Western Canada’s reputed crown jewel, the community of Whistler, British Columbia is often ranked as the #1 travel destination for adventurers, skiers and snowboarders, hikers, climbers and global travellers itching to get a sense of what Canada’s Rockies are all about.
So, you’re thinking of moving to Whistler?
Playing base-camp to legions of eco-tourism, sightseeing, and cultural highlights, this resort municipality is both a budding semi-urban alpine destination and a feather in the cap of BC’s Pacific Ranges Coast Mountains.
Classified as a resort municipality and incorporated as such in 1975 as the first of its kind in Canada, Whistler is home to 9,900 permanent residents and sits at an elevation of 670m above sea level. Due to its popularity as a ski destination, it sees an influx of over 2 million people per year.
Inhabiting the ancestral lands of the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations, it was first visited by Europeans in 1858 by Scottish veteran of the California gold rush, Will Downie, and Joseph Mackay, a former Hudson’s Bay Company employee. They were led there by Lil’wat guides. Whistler was settled by Europeans Myrtle and Alex Philip in 1914 with hopes of starting a world class fishing resort.
In 1914, the Whistler Valley was made accessible by Pacific Great Eastern Railway, reaching Alta Lake, and within a day’s trek from rapidly growing Vancouver. Inspired by the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, a group of Vancouver businessmen dreamt of building a ski resort that would rival the world’s best and to being the Olympics to the Coast Mountain, so with Norwegian-born Franz Wilhelmsen leading the charge, a site was chosen at the base of London Mountain in Garibaldi Park. London Mountain’s name was changed to Whistler Mountain in 1965 – after the nickname given to the peak because of the consistent whistling of marmots that would greet summer hikers.
Whistler Mountain officially opened for business as a ski destination on January 15th, 1966.
Parks and Recreation
Whistler is home to 23 municipal parks, ranging from children’s parks and small community parkettes, to massive nature retreats and recreational parks that expose people to the majesty of BC’s outdoor environment.
Lost Lake Park is accessible via the Valley Trail and boasts 25 kilometres of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails and nearly 100 kilometres of hiking and biking trails for the summer months. Lost Lake Beach is a pristine local swimming hole known for its sandy beach and now – food trucks on site as part of the RMOW’s Food Truck Pilot Program.
The Valley Trail is one of the community’s signature assets, providing residents and seasonal visitors with 40 kilometre network of wide paved trails linking key destinations in the Village and Upper Village, as well as other parks and commercial centres, schools and neighbourhoods.
Rainbow Park is another local gem, enjoying spectacular views of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, swimming in Alta Lake, a great dog park (Barking Bay), beach volleyball court, summer concessions, and more – only 15 minutes from the Village.
Whistler also boasts impressive skateboard park at over 50,000 square feet, it’s the 2nd largest in Canada – as well as new mountain bike parks, BMX tracks, canoe, kayak and SUP rentals and exemplary trail networks to further support its growing cultural community.
Festivals & Events
No stranger to a good party, festival, or event, Whistler is home to a plethora of cultural offerings. Notably, the Whistler Film Festival is produced by the Whistler Film Society (WFSS) and is held annually over 5 days in the first weekend of December.
The Municipality shares and posts numerous community events held locally, ranging from the inaugural Festival of Trees, a month-long enchanted forest of decorated flora developed to raise money for the BC Children’s Hospital, to the theatrical offerings of the Short Skirt Theatre, to the numerous snowboard and ski events held by the resort in the winter months. Notable competitions include: the 3-part series King of the Rail park competition, 24th Annual Telus Winter Classic, the Peak to Valley Race and the BC Freestyle Timber Tour.
Family-friendly events include the Fire and Ice Show, an eclectic mix of music, skiing, dance and fire – made free every Sunday evening. The Whistler Pride and Ski Festival is one of the biggest LGBTQ ski weeks on earth and has enjoyed being hosted at Whistler for the last 25 years.
GO Fest – Whistler’s Great Outdoors Festival opts to celebrate Whistler’s natural environment every Spring with both arts and cultural inspirations making four days of programming over Victoria Day long weekend. And the piece du resistance: the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, a marathon event combining sport, music and art, the WSSF is a 10-day fest featuring Canada’s largest outdoor free concert series, ski and snowboard competitions, film events, nightlife, and world class mountain culture.
Accessibility & Transportation
Whistler is located on the British Columbia Highway #99, known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway, about 58 km north of Squamish and 125 km from Metro Vancouver. The Sea-to-Sky connects the municipality to the BC Interior via Pemberton-Mount Currie and Lillooet connections beyond the Cariboo and Trans-Canada highway’s.
Rail service is available from Whistler to North Vancouver via the Whistler Mountaineer. The service no longer schedules regular passengers and is elite-class rail service only. From Whistler, rail service is available to Jasper via the Rocky Mountaineer using the CN Railway from North Van to Whistler and Prince George.
Local bus transit is available through the Whistler and Valley Express, providing service to Pemberton as well. Greyhound Canada provides a commuter service between Pemberton and Whistler as well. The Whistler Shuttle provided bus service from Downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Intl Airport.
Whistler is accessible by 4 airport and air services: The Vancouver International Airport, the Pemberton Regional Airport, Whistler Municipal Heliport, and the Whistler/Green Lake Water Aerodome, a floatplane service owned and operated by Whistler Air and the Harbour AIr Group.
Consistently ranking as one of the top ski resorts in the world, Whistler is a global leader among destination communities. Attracting over 2.7 million visitors annually makes the economy is Whistler a bustling, well-oiled machine, with over $1.4 billion in total consumer spending in 2015 – up by $170 million since 2011-12.
85% of this economic impact is generated by visitors, providing a daily tax revenue of $1.37 million in economic activity. All of this means that Whistler is directly responsible for 25% of British Columbia’s total tourism export revenue. And, for a town with a permanent residence of only 9,900 people, the community employs over 15,000 people, a growing statistic, up 10% since 2011/12.
Average household income for residents of Whistler is a solid $106,411 well above the provincial average of $84,080. Of the businesses in Whistler, 93% are small, locally owned organizations. The median age is 32.4 years old, and 60% of the residents have a post secondary education.
Education & Healthcare
There are two Elementary schools in Whistler, the Myrtle Philip Elementary School and Spring Creek Elementary, both operated by School District 48 Sea to Sky. The lone high school in the community is the Whistler Secondary School.
The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique operates one Francophone primary school in the community: the école La Passerelle.
Health Care is offered through the Whistler Medical Clinic, the only full-service clinic in the area with full scale x-ray, imaging, lab services and acute care services available on-site. The Clinic is home to five family doctors who operate individual practices within one spared space in the heart of the Whistler Village. Specialities include paediatrics, dermatology, neurology, podiatry, urology, gynaecology, orthopaedics and child psychiatry.
For more guides of the lower mainland, be sure not to miss:
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