Getting to / in Whistler | Powder Mountain
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Getting to and around in Whistler

come ski the coldsmoke

Until we get the kinks worked out in our teleportation machine, there are only two ways to get to Whistler: by air or by road. The good news is both methods offer up stunning views of the surrounding Coast Mountains, Howe Sound, and the famous Sea to Sky Corridor.

Getting to Whistler by Road

The Sea to Sky Highway runs from Vancouver to Whistler and is aptly named, you literally drive from sea level up into the magnificent Coast Mountains, passing iconic BC peaks like the Tantalus Range, Mt Atwell, The Black Tusk and the Stawamus Chief. The 135km (84 mile) drive from Vancouver Airport (YVR) to Whistler averages about 3 hours in good weather (it's slow through Vancouver) but winter road conditions can seriously affect trip times.

Whistler Bus
Bus / Shuttle

This is the easiest option and it also allows you to dedicate your full attention to the scenery. For the best ocean and mountain views, sit on the driver's side of the bus. For the best look at Shannon falls (an epic waterfall just south of Squamish) opt for the passenger side.

  • YVR Skylynx Shuttle is a scheduled service connecting Vancouver International Airport and Downtown Vancouver to Whistler.
  • The Epic Rides Express Bus is another scheduled service from Downtown Vancouver to Whistler. With more affordable rates, Vancouver locals love this one so it's a good way to make new shred buddies on the journey up
  • Whistler Snowbus runs all year (don't be fooled by the wintery name) and is another locals' fave with free wifi, power outlets and bathrooms on board.

Note that the main bus/shuttle stop in Whistler is located in Whistler Village but most shuttles will also stop in Creekside if needed. Be sure to ask when you book.

Rental Car
Rental Car

Truth is, you don't need a car if you are staying in Whistler Village. The whole zone is pedestrian-only with lifts running up both ski hills right from the Village cobblestones. But if you are travelling on after your Whistler adventure, staying outside the Village, or just really love driving, you may need a rental car.

Our friends over at Tourism Whistler have an excellent rental car resource page but the most important thing to remember is to ask if your car is equipped with winter tires (not all-seasons) or comes with chains. The Sea to Sky Highway is a busy mountain highway that can be hit with epic snowstorms. It's dangerous, and illegal, to drive that road in the winter months without proper tires/chains and local police will often perform road checks and turn people back. Imagine flying across the world to come heliskiing in Whistler and being shut down 45 minutes out of town for not having the right tires on your rental car.

Whistler Winter Driving

Highway 99 (the Sea to Sky) Road Conditions

Those same big Pacific storms that provide us with all that epic powder can also make the roads into Whistler a bit dodgy. It's wise to stay up to date on road conditions if you are considering driving up here.

  • Drive BC is a government website highlighting road conditions all over the province.
  • Mountain FM is the local Sea to Sky Radio station. They have road (and ski hill) updates every 20 minutes. You can listen online or tune the radio to 107.1 for most of the drive up and 102.1 once you get close to Whistler. Be warned, the music is not that good, but no one does live road conditions better.
  • Sea to Sky Road Conditions Facebook Group can be useful for real time information and citizen-sourced information about the roads. But like anything to do with the internet, it can also be frustratingly painful and petty. Use at your own risk.

Whistler Winter Driving Tips and Tricks

On average, Whistler gets 10.6 metres / 419 inches / 34.9 feet per year of snowfall each year. And while that is absolutely fantastic when you are catskiing or heliboarding, it's less enjoyable when you are driving a twisting mountain highway with thousands of people who may or may not have even seen snow before, let alone driven in it. The secret to success is to ensure your car has proper winter tires and/or chains, and take things slow and easy. Here are a couple winter driving tips.

  1. Winter Tires! We can't stress this one enough. Don't do the drive if you don't have the right rubber (it's also illegal and the police often perform road checks and turn people back. Chains will get you past the road blocks but they don't do you any good if you don't know how to use them).
  2. Speed kills. – Yes, we understand that the sooner you get to whistler the sooner you'll be basking in the joys of deep pow and wild après sessions, but speeding on a snowy winter highway is a good way to end up in the hospital, or worse. The Sea to Sky highway has variable speed signs that display the safe driving speed, and don't be afraid to go slow and pull aside to let others pass. Slow and easy wins the race.
  3. Safe Following Distance – If you've never driven on snow before, you may not realize that slamming on the brakes doesn't always stop the car. it just keeps sliding like an ice cube across linoleum. Stay at least 6 vehicle lengths behind the car in front of you
  4. Passing – In Canada, if the road is two lanes wide it means the right lane is for traveling and the left is for passing. if you need to pass a vehicle, go into the left lane, pass it , then merge right again. DO NOT drive all the way to Whistler in the left lane. It's dangerous and causes road rage.
  5. Snowplows – they go pretty slow but the safest patch of road is behind the snowplow. Never pass them on the inside (right) however, that is where they shoot all the snow.

Just remember, you're on holiday not in an off-road rally race. Take ‘er easy, take 'er slow. Get there safe and get that snow! And if you see an accident or need help call 911.

Shift into Winter is a website with more tips on winter driving.

Transportation Around Whistler

Whistler Village is pedestrian only, and Powder Mountain has shuttles to get you where we need you to be, but on the off chance you want to explore the Whistler Valley, or if your accommodation is not Village-central, there are a number of transit options in Whistler.

Whistler Bus
BC Transit

Also known as "the bus" or "public transit". There are bus routes running throughout Whistler with frequent stops along the highway and in all the neighbourhoods. Buses run quite late and fire up pretty early so it's a good option for getting to the ski hill or home from the nightclub. A single-trip fare is $2.50 and you need correct change. Ask the driver for a transfer if you need one. Check out the Schedule and Route Maps or hit this useful downloadable Rider's Guide for more info. In the Village, the transit loop is up near the base of the Excalibur Gondola (Aka Mountainside Plaza).

Whistler Taxi
Taxi

The taxi loop is in Whistler Village, just off the original Village Square, but you can call a cab to pretty much anywhere in town. Have a proper street address though, as the dispatchers aren't always local people anymore so they need something they can type into the computer.

Whistle!
Whistle!

Whistler's answer to Uber and it works about the same. Download the app and away you go. It's a new service here so there may not be as many available drivers, but it's a nice way to get around. Get the app.

Valley Trail
The Valley Trail

This is one of the best things about Whistler, a paved trail connection all neighbourhoods, parks and lakes, it’s a safe and enjoyable way to get around while also getting a real feel for the Whistler area. They keep the trail plowed in the winter and many sections are lit in the evenings. Tourism Whistler has an excellent map and Valley Trail info page.

Getting Directly to Whistler By Air

Arriving by air is the most fun (and scenic). For all-season aerial access to Whistler, the only option is a helicopter. There are no scheduled flights but both Blackcomb Helicopters and No Limits Helicopters are available for charters between Vancouver and Whistler (or anywhere else you want to go really.)