Skiing the Coastal Mountains of Whistler / Blackcomb – Canada, during a Pandemic.


Our local ski hill that is closest to our house is Whistler / Blackcomb. It’s situated in the Coastal Mountains about ninety minutes drive from beautiful Vancouver. As a world class destination, it had a serious shock from the lack of international and American visitors to the hill during this ski season. Most visitors were locals or visitors from Vancouver and other parts of Canada. Let’s take a look at how the season shaped out…

This post is one chapter on our trip through the mountains of British Columbia, Canada. This trip was enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status and Hertz President’s Circle. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Skiing the Coastal Mountains of Whistler / Blackcomb – Canada during a Pandemic.

Planning a Visit to Whistler / Blackcomb:

The Whistler / Blackcomb response to the pandemic was about as safe as you could imagine. Firstly, the resort used a reservation system to limit the amount of visitors on the hill. While it was great to have a general capacity system, the weekends frequently booked out several weeks, if not months in advance making it difficult for any spontaneous skiing.

A Long and Lengthy Mountain Upload:

Regulars to the Whistler valley would recognize that the upload to the alpine is typically through shared multi cabin gondolas. Vail Resorts took a pandemic policy of only uploading one family bubble per cabin. This resulted in tremendous lines, which further appeared much longer through social distancing measures.

A Socially Distant Initial Upload Line: Blackcomb Gondola

The initial upload lines were typically 30 – 60 minutes on a weekend day, which really cut into your skiing times. A morning of stretching lines throughout the upper village in the Blackcomb Benchlands would be the usual routines of the day.

A Somewhat Slow Start to the Day
Yikes: Difficult Inspiration During Pandemic Ski Times
A Day Starts with Forty Five Minute Lines

Once you finally got into the gondola, the upload was marked with solid signs that encouraged advanced booking of restaurants. There was also signage that encouraged open air gondolas.

Making Lunch Reservations, on a Gondola, with a QR Code
Face Coverings and Windows Open

Needless to say, pandemic or not, the Blackcomb Mountain upload still had great winter views of the valley. The West Coast snow dumps were ever present on our visits. The snow lines stretched down one side of the mountain and up the other side of the valley.

Powdery Upload Views

On the hill, we were treated to great skiing conditions on some exceptionally empty slopes and hills.

Vast Empty Slopes with no other guests
Seventh Heaven Views Towards Whistler

The lack of crowds made the season all the more unique thanks to no one being around.


On Hill Eating at Glacier Creek Restaurant:

Since it’s a long way from the top of Whistler / Blackcomb Mountains to the valley floor, it’s typically much easier to eat directly on the hill. The Whistler Blackcomb restaurants were set up through reservations system administered using the Tock system. Fortunately, it wasn’t all to bad to get availability. We would be able to book and usually get a table within 60 – 90 minutes of requesting one. As a result, we often played it day by day and hour by hour. We typically ate late in the day.

Even the Skis Were Parked in a Socially Distant Manner

Once you arrived to the restaurant to claim your reservation, you were led to a table by a host. The tables were all socially spread out and distanced, with the usual plexi glass divider screens; certainly a strange look for a remote on hill ski lodge.

Your Claim Slip
Finding Table D604
Locating a Table Separated by Plexi Glass
Odd layouts in the usually packed five hundred seat restaurant
A Divided Glacier Creek

The cafeteria flows through the Glacier Creek lodge were also reformed into a one way path. It was the same general food, which has gotten a little less exciting over the years. It’s become a bit more cafeteria versus upscale casual.

Vail Resorts Makes an Effort at Apres Ski:

Merlin’s Restaurant Runs at Part Capacity and Part Hours

Vail Resorts has taken a very conservative use of it’s food and beverage outlets under the “new” management. Most of them have been closed in the evenings after apres ski; sometimes they haven’t even made an effort to keep any of them open.

We were able to get in some Apres Ski at the legendary Merlins Restaurant and Bar which has anchored the base of Blackcomb Mountain since 1987. Despite the pandemic making things a little gloomier than normal, it was still nice to sit on an open patio and enjoy a crisp Kokanee Gold draft beer.

The Merlin’s Bar Apres Ski Patio
A Kokanee Gold and a Growers Cider
Views up the Hill

Winter Snow Blasts through the Whistler Valley:

The snow at Whistler Blackcomb was deep at times. There were days that the valley got deep winter blasts of snow. This was a mixed blessing of providing additional snow base, but reservations some times precluded our access to the alpine.

Whistler Winter Snow Dumps
The Covered Olympic Rings at Medal Plaza
A Walk through a snow covered village
White Lanes

Experiencing Skiing at Whistler during a Pandemic:

Well – like many things in the pandemic, it wasn’t perfect. Long lines, reservations that weren’t always available and a ski hill that gave up hope almost immediately when times got tough. I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to a long way domestically or internationally for limited services and experiences. However, better days are ahead and it’s hopeful we’ll be beyond the worldwide pandemic real soon.

If you’ve travelled for downhill skiing, did you have long lines, reservations or a lack of services?

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