Whistler Shoulder Season: Unmissable Things to Do and See
Whistler, Canada, is renowned worldwide as a Winter Wonderland and Summer Paradise. However, this vibrant mountain town is much more than its peak seasons.
Every year, from about April to June, is the first shoulder season in Whistler, which is a time of magical transitions. It’s a unique interlude when Whistler sheds its white Winter coat and dons the vibrant colours of Spring and early Summer.
After recently experiencing my first shoulder season in Whistler, let me share with you why it’s a truly unmissable time of year, all the best things to do here, where to stay and more!
Whistler’s Shoulder Season Weather 🌤️
As spring unfolds and merges into early summer, the weather in Whistler is a delightful mixture, reminiscent of both Winter’s end and Summer’s onset.
April usually ushers in milder temperatures, hovering between 4°C and 12°C. If you’re a winter sports fan, you can still indulge in the last remnants of ski season, as the higher alpine areas often retain their snow. Meanwhile, down in the valley, flowers start to bloom, creating a stunning contrast between the lingering snow and emerging spring colours.
By May, spring is in full swing, with hiking trails emerging from their snowy blanket. Daytime temperatures average between 8°C and 18°C, making it the perfect weather to explore the great outdoors. At this time of year, expect to see endless greenery, crystalline lakes, and cascading waterfalls.
As June arrives, the anticipation of Summer becomes palpable! With temperatures varying between 10°C and 21°C, Whistler morphs into an adventure playground. Long, sun-filled days pave the way for canoeing, kayaking, and golfing, while the cooler evenings are perfect for al fresco dining.
Why Visit Whistler During Shoulder Season?
During the shoulder season, everywhere you go in Whistler truly looks postcard perfect! From the quaint buildings of Whistler Village, to Fitzsimmons Creek, and the Olympic Park, there are so many opportunities to enjoy the stunning scenery, and to experience it all in in total peace, before the masses descend!
Shoulder Season Activities in Whistler
If you’re an adventure enthusiast, then you’re in for a real treat during Whistler shoulder season! At this time of year, the melting snow leads to gushing rivers, making it the best time to go white-water rafting.
Hiking in Whistler
Hiking in Whistler also kicks off during May, with trails like Cheakamus Lake and Train Wreck being less crowded yet equally beautiful.
During this time, you’ll get to witness nature’s rebirth, with blossoming wildflowers painting the valley in colours, and the wildlife beginning to emerge from their winter hideouts.
This is one of the best free things to do in Whistler!
Biking in Whistler
If you love to bike, you can look forward to snow-free trails in Whistler’s shoulder season.
The mountain bike park, with its world-class trails, promises an adrenaline rush, while the Valley Trail offers a more serene ride through Whistler’s incredible landscapes.
Stand-up paddle boarding in Whistler
Another really popular shoulder season activity is stand-up paddle boarding on one of Whistler’s five lakes.
If you’re new to paddle boarding, a guided tour with a certified instructor is probably the best way to dip your toes into this epic Whistler activity!
Fancy exploring more challenging Whistler waterways? Do an advanced SUP instruction with Whistler Eco Tours to take your learning even further!
Best Whistler Indoor Activity: Axe Throwing
One the most unique activities you can do in Whistler’s shoulder season is releasing your inner lumberjack at Forged Axe Throwing!
For me this was a top highlight and is by far one of the most Canadian activities you can try!
It’s very close to the Village and open from 11am to 10pm, so you can easily fit it into your Whistler itinerary (you just need a spare hour or so).
Skiing in Whistler’s Shoulder Season
Although I usually prefer to hit the shops than the slopes, skiing is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Whistler, and shoulder season offers a truly unique skiing experience.
April still has plenty of snow, particularly in the higher alpine areas. The days are longer, the sunlight is stronger, and the temperatures are milder, which makes for a more comfortable skiing experience compared to the frigid winter months. As the day warms up, the après-ski scene comes alive with sunny patios, live music, and vibrant events.
With fewer people around, the ski slopes are less crowded, allowing you to carve down the mountain without the usual congestion. It’s a chance to have more space for yourself and enjoy a more relaxed pace. You’re also likely to find discounts on lift passes and equipment rentals. It’s basically a great opportunity to enjoy world-class Whistler skiing facilities without the peak season price tag.
Overall, skiing in Whistler’s shoulder season is an experience like no other. It combines the thrill of Winter with the beauty and warmth of Spring, giving you the best of both worlds.
Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a novice looking to try something new, shoulder season skiing in Whistler is an adventure that shouldn’t be missed!
Ethical Whistler Bear Safari
Since you’re in bear country, why not do a bear safari with Whistler Photo Safaris, who will take you into the heart of the Canadian wilderness in a custom-built 4×4.
Nestled in the stunning landscapes of British Columbia, this amazing adventure will give you a rare glimpse into the secret life of these magnificent animals. There’s something surreal about watching these majestic creatures in their natural environment, whether they’re foraging for berries, roaming the forest, or playing with their cubs.
Along the way, you’re likely to witness other wildlife such as deer, birds of prey, and even the occasional cougar or wolf. And with the breathtaking landscapes of Whistler as your backdrop, every second is an Instagram moment waiting to happen!
Witness Whistler by Air
Nothing quite compares to the thrill of soaring through the skies over the endless mountains and valleys of Whistler. Whether by seaplane or helicopter, aerial tours of this iconic Canadian town offer an unparalleled vantage point and a unique Whistler adventure that will take your breath away.
From the jagged peaks of the Tantalus Range to the sprawling glaciers that seem to go on forever, the views are truly a sight to behold.
On a clear day, between the towering mountains, you’ll see turquoise alpine lakes and the lush green of the forests stretching out below.
If you’re feeling boujee, why not do a heli-hiking or heli-skiing adventure to really take the experience a notch higher.
These tours allow you to touch down on remote mountain peaks or untouched snowfields, where you can embark on an exclusive hiking or skiing adventure, far from the bustling crowds!
Whistler holds another ace up its sleeve – world-class golf courses!
From the Fairmont Chateau to Big Sky Golf Club, these stunning Whistler golf courses all wear a fresh look in shoulder season, with their greens more inviting than ever as they emerge from their winter slumber.
Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or new to the sport, the Whistler golf scene provides a truly irresistible experience.
Best Day Trips From Whistler
If you can, I highly recommend hiring a car on your Whistler adventure (we used Rental Cars), which gave us the flexibility to see all aspects of Whistler and beyond.
When you hit the road, you’ll quickly discover that there’s so much diversity in this incredible corner of the world, all within easy driving distance from Whistler.
If you have time, Porteau Cove is only an hour from the Village and is well worth exploring.
This gorgeous place overlooks the aquamarine waters of Howe Sound and truly captures the natural beauty of British Columbia’s coastline.
On top of this, Porteau Cove is an amazing place for wildlife spotting – within minutes of our arrival we spotted several sea lions just meters from the shore!
Birkenhead Provincial Park
Another great place to spend an afternoon, and only about 1.5 hours from Whistler, is Birkenhead Provincial Park.
Although we had never heard of this place before, and actually only discovered it by chance when we lost signal, it’s nothing short of spectacular!
Here, the pines stretch towards the sky, creating a beautiful green canopy, and at the heart of the park lies the magnificent Birkenhead Lake, with tranquil waters that seem straight out of a postcard.
Sea to Sky Gondola
The best road trip we did during our Whistler getaway was the Sea to Sky Gondola.
I highly recommend doing this in the morning, as although the drive is only about an hour from Whistler, it could end up taking you half a day because there are just so many stunning viewpoints along the Sea to Sky Highway!
The Sea to Sky Gondola itself is a ten-minute ride that takes you up almost 2,800ft.
The views of Howe Sound and the mountains surrounding Vancouver are honestly out of this world.
Top tip: For the best photo spots, hike the trails to the ‘panorama viewpoint’, or if you don’t want to walk too far, simply cross the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge.
While you’re in the area, I also recommend heading a short distance down the highway to Shannon Falls, which is British Columbia’s third highest waterfall and a gorgeous picnic spot.
It’s also apparently a great place to spot black bears – one was reportedly wandering around just minutes before we arrived!
Vancouver Day Trip: The Jewel of the Pacific Northwest
We couldn’t resist the appeal of doing a Vancouver to Whistler day trip, as it’s only a 1.5 hour drive and often cited as one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
From Grouse Mountain and Stanley Park, to downtown Vancouver and Granville Island, this diverse seaport somehow manages to perfectly intertwine a bustling metropolis with the tranquility of nature, making it an absolute must-do for literally everyone’s Canada itinerary!
Whistler Restaurants and Dining Options
Dining is another reason why the Whistler shoulder season is totally underrated. During this time, some of the best restaurants participate in ‘Whistler’s Spring Dining Specials,’ offering gourmet meals at a fraction of their regular prices.
In terms of my personal recommendations for dining in Whistler, so long as you’re not lactose intolerant, I strongly suggest heading to La Brasserie for their cheese fondue – it’s absolutely delish!
For the best breakfast or brunch in Whistler, Purebread is the perfect place to indulge – their cherry scones and pecan rolls are seriously to die for! It’s also one of the cheaper places to eat in Whistler.
If you’re feeling fancy, head to Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar. This is a well-known for being one of the best restaurants in Whistler and offers a farm-to-table dining experience, with an emphasis on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Bearfoot Bistro is another great Whistler restaurant, particularly if you’re into your wines, as this place is famous for its extensive wine list where you can even enjoy a drink in their wine cellar.
Another amazing Whistler dining spot is Table Nineteen, which has stunning views of Green Lake, and a fantastic menu with lots of healthy options. The general consensus is that this is the prettiest place to dine in Whistler, and after experiencing it for myself, I have to agree!
Finally, if you’re still feeling peckish, head to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Shop in the Village for dessert (it’s the closest thing to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory I’ve ever experienced)!
The Whistler Farmers’ Market also opens in May, which showcases local produce, crafts, and artisanal delicacies, allowing you to get a real taste of the local culture in Whistler.
Where to Stay in Whistler
If you visit Whistler in the shoulder season, you’ll be able to enjoy luxury for less! With the ski season wrapping up and the summer surge yet to arrive, most Whistler hotels offer amazing discounts, making it the ideal time for a budget-friendly, yet luxurious Whistler vacation.
In terms of my personal recommendation, we stayed in the Village at The Crystal Lodge, which was truly exceptional and cost less than £400 per week. The best thing about this hotel is the location – it’s literally steps from the ski hill, shops and the best Whistler restaurants. It’s also got a really cozy mountain lodge feel, but reimagined for a modern hotel experience. Overall, this was a truly fantastic stay and we’ll be back for sure!
For unbeatable Whistler shoulder season deals on accommodation be sure to use Hotellook to find and compare prices!
After spending a week in Whistler during shoulder season, I can truly say that this time of year is pure magic, especially if you’re looking for an unforgettable and crowd-free trip.
Simply put, visiting Whistler during the shoulder season offers a unique perspective of this enchanting town. It combines the thrill of winter sports, the rejuvenation of Spring, and the promise of Summer adventures, all while offering a peaceful, cost-effective, and thoroughly enjoyable holiday!
So pack your bags and experience Whistler’s secret season for yourself! ⛰️🌸
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