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

WS Interview – Whistler Bike Park Guide

The Whistler Season Interview – Whistler Bike Park Guide

As Spring is well underway, and excitement for the opening of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park grows (May 16th, 2014), WhistlerSeason.com took the opportunity to speak to a past member of the Whistler Bike Park guide team, John Butler, from Auckland, about his experiences working day-in, day-out, in the world’s most famous mountain bike park.

WS: Given its reputation, a lot of folk will be looking to come to Whistler to work for the summer, and some will doubtless be hoping to work as a Whistler Bike Park Guide. For those not familiar with what it may entail, it sounds like a dream job. Would you say that is the case in reality?

JB: Shy of becoming a pro athlete, working for Whistler Blackcomb is the stuff dreams are made of. As a guide I thought that. I can’t speak for people in any of the other positions, especially not the lifties or patrol who have to clean up our mess.

WS: Sounds pretty good then! Surely there must be quite an application process for a position with such responsibility? What was it like given that you are from New Zealand?

JB: The recruitment process is a little bit of a marathon if you’re on a temporary work visa and need to establish yourself in Whistler first. But it’s all jumping through hoops and isn’t overly difficult for anybody who speaks English as their first language. One must apply through the website and attend any/all courses needed for the position though. The Level 1 and 2 mountain bike instructor courses are thorough and a great chance to meet your fellow guides. Level 1 being very basic and what you need to know as a guide so as not to end up in a lawsuit. Level 2 is much more theory about riding techniques and proved to be very useful for future guiding/coaching positions. It’s all stuff that I do instinctively as a mountain biker, but struggled to teach others.

John Butler at work, Top of the World trail, Whistler Mountain Bike Park
John Butler at work, Top of the World trail, Whistler Mountain Bike Park

WS: That sounds pretty thorough. So once you are qualified, are you given a set rota, or have you got to scout for work?

JB: Working as a guide is very casual, and you only reap what you sow. There are days that you are scheduled to work and guarantee a bit of income, but the days you choose to turn up on your own accord could be fruitless or result in a full 6 hour ride with complete shredders. The level of rider proficiency varies in extremes, as does the amount of work available for guides. Thank god Canada has a tipping culture otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to eat some days – no joke. Customer service is highly valued and is rewarded as such.

WS: That may come as a surprise to some people heading here, but the positives have got to outweigh that, right?

JB: Yeah, for sure. Obviously the main perk of working for any mountain is having your season pass paid for. To make sure this actually happens, be sure to turn up and lock down a job at the beginning of the season. After that, your work kit is all supplied by Whistler Blackcomb, including Dakine riding gear, tyres and brake pads as you need them. This can save you a fortune! Subsidized food and bike parts at the GBB make life that little bit sweeter too. Everybody loves a staff discount!

WS: Final thoughts?

JB: Probably the final, almost unspoken perk is working with a bunch of like-minded people who make it that much better to work for Whistler Blackcomb.

Thanks to John for that insight into working as a Whistler Bike Park guide. Look out for further interviews with seasonaires and residents to find out more about life in Whistler!

Insider Part Three: Save Money in Whistler

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White.

This is an area open to your own interpretation; you can save money in a fairly significant way, but it does involve some effort. It essentially boils down to a play-off between what you’re willing to risk and sacrifice, or what you’re willing to spend.

Save money on accommodation in Whistler

We’ve covered this in more depth in our Whistler accommodation pages, but a few points are worth noting. If you want a private room, be prepared to really pay for it. Ask yourself how much time you will realistically be spending in it, and whether some earplugs/headphones wouldn’t be a whole lot cheaper… Same goes for location; you may save money living out of the village, but a monthly bus pass and fewer amenities may not equate to money well-saved. Some rooms are advertised as unfurnished, and are consequently cheaper. Craigslist advertises a wealth of free stuff, so if you have a friend with a truck, you might be onto a winner.

It’s also well worth checking out the Re-Use-It Centre and the Re-Build-It Centre run by Whistler Community Services Society. Both of these community focused projects are located in Function Junction, Whistler, and sell a huge variety of second-hand household items from saucepans to sofas, and almost everything in between. Prices are extremely low, so be ready to possibly kit out your new digs for $100 or less!

Save on banking costs in Whistler

Canadian banks offer accounts at varying costs per month, often depending on the of number of transactions. Work out how often you are going to use you card, and go from there. Read our Banking guide for a quick rundown on Opening a bank account in Whistler. You will be charged for using other banks’ ATMs, so either embrace the extra walk, or pick a bank closest to where you live/work. For those in hospitality, living off tips (if you get enough) is a great way to save your actual wage.

Cell phone savings

Canadian phone plans are limited to region (e.g. a Whistler number will be charged roaming in Vancouver), and very expensive for what they offer. As such, many seasonaires go without. A smartphone and almost blanket WiFi coverage mean that Skype, Google chat, Facebook, What’s App etc. can all be used to keep in touch for free. However, if your manager decides to change your shift, and can’t get through to you, expect consequences. Rolling up to work when you could have had a lie-in/fresh tracks, only to find your shift has changed does not equal happy times. Read our introduction to cell phones – Choosing a cell phone in Whistler – for more information.

Save money with sensible food shopping

Whistler is 120km from Vancouver, so most things have to be driven up there. Thus it is considerably more expensive. Of almost mythical renown amongst seasonaires is the ‘Shopping Trip to Squamish’. Pretty self-explanatory; someone you know is going to Squamish (home of large food stores and lower prices), they ask for a few bucks for gas, and everyone loads up on vats of milk, cooking oil, pasta, cereal, etc. This is likely a worthwhile venture for the longer-term. Some stores even offer free shipping, so do your research first.

Many restaurants and cafes allow their employees one free meal per shift, which certainly saved me a whole lot of dollars. Scouting around the village reveals various cheap food options, from re-heated day-old pizza slices (hey don’t knock it!), to the now legendary Baked Potato and toppings from a certain establishment for a mere $3.49 inc tax.

Other, more alternative schemes

These comprise all sorts of ideas, each requiring a certain amount of inventiveness. One guy I lived with decided bread was too expensive (valid point), so he hitched to the Re-Use-It Centre in Function Junction, bought a bread machine for a few dollars, got a lift to Squamish to buy sacks of flour and yeast, and subjected the machine to such heavy usage that it eventually burnt out and died. He did however save money in the long run.

Others crochet woolly hats and sell them online/in the village. Others offer language exchange or resume help. Such schemes obviously require effort, and are not guaranteed a regular return. But if you’ve got a skill then it’s worth trying to leverage a few dollars for your time.

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

Insider Part One: The Service Industry in Whistler

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White.

The service industry is the source of most seasonal jobs in Whistler. Dishwashers, line cooks, servers, and bar staff all come and go, and there is a ready supply of newcomers waiting to fill the gaps. For the most part, pay ranges from $10.25 (minimum wage) to around $12-13 per hour depending on experience and expertise. Tipping is prevalent in Whistler, so if you’re lucky enough to land a job in a bar or restaurant frequented by tourists then you’ll take home some extra cash. Shifts are most often single blocks, usually around 8 hours duration with an unpaid, optional break.

Bars and Restaurants

Use some common sense – don’t try and hand your resume to the flustered waitress during lunch service expecting her to rush it straight to the manager, when she is serving four tables of families all demanding menu alterations. Either go in the morning, if open, or in the afternoon, before evening service commences (between 3-5pm is ideal). If at all possible, try and speak directly to the manager or section leader, and briefly talk them through your resume. They already have 60 pieces of identical paper swimming around their desks, so try and make yours the one they read.

Similarly, asking bar staff about potential jobs at 9pm on a Friday night whilst they pour your beer is also somewhat optimistic, if not downright naïve.

Sports and Rental Shops

The same restrictions apply here, except the mornings and weekends are the no-go time. There are a great deal of holiday-makers and day-trippers renting gear, and the staff will be flat-out trying to accommodate them all. It is not unusual for the managers to be involved in this as well, so hold off until the middle of the day when everyone is out on the slopes.

Preferred Jobs in the Service Industry

Presumably you are coming here to ride, so the best jobs are those which give you the most mountain time. In the winter, lifts operate roughly 08:30 – 16:00 (depending on hours of daylight), so evening shifts allow you to get fresh tracks, and a solid ride before work. Just beware that 4 hours of charging powder must be followed by 8+ hours on your feet waiting tables or pouring drinks.

For the bulk of summer, the bike park operates until 8pm, so a job which finishes around lunchtime gives you plenty of time to smash turns and float jumps. One summer I worked in a kitchen 6am – 2pm, and enjoyed hours of dusty alpine laps in a deserted bike park flooded with evening sun. Recommended if you can stand the heat!

If you prefer, some employers offer a 4 x 10-hour week, giving you maximum time to get outdoors. However, you obviously won’t be on the hill for 4 days at a time, unless you enjoy the dawn patrol. Tourism Whistler is one such employer: www.whistler.com/careers. Also check out Whistler Blackcomb’s job listings page for regularly updated available positions.

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

Whistler Season Accommodation

Finding Whistler season accommodation can be a tricky business. The two things you need to think about are price and location. Generally speaking the closer you get to the village the higher the rent will be. Ways to cut costs are to room-share, get staff housing (you don’t always have to work for the company) or live a little bit outside the village.

Finding Whistler season accommodation

Here we’ll go through some of the main residential areas, what they’re like, how to get to them and what the ballpark rent will be.

The rental costs indicated below are monthly approximates and are based on typical Winter season rates (usually up to 6 month stays during the peak season, November to April). If you’re planning on staying on after the Winter season you can usually find cheaper rates in Summer starting in May, or by negotiating a year-round average for long-term contracts in advance (usually 12 months).

Whistler subdivisions

Alpine Meadows

Alpine Meadows is located 4km north of Whistler Village. It’s about 5-10 minutes on the bus from the village and in the Summer season it’s accessible by the Valley Trail. It is predominantly a residential area but does have a small grocery store, a café and a sports centre/gym. Meadow Park is located nearby, which is a great place to chill in the Summer. Meadow Park Sports Centre offers a gym, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, as well as tennis/basketball courts and baseball diamonds outside.

Average Rent – Single Room: $650
Average Rent – Shared Room: $400

Alta Vista

Alta Vista is located 3km from the village. It is a predominately residential area situated beside Alta Lake close to the Valley Trail. In Summer it’s an excellent location for watersports with Backroads Canoes & Kayaks and the Lakeside Park Watersports Centre located there.

Average Rent – Single Room: $650
Average Rent – Shared Room: $400

Blueberry

Blueberry is a residential area located 1.5 kilometres from the village. Served by the Valley Trail it is about a 10 minute walk into the village. In Winter the Valley Trail can be tricky to navigate and it’s easier to get there by bus.

Average Rent – Single Room: $650-$750
Average Rent – Shared Room: $500-$600

Brio

Brio is located 3 kilometres south of Whistler Village. It is a 5 minute bus journey from the village. In Summer you can walk from Brio to the Village in about 15 minutes. Brio is a residential area. Its main benefit is it’s close proximity to the village.

Average Rent – Single Room: $650-$750
Average Rent – Shared Room: $500

Creekside

Creekside was the original base of Whistler Mountain. It has a range of amenities including supermarkets, bars, restaurants, a bank, laundromat, dentists and its own gondola providing direct access to the ski slopes of Whistler Mountain the winter. The gondola takes you to the bottom of Red Chair. Red Chair will bring you to the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler. Lot’s of seasonaires choose Creekside as their home as it has so many amenities but still relatively low rent due its distance from the village.

Average Rent – Single Room: $500-$650
Average Rent – Shared Room: $400-$500

Emerald Estates

Emerald is located 7km north of Whistler Village. Emerald is known to be one of the quieter neighbourhoods. Rent is considerably cheaper out this way, but this is because it’s so far out. It’s not an ideal location for a seasonaire.

Average Rent – Single Room: $400-$600
Average Rent – Shared Room: $300

Fairmont Chateau Staff Housing

The Fairmont Chateau provides housing for staff and for people not working directly for the hotel. The housing is located about a 10-minute walk from the village. It’s a great location though there is a bit of a hill to be hiked to get there! Prices in 2013 were $10.50/night for staff and $16.25/night for non-staff. Staff housing is an unbelievable way to meet people and have a great season.

Nordic

Nordic is about a 5-10 minute bus journey from the village. It is a residential area with no shops, though that’s no biggie as Creekside is about a 5-10 minute walk away. Creekside has shops, bars and a gondola.

Average Rent – Single Room: $600-$800
Average Rent – Shared Room: $350-$600

Nesters

Nesters is a commercial area near the village. It’s home to Nesters Market grocery store, which is said to be the cheaper of the grocery stores around the village. Also around Nesters you can find restaurants, cafés, a barbershop, pharmacy and other amenities.

Average Rent – Single Room: $550-$750
Average Rent – Shared Room: $350-$500

Whistler Blackcomb Staff Housing

If you get in here you are laughing. It will be an epic season. Though be warned, it’s party central. You will struggle to leave your room without partying. There are three locations for WB staff housing – Glacier Park, Brio and Westside. You can find out more about them on Whistler Blackcomb’s website. Prices vary depending on location and if you have a single or shared room, but for the most part it’s around $18 for a single and $10 for a shared room per night.

White Gold

White Gold is a residential area located a short walk from the village. It is within easy access of Nesters Market grocery store, restaurants and other commercial amenities. It is also a short walk from the Lost Lake, which is a nice trail route in Winter and Summer. White Gold is also home to Whistler Waldorf School, Spruce Grove Fieldhouse & Baseball Fields and the WCSS Community Greenhouses.

Average Rent – Single Room: $700-$800
Average Rent – Shared Room: $400

Whistler Cay Heights/Whistler Cay

Whistler Cay Heights is a 5-minute walk to the village. It’s one of the best locations in Whistler. The benefit of Whistler Cay Heights is you have the village and the gondolas/lifts on your doorstep, all within walking distance. It’s also got the valley trail nearby so in the Summer you can walk, jog and cycle to your heart’s content. Whistler Cay is the area located behind Whistler Cay Heights a bit further from the village but still accessible by foot from the village.

Average Rent – Single Room: $600-$900
Average Rent – Shared Room: $400-$500

Where to look for Whistler season accommodation

Online

The most popular place to look for Whistler accommodation online is undoubtedly Craigslist. The most important thing to remember when using Craigslist is never send money electronically to anyone, especially if you are not in Whistler and have not seen the property and met the landlord in person. A lot of people are scammed out of thousands of dollars every year before they even arrive in Whistler. We’ve written about this before, so take a minute to read our post, Beware of Whistler rental scams.

Local Press

Pique Newsmagazine is one of Whistler’s two free local newspapers. It publishes every Thursday and can be found on stands throughout the village. It has a comprehensive Classifieds section listing both short and long-term accommodation in Whistler.

Letting Agents

There are also a number of professional letting agents in Whistler who can tailor your search and offer available properties based on your profile. Here are just a few …

Mountain Country – www.mountaincountry.ca
Whistler Property Services – www.whistlerproperty.com
Exclusive Accommodations – www.whistlerexclusive.com

Whistler Housing Authority

The Whistler Housing Authority offers access to affordable housing for those hoping to live and work in Whistler. If you are planning on staying in Whistler for at least 12 months it is well worth adding your name to the waiting list to receive email updates about available rental accommodation. Visit www.whistlerhousing.ca for more information.

Additional information for tenants

Your monthly rent may not be all you need to pay. There are additional expenses that can add up over time if they are not covered in your rent payment. While most places will offer at least the basics such as garbage removal and laundry (these may be common strata facilities outside of your building) it is worth asking some questions:

Does the rent include hydro (heat/electricity), cable and/or internet?
Is there a washer and dryer?
Is there garbage removal?
Is there parking?
Is there a bus service close by?

Having to pay for some of all of these services can add quite an expensive on to your monthly rent. 

Tenants rights and information

The Residential Tenancy Branch website, http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca, answers some questions you may have about the Residential Tenancy Act.

The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre also have a handy Tenant Survival Guide available for download.

Finding housing in Whistler leading up to the Winter season can be a challenge. So grab Pique Newsmagazine early on a Thursday morning, pound the pavement and make lots of phone calls. Remember, landlords can get hundreds of applications for each property, so it’s best to leave detailed voicemails or emails so they can weed out the non-organised and not-so-dedicated tenants.

Welcome to Whistler, have fun!

Getting around Whistler with BC Transit

Whistler is well serviced by bus by BC Transit. The bus costs $2.50 per journey. If you live outside the village and will be taking the bus regularly it makes sense to buy a monthly bus pass. In 2013 monthly passes cost $65 and 6 month passes cost $330. Bus passes can be bought at various locations throughout Whistler including The Grocery Store, Whistler Village Info Centre, 7-Eleven and Nesters Market. Remember to keep your receipts when you buy your bus passes as you can use these later in the year when you’re claiming an income tax refund.

BC Transit routes and timetables

BC Transit Whistler Route Map
Whistler is well serviced by bus by BC Transit.

Click the links below to check timetables for each route.

Route 1 – Valley Connector – To Cheakamus
Route 2 – Creekside/ Cheakamus – To Cheakamus
Route 3 – Rainbow/Emerald – Loop
Route 4 – Marketplace Shuttle – Loop
Route 5 – Upper Village/ Benchlands Shuttle – Loop
Route 6 – Tapley’s/Blueberry – Loop
Route 7 – Staff Housing – Loop

BC Transit have also put together a video on how to use Google Transit while planning your BC Transit trip:

Whistler Hostel Accommodation

If you have never been to Whistler before and are planning on staying for a season or longer it’s a good idea to start off your accommodation search in a hostel. Hostels are great as they give you the opportunity to get your bearings and meet people who will be in the same position as you – all searching for accommodation. You will also be able to check out a few places without having to commit to anything before you have seen them.

Hostels as short-term accommodation in Whistler

Fireside Lodge

Fireside Lodge Whistler
Fireside Lodge Whistler

Fireside Lodge

The Fireside Lodge is situated on Nordic Drive about a 5-10 minute bus journey from Whistler village. It’s got a cosy cabin feel with a huge communal kitchen and living room. The ideal surroundings for meeting fellow seasonaires! The bedrooms are a bit small, but they are in most hostels and it just adds to the cosy log cabin feel! Another bonus is its games room; equipped with a pool table and a table-tennis table. Fireside is a great place to start off your Whistler accommodation search as it is both near the village and Creekside, so you can check out a good few places nearby to decide where you want to live. Fireside starts from $23. You should note, it is private members only once the season starts, so can be hard to get a reservation.

AMS/UBC Whistler Lodge

AMS/UBC Whistler Lodge
AMS/UBC Whistler Lodge

AMS/UBC Whistler Lodge

Is located further up Nordic Drive past the Fireside Lodge. The big bonus of UBC is the hot tub and sauna. UBC has a large common room area but as the kitchen closes at 8pm it can be a bit of an atmosphere killer. Though still a great spot to meet people and the bedrooms are a decent sized. Though be warned in both Fireside and Noridc some of the rooms don’t have doors just curtains! Once you get used to it you forget why doors were ever needed! Prices start from $30 in low season and go up to $35 once the season starts.

HI Hostel Whistler

HI Hostel Whistler
HI Hostel Whistler

HI Hostel Whistler

HI is more of a four star hotel than a hostel. The bedrooms are gigantic and an elevator makes it the most pimped out hostel going. There’s also a decent café and bar, which is a real luxury in a Whistler hostel. The drawback to Hi Hostel is that it is quite far from the village. It’s not too far, but about 10-15 minutes on the bus. Prices start from $31 and progress as the season starts.

Southside Lodge

Southside Lodge Whistler
Southside Lodge Whistler

Southside Lodge

The Southside Lodge is located in Creekside. It is not the swankiest accommodation in town, but has a good location. Situated in Creekside near bars, restaurants, shops and a gondola, it’s about a 5 minute bus journey to the village.