Believe it or not, Whistler and Blackcomb used to be completely separate mountains and didn’t officially merge until 1997. Whistler and Blackcomb were born rivals from the start. Blackcomb mountain officially opened on December 6, 1980 and Whistler skiers instantly began referring to Blackcomb as the ‘Dark Side’.
The rivalry wasn’t all bad. It actually was GREAT. Thanks to tight competition for ticket sales, both mountains began to upgrade their chairlifts rapidly trying to out-do one another. The Whistler vs Blackcomb chairlift development saga was more exciting than the space race. Finally, in 1997 Intrawest bought Whistler and in 2007 the mountains became even more closely connected by the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
Although Whistler Blackcomb has been a joint mountain for over 25 years, the rivalry still burns strong. If you ask anyone on the chairlift they probably have a preference of once side or the another.
In my opinion, both mountains are amazing and both have a variety of advantages and disadvantages.
In this post I’m going to compare Whistler and Blackcomb across a number of important categories and share my (somewhat) unbiased opinion on both mountains .
Whistler Versus Blackcomb (Which Mountain is Best)
The Rating Scale
I’m going to have a little fun with this and use a rating scale to give each mountain a final ranking based of the categories that I have chosen to examine. 2 points will be awarded for a clear advantage, 1 point will be awarded for a tie.
Whistler boasts 4,757 skiable acres thanks to its vast alpine bowls. Next time you’re on 7th Heaven take a look over at Whistler, it’s insane to see how much skiable terrain lies between Flute Bowl and The Peak To Creek!
Blackcomb has less skiable terrain at 3,414 acres. Blackcomb is a more compact mountain than Whistler and takes up a smaller footprint. Although there is less skiable terrain, travelling from chair to chair involves a little less traversing, which is advantageous for maximizing vertical.
Whistler is the clear winner for skiable terrain!
Whistler 2 | Blackcomb 0
Blackcomb has 5,280ft (1609m) of skiable vertical (The second highest In north America just behind Revelstoke at 5,620 feet). You also have the ability to access even more vertical by trying out some of the Blackcomb Uphill Hiking Routes.
The Whistler mountain vertical drop is less than the ‘Dark Side’ measuring in at 5,020ft (1530m) at the summit of the Peak chair. That’s only a 260 foot difference. But, if you want to say that you’ve been to the highest point at Whistler Blackcomb you’re going to have to take a ride up the 7th Heaven Express.
Blackcomb takes the throne for the most vertical!
Whistler 2 | Blackcomb 2
Whistler is the place to be if you are a Novice skier or snowboarder. The Ego Bowl on the Emerald Chair is the most enjoyable option for inexperienced riders. The green runs on whistler tend to be wider and have better variation across the mountain.
The Majority of the green runs on the Blackcomb side of the mountain are cat-track style runs which are less wide (and less fun) when you are starting out. If you want to learn more about how to navigate Whistler as a beginner check out my guide HERE.
The edge goes to Whistler for the best beginner terrain options.
Whistler 4 | Blackcomb 2
Intermediate Terrain/Carving Runs
The intermediate and carving terrain options on Whistler & Blackcomb are endless. Whistler mountain has the best lower mountain carving options on the Garbonzo chair, perfect for those speed enthusiasts who want to lap some steep and wide pistes. Whistler is also home to the Burnt Stew Trail one of the most scenic cruisers in North America. Lastly, you cannot forget about Peak to Creek! When Peak to Creek is groomed it is one of the longest and most epic carving runs in North America!
Blackcomb has the Whistler side beat for mid-mountain and alpine carving runs. 7th Heaven is an alpine carving paradise. The pistes are steep and wide, there are loads of fun rollers and the views are next to none. The Crystal Ridge Express also offer some fabulous carving mid-mountain on Blackcomb.
I’ve created guides detailing the best carving runs on both Whistler and Blackcomb. These guides are a great tool for you to utilize before you hit Whistler Blackcomb so you can plan the perfect groomed run strategy before you hit the slopes.
The mountain you prefer to carve on will completely depend on your preferences. Both mountains are neck in neck for this one, 1 point for each!
Whistler 5 | Blackcomb 3
In terms of advanced terrain (single black diamonds) both mountains have loads of amazing options. If you are an intermediate skier just starting to test out expert terrain, Whistler is the place to be thanks to the open bowls. Learning to ski bumps and steeps is much easier when you don’t have to dodge trees at the same time. For advanced/expert riders, you are going to find more technical and challenging terrain on the Blackcomb side. Many of the Blackcomb single black diamond runs are gladed (have trees).
Both mountains have killer advanced terrain that suits all skill levels. For Advanced terrain, Whistler and Blackcomb are both tied.
Whistler 6 | Blackcomb 4
If you are in search of the most challenging in-bounds terrain in North America, look no further. Whistler Blackcomb has some insanely gnarly and notoriously challenging marked and unmarked inbounds runs for you to check off your steep skiing bucket list. Even professional skiers and riders can get an adrenaline fix on Whistlers in-bounds terrain.
Blackcomb Mountain is home to some of the most insane steep skiing, cliffs and chutes. (Check out Blackcomb’s steepest runs HERE) BUT, Whistler Mountains lineup is nothing to gawk at. The Peak Chair zone on Whistler Mountain is home to the most famous lines and cliffs on the hill including the elusive Coffin Chute and the monstrous Air Jordan double cliff drop. (Check out Whistler’s steepest runs HERE).
Believe it or not triple black diamonds do exist at Whistler Blackcomb. There are 6 Triple Blacks on Whistler and 12 on Blackcomb.
Thanks to the variety in extreme expert terrain, Blackcomb gets the edge.
Whistler 6 | Blackcomb 6
The tree skiing on Blackcomb mountain is unbelievable. From the Alpine Glades in 7th Heaven to Outer Limits on the crystal chair, Blackcomb has tree skiing to fulfill every glade lovers wildest fantasies.
Whistler has some great tree skiing options as well, especially on the Harmony chair! The rest of the trees are located mid to lower mountain and need ideal conditions to be super enjoyable or involve two lifts to access or some form of backcountry navigation (ie. Khybers). The Emerald Chair and Symphony on the Whistler side are the perfect spot for beginner tree skiers to get the hang of trees without a steep slope angle.
For those steep tree skiing and deep snow enthusiasts who want to shred trees all day long. Blackcomb has the edge.
Whistler 6 | Blackcomb 8
Blackcomb is loaded with beautiful bowls worth exploring. You’ve got Lakeside Bowl in 7th Heaven, Jersey Crème Bowl, Opal Bowl, Gemstone Bowls, Secret Bowl and the Blackcomb Glacier.
On the Whistler side you’ve got the Whistler Bowl, Glacier Bowl, Sun Bowl, Flute Bowls, West Bowl and Harmony.
Overall, the Blackcomb bowls are a bit more rocky/craggy so to speak and involve a bit more navigation and getting used to. The bowls on Whistler Mountain are more expansive and easier to navigate. If you love the feeling of turning carelessly down gigantic open bowls, Whistler is the mountain for you!
Whistler has more skiable terrain than Blackcomb thanks to its ginormous Bowls. Whistler wins the edge on this one!
Whistler 8 | Blackcomb 8
Hike Accessed Terrain
The best snow is always the hardest to access. The vast majority of skiers on the mountain aren’t willing to pop their skis off and break a sweat hiking up the mountain in their boots. Those who do, will be rewarded with some fantastic turns any day of the year. I’ve created a guide on the best hike accessed terrain in Whistler Blackcomb just for you!
Whistler’s best known hike accessed area is the Flute Bowl. The Flute bowl is a hike accessed inbounds bowl skiing paradise. It has a backcountry feel and is within the boundaries of the ski resort. The terrain in the flute bowl is North Facing, holds unbelievable snow and has loads of line choices of varying difficulties to pick from. Whistler also has a couple notable short hikes to West Cirque, Glacier Wall and the VD Chutes.
Blackcomb has some great hike accessed terrain as well including the legendary Spanky’s Ladder, Blackcomb Glacier and the Opal Bowl.
You cannot really go wrong with the hike accessed terrain on either side. This one is a tie.
Whistler 9 | Blackcomb 9
The Peak, Harmony and Symphony on the Whistler side are all legendary and 7th Heaven, Glacier Express and Showcase T-bar are epic on the Blackcomb Side. Since Whistler provides one extra chairlift to provide access to the high alpine, it has the advantage for Alpine Terrain.
Whistler 11 | Blackcomb 9
If you hate waiting in lines you should probably stay far far away from Whistler Blackcomb, especially on the weekend! Insane population growth in BC coupled with huge influxes in tourism has caused Whistler to be one of the busiest mountain destinations in North America. Lift lines are bad no matter which mountain you decide to ski on. Add fresh snow and some sunshine and you will be doing 90% standing and 10% skiing.
This one is a tie.
Whistler 12 | Blackcomb 10
If the snow dumps, it dumps on both mountains! Whistler and Blackcomb are equally heavenly places to play on a powder day. Sometimes the ski patrol will open the Alpine quicker on one side than the other. Thanks to the Peak 2 Peak you can quickly change plans and get to the other mountain in 11 minutes if you see red flip to green on the alpine chairlift board.
Whistler 13 | Blackcomb 11
Whistler Blackcomb provides unparalleled backcountry access. There is no easier way to start a touring day in the high alpine (other than a helicopter drop).
The Symphony chair on the Whistler side offers great access to the Fitzimmons range highlighted by some great day trip options to Oboe, Singing Pass and Fissile.
The Showcase-T-Bar on Blackcomb provides access to the Spearhead Range. This is the starting point for the legendary Spearhead Traverse and there are countless amazing touring opportunities along the way, making for a great variety in terrain and trip options.
The Blackcomb Backcountry Access plops you right in the mix of some pretty unbeatable terrain. Blackcomb gets the edge on this one!
Whistler 13 | Blackcomb 13
Nothing beats skiing in the sunshine. The amount of sunshine hitting the slopes depends on a lot on the month of the year. Overall Blackcomb Mountain gets hit with more sunshine! If you like skiing in sunshine boogey on over to 7th Heaven, it gets hit with sun all day if the sky is cloud free!
Whistler 13 | Blackcomb 15
The views are mind blowing on both mountains from all directions and angles. But, on a clear day, I always find that looking off the back of the Peak chair, Harmony & Symphony/Flute into Gariabldi Provincial Park has a real WOW Factor.
I’ll give Whistler the edge for views
Whistler 15 | Blackcomb 15
The food on the mountain is overpriced ($20 for just a burger). Personally, the only thing I have ever purchased is coffee and the occasional French fry (when I forget my PB & J). The food on Whistler and Blackcomb lines up with what you expect at a ski resort. I always eat on the move and have a PB &J in my pocket. I’m giving 0 points to both Whistler and Blackcomb because frankly, I eat so little, I couldn’t even give one or the other a ranking.
Gondola Upload Options
There are 3 upload options to get onto Whistler Mountain. The Creekside Gondola, Whistler Gondola and the Fitzsimmon chair. The fitzsimmons chair usually has the shortest line, but is the longest overall way to get high up the mountain.
You have 2 choices to get up to Blackcomb. The Blackcomb Gondola from the upper village or the Excalibur gondola from the Whistler Base or Base 2.
Getting up the mountain is pretty similar no matter which way you slice the cake.
Whistler 16 | Blackcomb 16
There are a number of different parking options for a ski day at Whistler Blackcomb. You can park in the main lots 4&5 beside the village if you want access to the village base and the Whistler Gondola, Excalibur Gondola and Fitzsimmons Chair. Lots 4&5 involve a little bit of walking to the gondola and cost $5 for the day.
If you are planning to ski Whistler for the day there is free underground parking in Creekside. If its freezing, raining or puking snow it sure feels good staying warm and dry when you put your gear on. The Creekside lots are also the closest to the city. Sometimes it can take an 30-45 minutes to drive from the village to Creekside at the end of a busy day, so parking at Creekside can give you a head start on traffic if your commuting back to Squamish or the city.
If you are planning to ski Blackcomb for the day you can park at Base 2. Base 2 has three outdoor lots 6,7 and 8. They can fill up fast and they are the longest drive to get to and add time when leaving the mountain.
Since the Creekside lots are underground, free and closest to the city, Whistler gets the edge on this one!
Whistler 18 | Blackcomb 16
The Final Results
After reviewing and comparing all of the most important areas it looks like WE HAVE A Winner. In a nail biter, Whistler stole the first place spot winning over Blackcomb 18-16 thanks to its advantage in parking!
Maybe this was the result you were hoping for, or maybe not. BUT, if we put the convenient parking aside, your skiing experience will be equally amazing on Whistler or Blackcomb. The reality is that both mountains are equally fun, exciting, have many strengths and endless terrain to explore.
The Highlights of Each Mountain
- Amazing Alpine Bowl skiing on Peak Chair, Harmony & Symphony chairs
- The Flute Bowl
- Unbelievable views of the Garibaldi Provincial Park and Fitzimmons Ranger
- The Most Beginner Friendly
- The Most Skiiable Terrain
- Harmony, Peak Chair, Symphony
- Peak 2 Creek (If it’s Groomed)
- Amazing tree skiing on the crystal chair and alpine glades in 7th Heaven
- Spanky’s Ladder, Secret Bowl & Blackcomb Glacier
- The ICE CAVE
- Unbeatable Backcountry Access
- Loads of Extreme Terrain
- The Most Vertical
My Two Cents
When You’ll Find Me On Whistler
Sunny days! Since Whistler is such a vast wide open Alpine skiing area it can be a hassle to navigate with variable visibility. A clear day on Whistler mountain is pretty unbeatable, especially if you mix in some fresh snow. I love ripping Whistler a few days after a storm when the Alpine finally opens and the skies are clear. Nothing beats a weekday with soft snow when you can do non-stop laps on the Peak chair until your legs give out. When there is a solid hard pack and temps are cold you can find me carving on the Garbonzo chair on Dave Murray Downhill or Ptarmigan.
When You’ll Find Me On Blackcomb
I ski Blackcomb any day I’m not skiing Whistler… If that wasn’t obvious LOL. I tend to play around on Blackcomb a little more than I do Whistler. The main reason for this is that I’m a tree skiing fanatic! When the snow is good at Whistler Blackcomb you probably won’t find me because I will be off skiing my favourite spots in the trees on the Crystal Chair! I’m a big time lover of Spanky’s Ladder and have a personal rule to ski it once every day that I’m on Blackcomb. When conditions get firm I love getting some carving laps in on 7th Heaven in the morning sunshine.
Personal Preference and Comfort
You may like Whistler or Blackcomb for the same reasons as me, or, something very different. It doesn’t matter why you like it or how you like to ski the hill. Whatever feels good, FEELS GOOD.
I think comfort and having a rhythm play a huge part in deciding the side of the mountain that you are loyal to. I have loads of friends who grew up skiing the Whistler side and prefer riding over there. I started off on the Blackcomb side and because of that I prefer to ride on the ‘Dark Side’.
But remember, you can’t get to comfortable! Variety in terrain, skiing style and snow conditions are what make skiing so exciting. Every day on snow is different and if you get to ski Whistler Blackcomb you are lucky because you have so much terrain to choose from.
Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America. You have 8,171 acres of terrain to explore. Even if you skied the mountain every day for the rest of your life. You wouldn’t get bored… ITS THAT BIG.
If you are visiting town for a few days, weeks or months I would definitely recommend splitting your time evenly between both hills. Once you get a feel for both hills you’ll start to build a personal gameplan and know how you like to ski either side in certain weather conditions or when you’re craving certain styles of skiing.
Hopefully this article was a fun read and provided you with some information on the key factors that make Whistler and Blackcomb awesome!
LONG LIVE THE DARK SIDE!!!!!
Let me know in the comments of Whistler or Blackcomb is your favourite and WHY?