How To Ski Whistler’s Flute Bowl
If you’ve ever been on the Symphony Chair at Whistler Mountain you likely noticed the monstrous bowl just to the left of the lift. All day long you can spot skiers hiking up the ridge on the hunt for perfect powder turns beneath. Most visitors or those unfamiliar with Whistler just assume that Flute Bowl is backcountry terrain. But don’t be fooled by its remote feel. The Flute Bowl is avalanche controlled, part of the in-bounds resort terrain and is one of the most epic areas to explore in Whistler Blackcomb.
I found it extremely hard to find reliable information about Flute Bowl when I first started skiing. After my first hike up, thanks to the lack of signage I had no idea where to ski down and felt nervous that I might leave the resort by accident. After many years of exploration I know the area inside and out. The lack of signage and remote/backcountry feel is actually what makes Flute so spectacular and unique.
This article will teach you everything you need to know and more about Whistler’s Flute Bowl.
What Is The Flute Bowl?
The Flute bowl is a hike accessed inbounds bowl skiing paradise on Whistler Mountain. It has a remote backcountry feel and can be easily accessed via the Symphony Express Chair and a quick 15 minute bootpack up to the Flute Summit. The terrain in the flute bowl is North Facing, holds unbelievable snow and has loads of line choices of varying difficulties to pick from. You can choose your own adventure on Flute and create lines of varying difficulties and steepness all while feeling like you are in the backcountry.
Where Is Flute Bowl?
The Flute Summit rests on the border of Garibaldi Park, forming the highest point on the musical bumps ridge. It is most easily accessed via the Symphony Express chair on Whistler mountain. Exit the chairlift left and ski down towards the big wooden structure (old backcountry gate) which marks the start of the groomed hiking track leading towards the summit. On a clear day It will be very easy to spot the groomed hiking track from the chair. If it’s so foggy that you can see the up-track, then you should probably save Flute for another day because it is extremely hard to navigate in white-out conditions.
Is Flute Bowl In Bounds?
Yes. The Flute Bowl is In Bounds and avalanche controlled. If it is not open there are signs that indicate an avalanche closure. Avalanche control is practiced daily within the entire area including Flute Bowl Main, Flute Bowl North and Lesser Flute. Even though Flute Bowl is avalanche controlled it doesn’t mean there are not any dangers. Flute is still an Alpine area and should only be skied by experts only. There are loads of natural hazards such as cornices, avalanche debris, rocks and cliffs. It’s always best to take your time and spot your desired line from the bottom before your first ever Flute ascent and decent. If ever need an escape route and you underestimated the difficulty of the terrain, or fog rolled in, you can always ski down the groomed hiking track back to the bottom.
How To Hike Flute Bowl
Hiking up Flute Bowl couldn’t be easier and takes no navigation at all. Just follow the groomed track until you reach the top! Skiers and riders can either hike in their boots or use skins or splitboards. If you aren’t going into the backcountry I would recommend just hiking Flute in your boots as it is faster and less of a hassle. It usually takes me about 13-15 minutes to hike from the start of the groomed track to the Flute Summit. Once you reach the Flute Summit sign you can clip into your skis and skate along the ridge until you find the spot where you want to drop in.
Ski Runs Down Flute Bowl & Maps
Encore ridge is the name of the ridge that runs along the top of the Flute Main Bowl, Flute North Bowl and Lesser Flute Bowls. If you want a really low angle scenic ridge ski you can always follow encore ridge as it loops around through the trees and back to the base of the Symphony Chair. It is uncommon to ski all the way down encore ridge but can be helpful to know it will lead you back to the chair if dense fog happens to roll in.
Flute Main Bowl
The Main Flute Bowl is the largest portion of the bowl. The middle is often littered with cornice/avalanche debris and the cornice at the top is massive. Unless conditions are ideal most skiers will enter the bowl to the skiers left on Stuie’s Slope or to the right of the cornice and traverse in beneath it.
If you want to ski the main bowl I would recommend Stuie’s Slope. It’s a great steep face and shoots your right into Moraine to make for a great run combo down Flute. Stuie’s was actually named after a Whistler local who was killed in an avalanche on this exact slope.
This one is my personal favourite line in Flute and is actually just part of Flute Main Bowl. I named it Air James after a not so graceful cornice drop that resulted in a double ejection that sent me ragdolling through the the main bowl. It involves a sweet little cornice drop in the middle of the bowl to a small cliff. Nothing beats getting a bit of air time when landings are soft!
Flute North Bowl
The runs stemming from the North Bowl in Flute offer the most fall line of the entire Flute area. If you spent all that time hiking, huffing, puffing and sweating to get up there, it only makes sense to maximize the amount of turns you can enjoy when riding down.
The Flute Shoulder is the longest run with a consistent pitch in Flute. The Flute Shoulder is also the best line option for a Flute First-Timer because it’s the easiest to ski into. Skiing the shoulder involves no cornice negotiation and begins on a nice rolling slope becoming gradually steeper. Flute shoulder also provides great views of both bowls on either side so it is a helpful run to ski to get familiar with the Flute Bowl.
There is a little island of trees along the shoulder. If you take a right above it the pitch becomes steeper down a run called Pigs Fancy. Pigs Fancy is consistently home to some of the best snow in the bowl. I love combining Flute Shoulder and Pigs Fancy.
The Flute chutes are spooky at the top. You may have to navigate a cornice and turn through some tight rocks on an ultra-steep pitch before they open up to some fabulous turns in the North Bowl. Depending on the snow pack some of the lines through the Flute Chutes may not be accessible, so make sure to take a look from the bottom before committing off the cornice.
Just to the right of the Flute Chutes you can enter the North Bowl from the top of the cornice. The North Bowl is loads of fun, has less debris than the main bowl and usually is less skied out because its furthest down the ridge.
North Bowl Cornice
The North Bowl Cornice is basically entering the North Bowl anywhere off the cornice. It can be pretty big at times so you can be sure that your landing and first few turns will be powder since most don’t have the balls to send it off a sizable cornice.
Lesser Flute is the small little rise at the far end of encore ridge. The top of lesser flute offers fantastic lower angle powder skiing through the widely spaced trees. If you continue further east of Lesser Flute you can ski a small bowl that offers some great lines leading back down to the Symphony Chair. Most people aren’t willing to venture this far and waste this much fall line so you can usually find great powder pockets in Lesser Flute many days after a storm.
Exiting Flute and Returning to Symphony Chair
Exiting Flute couldn’t be easier. There is a groomed track at the base of the bowl that is marked with orange disks. It will lead you to the Glissando Glades for some extra fun tree skiing before you reach the base of the chair. As long as you ski downhill off encore Ridge towards the resort you will never get lost!
Flute Bowl Tips
I like doing Flute Laps on days when lift lines are longer. The ascent and descent together can sometimes take around 45 minutes and feels like you are getting much more out of chairlift queue and ride. Also, if it is a nice sunny day there’s a no better place to break out your lunch then sitting on the Flute Summit and staring out into Garibaldi Park.
You are now equipped with all the basic knowledge to have a safe and fun experience in Whistler’s Flute Bowl.
Enjoy Those Fresh Powder Turns!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!!