Whilst many of the great European ski resorts tend to rest on their laurels, Whistler has shot up through the ranks to become one of the strongest contenders for the much disputed title of 'World's Greatest Ski Resort'. The twin-prionged assault involves having phenomonally good skiing, with one of the world's greatest high-speed lift systems and on the ground a vast array of apres-ski alternatives and comprehensive facilities. In the '90s Whistler has repeatedly been voted 'Best North American Ski Resort' by North Americans and in Japan the favourite international destination for Japanese skiers
Over the past 20 years no resort has hit the winter sports world headlines as often as Whistler in British Columbia. Coming from way down the world rankings the resort shot to the top of the reader survey popularity charts in North American consumer ski magazines in the early '90s, and has stayed there ever since. Not only a North American phenomenon, Whistler has pulled in package tour operators from all over the world by the dozen in recent years and topped 'favourite foreign resort' polls in countries like Japan. Whistler hosted most on-snow events (except snowboarding, ski-cross and frestyle) at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, fulfilling its creators dreams 50 years earlier of creating a resort to host the Olympic Games. It now attracts more skiers and 'boarders than any other resort on the North American continent.
The resort began life as recently as 1966, with its 'municipal inception' a decade later. Since then an incredible 2.7 billion Canadian dollars have been spent making the resort what it is today. The reasons for the unprecedented enthusiasm in Whistler today are many. Perhaps you start with the fact that North American ski resorts are recognised as having the best service standards and lift systems in the world, then you consider that Whistler has the best lift system in North America, with the most high speed lifts in the world. Secondly you might add in to your musings that Whistler has not one but two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, lift-linked together, providing the biggest ski area in North America. Oh, and these two mountains also have one-mile of vertical, which is some of the largest lift accessed terrain in North America. Indeed the 'Blackcomb' effect can't be overstated. Originally developed by Intrawest in the mid 1980s, their first major ski resort project, it provided valuable competition for Whistler mountain for well over a decade before the two came under joint Intrawest control.
Whistler is big enough to ensure a vast range of choices on and off the slopes when you're not riding up and sliding down the slopes - around 100 restaurants and 200 shops plus a huge choice of accommodation (more of it slopeside than anywhere else in North America) and activities. Finally there are little things like the proximity to a major international airport; the favourable exchange rate of most countries, including the US, to the Canadian dollar; the status of having the only lift-served summer glacier skiing in North America; the uncrowded slopes; the vast choice of terrain.
Of course the residents and fans of Whistler will tell you that these are just the ingredients, and it's that 'something else', the feel of the place, that makes it truly great. The only negative factor that any critics, desperate to find a flaw in the apparently nigh on perfect ski resort, can find, is that its low elevation and proximity to the Pacific can mean rain rather than snow at base level at each end of the season. Whistler's view is that the low base is a boon because, although they have some of the biggest verticals in North America, the top elevation is not as high as resorts in Colorado, so altitude sickness is not a danger for Whistler's guests. The proximity to the coast also means that it doesn't get overly cold - just cold enough for an average 33 foot dump of powder each season.