So, after many (too many) trials and errors, I’ve compiled The-Everything-You-Need-Guide to Packing for Whistler Blackcomb.
The biggest advice I can offer is do not expect to buy the cheap snow gear and be able to last all day on the mountain. I’ve done it, thought I was being smart saving $100 by buying a jacket at Winners or some other non-specialty brand store. I froze and/or melted and usually ended up being miserable. What may be just fine in the city, WILL NOT cut it on the hill. Not if you want to last longer than 2 hours. And trust me, you don’t want to be caught paying for a pair of gloves mid-mountain. Let’s just say, it’s not where the deals are.
First it’s important to understand that the BC coastal range is fairly wet and relatively warm, but due to our high peak elevation weather can range from super windy and cold at the peak to practically tropical near the village. So, how do you prepare for the unpredictable? Read on…
Here are a few tips to ensure you are armed and ready to conquer Whistler Blackcomb:
1. Layering – Layering is the key. As I mentioned, Whistler Village can be several degrees warmer than the alpine and as you make your way down the 2000+ meter elevation the temperature will constantly change. On some days the weather can be as dramatic as going from totally freezing to ridiculously boiling – you will want options – which means layering. You maintain your ideal temperature as you strip off or put on those layers throughout the day. Plus, chances are you’ll be popping in from the nippy outdoors to heated shops and restaurants. So layer-up (or off) and stay comfortable.
2. Base layers – I recommend merino wool base layers – it’s light, thin but warm and keeps you dry. It’s worth spending the extra money. Plus they last a long time. I especially recommend merino wool socks – they are thin yet just as warm as full wool socks. And we all know that bulky socks squished into boots for a day of riding are not the best.
3. Backpack – Strap a light, waterproof pack on your back because you’ll be taking off and putting on clothes fairly often. Backpacks are also good for holding snacks, ChapStick, your cell phone, hot pockets and extra socks. But you NEED a backpack, you do not want not be tying sweaters around your waist.
4. Outer shells – This is probably the most important bit of advice. Do not skimp on a proper outwear, as the conditions in Whistler can vary so much from the top to the bottom, it is essential you are covered. If you can afford it, go with Gore-Tex and make sure they have sealed seams and armpit zippers. If not Gore-Tex, get a great outer shell and pants that are wind & water proof. Couple this with a decent removable soft-shell and good base layers underneath you’ll be covered in every condition.
5. Rent gear – My advice, don’t bother bringing your skis or snowboards. It’s expensive to travel with and frankly, if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain, it might be the wrong type of ski/board. The rental companies know the best gear for the conditions in Whistler, so I always suggest you defer to the locals who know. The best part is you can always change it – if it’s icy when you arrive but dumps the next day, change it up for a powder ski. Plus there are services that will have your gear waxed and waiting for you at your accommodation and will pick it up when you’re ready to go.
If you follow these recommendations, I am confident you will be comfortable in pretty much anything the mountain can throw at you.
See you on the slopes!