Imposing mountain vistas, sparkling rivers and lakes, ancient forests and fresh mountain air make Whistler, Canada, a leading environmentally-friendly destination for nature lovers and thrillseekers alike.
As with all ski resorts, Whistler’s economy depends on reliable, annual snowfall. As the planet warms and freak weather events become more frequent, the issue of climate change is a hot topic in these mountains.
Travelers too are taking their responsibilities to the environment seriously, seeking out more carbon-friendly destinations or adopting planet-friendly practices.
For the carbon-conscious skier, Whistler is a leading choice. After all, Vail Resorts, owner of Whistler Blackcomb, are leading the way in the green ski revolution.
Their Epic Promise to a Zero Carbon Footprint has already started to have an impact. They’ve invested US$2.4 million into energy upgrades including more LED lighting and 168 high-efficiency, automated snow guns. This move alone led to a decrease of 37,511 million metric British thermal units and put it a quarter of the way towards its 2030 energy-efficiency goal.
Local businesses and hotels are in on the act too, cutting their carbon and encouraging visitors to do the same. So before you consider scrapping your winter ski trip, read our handy guide for the carbon-conscious.
Where to stay
The majority of hotels in Whistler now take action to reduce their carbon footprint. However, some are going the extra mile to encourage guests and staff to green up. Enjoy comfort without the guilt at one of our top eco-friendly stays.
The location of the Nita Lake Lodge is a stark reminder of the nature such efforts are trying to protect. Nita Lake is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a popular destination for weddings.
The hotel itself has several initiatives including growing its herbs and vegetables on an organic rooftop garden, using energy-efficient lighting, a policy of using chemical-free cleaning products, a comprehensive recycling program, and energy-efficient boilers.
Not to be outdone, the Westin Resort & Spa, is on a mission to become the most eco-friendly hotel in Whistler.
Their Make a Green Choice program has been widely praised by environmentalists and guests alike, with reward vouchers offered in return for making eco-conscious choices. Opt for a night without a full housekeeping service and save water, electricity and natural gas.
Alternatively, take advantage of the hybrid guest shuttle or Energex heating and cooling system that uses infra-red sensors to detect guest presence.
In 2017, the hotel teamed up with Clean the World Canada and began diverting discarded soap and amenity bottled products from landfill. Instead, the hotel recycles these materials and distributed repurposed products among Canadians in local food banks and homeless shelters.
Over 1,100 pounds of 500 kilograms of shampoo and soap are currently repurposed each month.
Their Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course was recognized for “Environmental Excellence” when it was recertified through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses.
That means practices around environmental planning, wildlife, and habitat management, and chemical reduction are all of the highest standards.
Top eco-friendly activities
Aside from the legendary skiing and snowboarding, there’s plenty to do in Whistler. What’s more, many of the activities have minimal impact on the environment. Here’s our pick.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard all about the axe throwing phenomenon sweeping across America.
This popular bachelorette party pastime is fundamentally Canadian, so there’s no better place to try your hand at this lumberjack sport.
Forged Axe Throwing, located in neighboring Function Junction, has injected this age-old activity with even more raucous fun. The venue is also committed to its environmental responsibilities too.
They repurpose wooden targets by offering them as firewood. Wood is regarded as a safe fuel and a greater alternative to oil and other fossil fuels.
It also provides locals with an excuse to test their aim at one of the hour-long axe throwing drop-in sessions.
The Whistler Sliding track is the fastest track that non-athletes are allowed to ride on, so this is definitely the one you’ll want to check off your adventure bucket list with. If you’re planning on sliding, be sure to bring gloves as they are mandatory to ride.
After a 15-minute safety briefing, you’ll see what it’s like to experience up to 3-4Gs on a 42-second ride of your life with a professional bobsleigh pilot. If you’re lucky, you may even get Pat Brown, the real coach featured in Cool Runnings!
Fun fact: As you pull more Gs, your weight increases accordingly (4Gs = 4x gravity) so your 10lb head will weigh 40lbs at 4Gs. Astronauts on a space shuttle experience about 3.5Gs.
A winter wonderland wouldn’t be a winter wonderland without a horse-drawn sleigh. Swap your carbon footprint for a snowy hoofprint on a Whistler sleigh ride.
Available during the peak winter months, this activity is one of the most popular ways to explore the Whistler backcountry. Popular with families and couples alike, you’ll need to book in advance for this one.
Alternatively, hurtle your way through the Whistler backcountry behind a team of Arctic snow dogs.
Canadian Wilderness Adventures offer unmissable dog sledding experiences and you’ll even have the chance to learn commands and mush a team yourself.
The Whistler zipline is a truly year-round adventure. Ride it in summer and you’ll see the flora and fauna in full glory. Ride it in winter and you’ll see a bright winter wonderland in the icy grip of Canadian winter.
You’ll be strapped into a specially designed harness that lets two people enjoy the adventure side by side before hurtling down the mountain high above the treetops and valley floor.
Keep your eyes open, bring a sense of adventure and don’t forget to bring a wrist strap for your camera.
Each year Whistler, British Columbia, calls those fanatics home with an incredible festival where mountain culture is married to the love of winter sports.
The World Ski and Snowboard Festival invites you to get a taste of the mountain air and find an exhilarating way of life on the slopes.
For those wishing to explore at a more laid back pace, take a journey back in time and explore the colorful history of British Columbia.
Learn about the indigenous First Nations at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Thoughtfully curated carvings, weavings, and sculptures can be found in abundance here, and you can even try the indigenous fare at the cafe.
For the history of Whistler itself, head to Whistler Museum where natural, man-made, serious and humorous artifacts can be examined. There’s even an old gondola cabin – thankfully, today’s gondolas are much safer.