Whistler is one of those places you have to see to really understand how spectacular it is. I will admit that the fact I live quite close and am surrounded by the mountain views all the time makes me think it’s fairly normal… at least until I leave for a while and come back, or have a friend come and visit.
The biggest problem is that it can be super expensive if you want to spend more than a day up there. Being a “local,” I’m going to share some tips with you on how to make your money go a bit further.
There are a few suggestions that I have for different types of accommodations. Depending on how much you want to spend each night and how many are in your group, you might have different preferences. Also, we’ve squeezed in 8 people into a hotel room suite before, so if you want to be in the village, you definitely can be 🙂
- the HI Hostel in Whistler is definitely the most well known of all the “budget” accommodations. The building was athlete housing during the 2010 Olympics, and was converted to a hostel shortly after. Being relatively new it’s got decent facilities, but it is starting to show a bit of wear and tear. But with comfy beds, decent facilities, and a bus stop right outside the door, you really can’t go too wrong.
- The Alpine Lodge, located just north of the main village. This is a converted lodge and has a much cozier, ski cabin like feel to it. It also has a hot tub on the main floor (inside though, which was a bit of a bummer). It’s a bit more expensive than the HI hostel, but I’d say I prefer the atmosphere here. There’s also a bus stop right outside if you’re sans car.
- Southside Lodge: this is right across the highway from the Creekside Gondola, but requires a 5 night minimum stay over the ski season.
- Whistler Lodge: This was formerly the UBC lodge, but was converted this year into a public hostel. It’s by the Creekside area as well, but is a bit of a hike or short bus ride away. I haven’t had the chance to stay here yet, but it looks like they did a good job on the reno.
If you’ve got a larger group, I’d suggest trying to book a condo through AlluraDirect. I’ve rented a few times from them and you can get great options and be in the village for a fraction of the price of the surrounding hotels. I’ve also gotten lucky through Craigslist a few times, but make sure you make payments through Paypal or some other payment form with recourse if it all goes sideways.
Now while all of these are great options if you’re looking to stay for cheap, if you’re willing to wait for last minute, you can get some pretty great deals at some of the many hotels around town. The key to my success is I book through the Secret Suite deals at Whistler.com. It’s basically like their own internal version of Hotwire. They give you a cheap price on the hotel, but won’t tell you where you’re staying until after you book. They will tell you what the parking fee is per night, so you can usually narrow it down if you do a bit of sleuthing. For my trip up I managed to score the Westin for a great rate (about 65% off)!
Unless you’re planning on making a few day trips, you really don’t need a car once you’re in Whistler. Getting a ride up also means you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacular views of the sea to sky. So save your parking money for après and take another transportation option up the mountain.
Of course you can always hop on a Greyhound, which is a pretty cheap option, but there are also a few scheduled Whistler services by private companies.
- SnowBus: 2 daily round trips, only pick up in Vancouver, but will drop you off at the Airport on the return. Free Wi-Fi and movies (they also say snacks, but I have yet to be offered one)
- Epic Rides: started off as a cheap locals option, they have a few pick up spots around Vancouver, but their main drop off is is downtown on the way back (likely will have to use public transportation to final destination in the city). They use old school buses, so no fancy perks (but cheap!)
- Pacific Coach: will pick up and drop off at YVR, so this may be the best option if you’re flying in. They also use coach buses and have free Wi-Fi.
Note that at any time, SnowBus or Pacific Coach usually have a deal on Groupon or Travelzoo for a round-trip at the same price as Epic Rides… so if Wi-Fi is important to you, maybe check there first. I usually buy one or two round trips on the SnowBus each season when I see it, since one of their pick up/drop off spots is a block from my house 🙂
If you’re paying full price for a lift ticket, you’re being conned. There are so many options to get at least some discount on a ticket that it’s practically unheard of to be paying full price.
- Edge Cards: If you’re a resident of Canada, Washington, or Oregon, you can get an Edge Card. These are sold by Whistler Blackcomb.
- Gold Cards: If you’re a resident of any other of the US states, you can get a discounted 5 day card, which may be a good deal if you can use them all. Also sold by Whistler Blackcomb.
- Lodging discounts: some hotels/hostels have discount lift tickets available, always be sure to ask with your lodging provider (even condos have them).
- 7-11: If all else fails, you can get discount tickets and the 7-11s in Vancouver and Squamish. You’ll save about $15, but it’s better than nothing. Note that you can’t get these once you’re in Whistler, they don’t sell them there, so buy them before you hop on the bus.
Now, I will say these are valid for the 2016/2017 season. No one knows what the deals are going to be next year since Vail has bought the resort.
While Whistler is known for its skiing, it also has a lot of other options for those who don’t favour throwing themselves down a mountain on a pair of sticks 😉 There are many other activities you can do; see a full list on the Tourism Whistler site. If you’re looking for cheap activities, hiking is free (obviously) and you can skate at the Olympic Plaza for free and the skate rentals are pretty cheap.
There are a gazillion and one options for eating in Whistler, with every price range. And if you have access to a kitchen, there are multiple grocery stores around town to pick up something so you can dine in. There’s something for everyone, but a few of my favourites are Naked Sprout, Splitz, Creekbread, and Dubh Linn Gate (mostly for the mulled wine and the fire pit). The town is very vegan friendly, so if you explain to your wait staff that you’re vegan, most places will be able to accommodate.
For on mountain dining, they actually have many vegan options at all the restaurants. Just double check with the staff, they have ingredient lists behind the counters. Many items labeled vegetarian are either vegan, or can be modified to be so. Also, check out the kids meals options at each station: for $10, you get a (smaller) main, side of veggies, soy milk/juice, and a Clif Bar. Best deal on the mountain!
While these tips are most helpful during the high season, you can still use them all year long. The cheapest times to head up to Whistler are generally spring and fall, but check if there are any events going on as those tend to jack up prices as well.
~Zen on a Plane~
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