Weather is unpredictable and we cannot expect knee deep Pow every day on the resort. Some years, the stars align, the heavens open and Whistler gets consistently annihilated by snow . Other years, we aren’t so lucky and only get a few cracks at the perfect powder. Riding big alpine mountain lines in deep powder is the best, frankly, I think it is the unanimous favourite among skiers. Fortunately, there are plenty of great ways to enjoy yourself on the resort when the snow isn’t falling.
One of my favourite ways to ski on hard pack days anytime of the year is CARVING. Pow always comes first, but carving takes a close second for me. Ever since I was a wee kid I’ve been obsessed with going fast and getting on my edges. Carving can be rhythmic, artistic and aggressive. I love being the first guy on the mountain and slicing tracks into the beautiful machine groomed corduroy on the slopes.
When skiing at Whistler make sure you get out early because the runs will become swarmed with people and if you really want to shred, you are going to want the hill as empty as possible.
Below, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 carving runs at Whistler Blackcomb that you need to try next time you visit the resort.
You’ll be moving fast when ripping groomers so always wear a brain bucket AKA a HELMET. I swear by my Smith Vantage Helmet and IOS Goggles. Another fantastic and super affordable option is the OM Diamond Snow Helmet & OM Ultra XL Goggles. Keep your brain and eyes protected all day long!! (Use code JAMES10 for a 10% discount on anything on the OM website)
A Few Quick Tips For Carving At Whistler
Get Out Early
The early bird gets the worm on a carving day. Hitting max speed and taking control of the entire piste by slicing giant turns across the run feels amazing! This can only be done in the morning when the slopes are not littered with people. If you are going to charge hard on the groomers, it is always safest when there are the least amount of people possible. Second, if you get out early you will be rewarded with fresh CORDUROY. Corduroy are the lines in the snow that snow cats/groomers make when preparing the runs for the day. Freshly groomed runs are the easiest to carve and least likely to have icy patches.
Prep Your Skis
A quick wax and sharpening will go a long way when you are planning to carve all day long. I taught myself to tune skis and bought all the basics so I always do a 15 minute tune up the day before I head out. I know a lot of you do not have the tools or desire to tune and it is not realistic to take your skis into the shop before every carving day. However, what you can do is give your skis a quick polish with a Diamond Stone. Some diamond stones are not expensive and if you ski with a standard side edge angle then simply run the stone back and forth along the side edge in order to deburr and polish the edge, bringing your last sharpening back to life. Also remember to do a quick wax so you can break some speed records on the slopes!
Ski The Top Of The Mountain Down
When you are hurtling down the slopes at terminal velocity your runs are going to end very quickly. If you have to stand in a long line at the bottom of the chair this can be a real bummer and put a damper on your momentum. Anytime you want to avoid lines at Whistler I would always recommend skiing top down. Head up to the Alpine chairlifts (ie. Peak, 7th Heaven, Harmony, Crystal, Glacier) earlier in the day and then ski the mid mountain chairlifts (excelerator, garbonzo) mid-day and then back to the alpine before close. The alpine is busiest in the prime hours of the day and you may only get 2-3 runs if you stand around in line all day.
The Top 10 Groomers For Carving At Whistler Blackcomb
Note: The first four are my personal favourites and the rest are not in any particular order. To be honest, all of them are awesome and can be better or worse on different days depending on the snow conditions
Upper Dave Murray Downhill to Tokum (Garbonzo Express, Whistler)
This one is an absolute classic and my personal favourite. Since it is located on the lower parts of the mountain it is best after a few days with a low freezing point. It has a fantastic sustained steep pitch and opens up super wide. There is a little race hut at the top so if you want to relive the glory days you can stand between the wood walls and count yourself in. Take a right onto Tokum and carve your way down to the base of the Garbanzo chair. Rinse and repeat as many times as needed.
How to find it?
Take a sharp right off the Garbonzo chair and you will see Upper Dave Murray Downhill and the race hut marking the start of the run. Follow signs to Tokum and the Garbonzo chair on your right.
Hughes Heaven – Upper Panorama – Lower Panorama (7th Heaven Express, Blackcomb)
When it is a hard-pack bluebird day in Blackcomb head straight to 7th heaven. Seventh is often blanketed in white fog, but when it isn’t, it is a skiers paradise. The views coupled with the wide open terrain is truly unbeatable. My favourite carving run on 7th is Hughes Heaven and Upper/Lower Panorama. Hughes starts out steep and wide and you can get your fix of huge speedy carving turns before hitting panorama for a less steep, similarly wide slope with insanely fun rollers all the way down to the bottom. It’s the perfect length, and if I don’t stop I’m always panting by the time I hit the bottom.
How to find it?
Ski right off the 7th heaven chairlift. Continue on the flat cat track and look for signs to your right!
Ridge Runner (Crystal Ridge Express, Blackcomb)
Ridge Runner is what I like to call a HERO carving run. What is a hero run? Similar to hero snow It’s a run with a very consistent slope that makes you feel like you are a much better skier than you really are. Ridge Runner has a very consistent slope with lots of rollers and it doesn’t get too steep. It is such an easy run to maintain carving turns the whole way down without a single speed check. Ridge Runner is the ideal run for someone who wants to cruise a bit more than they want to speed. There are also loads of fun side hits for those who feel like getting bouncy.
How To Find It?
Ski left off of the Crystal Chair and continue straight.
Springboard (Jersey Cream, Catskinner, Blackcomb Gondola, Blackcomb)
It’s not a coincidence that 3 out of 4 of my favourite groomers on the mountain are on the Blackcomb side. Blackcomb is amazing! Springboard is the perfect groomer and the ideal spot to showcase your pristine carving turns. It runs directly under the Blackcomb Gondola and is steep and very wide. You will probably see a lot of instructors using Springboard to teach carving. It is the perfect pitch to rip!
How To Find It?
Ski past the Blackcomb Gondola and down beneath it to find Springboard.
Rock N’ Roll (Crystal Ridge Express, Blackcomb)
Rock N’ Roll will get you humming Back in Black on the way down. It swerves comfortably and has the perfect mix of slope change, rollers, and flat sections to make an exciting and relaxing carving run to the bottom of the crystal chair.
How To Find It?
Ski beneath the Crystal chair and take a slight left onto Rock N’ Roll
The Saddle (Peak/Harmony Chair, Whistler)
The Saddle is the most legendary groomed run in Whistler Blackcomb. It sticks out like a sore thumb when you look up at the peak of Whistler mountain. It is by far the steepest groomed run on the resort and is rated a black diamond. At the top, the pitch is such that it makes it hard to carve without a few speed checks, but as it mellows out near the bottom you can start laying down some more aggressive turns once again.
How to Find It?
From the peak chair ski to the left down Matthews Traverse and watch for the sign for the Saddle on the left.From the Harmony chair ski to the right and follow signs towards the Saddle.
Harmony Ridge (Harmony 6 Express, Whistler)
Harmony Ridge isn’t the steepest run on the resort but it is one of the most scenic cruisers. This is one of my favourite carving runs to rip down and then pop into the trees for some epic tree skiing at the end. The first part of the run can be quite icy and mellow but when you turn the corner of the ridge you will be rewarded with great views and a wide open piste perfect for winding down.
How To Find It?
Ski left off the Harmony Chair and continue down Harmony Ridge.
Zig Zag (Excelerator Express, Blackcomb)
People often underestimate the Excelerator Express. It is home to some of my favourite tree skiing on the mountain and is sometimes the best place to be when the upper portions of the mountain get busy. Zig Zag is an ideal carving run which is best for the morning. In the morning, most skiers will be trying to go higher up the mountain and the Excelerator Chair will often be dead allowing you to have the run to yourself. Be aware, near the end of the day this is one of the escape routes to the base of Blackcomb mountain and can get extremely icy and busy.
How to Find It?
Ski left off the Excelerator Express towards the Glacier Creek Lodge, take a left before you reach the lodge and skate along the flat section until you reach the top of Zig Zag.
Cruiser (Excelerator Express, Blackcomb)
Yet another Gem Carving run on the Excelerator Express. Cruiser should be renamed ‘shredder’ because you can get some serious speed coming down its steep pitches. I absolutely love cruiser and find myself hopping between it and Zig Zag on carving days. From start to finish you are going to be on your edges and finish with a grin on your face.
How To Find It?
Ski Right off the Excelerator Express, look for signs towards Cruiser, Cross over the Jersey Cream Road and get carving!
Jeffs Ode To Joy to Adagio (Symphony Express, Whistler)
The top part of Jeffs Ode To Joy is fantastic for carving. There aren’t any trees on your sides, so if you take a world cup race yardsale, you’ll just go sliding into the powder on the edges of the run. When you reach Adagio the run turns into a very mellow and widely spaced glades unique to the bottom portion of the Symphony chair at Whistler. This is a great place for someone new to tree skiing, or people who like ripping through mellow glades that are more sparse than other areas on the mountain.
How to Find it?
Ski left off Symphony chair and you will be on Jeffs Ode To Joy. As you near the bottom hang a slight left onto Adagio.
Runner Up for ‘Best Views’ Burnt Stew Trail from Harmony chair to Symphony Chair
The Burnt Stew Trail is an epic green run that connects the harmony chair to the symphony chair. You get to ski through the sun bowl and you will practically feel like you are skiing in the backcountry. This run is super easy, which is nice, because you won’t be looking at your skis, you will be wholly focused on the views.
What are your favourite groomers on Whistler?
Let me know what if I missed any in the comments!