This post sets out the two-week itinerary in British Colombia we devised to combine a city break in Vancouver with skiing in Sun Peaks and Whistler.
- Do you have two weeks to go on holiday during the ski season?
- Do you want to ski?
- Do you want to ski in more than one place?
- Do you want to combine a city break and ski holiday in one trip?
When we came up with our Vancouver/Sun Peaks/Whistler trip we answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions. We had two weeks booked off work and we wanted to use the time to go skiing. Canada has world-renowned skiing and as we had never skied there before we quickly decided it was time to rectify that. From that point on the trip came together easily and practically designed itself!
For ideas on how to use your annual leave to get even more time off of work for experiences like this read How To Maximise Your Annual Leave.
As a starting point we asked ourselves the following questions:
Q. What is the best ski resort in Canada?
Q. Which city in Canada do we really want to visit?
Q. Which two Canadian ski resorts are easy to travel between?
What is the best ski resort in Canada?
We didn’t mean for this to be a trick question as what is the ‘best’ is very subjective. Although, apparently, everyone agrees that Whistler-Blackcomb is the best ski resort in Canada, if not in the whole of North America!
Whistler has a legendary status amongst skiers. Moreover, a lot of people who don’t ski have heard of Whistler, such is its fame. But why is Whistler such a renowned ski destination? Some of the reasons are:
- The ski areas on the mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb have been combined to make a skiable area of 8,171 acres. This is the largest ski area in North America. The ski season is long, running from late November to late May.
- There is more than enough to keep even the fittest skier entertained. Whistler-Blackcomb has over 200 trails, 37 lifts, and over 16 mountain restaurants. The highest lift-accessed elevation is 2,284m above sea level (on Blackcomb Mountain).
- The ski village is actually made up of a number of villages, including Whistler Village, Upper Village, and Creekside. There is a huge range of accommodation to choose from and some of the luxury hotels are up there with the best in the world. The amenities and facilities in the villages are second to none!
- There’s a huge amount to do in Whistler beyond skiing. Did you know that Whistler is particularly excellent for eco-friendly family activities?
Once we decided to ski in Canada we knew that we had to experience Whistler for ourselves.
Click here for Whistler-Blackcomb’s website.
Which city in Canada do we really want to visit?
Again, we didn’t mean for this to be a trick question because there are many cities in Canada we want to visit (or visit again). However, once we’d decided we wanted to ski Whistler we ruled out the eastern cities because we didn’t want to spend too much time travelling.
The closest international airport to Whistler is Vancouver, which worked out perfectly for us. Despite it being on our ‘must-visit’ list, neither of us had been to Vancouver before. Time to change that! Vancouver has a reputation for being one of the best cities in the world and we were really excited to finally be able to make it happen.
We were there in the winter when it was freezing cold but we loved Vancouver. It is a city full of great shops, cool bars and restaurants, and interesting districts. Visit Gastown, the oldest district with its famous steam clock. Or experience the buzzing Asian food scene and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown.
We definitely want to go back to Vancouver, perhaps when it’s warmer when we can go whale watching. However, on this trip our particular highlights were:
Stanley Park easily lives up to its hype. It is one of Vancouver’s most popular destinations, a favourite with both locals and tourists. The 400 hectare oasis is on a peninsula in the north-west of the city. It has everything you could want from a park, and more. Well maintained trails, pristine beaches, gardens, cedar and fir trees, tennis courts, a miniature railway, the list goes on. The Park’s totem poles are one of its most famous features. Found at Brockton Point in the east of the Park, the poles are from all over British Colombia.
Whilst Stanley Park needs to be visited several times at different times of the year to really do it justice, you can still see a lot in one day. We enjoyed walking along the 5.5 mile-long sea wall circling the Park’s perimeter. We also visited the Park’s aquarium, the largest in Canada and a leader in aquatic conservation. It was great to spend time with the dolphins, seals, otters, beluga whales, and sea lions!
Granville Island Public Market
Whilst Granville Island may not actually be an island, Granville Island Public Market is the real thing. With over 50 vendors selling fresh produce, gourmet delights, seafood, cheese, charcuterie, and more, it is easy to while away a couple of hours in this delightful place. And if you do so you’re not alone; the Island receives over 10 million visitors each year.
Getting to Granville Island is half the fun. Whilst you can get there by road, our favourite way to arrive was by one of the boats which criss-cross False Creek. Crossing the water by a ferry makes it feel like you really are landing on an island.
Which two Canadian ski resorts are easy to travel between?
We mentioned at the start of this article that Canada has world-renowned ski resorts so we knew it would be tough to choose our second ski area. Lake Louise, Banff, Big White, and Mont Tremblant were all on the list of contenders. In the end, however, we settled on Sun Peaks.
Consider yourself forgiven if you’ve just read the last paragraph and said ‘where?’ when you read ‘Sun Peaks’. Until we started planning this trip we’d never heard of Sun Peaks. It’s not as well known as other Canadian ski resorts for reasons we can’t now fathom, having been there. Sun Peaks is a fantastic ski area because:
- It has 4,270 acres of skiable terrain stretched over 3 mountains. It has 13 lifts, 137 trails, and 17 gladed areas with a good mixture of terrain to suit all abilities. There are hardly any crowds out on the mountains making skiing here even more of a pleasurable experience.
- It receives around 6 metres of snow annually. Whistler’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean means that its snow conditions can be wet. Sun Peaks is better protected as it is further inland and, therefore, it has wonderful snow conditions.
- With over 2,000 hours of sunshine annually it certainly lives up to its name. The ski season runs from mid-November to mid-April.
Whilst researching this trip we discovered the ski shuttle which runs between Sun Peaks and Whistler. It takes 5 hours 30 minutes and drives through the heart of the mountains. The views are spectacular! The existence of this shuttle makes combining time in Whistler and Sun Peaks a no-brainer. The travel time between the two resorts is considerably less than the time it would take to get to Lake Louise et al. Why would we want to spend time travelling when we could spend it skiing?
Click here to link to the Sun Peaks website to learn more. The link to the transfer information is in the Itinerary section under ‘Day 9’.
To read more about Sun Peaks and Whistler, as well as some of our other favourite skiing destinations, read 9 Ski Resorts to Make You Fall in Love with Skiing
Flight from London Heathrow to Vancouver International
|Departed at 1720 (UK time) landing in Vancouver at 1900 (Canadian time) flying with British Airways.|
|3 nights in total, staying at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa|
Flight from Vancouver International to Kamloops
|Departed at 11:00 landing in Kamloops at 11:46 flying with Air Canada Express. |
|Transfer from Kamloops airport to Sun Peaks||Travelled on the Kamloops Airport Shuttle booked through Sun Peaks Central Reservations. Transfer time is around 50 minutes.|
Skiing at Sun Peaks
|5 nights in total, 4 full days of skiing, staying at the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel.|
Transfer from Sun Peaks to Whistler
|Travelled by the Whistler Connection booked through the Sun Peaks website. Transfer time is around 5 hours 30 minutes.|
Skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb
|5 nights in total, 4 full days of skiing, staying at Nita Lake Lodge, Creekside.|
Transfer from Whistler-Blackcomb to Vancouver International
|Travelled with Pacific Coast Lines booked through Perimeter Transportation. Information about transfers here. Transfer time is around 2 hours 30 minutes. |
|Flight from Vancouver International to London Heathrow.||Departed at 22:10 (Canadian time) landing in London at 14:30 (UK time) flying with British Airways.|
For tips to help you plan your own multi-destination itinerary read Top Tips for Planning a Multi-Country Itinerary
We chose to spend our 3 nights in Vancouver at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa. This is a beautiful, elegant, boutique hotel in Downtown Vancouver. It is luxurious and sophisticated, yet comfortable and relaxing at the same time. The hotel is beautifully decorated with sumptuous fabrics, crystal chandeliers, and dark wood furniture. The Wedgewood is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group, which gives you an idea of how stunning a hotel it is.
The spa was wonderful and the food in the Bacchus Restaurant was delicious. We particularly enjoyed coming in from the cold air and getting cosy by the fireplace with a cocktail. The gym is well-equipped but on the small side, although perfectly fine for a boutique hotel.
We highly recommend staying in this hotel, especially in the winter time. Even if minimalist chic is your thing it would still be hard not to be impressed by how gorgeous this hotel is!
We stayed at the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel. The hotel is right next to the slopes in the centre of the village and is ski-in/ski-out. It really couldn’t be more convenient for the ski area. There is onsite ski storage and rental, although it is just steps away from other rental places. It has its own restaurant and bar but we preferred eating out rather than at the hotel. We tried the hotel restaurant on the first night and were underwhelmed. In our view, there are more atmospheric places to eat in the village with better food.
The Sun Peaks Grand is billed as a 4-star luxury hotel and it is certainly well-appointed. However, we found it to be more functional than luxurious and lacking in character. But we accept that we may be being way too fussy!
With the number of options available we found it difficult to choose where to rest our weary ski bodies, but ultimately decided to stay at the Nita Lake Lodge in Creekside. We highly recommend this hotel and it is deserving of its ‘luxurious’ label. Although described as a boutique hotel, with 77 rooms it is on the larger side of ‘boutique’. The facilities include onsite restaurants, ski storage, a gym and yoga studio, a spa, outdoor hot tubs, and a courtesy shuttle to Whistler Village. The lake which gives the lodge its name is to the rear of the hotel is a stunning sight and it is possible to walk along the lakeside trail to the heart of Whistler.
If you’re thinking of skiing for the first time (and we definitely think you should!) you must read Your First Time Skiing Questions, Answered.
We loved this multi-centre itinerary because we really made the most of our fortnight in British Colombia. It allowed us to combine a good amount of sightseeing with skiing in two fantastic ski areas, but the trip never felt rushed. The next time we have two weeks for a winter holiday we will definitely do something similar.