Whitefish skiers
High on Adventure


Whiling Away Time on the Ski Slopes of Canada and the USA
Story and Photographs by Larry Turner

Friends are constantly encouraging me to go south for winter warmth. Sometimes, I do, for a period. But I can never give up winter and early spring skiing in its entirety, especially on bluebird-see-forever days when my heart and soul soar as I sluice down a mountain of glistening white, enveloped in fresh air, and release endorphins like a jet stream.

I arrived in BC, Canada, via a jet stream from Auckland, New Zealand, a year ago in early March. My ski buddy John Paulson was waiting at the Vancouver International Airport. After 17-plus hours in the air, I was anxious to get back on terra firma. The Vancouver arrival was one of those bluebird days, a lovely mix of cotton clouds with islands sparkling like jewels in the morning sun as we neared the airport. The all-night flight had taken a toll on the passengers and crew. All of us were looking forward to stretching our legs, retrieving our luggage and then taking off to our respective places for a day of hibernation. I had gone from winter to summer and back to winter. Short-sleeved shirts and shorts would be replaced by long sleeves, wool, sweaters and coats.

John wasted no time as he drove us to Whistler, fewer than a hundred miles north. He had already stopped at Granville Island for a stroll and some shopping before picking me up. Granville Island is a vibrant farmers, fishermen and artisan market open seven days a week. John is a consummate packer, who brought a cache of goodies from the States, including wild game and fish that he had harvested. Once when we were crossing through customs, the attending agent said wryly, “By the way, we do have food in Canada.” We laugh about that often, but his packing list has not changed that much. We do buy all of our fresh produce in Canada for our two-week stay and, often at the Granville Island Market, we purchase fresh seafood, including salmon and bottom fish and special treats such as fresh oysters, scallops, clams. Granville is one of the few places in the world where I can find poppy-seed pastries. John did look, but this time, could not find them.


  Whistler lighted trees   Whistler sledding  
  Whistler snowing on pool   Whistler doggs tussling  
  Highweay to Whistler   Whistler gondola ride  
  Whistler trail sign   Whistler gondola ride  

The drive to Whistler was filled with plenty of sunshine and views of glorious mountain and waterway scenery. In some ways, it was mindful of the New Zealand South Island scenery by which I had just been embraced. We arrived at our World Mark Whistler Cascade Lodge, unpacked, soaked in one of their two hot tubs, made dinner and crashed. Our ground-floor room is convenient for accessing the pool and ski storage room, and also the free ski bus which has a stop just across the street. John was up and anxious to ski the following morning. I stayed in the room, resting from the jet lag.

As always, our Whistler-Blackcomb days were marvelous. John put his Epic Pass (www.epicpass.com) to use as he skied everyday during our two-week stay. I skied less than half as much using his Epic Buddy Pass which cuts the day ticket price of $185 US in half. A season Epic Pass is just over $900. The Canadian exchange is $1 CAD to $0.74 US. Skiing is an expensive sport, so I always recommend getting season passes if you plan to spend a fair number of days on the slope. Senior passes are less expensive. The beauty of the Epic Pass, Indy Pass (https://www.indyskipass.com/) and Ikon Pass (https://www.ikonpass.com/), which as of February 29, 2024 is no longer available for the current season, is that they offer you a wide selection of resorts to ski/ride. For-instance, the Indy Pass offers 180-plus resorts for skiing/riding in the US, Canada, Japan and Europe.


  Whistler inukshuk   Whistler  
  Whistler outdoor dining   Whistler outdoor food prep  
  Whistler hot tub   Whistler Olympics info board  
  Whistler pub   Whistler old photograph  
  Whistler totem statue   Whistler art gallery  
  Whistler outdoor dining bubble   Whistler cross country sky trail sign  

I intentionally picked bluebird days to downhill ski. Whistler-Blackcomb is such a large double-mountain complex that you could ski all day and not take the same run twice. When you’re not downhill skiing, you can enjoy a plethora of other activities at this Olympic mountain. Cross country skiing at Lost Lake Park is my favorite off-slope activity. Lost Lake also has snow shoeing. Lost Lake PassivHaus is a five minute walk from Whistler Village. Since I bring my cross country ski gear from the States, I’m able to ski from the Village to the PassivHaus. Trail passes, rental gear and refreshments are available at the PassivHaus. Their coffee, soups and desserts are superb! Trail passes are $26 Canadian for a full day and half price after 3pm. I generally go for the $13 pass after 3pm..

For all you adrenaline junkies, look no further than the Whistler Sliding Centre (https://www.whistlerslidingcentre.com/) for bobsled and skeleton on the World’s fastest track. John and I once did the 4-man bobsled with world-famous Pat Brown, the legendary coach of the Jamaican bobsled team featured in the movie Cool Runnings. Pulling 4-plus Gs, our time was the fastest of the month. If bobsledding and the skeleton whet your appetite for more thrills, try zip-lining at Ziptrek Ecotours (https://ziptrek.com/). We’ve experienced all of the above activities. One that we haven’t tried is the Whistler Bungee jumping (https://www.whistlerbungee.com/). Nor have we done the dog sledding (https://www.canadianwilderness.com/whistler/dog-sledding/), although I’ve done it elsewhere in Canada. We have relished the relaxing ‘sport’ of the Scandinave Spa Whistler (https://www.scandinave.com/). It is an essential for John on our annual Whistler visit as he is 100 percent Norwegian-Swedish!

Whistler offers many pre- and post-ski activities. Shopping, dining, the art gallery scene, and other outdoor activities are abundant. You’ll never get bored here, and when you depart, you’ll have an extra bounce to your steps and a wider smile on your face. One activity that we never miss is the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration at Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub. The celebratory energy is off the charts, as is the flowing Guinness and the live music. John, our ski friend Jan Wimberly, and I celebrated our Irish blood, no matter how thick or thin.

The Olympic Village has a lot of activities for children and young adults, too, including ice skating. Early Sunday evening is the popular Fire and Ice Show at the base of the Blackcomb and Whistler gondolas. A must-see is a visit to the Whistler Museum (https://whistlermuseum.org/) where you will get a fascinating history lesson on the area.


  Washington State swans   Washington State swans  
  Washington State rows of daffodils   Washington State daffodil tourism  
  Washington State waterway   Washington State waterwayu  

After departing Whistler, John dropped me off at my cousin’s Mount Vernon residence. I spent a week exploring the mountain and coastal area, including Mount Baker, La Conner, Whidbey Island, Anacortes, and Bellingham. The famous tulips and daffodils were coming on strong around Mount Vernon. Migrating swans and snow geese were everywhere in farm fields and wetlands.

My cousin Laura was in between jobs, so instead of taking me to a train to visit my son in Whitefish, Montana, she drove me there. We were accompanied by our Boston Terrier buddy Rosie (Autumn Rose). We crossed most of Washington state on Highway 2, a rural route that is charming and has no freeway traffic. I especially enjoyed traveling through Washington’s wheat country, a bucolic landscape in the Big Open with picturesque farms and old barns and forever views. Laura put studded snow-tires on her vehicle, thinking they would be essential. Lo and behold, the only ice we ran into was in the last block leading to my son’s residence on the edge of Glacier National Park.

SKIING the FISH (Whitefish)

  Whitefish chef   Whitefish skiing food  
  Whitefish skiing   Whitefish skiing fancy glove  
  Whitefish skiing   Whitefish skiing  
  Whitefish skiing   Whitefish skiing  
  Whitefish skiing   Whitefish skiers  

Whitefish, Montana’s Big Mountain (https://skiwhitefish.com/), is one of my favorite places to ski on the planet. Whitefish Mountain Resort lives up to its name with 360 degrees of skiing and riding. This year (2024), the mountain has more than14 feet of snow, the most of any resort in Montana. The Fish generally closes around my son’s April 8th birthday. It is the perfect place for me to wrap up a ski season, as my son lives there. He is the executive chef of Grouse Mountain Lodge (https://www.glacierparkcollection.com/lodging/grouse-mountain-lodge/). At $165, I can get a season pass at the Fish. With 111 runs and 11 lifts to choose from, there is never boredom at the Fish.

Whitefish bluebird ski days are heavenly with stunning views from the summit of Flathead Valley, Glacier National Park, Whitefish and Flathead Lakes, and numerous mountain ranges that surround the Fish. The Fish and nearby Blacktail Mountain Ski Area (https://blacktailmountain.com/) are the only places where I have witnessed and photographed the Fata Morgana mirage https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana. The Fata Morgana is an optical illusion creating mirages on the horizon. Wikipedia describes it: “A Fata Morgana is a complex form of superior mirage visible in a narrow band right above the horizon. Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable.” It is best that you see it to believe it!

Big Mountain (Whitefish Mountain Resort) is Olympic Gold Medalist Tommy Moe’s home mountain. The first week in March is the Tommy Moe Kids Race League’s Dual Slalom Finals. March 30 is the Spring S.N.O.W. Bus Brew Fest with 20 breweries represented. The season wraps up with the Pond Skim (https://skiwhitefish.com/events/) on April 6. Costumes are encouraged when skiing or riding on April 6-7. Registration for the Pond Skim is $50 with the potential of winning the $1500 cash first prize. You can’t win if you don’t play.



  Larry Turner is a productive, respected regional, national and international photographer/writer. His work has appeared in countless magazines and books, including Browntrout and Avalanche Publishers' calendars and books, American Heritage, National Geographic Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Sunset and many others. He is the co-author of the book Mount Shasta Reflections, and his photographs have appeared on covers of many books and magazines.  He is an active skier, gardener, fly fisherman,  and adventurer. His greatest love is spending time with his son Steen, Chef de Cuisine of the Cafe Kandahar in Whitefish, Montana. Click for Larry's Facebook page.   Larry Turner