10 things to do besides skiing in Whistler

by Paul Joseph  |  Published December 20, 2020

Best known as a world class skiing destination, the Canadian resort town of Whistler, located 120 kilometres north of Vancouver, offers plenty of activities and attractions away from the snowy slopes, too. The town’s beating heart is its compact, chalet-style pedestrian village which buzzes with activity night and day during peak ski season. As well as its legendary aprés nightlife, here you’ll find upscale boutiques and several galleries featuring regional art.

The bustling main square in Whistler (Photo: Kate Farquharson via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

If skiing isn’t your thing but you’d still like to test your mettle on Whistler’s blizzardy mountainous terrain, then snowshoeing, tobogganing and snowmobiling are all action-packed ways you can do so. And for such adrenaline-fuelled fun as well as other great things to see and do in Whistler, we’ve compiled a must-read list below.

Admire top class contemporary art

Whistler’s art scene is internationally renowned and one of its most prestigious arts institutions is the Whistler Contemporary Gallery. Dedicated to the promotion of distinctive Canadian and international contemporary art, the gallery has two Whistler locations, both featuring contemporary paintings, sculptures, multi-media and glass works gleaned from top global art fairs such as the Art Expo New York, Toronto International Art Fair, and Art-Miami.

LOCATION Hilton Resort and Spa & Four Seasons Resort and Spa HOURS Mon-Sun 2pm-10pm (Four Seasons) Mon-Sun 11am-5pm (Hilton Resort)

Art on display at the Whistler Contemporary Gallery at the Four Seasons Resort (Photo: Whistler Contemporary Gallery)

Embark on a captivating multi-media nightwalk

One of the most unique – and enchanting – experiences to enjoy in Whistler is the Vallea Lumina Multi-Media Nightwalk. During the fairy tale-like walk, visitors of all ages are invited to navigate a 1.5 kilometre pathway that takes you through an old-growth forest in pursuit of hidden wonders, as a magical story unfolds in chapters along the way. The entire walk takes between 40 and 80 minutes, depending on the time of year.

Guests walk along the magical Vallea Lumina Multi-Media Nightwalk (Photo: The Adventure Group)

LOCATION Starting point on Cougar Mountain Road HOURS Thurs-Sun Closed Mon-Weds

Discover Whistler’s history and unique mountain culture

Step back in time and learn how both the town and the sport of skiing have evolved down the years at the acclaimed Whistler Museum. With a diverse mix of year-round exhibits, plus regular seminars, activities and other events for all ages, the museum is one of the town’s biggest attractions. Highlights include an interactive discovery centre where you can learn about the town’s natural environment and a potted history of ski racing in Whistler. The museum also hosts guided tours through Whistler Village

LOCATION 4333 Main Street HOURS Fri-Tues 11am-5pm Thurs 11am-9pm Closed Weds

Join a thrilling snowmobile tour

Whistler’s diverse and picturesque landscape makes for exhilarating snowmobiles conditions. There are a number of fully guided snowmobile tours available that give thrill-seekers the chance to propel themselves through the pristine backcountry, exploring untouched wilderness that’s almost impossible to reach on foot or even by conventional transport. Among the most popular is a 2.5-hour family tour, during which your little ones get the chance to helm their very own mini-snowmobiles.

An adrenaline-fuelled snowmobile ride in Whistler (Photo: Paul Williams via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Explore an immersive Indigenous museum

Neighbouring communities with their own distinct cultures often struggle to maintain a harmonious relationship. But the Indigenous people of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations in southwestern British Columbia are certainly an exception to that rule, having coexisted peacefully and respectfully for many, many decades. Built as a space to celebrate and share cultural knowledge, the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler features a range of permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as hands-on activities and live demonstrations of weaving, wood carving, cedar prepping, and other practices ingrained in Squamish and Lil’wat traditions. Meanwhile visitors can join guided tours run by knowledgeable Cultural Ambassadors, or embark on a self-guided outdoor Indigenous art tour around Whistler.

LOCATION 4584 Blackcomb Way HOURS Thurs 10am-5pm Fri-Sun 10am-5pm

A tour guide stands in front of an impressive-looking exhibit at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (Photo: Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre)

Peruse a beautifully diverse range of Canadian art

Another of Whistler’s distinguished arts companies is Mountain Galleries, located in the upper Village at the Chateau Whistler, and feature a diverse range of original Canadian art, with a number of award winning artists represented. In the sumptuous confines of the Fairmont Château Whistler hotel are an assortment of postwar modern art spanning various mediums and styles, including museum-quality paintings, sculpture and even unique Inuit carvings. Indeed, so renowned is the art here that it is a regular stop-off for collectors who come to peruse and sometimes purchase the pieces on display. The galleries also host regular exhibitions, artist demonstrations and workshops.

LOCATION Fairmont Château Whistler, 4599 Chateau Boulevard HOURS Fri-Sat 9am-9pm Sun 9am-5pm Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm

Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont

Artworks on display at Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont (Photo: Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont)

Unleash your inner lumberjack

It may sound like something you might only do on a stag night, but, thanks to Canada’s rich lumberjack traditions, axe throwing is actually a fully accredited sport here. Local company Forged Axe Throwing run an indoor venue where first timers and timber sports veterans alike can test their skills at the noble art of hurling axes at targets. Under the supervision and guidance of experienced coaches, students can learn everything from the basics of safety to one and `two-handed throws.

LOCATION 1208 Alpha Lake Road HOURS Weds-Sun 12pm-6pm Closed Mon-Tues

Catch a fine art exhibition

Mixed media paintings and playful sculptures depicting everything from the natural world to dramatic cityscapes are what art fans will find at the Plaza Galleries. Owned by a local family of four artists, you’ll find the Rozenvain family’s vibrant and textured artwork beautifully presented alongside a diverse assortment of 15 other local and international fine artists. Whistler’s largest art gallery, this gallery specialises in international quality fine art, and has gained accolades far beyond the town, regularly shipping works from its collection to buyers around the globe. Among the renowned artists whose art is featured here is a permanent collection by Kal Gajoum, one of Canada’s most successful and beloved artists thanks to his distinctive oil paint and palette knife technique.

LOCATION 4314 Main Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-6pm

Get a taste of Whistler’s craft brewing scene

At the vanguard of Whistler’s burgeoning craft brewery scene is Coast Mountain Brewing, which has been drawing craft beer enthusiasts in their droves since opening its doors back in 2016. Located in the town’s vibrant Function Junction neighbourhood, the small, community-focussed brewery is home to a warm and inviting tasting room where patrons can come and sample some of their boutique craft brews which revolve around complex, flavourful and sessionable beers, with a particular focus on Sour ales. As well as its acclaimed beverage production, the brewery also provides a space for local artists to display their work in a 2-month rotating gallery on the walls of its tap house.

LOCATION 1212 Alpha Lake Road HOURS Thurs-Sat 11am-10pm Sun-Weds 11am-8pm

Home brews on display at Coast Mountain Brewing (Photo: Coast Mountain Brewing)

Soar through the air on a zipline adventure

Whistler’s scenic setting gives outdoor activities an extra special thrill. One of the most exhilarating ways to enjoy the area’s natural beauty is to join an adrenaline-fuelling zipline tour. There are several to choose from and one of the most popular is The Sasquatch, which at a mind-blowing two kilometres long is said to be the largest high wire of its kind anywhere in north America. Those brave enough to traverse it will find themselves gliding over spectacular creeks and through majestic old-growth trees. Tours only run during summer season.