Are you looking for things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers? With world-class terrain, Whistler is a destination that people from all around the world swoon to for deep powder and excellent terrain. However, as an adventure hub, the town of Whistler offers so much more to explore beyond the slopes and I wanted to share a first-hand guide of things you can do on your next visit to Whistler for those that don’t want to go skiing or snowboarding.
A bit of background: I’ve been going to Whistler for over 30 years and have only snowboarded it once! (yes, only 1 time!). However, many will find that hard to believe as I am an avid snowboarder but with so many other amazing adventures I always find myself booking time off the hill. I often get asked “what is there to do in Whistler in the winter?” From Nordic skiing to Nordic spa, snowshoeing to snowmobiling, to strolling the village, this is your all-inclusive guide put together by a local, for you to explore.
So dig in and start planning all the things you will do when you head up to Whistler and visit this winter!
Things To Do In Whistler in Winter For Non-Skiers
Skating in Whistler Village
Located in the heart of the village right behind the Olympic rings is Whistler’s outdoor skating rink. My kids love the loop on the rink and the unique design and I love how accessible it is for a little adventure without having to trek too far from the village. This is a perfect activity to do while wandering around Whistler Village and one of our favourite things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers.
Tubing In Whistler Village
As a family, one of the non-negotiable adventures when we head up to Whistler in the Winter is a trip the the Bubly Tube Park. With a motorized escalator to take you up the hill, and slides that will give the whole family an adrenaline rush, a tubing adventure is the perfect place to play in the snow in Whistler. Click this link to read an in-depth article showcasing our full experience tubing in Whistler.
If you love a burst of adrenaline, then how does flying through the snowy trees on a zipline sound? Fun for kids of all ages I had my daughter and my mom on our winter zipline experience and it was so much fun to hear them both squealing through the trees. This is one of my top things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers!
Audain Art Museum
If you are interested in visiting an Indigenous art museum the Audain Art Museum is the place to go. The museum is huge at 56,000 square feet and showcases the private collection of Michael Audain. “The Audain Art Museum is a transformative experience for appreciating the art of British Columbia.” They offer “Unique and evolving exhibitions from Canada and around the world.” The weather in Whistler can often be wet and cold, so this is the perfect things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers when you need a break and want to warm up and dry off. Learn more and plan your visit here.
Adventures around Whistler For Non-Skiers
Snowshoeing in Whistler offers a serene way to explore it’s stunning winter landscapes, with a variety of trails catering to all skill levels. Walk through old growth forests, view snow-capped mountains and pass by frozen lakes. Snowshoeing is a great way to connect with the outdoors and is a fantastic things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers of all ages. In Whistler it is easy to head out on a self-guided hike or sign up for a snowshoeing tour.
Be sure to save some time in your adventure schedule when visiting Whistler for an evening show at Callighan Park. Vallea Lumina is a multimedia light show that is another absolute must when visiting (full disclosure, I’ve been five times and I would go again in a heartbeat, it’s just that good!). Click here for a more detailed look at our recent trip to Vallea Lumina along with photos.
One of the first family adventures that we ever took part in as travel writers was a snowmobiling tour in Whistler and my kids still talk about it ten years later! It was a perfect family-friendly activity as everyone got to have their own machine, with the kids riding on the back. We enjoyed a deep powder day and had lots of fun trails to explore with our guide, one of our favourite things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers. Check out one of the first posts we ever wrote about snowmobiling in Whistler and you can expect it upon your visit.
Nordic Skiing & Biathlon at Whistler Olympic Park
Perhaps you still want to try skiing but aren’t interested in the downhill speed, well nordic skiing could be the perfect fit. This past winter I headed up to Whistler Olympic Park and tried it for the first time and am excited to share a first-hand experience showcasing what you can expect on your cross-country adventure.
Disclosure: I wasn’t sure about the difference between the terms “Nordic skiing” and “cross-country skiing” but discovered that both are used as an umbrella term for the sport. There are different varieties of skis and skills within the sport so for the purpose of this article we will call it Nordic skiing.
Day Lodge at Whistler Olympic Park – Where Your Nordic Skiing Adventure Begins
After a sun-soaked drive up to Whistler Olympic Park, we were at the Whistler Olympic Park Day Lodge where we geared up in traditional cross-country skis (as opposed to the alternative option which was “skates”). After changing into our rental boots, our instructor Mark taught us how to put on our skis and grab our poles as we headed out into the trees for a day of skiing bliss.
Okay, I’ll be honest, that’s how we thought it would go but we started out spending about 15 minutes on the learn-to-go Nordic skiing on the little ski bunny hill (I thought it would be a click-in-and-go whereas it took a bit of learning to get the motion down). On the safety of the gently sloped bunny hill, Mark taught us essential skills like walking, pole management, gliding, and of course, what to do when you fall! (Yes it happened, no there are no photos).
Nordic Ski Trails at Whistler Olympic Park
Once we were ready, we were invited to slide into the cross-country tracks at the Whistler Olympic Park and head out on the Neverland Trail. This 1 km loop would take us by the Olympic rings from the 2010 Vancouver Whistler Olympic games, where we stopped for an educational story about the games, the history of the park, and updates on how the park is used post-Olympics. It was neat to be standing in front of the rings at -20 degrees and have multiple skiers trek by, all enjoying their leisurely day out on the mountain. The park still welcomes guests from all around the world and hosts a variety of events each year.
Olympic Sign at Whistler Olympic Park
I’ll never forget what it was like to be a host city for the Winter 2010 games and seeing the big Olympic rings brought back those fond memories. So of course, even though it was really cold I had to stop and pose for a photo or two (and I highly recommend you do the same!).
As we continued traversing across the snow we enjoyed beginner trails that were easy to navigate and didn’t put us into any challenging terrain. After about 1km we ended up at the biathlon experience, ready to try our next adventure.
Biathlon Experience at Whistler Olympic Park
If you are interested in trying out biathlon at Whistler Olympic Park this is a great way to do it. Combined with the beginner Nordic ski session our guides broke down the new skills for us, starting with the Nordic skiing and then adding on the biathlon lessons once we were at the range.
Arriving at the range was a really fun experience as we were greeted by a crew of really outgoing and passionate staff. It was clear that they were as excited to welcome us and share their sport as we were to try it out (even though I was feeling a bit nervous). Mark shared the step-by-step safety instructions combined with educational information about the sport, and within a few minutes, it was our turn to learn and try to shoot our targets.
And guess what… I shot 5/5! I couldn’t believe it. I thought that it would be way harder but with a deep breath and a steady hand, I was able to make the shot. Until…
Mark and the team gently reminded me that I had only completed half of what a biathlon truly is… that I had just shot the gun but real athletes do a 4km sprint and then come and try to shoot, and that with an elevated heart rate and adrenaline pumping that it would be indeed much different… and it was my turn to learn for myself!
While they were kind enough to not make me run a 4km course they made me put on the skis and do a 400-meter dash, up a hill, over a bridge, and then back down to the range. Any guesses on how many shots I got after the physical exertion? 3/5… not too shabby but I was surprised at how much harder it was to get the targets after coming in off of the skis.
Why This Adventure Is Perfect In Cold Weather
We went in -20C and there was a windchill but because it was physical we found we weren’t cold and enjoyed our day. There were a few times that the wind gusts were a little nippy on the face but we would turn our backs to the wind for those moments and then continue.
Tip: Dress in layers and appropriately, being sure to cover all exposed skin. If you’re taking the kids I’d recommend full-face balaclavas and goggles.
Is Nordic Skiing Easy?
I’ve seen videos on social media of athletic adventurers gliding across the snow, winding their way effortlessly through the trees as if becoming one with nature. While let’s just say that I didn’t look that elegant on my first attempt! But while the first few minutes took a bit of a learning curve we quickly got the hang of it and graduated up into the real cross country trails. So is it easy? Well, those who do it regularly certainly make it look easy, but I think that most people who can hike or are in good physical shape would have fun Nordic skiing and enjoy the experience.
Soak In and Slow Down At Scandinave Spa
Known as a world-class Nordic spa, Scandinave Spa uses Mother Nature’s weather to welcome guests to their Nordic spa experience, and I’m here to tell you that Scandinave Spa is the place you want to be during a cold snap in Whistler and a great place for those who want to swap out the slopes for the spa!
What is a Nordic Spa?
A Nordic spa is a hydrotherapy treatment where you go from extremely hot to extremely cold on repeat… Nordic spas around the world all have their take but the Scandinave Spa in Whistler is hot, cold, hot, rest, repeat.
On the day of our winter visit, it was -21C (-37C with the windchill) elevating the cold part of the Nordic therapy to a whole new level. Our visit was planned long in advance of the weather but when I found out we would be visiting during a cold snap I quickly emailed the manager and asked “Are you even still open?” (mostly fearing she’d come back with a yes and that I’d have to do our spa photo shoot all while freezing in a bathing suit). She quickly emailed me back, assuring me that yes, they were indeed open and that their hot-cold therapy experience would be enhanced by the weather, and that they were looking forward to welcoming me.
Whelp. It was on. I was going to do a bathing suit spa shoot at -37C.
I can tell you though (now that I know I’ve survived) that it was one of the most fun assignments I’ve ever done. We have the fortune of getting early access to the spa, allowing us to shoot freely without disturbing the privacy of guests (otherwise, the spa has a strict no-phone/photo policy). After donning my robe I went from the hot tub to the outdoor cold, and back to another warm space, and kept repeating this hydrotherapy cycle. With the outside temps being in the lows I didn’t need to do the 10-15 second cold plunges, although I did want to challenge myself and managed to do one! (okay I’ll be honest, it took me two attempts).
But after the shoot was over we had 2 hours to ourselves to soak in the spa experience. Some of my favourite places to go include:
I’ve never met a hot tub I didn’t like and the spa has three to choose from. The curved design of them almost guarantees that you’ll have a private corner to soak in, which is great.
The wood sauna surrounded by the forest is one of the best spots in the spa to warm up. I love the dry heat and the ability to lay on the warm wood and look out into the trees.
After a really hot round in the sauna, I cuddled up into one of their winter hammocks. Lined with fleece blankets and a heavy weighted canvas I could say that it would be my favourite place I’ve ever taken a nap! The warmth from the sauna kept me heated from the inside out, and being able to peek my eyes through the opening only to see a sky lined with trees, being able to breathe in fresh air… it was a magical combination for the senses.
Traveler Tip: The hammocks are behind the middle warming hut and on the lower deck so be sure to seek them out as there are only six and worth making sure you have time to visit during your stay.
The spa has two firepits in between the pools that offer the perfect atmosphere and place to warm up. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see many others using them on the chilly day that we were there but I’m thinking that on warmer days these would be a great place to sit around and rest. I’ve also never met a campfire I didn’t like and combining a campfire with a spa is heaven on earth for this BC girl.
Yoga and Bean Bag Lounge
As a yogi I’m always looking for a place to do a good savasana and the lower warming huts have the perfect place for you to move your body. With four yoga mats in the back (and blocks as well) you can use the warm muscles after a hot treatment to take your stretching to a new level. After you’re feeling refreshed from moving you can transition to the front of the room where they have these huge oversized bean bag chairs that you can melt into. It’s a space in the spa where it’s clear that people go to hang out and lounge a little longer.
No Talking at Scandinave Spa
In a world where we are always plugged in and surrounded by noise, it was an absolute delight to be able to disconnect and not have a device on me. Taking the experience to the next level there’s no talking at Scandinave Spa and staff wear jackets that say “silence” on the back. While I had arrived at the spa with a friend this lack of ability to talk led me to make the decision that we would explore the spa on our own, each having the freedom to do what we wanted and explore the spa on our own time.
Is Scandinave Spa Worth It When It’s Cold?
If you’re wondering if you should book a visit to Scandinave Spa during a cold snap the easy answer is YES! With the natural cold part of the Nordic experience being taken care of, you can enjoy going from one hot spa experience to the other (and may even WANT to embrace a cold plunge… I know, sounds counter-intuitive but trust me it was worth it). This is another of my top things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers, but remember, this experience is for adults (18+) only.
Nita Lake Lodge Spa
If you’re going to hit the spa loop in Whistler, then another must-spa experience is the Nita Lake Lodge Spa. The resort itself was voted by Conde Nest as one of the Best Resorts in Canada Located on the south side of the property it’s clear to see that the Spa was incorporated into the guest experience with the utmost intention. I loved that I could robe up in my room and walk a few steps down the hall into the Spa entrance.
Once we arrived we were invited to head out onto the rooftop patio for some pre-spa spoiling. There are two hot tubs to choose from, Lakeside, and Mountainside, each offering a fantastic view of the mountainous scenery. Looking around I also loved seeing the icicles, adding to the cold snap in Whistler ambiance.
When we were ready to transition inside we enjoyed visiting their steam room before tucking into their guest lounge. I can say this is one of the best guest lounges I’ve ever been to, with incredibly comfortable recline chairs. Envision luxurious soft faux fur, and a relaxing zen vibe all while looking out over Whistler Creekside. I appreciated how they ensured that the spa experience started well before you entered your treatment room.
Speaking of treatments, I was spoiled with the Nita Signature Treatment. “This treatment is unique to The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge. Begin with a body scrub to smooth, exfoliate, soften, and hydrate your skin with the detoxifying power of our Himalayan salt crystals. Next, you will be cocooned into a soothing, mud wrap to further the detoxification and nourish your skin. Following the mud wrap, this signature treatment ends with a full body massage personalized to your needs.”
This was a luxurious experience of a whole other level, and as someone who regularly invests in spa experiences, I’m not easy to overwhelm. But the quality of the scrub, the mud, and what was undoubtedly one of the best massages I’ve ever had in my life has been swooning over this experience, and can recommend it wholeheartedly.
Where to Stay in Whistler for Non-Skiers
Voted #1 by Conde Nest for Canada’s Best Resort, Nita Lake Lodge invites guests to experience a different way to stay in Whistler, offering a slower pace than seen in a traditional Whistler Village hotel. Nestled into the shores of Nita Lake, the hotel looks like a modern Canadian lodge, with huge red cedar timbers bracing the entrance as you pull into the drive. The large wood beams frame the front door and lead you down the stone path, like a red carpet on Oscar night.
Once in your room, you’ll be spoiled with modern amenities all while ensuring the majestic mountains that await outside your window are as much part of the experience as the indoor decor is. We loved being able to wake up in the morning and soak in the lakeside view, and I think this view would be magical year round, as the seasons change around the lake. Nita Lake Lodge has a lot of great amenities on site including the “must do” spa, three restaurants, lakeside activities, walking trails, a car charger for your EV car, and shuttles that will take you into the Whistler village. It’s the perfect location and basecamp while you explore things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers.
Where to Eat in Whistler
With world-class food, you can be sure to have an elevated dining experience when staying in Whistler. Here are three of my favourite places to dine in Whistler:
The Den Restaurant
Located lakeside at Nita Lake Lodge, the Den Restaurant is a luxury restaurant that focuses on farm-to-table products, artisan meats and cheeses, and garden-grown herbs. What I loved the most was the selection of plant-based alternatives. I often eat vegan when I travel to help me try new things and feel healthier and I had more options to choose from than I have ever had at any other restaurant (so needless to say I’ll be going back!).
Walking into the front doors of Mekong Thai you’re overwhelmed with bright decor and delicious smells, in all the right ways. “Born in Thailand, Whistler infused” this is by far the best Thai restaurant I’ve ever been to. My meal was simply delectable and I called my family and told them “I know where I’m taking us on our next visit to Whistler.” They pride themselves on having a modern imagination and authentic flavours, which was evident in my meal, the Ka Na Moo Krop which was crispy pork belly with Chinese broccoli, chili, fermented soy, and garlic. I was really impressed with the price point ($27 for my meal) as I felt like I was dining in an upscale restaurant with the high-end design, and high-quality food, without the high prices.
I’ve been going to Blacks restaurant for almost 20 years as it is one of those staples every time we visit Whistler. Blacks is located right at the base of the mountain and has a heated patio with one of the best views out over the ski hill and village (I do love the people-watching!). With pub-style food, fun mocktails for me, and the sun beating down (and heaters for when it isn’t) Blacks is one of my favourite places in the village to grab a bite to eat.
Traveler Tip: They also offer a great breakfast/brunch that is very reasonably priced if you’re looking to load up before you head out on your adventures for the day.
What To Pack For Whistler In Winter
Winter in Whistler can be chilly and you should be prepared to deal with some temperature changes during your stay, so here’s what I recommend you pack for your trip to Whistler:
- Layers: it’s all about layering up, so start with a base layer (no cotton) thermal fleece layer, and exterior shell.
- Gloves, boots, and toque
- MUST: neck warmer, balaclava or scarf! This is the one piece of gear that most people forget and need to purchase on their trip. Being able to keep your neck, chin, and cheeks warm (especially when it is windy) makes all the difference between a good day and a great one. This is especially essential for keeping kids warm.
- 2 layers of socks
- Transportation: be sure to drive a vehicle to Whistler that has good tires (rated for Winter), is stocked with drinking water & snacks (especially if you are travelling with kids!), has emergency supplies (shovel, first aid kit, flashlight, small tool kit, warm blanket) and a snow/ice scraper. Check out the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV that we took up on our recent to Whistler.
In conclusion, there is no need to be a skier or snowboarder to have a good time in Whistler… in fact, I can guarantee that you will have so many adventures to choose from that you won’t be able to do them all in one trip (unless you move there for a month!). There are so many things to do in Whistler in Winter for non-skiers. From slow adventures like Nordic skiing and visits to the museum to action-packed adventures like ziplining and snowmobiling, to soaking in serenity in one of Whistler’s world-renowned spas, you can be assured an amazing time in Whistler without ever hitting the ski hill!