ride dry trails, it’s advisable to wait until August to guarantee good conditions. However, you should note certain dates when the Top of the World trail is closed, such as during the Enduro race at Crankworx.

During the main part of the season, the bike park runs what is known as ‘Extended Play’, whereby the lifts are open extra hours each day, usually shutting at 8pm, three hours later than usual. This is a bonus for anyone working conventional office hours. In fact, as mentioned in the Insider Tips posts, riding deserted trails in the evening sunshine is pretty much mountain biking nirvana! New for 2014, Extended Play will be in effect on Mondays and Wednesdays right from opening week, starting on May 19, 2014.

Accommodation is usually more plentiful in the summer, and indeed most often cheaper. If you are new in town, it’s a good idea to get here with a few weeks to spare, so that you can familiarise yourself with the town, ride some XC trails, get somewhere to live and look for work. Many folk start arriving around the end of April; the trails in Squamish are rideable much of the year, so if there is a late dump of snow in Whistler, all is not lost!

Below is a summary of the dates for 2014:

Area Operation Dates Opening Times
Whistler Mountain (Ski) Nov. 21 – Apr. 21st 8:30AM – 4PM
Blackcomb Mountain (Ski) Apr. 21 – May 26 10AM – 4PM
Whistler Bike Park May 16 – June 13
June 14 – Sept. 1
Sept. 2 – Oct. 13
10AM – 5PM (8PM Mon & Wed)
10AM – 8PM
10AM – 5PM
Garbanzo Zone June 21 – Sept. 1
Sept. 2 – 21 (Weekends only)
11AM – 7PM
11AM – 4PM
Peak Zone June 28 – Sept. 21 11AM – 3:30PM

The Shock Factor – Some Thoughts and Advice from a Whistler Insider

While Whistler Blackcomb was voted the number one resort in North America by Skiing Magazine for 13 years in a row, and is very keen to tell you so, the resort generally holds an air of mystique and wonderment to all those within gravity sports. No matter where you hail from, and no matter if you’re a freeskier, a park rat, a downhill racer, or a wannabe A-Line hero, everybody considering a season in Whistler has seen the place on film, whatever their chosen sport or discipline, and they all want to go there.

Making the move to Whistler

I moved to Whistler off the back of a few years skiing and riding in the Alps where I had seen the tall tees, the fat skis, and the Troy Lee-clad pinners. Each resort had a hierarchy of local fast and gnarly guys and gals, and there was often a lot of hushed talk and bravado amongst seasonaires about this exact subject. (Tip: this is Whistler … many of the folks here are pro!)

Unsurprisingly, it naturally follows that the most famous ski/bike resort in the world has the highest concentration of die-hard resort-bums in the world. People flock to Whistler from around the world, and as such, competition for jobs and housing is extremely fierce, and can come as a shock to those used to the all-inclusive benefits of working for a British tour operator in the Alps.

Finding your feet

As is detailed in the accommodation pages of this website, $500 for a shared room is standard, as is taking out a mortgage to buy a season pass (kidding, but only just). A single bag of groceries can easily cost $40, and a single pint of lager will leave you disappointingly little change from a $10 bill. Thus it follows that working a 5 x 8 hour week is not unusual; it pretty much needs to be, given the above costs. In spite of this, employers and landlords are so inundated with resumes and enquiries that a lack of any reply is a familiar situation for those new in town. Fresh and enthusiastic though they may be. Thus the onus is on you to be judicious in your timing and approach. After all, this is Whistler, you are here for a reason, and are prepared to do what it takes to ride here.

The above isn’t meant to be a doom-laden warning, more a pointed note of what to expect. More often than not it is the small things which go the furthest; always smiling, being chatty but on-topic, saying hello to all the staff/housemates you see, and generally having an air of easy-going confidence are the things which people remember.

Part One – Tips for Service Industry Jobs
Part Two – Work Life Balance
Part Three – Saving Money
Part Four – The Lift Pass 

 

 

 

Travel Insurance

If you plan on doing a season insurance is an essential. Many visa types also stipulate it as a requirement for entry into Canada. It may seem like a possible way to cut costs, but don’t! Failing to have health insurance can lead to astronomical costs being incurred in the event you are seriously injured.

With most insurers you will need to get basic cover and wintersports cover. If you plan to hit the bike park in summer you will need additional cover for that also.

Insurers break the perceived risks of activities into grades. Usually grade 1 covers basic activities like jogging and soccer and the other extreme Grade 4 would cover more extreme sports like kite surfing and gliding. Though remember every insurer will have slightly different grades.

Please note a lot of insurers will only cover for injuries incurred on piste. If you plan to do a lot of off piste backcountry riding you should check your insurer covers it. A well-known insurer for backcountry is Global Rescue.  Though for most seasonaires in Whistler there is enough mountain on piste to ever get bored. The insurers that most go for are outlined below.

All Countries

Australian Residents Insurance

UK Residents Insurance

Irish Residents Insurance

Getting to Whistler

Flights to Canada

The well-known cheap airlines to fly to Canada with are Canadian Affair and Air Transit. It’s also good to check out the popular flight comparison and deals sites:

If you have time on your side it’s often $100 to $200 cheaper to fly into Seattle rather than Vancouver. Then take the Greyhound to Vancouver. Price’s for the Greyhound from Seattle can range from $20 to $40 and journey is 4 hours long.

Bus to Whistler

Taking the bus to Whistler is probably the cheapest option unless you’re car sharing with 3 or more people. The bus takes 2 hours and 30 minutes from Vancouver. The three main bus companies going to Whistler are:

Greyhound is usually the cheapest option at around $20. Plus it’s lower if you book online.

The Snowbus is a much more pimping ride. With movies, snacks and a host on each bus. The Snowbus costs around $38 or $25 with a Canadian student card or a hostelling international card. An advantage of the Snowbus is that it has a stop close to the Vancouver Airport so if you fly in you can avoid having to lug your bags into Downtown Vancouver.

The Pacific also has a stop near the airport. One-way tickets start from $50. With all of the above bus services be warned you may have to pay an additional $10-$15 to bring skis, snowboard or a bike box on board.

Driving to Whistler

Driving to Whistler is very straightforward. There’s only one road, the route 99 also called the Sea to Skyway. It takes about 2 hours to drive from Vancouver.

Ride sharing and hitchhiking are more common in Canada than in Europe. There’s many websites that can help organise this:

Although considered safe in Canada, hitchhikers should keep their wits about them and be sensible when selecting ride share companions.

Working Holiday Visa

Applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa

If you’re planning on doing a season in Whistler and want to work while here, you’re best off applying for a working holiday visa. You can apply for this yourself through International Experience Canada (IEC) or you can use an agent. We would strongly recommend doing it yourself. It’s very simple, and will save you money that will come in handy when you’re looking for accommodation or buying your season pass.

How long you will be allowed to stay in Canada will depend on the agreement your government has with the Canadian government. IEC visas are usually valid for 1 or 2 years.

Each country is given a quota of visas every year. In some cases, such as the UK and Ireland these can be all gone as early as February! So it’s important to know when the visas become available in your country each year and to apply as early as possible.

How do I apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada?

Depending on where you’re from you will follow different procedures and need different documents. Click the links below to follow a step-by-step guide for your country.

I’m Australian

I’m from the UK

I’m Irish

I’m German

Other Countries

In most cases applicants applying for their second year IEC visas follow the same steps. Applications for most countries start being accepted in early January.

What documents will I need for a working holiday visa in Canada?

Depends where you’re from but for the most part you will need:

  • Proof of payment to IEC
  • Copy of Passport
  • CV/Resume
  • IEC Conditional Acceptance Letter
  • Digital/scanned photo
  • Police Certificate
  • Family Information Form IMM5707

This is based on what was required for an Irish application in 2013. For 2014 this may be different, so be sure to check out the IEC website for the most up-to-date application information!

You will be able to find out exactly what you need in the step-by-step guide for your country. Note that some of IEC forms you download only open in Adobe Reader so if you have a Mac they don’t open correctly in Preview. Get Adobe Reader here, it’s free.

Popular agents for Canadian working holiday visas

The least costly way to apply for a working holiday visa is to do it yourself. It is fairly straight forward and will save you money. However, if you are unsure and would like peace of mind when applying, we recommend you use one of the well-known working holiday visa agents: SWAPBUNAC (UK) and USIT (Ireland).