Come March, there are those who getaway for sun and sand, and those who getaway for sun and snow. For mountain enthusiasts, March means glorious snowfalls, warmer days, and goggle tans (otherwise known as panda eyes). At this time of year, the seriousness of winter has worn away and bluebird sky days are a near guarantee. And with daylight savings time in effect, the chairlifts are open for an extra half hour (or more) translating into at least one more lap schussing down the biggest ski hills on this continent.
Whistler Blackcomb, consistently rated North America’s number one ski resort, has long attracted a multilingual mix of free spirits, ski bums, and well-heeled thrill-seekers. The majestic sibling peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb are connected by Peak to Peak, the world’s highest gondola, and the 8,171 skiable acres offers something for everyone. Snow is preserved best at resorts with higher elevations and lots of north-facing terrain. The peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb are poised at 7,160 and 7,494 feet respectively, with over 50 per cent of the terrain north facing. Add the spring powder storms (March is historically one of the snowiest months in Whistler) and the destination resort is almost untouchable—spring and otherwise. (The mountain is intentionally designed to capture as much north-facing terrain as possible for ski runs, and as much south facing hiking as possible.)
Ask any ex-ski patrol and basically on your average spring day, the snow will be fast and hard until the sun hits it long enough to soften it up. So why not sleep in? One of the many great things of spring skiing is not feeling guilty uploading at eleven. And with a later start, there will be no queuing for the gondola. This season is on track for being another record-breaking year when counting the number of visitors to Whistler. Popularity comes at a price; expect a 60-minute wait time during the early-morning rush for access to the mountain on weekends during peak season. Come spring, however, the wait time is cut by at least half. Uploading at noon? Go right on.
For mountain enthusiasts, March means glorious snowfalls, warmer days, and goggle tans. At this time of year, the seriousness of winter has worn away and bluebird sky days are a near guarantee.
When Vail Resorts acquired Whistler Blackcomb for $1.4-billion in 2016, there was much talk as to how the proudly Canadian ski resort would change in the hands of the American ski-industry giant. The impact has been immediate. Winter enthusiasts in the market for a season’s pass at Whistler Blackcomb became Epic Pass holders, a program that gives access to Vail Resorts’ owned and partner resorts worldwide, including Whistler Blackcomb. As a result, plenty of Epic Pass holders (from places like Beaver Creek, Vail, Park City, Heavenly, and Northstar) continue to venture north. Whistler Blackcomb is the most visited mountain resort in North America and the last two years running, more than three million visitors were welcomed.
All the while, Vail Resorts continues investing in Whistler Blackcomb to boost capacity. This past summer, the company invested $66-million for on-mountain upgrades. The new 10-person Blackcomb Gondola was the centrepiece of this largest single-year amount in the resort’s history, along with a new Emerald Express chair in the Family Ski Zone on Whistler and a high-speed Catskinner chair on Blackcomb.
Every April, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, known to locals as WSSF, combines spring energy with Whistler’s novel mountain vibe for five days of programming on and off the slopes. It’s a great party; so much so, that one might forget the actual skiing and snowboarding. On mountain, witness the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme, a double-black run on Blackcomb and considered the steepest ski race in the world, while at the base of Whistler mountain watch Big Air as skiers and snowboarders send themselves off a giant jump.
At this time of year, any outdoor patio is the right place for post-skiing celebrations, but if you want your après to be amplified, go to the Longhorn Saloon—easily recognizable by its iconic yellow umbrellas—for cozy fire pits, palpable music, and wild champagne water guns. The Four Seasons Whistler has the Instagram-perfect backdrop, a vintage camper that serves any après drink of your fancy.
With mountain-open dates well into spring (last year Blackcomb closed on May 21), get ready to spend more time skiing or riding. And once you’ve gone from the top of 7th Heaven on Blackcomb to the bottom in a T-Shirt and snow pants, you’ll have experienced epic.
For the upcoming 2019/20 season a new initiative has been added to the Vail Resorts Epic for Everyone initiative with the Epic Day Pass, a customizable pass for those not interested in unlimited, and prefer to select the number of days planned to ski or ride.
Photos courtesy of Whistler Tourism.
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