Known as North America’s largest ski resort and with more than 2,200 acres of black and double black runs alone, the sheer amount of terrain at Whistler Blackcomb is impressive. You could spend a week exploring the resort and never hit the same run twice. The trails here run the gamut of challenging terrain, from wide-open bowls speckled with jutting rock bands to steep, narrow, powder-filled chutes only accessed by launching rocky overhangs.
There are a handful of expert trails at Whistler Blackcomb that will kickstart your adrenaline and leave you begging for more. Here are six of the best.
The first sight of Whistler Bowl as you’re gliding over it on the Peak Express chairlift will make you weak in the knees. The rocky area under the lift is home to the most challenging lines in Whistler Bowl, and while the ledges under the chair are marked with frozen waterfalls, they are a favorite launching point on plentiful snow days. (The largest of the cascades is referred to by locals as “Air Jordan.”)
The entire bowl, however, presents plenty of opportunities for everything from deep powder S-turns after a storm to jumping over Volkswagon-sized bumps after it’s had some traffic. The fun continues once you reach the base of the bowl and enter more cliff-dropping terrain off the ridge above Grand Finale venture into the broad chute ironically named Doom & Gloom. This Bowl is designed for expert skiers of all varieties—bump lovers, rock jumpers and those who prefer wide turns.
Take a right from the top of Peak Express and follow Upper-Peak-To-Creek beyond two closed areas of cliff bands. Immediately beyond the second closed area, take a right down what’s usually a wall-like cornice measuring about 12 feet. Here you’ll find Monday’s.
This run, more than any other in West Bowl, collects what might be the softest, velvety snow on Whistler Mountain. Its north-facing angle means it holds decent snow for weeks at a time. The top half of the run is narrow and requires negotiating tight turns, but it widens and becomes less steep as you work your way into West Bowl. You are funneled into Highway 86, which takes you to the base of Big Red Express, nearly 3,000 vertical feet and two lift rides away from where you started.
<<Rent demo skis or heated ski boots and try them out in the bowls.>>
3. The Cirque/Couloir
These two runs offer the steepest slope angle on Whistler Mountain. Accessed by taking a left off of the top of the Peak Express chairlift, both runs begin by dropping off a cornice that can at times become concave. They are the only two skiable chutes off of this aspect of Whistler’s highest ridge and they both feel pretty close to straight down, dropping 900 vertical feet around numerous rock bands. They are best-suited for individuals adept at making short radius turns and enjoy popping off of steep, natural snow walls.
4. Couloir Extreme
Starting with a breathtaking panorama of nearly every peak in the Coast Range, you really do feel like you’re dropping out of the clouds when you launch down the nearly 2,500 vertical feet of consistently high angle (42-degree) steeps of the Couloir Extreme.
Originally dubbed the Saudan Couloir, the slope used to host the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme in which racers—mostly locals—would launch off the top cornice with some sort of 1980s-inspired trick (like a back scratcher or backflip), then negotiate not only the slope’s bounty of ruts, bumps, and rock outcroppings, but also a number of closely placed gates. For that reason, it’s best-suited for skiers and riders with thighs of steel who enjoy short radius turns.
Get here by taking a left from the top of 7th Heaven Express chairlift or a right off of the top of Horstman T-Bar and skating across the top of the ridgeline. Beware of exposed rock as you roll over the nose at the top.
5. Ruby Bowl
Like the other bowls off of Spanky’s Ladder, Ruby Bowl is accessed by taking a left off of the top of Glacier Express chair and hiking up the slope to the right. The boot-packed steps are normally easy to spot, but the 50-foot climb is steep and can take your breath away. The hike takes you to a knife-like ridge, and stay to the skier’s left to traverse to Ruby, one of the more simply accessed bowls off of Spanky’s. (There is some side-stepping necessary to avoid the rocks and cliffs at the top.)
The bowl opens into an expanse of lower angle, wide turns snaking through the remaining cliff areas. This area is best suited to experts who don’t mind putting in a little cardio to reach untouched snow.
6. Sapphire Chutes
Also accessed at the top of Glacier Express chair by hiking up Spanky’s Ladder, the entry point into Sapphire Chutes is the most intimidating of any run at Whistler Blackcomb, arguably of any in-bounds ski trail anywhere. From that knife-like ridge at the top of Spanky’s, go skier’s right into the high traverse across Garnet Bowl to the shaded side of the ridge that is home to the Chutes. Pretty much the only way in is a straight line through the narrow rock openings. The farther right you go at the top, the scarier it gets.
These chutes are designed for true adrenaline junkies comfortable with hitting their top speed between rocks before reeling it in on slower, more controlled turns.
Ready to take on the challenge at Whistler? Check out Epic Mountain Gear’s An Insider’s Guide to Whistler Blackcomb: North America’s Largest Ski Resort for everything you need to know for a great trip to British Columbia.
Featured image provided by bartkusa