North America’s largest ski resort is also the best (according to SKI Magazine), with a 5,020-foot (1,530 metre) vertical rise, three summit glaciers and twin behemoth mountains connected by Peak2Peak, the world’s longest gondola.

Photography Alejandro Moreno de Carlos

Home to some of the most reliable snow conditions, there is so much opportunity for adventure packed into Whistler Blackcomb’s sprawling 8,171 acres (3,307 hectares). And what you’ve heard about the warmer months is also true: Come May, you can ski Whistler Blackcomb in the morning, then golf in Vancouver that afternoon.

The youthful, energetic vibe and fun-loving attitude make Whistler an ideal family vacation destination – fresh and outdoorsy at its core, with its own distinct sense of style and self. Of course, the scenery is breathtaking, with the surrounding hemlock-, fir- and spruce-dotted mountains, plus the bustling Euro-style village below. A casual and down-to-earth spot, it is easy for kids to fit right in.

At the foot of Blackcomb Mountain, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler is just minutes from the slopes, complete with a heated pool perfect for après-ski lounging.

Why go

  • Nature’s playground. Winter or summer, Whistler is an ideal place for families to be active and play together outside.
  • Epic proportions. The scale of Whistler is monumental and dazzles with its vast acreage and huge amounts of snowfall.
  • Well-rounded. While the skiing and snowboarding is legendary, there’s plenty more – consider biking, hiking, sledding, and exploring the local art galleries, First Nations culture and Whistler’s foodie scene as well.
  • Heli-skiing. What better way to see the scenery? Take advantage of à la carte options for small groups with Whistler Heli-skiing.
  • Whistler Village. This walkable, pedestrian-only village is easy to navigate with kids. Enjoy boutiques, galleries and museums, including the wonderful Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre just across from the Resort.
  • The drive. Even the trip up from Vancouver along the fjords of the Sea to Sky Highway is memorable. Look for the boats on Howe Sound, forested islands in the mist, waterfalls and thousand-foot high granite walls.

What the kids will love

Outside, get the kids to build a snowman or have a snowball fight when they’re not out on the slope. There’s no shortage of outdoor winter fun for them here.

Photography Radius Images / Alamy Stock Photo

  • Outdoor fun. Build a snowman, make snow caves, tube, ski, snowboard and attend outdoor concerts in the village. A favourite is ice skating; Olympic Plaza turns into a Winter Wonderland ice rink, where kids can skate under the stars.
  • The pool. Heated and steamy, the 75-foot (23 metre), free-form outdoor pool has views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Hang out at the bar or soak in one of three hot spring-style whirlpools. And for the kids, the staff hands out goodies such as chocolate-dipped marshmallows.
  • Toasting marshmallows for s’mores at the Resort’s outside fire pit. Pure magic! In the lobby, enjoy hot chocolate plus all the fixings.
  • Bounce Acrobatic Academy. This is the place to burn off extra energy when not playing in the snow (for children two years and older). Open daily, the indoor trampoline park is also used for training by snowboarders. Kids can just jump and leap and bounce and dive for hours. Call before visiting to check availability.
  • Purebread. Indulge in treats, breads and other baked goods at Purebread bakery, just a quick 10 minute walk from the Resort. If the kids are starved, rub elbows with snowboarders at Elements, around the corner.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler

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What you will love

  • The Ski Concierge . This service saves the day, preventing meltdowns and equipment hassles. The Ski Concierge whisks your skis, boots and poles from the Resort so you arrive at the mountain to boots that are warm and dry. You can also rent equipment, buy tickets, meet your ski instructor, and get more information, news and recommendations. When the day is done, leave your gear overnight. The Ski Concierge is just a three-minute complimentary shuttle ride or five-minute walk from the Resort.
  • Whistler’s buzzing night scene. Book a Resort sitter for date night, and hit the town.
  • Nature, art and community. You’ll find lots of wood and low-hewn buildings designed to blend in with the environment in this eco-minded locale. Even the kids’ playground is made of driftwood. There’s an emphasis on combining physical wellness with local art.
  • Grown-up fun. Indulge in a cocktail at the Resort’s SIDECUT Bar, yoga classes in the gym or couple’s massages at the Spa .
  • Knowing where your kids skied. All children in the Whistler Blackcomb ski school get a GPS tracker. This way instructors know exactly where they are at all times, and you can review where they skied and how many runs they accomplished.
  • Shopping. Whistler Village has more than 200 shoppes and 90 restaurants.

Wildlife in Whistler

If you visit between December and February, look for bald eagles. For a peaceful day away, book an eagle raft float down the Cheakamus River in Squamish. You probably won’t see one when you visit, but Whistler is named after the hoary marmot, North America’s largest ground squirrel. It’s known as the “whistler” for its shrill call.

Dining in Whistler

The contemporary dining room at SIDECUT is bustling enough that no one will notice your kid slipping under the table into a heap after a long day on the mountain. Plus, anything off the children’s menu is free for kids five and younger.

Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

For breakfast, the SIDECUT Modern Steak + Bar dining room features opulent buffet, including a special kids’ buffet set at child-height. Highlights: French toast with dulce de leche, oatmeal with berries, and waffles. Adults should try the Backpacker’s Corned Beef Hash, served with fluffy poached eggs and smoked paprika hollandaise, and delivered in a cast iron pot.

Come dinnertime, family-style SIDECUT takes the traditional steakhouse concept and turns it on its head – playfully and adeptly. If you like beef, try the flavourful, aged Canadian Prime sizzled over an 1,800-degree F (982-degrees C) infrared grill. (If you don’t eat meat, there’s plenty to choose from.

If you’re on the mountain, sit down for lunch at Christine’s on Blackcomb to enjoy a great view and menu. Crystal Hut serves excellent Belgian waffles with real whipped cream and fruit piled high. On Whistler Mountain, half way down an easy run, Chic Pea bakes cinnamon buns on-site and serves them hot from the oven, plus hearty stews and paninis (dine inside or out). You don’t even have to take your skis off if you grab a hot dog or waffle from Euro Kiosk. Served on a stick, the wieners have the ketchup and mustard in the middle. Same for the waffles: Syrup granules are melted inside.

If you just need a quick bite in Whistler Village, consider sandwiches from Lift Coffee Company at Nesters Market, or stop at Ingrid’s Village Café. About 15 minutes south of Whistler in Creekside is family-friendly Creekbread, known for its original pizzas (try the Pemberton Potato Pie) and salads. Pizzas are made in a huge round oven in the middle of the room.

For an adult’s-only evening, opt for a table at Barefoot Bistro. Celebrated chef Melissa Craig’s seasonal creations are as elaborate as they are surprising. Splurge on the stand-out, five-course sommelier wine pairing menu. There are also 20,000 wines in the cellar to choose from.

5 family to-dos

1. Dog sledding. If you are a dog lover, this quintessential Canadian adventure is a must. You’ll be amazed at the speed of the pack during your exhilarating journey through the woods.

In a picture-perfect snowy forest in the Callaghan Valley, just south of Whistler, owner Jaime Haregreaves and manager Sara Bell of the dog sled operations for Canadian Wilderness Adventures lovingly care for 50 “super mutt” dogs. Some dogs even wear booties to keep their paws warm, and each gets a massage and chicken soup before and after running. It takes up to two years to train a dog, and these run for the love of it.

Canadian Wilderness Adventures also offers a family campfire dinner and snowshoe hike, the Callaghan Snowshoe Cookout, that departs at 5:00 pm after ski school lets out, plus snowmobiling, ATVing, canoeing, jeep tours and other guided adventures.

2. Ski lessons. Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort has terrific ski and snowboarding lessons (private or group) and camps for kids. If everyone has a similar ability level, sharing a private ski lesson with the family is the way to go. Otherwise, send the kids to ski school while you take a private lesson to hone your skills and see the best of the mountain with a pro.

3. Snowmobiling. Either try a snowmobiling adventure with the kids and Mother Nature – bookended with a Yukon breakfast and cabin fondue dinner – or go the mini-snowmobile route, where children drive mini versions around a track.

If that’s too much for your kids, try ziplining – good in any weather, but especially captivating in winter. High up in a cathedral of frosted trees, you will zip Tarzan-style between tree platforms way above the canyon.

4. Fire & Ice Show. Every Sunday at 7:30 pm in the Village, Whistler Blackcomb builds up a track for snowboarders and skiers who somersault and fly through burning rings of fire, pulling off incredible stunts. Little jaws will drop.

5. Sleigh ride. Sway along in a sleigh, pulled by giant, gentle black Percherons, and take in fairy tale views of the village below blanketed in snow. The whole family will delight in the tinkling jingle bells, the stars above and shadows of the prancing horses in the sparkling snow. There’s a 30-minute loop around the golf course for little ones; or for older kids, a 50-minute ride up to the top, with a warm-up stop for hot chocolate in a shed. Ideal at sunset or after dinner.

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