What you can find in this post
- 1 Introduction into the best tips for skiing in Canada with kids
- 2 Places where we skied before having kids (downhill skiing)
- 3 Places where I would take the kids skiing, other than Canada
- 4 Why WhistlerBlackcomb (British Columbia) Canada?
- 5 Before you go
- 6 Choosing the best time of year to go skiing in Canada
- 7 Tips and tricks for Skiing in Canada with kids
- 8 Tips for skiing with kids at WhistlerBlackcomb
- 9 Top tips for Ski school at WhistlerBlackcomb
- 10 Other Activities you can do while at WhistlerBlackcomb
- 11 Costs of Skiing at WhistlerBlackcomb
- 12 Overall, Skiing in Canada with kids at WhistlerBlackcomb
Introduction into the best tips for skiing in Canada with kids
Jelena, Pete, Jakob & Ella (aged 4.5 & 3 at time of travel)
Firstly, thank you Amber for inviting me to do a guest blog on your site RE Skiing in Canada with kids! I appreciate this very exciting opportunity to share our experiences, our love of skiing and our best tips for skiing in Canada with kids.
Skiing.. Skiing is part of me, it definitely defines a large chunk of who I am as a person, who I see myself as. It is programmed into me, skiing through life, the challenges, the changing conditions, the obstacles, and the uncontrollable. Skiing to me is also love, it’s medidation, it’s focus, it’s escape, it’s warmth (even though it’s cold!) and it gives me freedom and peace. I say all this because it is the one true thing that I loved and was passionate about prior to having kids. Having two young kids now, I think it’s fair to say I am passionate about more than only skiing.
There is no greater escape for me, mentally and physically, than skiing. I devote my whole self to the tracks/runs when I am skiing. There is no room for error, you are not able to think about anything else in the moment ..or quite simply you might get thrown off!
Before kids, my partner Pete and I made sure most of our holidays were around skiing or where we could go to ski. We knew that when kids come along, there would almost be no option for them, to not love the snow, to not embrace the cold. Our first few snow trips to acclimatise the kids to cold weather were met with slight anxiety to not overdo anything so that they wouldn’t end up hating it.. we had to make sure our kids fell in love with the snow and more so skiing, just like we did. I didn’t mention that my love for skiing is just as equal as my partner Pete’s love for skiing. It’s something that has over the years bonded us closer together, skiing together, looking out for one another, sharing the same love for something other than ourselves, skiing, mountains, nature, snow!
I’d like to share this video specifically about WhistlerBlackcomb with you. When I first saw this video earlier this year, I found it not only inspiring but an almost perfect representation of how I feel about skiing and even more so how I feel about this skiing destination I am about to tell you all about – click here to watch.
Places where we skied before having kids (downhill skiing)
- Victoria – Mt Buller, Falls Creek, Mt Hotham
- New Zealand – Cardrona, Treble Cone, Mt Cheeseman, Mt Hutt, The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Craigieburn, Mt Olympus, Temple Basin, Turoa, Whakapapa
- Japan – Hakuba 47, Iwatake Ski field, Hakuba Gorya, Tsugaike Ski Resort, Happo-One Ski Resort
- Canada – British Columbia – Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Places where I would take the kids skiing, other than Canada
Canada – WhistlerBlackcomb is definitely my number 1 place for where I would take the kids back to progress with their skiing. However other places I would consider internationally would be Japan and New Zealand. Having said that I would take them to mainstream resorts, not off the beaten track, places where English is not a problem when teaching kids. I find that understanding and following instructions is very important when skiing.
Places perhaps not as remote as Hakuba Nagano (Japan) where we went prior to having kids. Perhaps places I have only heard of from friends, such as Niseko. In New Zealand I would really only also consider the mainstream resorts and not the private / club mountains. I would consider Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. Although The Remarkables are not so pleasant to drive to and getting there is a bit of a hassle. The other mountains I see as expert mountains, in terms of not only terrain but also safety and getting there. WhistlerBlackcomb does safety so well that it’s hard not to compare other places to it. Of course once the kids are teenagers and expert skiers I would consider taking them to all of the places where Pete and I have skied before.
Internationally I have read and heard that Vail in Colorado and Aspen are also great family resorts. However, much further to get to and also higher in altitude. Altitude means that the higher you go, the more days you need prior to skiing to adjust, ie. A few days to not only get over jetlag but also to adjust to the altitude. Otherwise there is a risk of altitude sickness. I have had this one time in New Zealand, it was mild, but nevertheless very unpleasant and needless to say I couldn’t ski for the next 2 days.
Another thing I liked about WhistlerBlackcomb is that the altitude isn’t a major problem as the base / village is at 670metres elevation. Having said that, as with my New Zealand experience, altitude sickness can strike anywhere if not well rested, if dehydrated and surrounded by poor weather conditions and poor visibility.
In Victoria (Australia) we have now taken the kids to Falls Creek and Mt Buller. While these are both great family mountains, I would say that Falls Creek is a bit better in terms of open wide terrain and variety. I find Mt Buller to be overcrowded and small in comparison, perhaps this is because it is the closest downhill skiing mountain to Melbourne.
Why WhistlerBlackcomb (British Columbia) Canada?
Prior to having kids there wasn’t as much pressure when picking a skiing holiday destination. Not only do we now have to consider two other little people but most importantly ourselves too in order to be able to look after these two little people. I say this because skiing can easily be a very dangerous sport, physically you are met with elements over which you have no control and conditions that can change at the blink of an eye.
We wanted to make sure that our kids introduction to skiing was a pleasant one. One where they would cry when told to take their skis off rather than cry because they didn’t want to put them on. Our son had a day at Falls Creek (Victoria) 6 months prior to Canada and he loved it. Let me just re-wind a bit.. I had attempted to teach the kids myself (I have taught skiing briefly in Victoria prior to having my own kids) as I thought it would be easy and a cheap way of getting them to fall in love with skiing. I failed at this, as most parents will know, teaching your child anything that is not part of their daily routine, and being their parent at the same time, is challenging. For the same reason that a lot of parents get swimming lessons for their kids with a swim school teacher, I simply had to cave in, escape the whining, and pay for a ski instructor to teach my kids.. hoping, they would listen to someone else & fall in love with skiing! ..that, they did! They now often say “mummy can we go to Canada to ski tomorrow?”
We chose WhistlerBlackcomb for a number of reasons:
- The Aussie dollar compared to the Canadian dollar was on par at the start of this year
- English speaking country, with two young kids (4.5 and 3 at the time), we had to make sure that through half baby talk still, they could communicate while we were not with them
- Known for fantastic and very safe skiing programs for kids
- Guaranteed good snow/skiing conditions compared to Aussie slush standards
- The largest ski area in North America
- Reputable resort and ski area, hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games
- Large Village with lots to do on days off from skiing, lots of options for accommodation, restaurants, shops, grocery stores, medical centres and other non-skiing related activities
- And we had skied there before in 2009 so we somewhat knew what we were in for.
A little bit about WhistlerBlackcomb Ski Resort
- Located 135km north of Vancouver International Airport, 2 hours by bus/car (good idea to book a transfer bus to pick you up and take you directly to Whistler Village)
- The largest ski area in North America, with 8,171 acres, top elevation 2, 182m.
- Whistler and Blackcomb are two mountains situated next to each other.
- Gondola access from Whistler Village up to both Blackcomb and Whistler ski areas.
- Blackcomb is a generally more advanced mountain with terrain leaning towards more difficult, whereas Whistler Mountain has a larger variety. Both mountains have beginner terrain though.
- Longest run 10.8km (this run is called the “Peak to Creek”)
- The “Peak 2 Peak” Gondola links Blackcomb and Whistler mountains. This Gondola has the longest unsupported lift span in the world, 3.024km, and it is also the highest lift of its kind with an elevation of 436 metres.
- Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Before you go
- If you are flying through LA or anywhere else in the USA, you will need to complete a Visa Waiver for each person travelling, including kids. This can all be completed online – please click here. Make sure you complete it in advance at least a week before you go.
- Australian Passport holders do not need a visa to travel to Canada however all passengers will need to complete an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which can be done at this link here.
- Check out Smartraveller before you go.
- No additional vaccinations are required at present other than what is already on the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule.
Choosing the best time of year to go skiing in Canada
Before deciding on when to go, do some research into weather patterns and best time to ski in British Columbia. I say this because, if you prefer fresh powder and snow dumps, then generally January is the best time to go.
However if you prefer more bluebird days and clear skies, then mid Feb to late March is a better time to go.
Keep in mind, weather is weather and can change at the blink of an eye. It can be icy at any time of the year if it gets colder suddenly and the fresh snow gets blown off by the wind. We have skied WhistlerBlackcomb in both January and in March. With kids, we will definitely go back in March next time. Visibility is very important when skiing, especially when learning to ski. If you cannot tell where the horizon ends and begins, you may as well be skiing with your eyes closed.
The anxiety of having a bad fall is especially worse after having kids, I know that if I get hurt I won’t be able to look after them, so paying close attention to the snow report and forecast every night and again every morning is very important. If the locals say a run is icy and they wouldn’t do it again that day, it’s safe to say we shouldn’t ski that run that day. Every hotel knows the ski report and it’s a good idea to ask at your hotel reception each morning before you hit the slopes.
Tips and tricks for Skiing in Canada with kids
- Book in advance to get cheaper deals (ie. Book now for Jan-March 2018)
- Don’t just rely on Flight Centre, a lot of the time they don’t know where accommodation is located and they don’t always get the best deals. By all means get a travel agent to put together an itinerary for you but then call all those places directly and see if you can get a better deal. We saved a lot of money doing it this way. Yes it takes longer but I am talking about thousands of dollars, not a few hundred!
- We used Sky Scanner to book flights and saved over $500 in total on flights alone.
- Book the kids into ski school in advance and all ski lift passes too, this will save you some money too as they usually have cheaper deals for booking early.
- Take your own ski clothes if you have them, it’s a good idea to know your gear and make sure it’s comfortable before you get there. While there is a lot of variety to buy gear once you are there and it’s usually quality stuff, this can be time consuming and not always cheaper than home. Remember, this is Canada, not the US, and it is a resort so unless something happens to be on sale, it won’t be outlet pricing.
- If you are taking your own skis, make sure you check with your airline that they allow for free ski luggage, some airlines do and some don’t.
- The benefit of hiring skis while you are there is that you can try new designs and models without buying them and also if they are not what you were expecting, you can change them over for a shorter pair, a wider pair and even just a zippier pair for tight turns!
- Adults, take your own ski boots if you can as these are moulded to your own foot and comfort while skiing and also lugging two young kids is important.
- Flight time Melb to LA was around 14.5 hours, transfer in LA and allow at least 3 hours, the flight time from LA to Vancouver was just over 2.5 hours, plus 2 hours on the bus from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler Village. The time difference was around 16 hours so a fair bit to get used to in the first few days.
- Keep in mind, tipping is very important in Canada, especially in restaurants/cafes as the waiters are not paid much, they rely on tips. If it is a sandwich bar or a takeaway shop you don’t need to tip, however if it is a sit-down restaurant where you are getting service, then the tipping norm for British Columbia is at least 22% if you are happy, 15% if you are not happy and even 25% if your experience really stood out. In your hotel, it is the norm to leave a couple of dollars on the bench for the housekeeping staff every day.
- Before attempting to take the kids on the Gondola or skiing yourself, I would highly recommend getting them into at least a few days of ski school. At ski school they will become familiar with all thing mountain related in a safe and orderly manner.
- Arrive at least 2.5 – 3 days prior to skiing, this gives you enough time for the kids to get over jetlag and to pick up ski hire and equipment the day before while also familiarising yourself with where ski school drop off will be, where the Gondolas/chairlifts are in relation to your hotel, etc.
- Being fitted out with ski boots/skis for the whole family can take at least an hour if the line is short, so again, it is a very good idea to get this all sorted the day before you plan to ski.
Tips for skiing with kids at WhistlerBlackcomb
- It is a good idea to download the latest Village map so that you can plan to get accommodation as close to the ski school and Gondolas/chairlifts as possible click here for a great Whistler Village map.
- Our favourite places to eat lunch/dinner in Whistler Village were; Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill, Old Spaghetti Factory, Mongolie Grill, Avalanche Pizza Co, Gnarlyroots and Brewhouse at Whistler. Other places were on mountain and were dependant on where we were skiing.
- There are free bus shuttles to get your around the village and to Creekside (Creekside also has a chair lift and accommodation tends to be cheaper there)
- Guest Services Centre in Whistler Village usually has some discount cards and coupons for local restaurants and services. This is very worthwhile to check out as the discounts to some of the best restaurants in Whistler can be up to 15%, thus almost paying for your tip. Guest Services is located near the main Gondola station, to the right when looking up at the mountain and on the left of the main ski school drop off.Keep in mind that while Creekside is at times slightly cheaper for accommodation, there aren’t many shops there, ski school is in Whistler Village and you will spend much more time waiting for the bus and lugging all your gear
- To avoid the sometimes long lines at the bottom of the Whistler Gondola in the morning, take the Blackcomb Gondola, ski down to the Peak to Peak Gondola and take it across to Whistler Mountain. This is included in your lift pass and is not only an amazing experience, but will save you time queuing. Your ski level would have to be at least intermediate as you need to ski down a bit from one chair in order to get to the Peak to Peak Gondola. There are lots of tourists doing this trip without skis so it’s worthwhile asking at Guest Services how to get there if you are not confident skiing down part of the way. As part of the kids Ski Adventure Camp, even though they are at different ski levels, they were taken up by their ski teachers to experience the Peak to Peak Gondola. They absolutely loved it!
- We stayed at the Blackcomb Lodge (Number 26 on the map above), across the road was a grocery store, pharmacy and right in the centre of all the restaurants and shops.
- The accommodation was good. It was what we were after. The room was loft style, it had enough beds for everyone and a small kitchen to prepare meals. We mainly only cooked breakfast and ate out the rest of the time.
- Food prices and restaurants were similar prices to home however meals were larger so a lot of the time an entrée was sufficient. We would consider staying at Blackcomb Lodge again, the rooms were sufficient and clean, although the loft style was a bit dangerous with small kids who love jumping on beds so the kids ended up sleeping on a pull out sofa. Otherwise the hotel would have moved us to a single storey room.
- The location of the hotel was hard to beat for the price. We would only stay elsewhere if the rooms are at least the same if not better than the Blackcomb Lodge and definitely no further away from the Gondola/ski lifts.
- Proximity to the lifts is definitely our top priority when skiing with kids. Having to drive or catch a bus just adds time, sometimes cost and frustration. More time to ski and less time lugging things is definitely the way to go. Having amenities close by has certainly helped keep our skiing holidays fun and stress free.
How we broke up our skiing and resting days
We stayed for 16 nights, with weekends being free for exploring and resting. We skied for 8 days in total, broken up as follows;
- First 2 days off for rest and time change adjustment.
- Followed by 3 days of straight skiing with the kids in regular ski school for 3 days straight.
- The kids had different teachers every day, they found this hard and Ella didn’t respond well on the first day to her male teacher. As soon as she got a female teacher the following day she wanted to ski more. She was sad the first day that we left her and she just needed some TLC and cuddles. I think she also needed an extra day to recover from jetlag.
- We all then had 2 days off as it was the weekend.
- Then went back to skiing for 5 days straight. The kids were in the Ski Adventure Camp for these 5 days. It was full on for them but worthwhile, they learnt lots and progressed from beginners to riding blue runs (intermediate terrain).
As adults we found that more than 3 consecutive days of skiing in Canada was very tiring. The home trail alone can take over an hour of skiing when the legs are already like jelly.. it hurts! After the 5 consecutive days we hung up the skis and went exploring to Vancouver. Next time I think we will do 5 days Ski Camp for the kids followed by 2 days break and then skiing for no more than 2 consecutive days at a time with 1 day break in between. Having this rest time improves progress and enjoyment as the legs aren’t as sore.
Top tips for Ski school at WhistlerBlackcomb
- Our hotel was only around 250 metres from the ski school and lugging 2 young kids and all our skis and their skis was challenging in the morning. If you hire skis there, you get free ski locker storage in front of the main Gondola in Whistler Village and that saves your arms to carry only the kids in the morning. They will get super tired, thinner air, skiing, cold and ski camp for 5 days straight.
- Children attending ski school must be at least 3 years old and must be fully daytime toilet trained. They will get some help to get their gear off to go to the toilet however they should mostly be self-sufficient.
- Enrolling kids into ski camp gives them the continuity to progress and also to get to know their teacher and vice versa as opposed to utilising the first hour or so of every ski lesson for the teacher to see where their level is at. Also, at the ski camp (“Ski Adventure Camp”) they will have the same teacher throughout the program and typically attend from a Monday to a Friday (8.45am until 3pm). While they are there they are fed, entertained, they have rest time and opportunities to go to the toilet. While kids that young cannot possibly be skiing the whole time they are there, they also learn about safety, they play games, jump on a jumping castle and get books read to them.
- As part of ski camp the kids will all get matching jerseys which go over their ski jackets, these reflect their age/level/team/ which they are in. There are a few different colours. All kids also have a GPS tracked attached to their leg so that they can be tracked online so parents can see where they skied and also for safety. It is extremely rare though for a child to go missing. Each child also has a smart card in their pockets with their name and contact details, this also gives them electronic access to all the Gondola’s/lifts via electronic swipe gates.
- You will get a report card for each child at the end of each day.
Other Activities you can do while at WhistlerBlackcomb
- Ice skating (learning to ice skate with mini support penguins for kids to hold onto)
- Dog Sledding (this is super fun however can be quite pricey $400, you pay per sled and max per one sled is 1 adult and 2 kids). We went dog sledding here before having kids and I think it would be an awesome experience for the kids too. You get to meet the dogs prior to sledding and the day is usually finished off with some hot chocolate, coffee or fondue as well as meeting and holding future dog sledding pups!
- You can also go snow shoeing
- Glacier walks & tours
- Go to an NHL Ice Hockey game in Vancouver; the bus comes to Whistler Village and can be arranged through your hotel concierge
- Go to a local league Ice Hockey game, I have heard these can be even more entertaining than the NHL and much cheaper
- Ski mobile rides
- Playground (there are a couple of playgrounds at Whistler Village for young kids)
- Ride the Peak to Peak Gondola (very worthwhile! And unlimited use with your ski pass!)
- Take a bus trip or hire a car to see Vancouver City, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Granville Island and Shannon Falls. Avis Car hire is located near Whistler Village and is a short walk away. Keep in mind, like in Australia when hiring a car, you will need to hire child seats as well.
Costs of Skiing at WhistlerBlackcomb
- Flights booked through Sky Scanner
- Qantas – 2 adults and 2 kids $5,808.16 (Melb – LA, Flight time 14 hours & 20 minutes one way and 15 hours & 55 minutes on the way home. LA – Vancouver, Flight time 2 hours & 54 minutes and 2 hours & 45 minutes on the way home) ***Next time we will fly through Brisbane and direct from there to Vancouver because customs and transfers in LA can take a long time.
- Flight from LA to Vancouver was with WestJet Airways.
- Transfers from Vancouver International Airport to Blackcomb Lodge, Whistler Village & back were with a company called Whistler Connection (bus) $302.
- Accommodation, booked direct with Blackcomb Lodge, Whistler Village, 16 nights mid to late January $3,465 (King Bed + 2 Single Beds + pull-out Double Sofa Bed)
- Accommodation, ski school & ski lift passes all booked through Ski Max Holidays, 1300 136 997 / 02 9267 1655
- Ski pass per adult for 8 days of skiing $1,590 ($99.37 per day per Adult, usually around $130 per day per Adult)
- Ski school for 2 kids for 3 consecutive days $1,302 (all day lessons with Lunch), then;
- Ski Adventure Camp for 2 kids for 5 consecutive days $1,782
- Kids Ski and boot hire, 2 kids $0.00 Kids rent FREE when Adults hiring as well, 1 child per 1 paying Adult (***Helmets are Compulsory for all riders so keep in mind you will need to hire them if you don’t have your own. We bought some as it was cheaper to buy kids helmets than to hire for 8 days of skiing. Hiring would have cost $160 for 8 days for both kids and we bought them at Rays Outdoors in Melbourne for $49 each. Keep in mind you need to make sure the helmets meet the Canadian and American Standard for Helmet Safety. They should be marked on the inside with a label that has one of the following codes on it ASTM F2040 OR CEN 1077 OR EN1077 OR Snell RS-98 OR 1)
- Adult Ski & pole hire only for 2 adults $632 from Whistler/Blackcomb High Performance Ski Shop, Mountain Adventure CTRS & Salomon Store
- Travel Insurance $0.00 FREE with Amex Credit Card (make sure you get adequate cover as not all insurance companies cover extreme sports such as skiing)
- Total Not including Flights $9,073 + Amex Credit Card Fee $272.19.
- GRAND TOTAL with Flights & all of the above $15,153.35.
Overall, Skiing in Canada with kids at WhistlerBlackcomb
I highly recommend WhistlerBlackcomb as not only your first skiing destination with kids and as a learning ground but also for more advanced skiers and holiday makers. WhistlerBlackcomb is a beautiful destination, nature at its best! At the top of mount Whistler and Blackcomb mountains alike, you see no end to the mountains, the sheer size of the region is mind boggling – we are so small yet we as humans are having detrimental effects on nature. It saddens me to think that by the time our kids are my age, they may not be able to ski and experience some of these amazing destinations (due to the effects of global warming). That is why my friends, the time to ski WhistlerBlackcomb is now.
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