Although it is not officially winter for a few more weeks, December 21 to be exact, it sure feels like it in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle recently got its first snowfall on November 29 and the weather continues to be chilly. Early snowfalls have helped the festive holiday atmosphere come faster to the northwest, and while we hope they are not the only ones we see in the lowlands, you can never be too sure in this area that is famously hard to predict. However, the good news is that snow has also been falling on the mountains, allowing Whistler to start the season early on November 22 and the cooler weather permitting Grouse Mountain to open on November 15. This way, even if there is not more lowland snow here in the Pacific Northwest, you can head to either mountain and participate in snow filled activities to help get you in the holiday spirit.
Featuring two side by side mountains with 8,100 acres of groomed terrain, there is more area to explore at Whistler Blackcomb than any other resort in North America. In fact, there are over 200 hundred trails at Whistler, ensuring that even if you visit more than once you will not run out of things to do. The mountains’ 5,280 feet elevation feet elevation allow for abundant amounts of regular snowfall, with an average annual snowfall of 38.2 feet. As such, Whistler really is a paradise for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing.
However, your adventures don’t have end with the traditional wintertime activities. Take a ride on the wilder side and feel the wind in your hair as you cruise through the Callaghan Valley on a snowmobile. A fun activity for beginning snowmobilers and families, on this trip you will get to take in scenic views of the backcountry as you travel to the historic NorthAir Goldmine. For a more romantic take on snowmobiling, enjoy Mountain Top Fondue via Snowcat or Snowmobile. Choose to travel by snowcat or snowmobile to Crystal Hut on top of Blackcomb Mountain, where you will be treated to a candle-lit fondue dinner accompanied by wine and a fresh baked fruit pie. Be sure to take in the great views and live entertainment, you really will feel like you are on top of the world.
If you start to miss your four-legged friend from home while you are away, there is no better way to get in some furry cuddles while exploring the snow than on the Trapper’s Run Dogsled Tour. A professional musher will teach you how to harness, stage and command the dogs as they lead you through the Callaghan Valley– you will even learn some history from your guide along the way.
The nice thing about Whistler Village is that it really is its own unique community, and provides plenty of options for fun once you are off the slopes. Pick up some new gear while shopping, relax at the spa or spend a night on the town (Whistler has some of the best nightlife around) visiting the local bars and clubs. Likewise, if you work up an appetite skiing or snowboarding grab some delicious cuisine from one of the 200 restaurants. New this year is Garbo’s Grill, which will be serving up burgers and breakfast sandwiches. Finally, before you leave Whistler Blackcomb make sure you make at least one trip between the two mountains on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. This gondola is the World’s longest continuous lift system and the highest lift of its kind, proving an experience and views you won’t find anywhere else.
Like Whistler, Grouse Mountain as a variety of year round activities, but with an average of 102 inches of snowfall per year, this 4,039 foot mountain is also well known for its wintertime options. One of the things that make Grouse Mountain different from other resorts is that you can purchase lift tickets for night skiing, which, for instance, is not offered at Whistler. While skiing and snowboarding in the dark may sound scary to some, it is an experience of its own, as the lift ride up and landscape can seem completely different in the dark. The other advantage to night skiing is it gives you more time to get a last few runs in or provides the option of breaking for dinner and then skiing again once you have refueled.
In addition to night skiing, there are a ton of festive activities at Grouse Mountain during their Peak of Christmas celebration. The festivities run until December 24, providing fun things to do for every age. Kids can “elf” themselves by creating a special elf hat, determine if they are elf sized, see what they would look like as an elf and take a picture of themselves as an elf. There are also opportunities to visit with Santa and learn about his reindeer Dancer and Prancer. More adventurous visitors can take in the beautiful scenery while skating or riding through the winter wonderland on a sleigh. After a busy day, relax by watching a classic Christmas movie on the big-screen at the Theatre in the Sky.
Whether you end up visiting Whistler Blackcomb or Grouse Mountain, you are sure to get your snow fix this holiday season. However, if you decide you do want more time in the snow or are not able to get up to the mountains both Whistler and Grouse Mountain are typically open for skiing until mid-April, which provides you with plenty of time to enjoy the slopes.