Having skied at Whistler Blackcomb with a group of locals for 15 years, we have accumulated a list of our favorite advanced runs. There are other runs that are as challenging, more technical or less accessible, but either they are too dangerous, too difficult to describe in print, or too sacred to the local ethos. Below are our favorite runs, with a few tips on how to access the start of the run, how to do reconnaissance from below, and whether you can get to an alternate route if you look down and want to back out.
1. Peak to Creek, Big Timber
Not that steep but the run is a thigh burner. When Peak to Creek was being cut it was a favorite out of bounds run. Now that it is smooth and oft groomed the main run is intermediate. Part way down the first section you’ll see a roped off section with out of bounds signs. Duck under the rope and take a left. Soon you’ll see a sign for Big Timber. Hang on as you negotiate rolling terrain, logs and moguls for a long run down to Dusty’s Bar. There be some other runs in this area that a local could show you.
Chair: Peak Chair to Frontier Pass/Highway 86/Upper Peak to Creek.
Recon: Ski Peak to Creek the first time, then tackle Big Timbers.
Escape: A couple of groomed roads intersect the main run and will take you to the main Peak to Creek run part way down.
A broad, steep slope that affords great views of Blackcomb’s 7th Heaven; sometimes full of chunky avalanche debris.
Chair: Harmony Chair. Cruise along Harmony Ridge toward The Glades, then veer right over the ridge.
Recon: From the Burnt Stew Trail you can look up at Robertson’s.
Escape: You can continue on The Glades if Robertson’s looks nasty.
3. Boomer Bowl to Gun Barrels
Boomer Bowl is a big, open bowl that leads to the steep and narrow Gun Barrels.
Chair: Harmony Chair. Cruise along Harmony Ridge and veer left over the ridge near The Glades.
Recon: You can see Boomer Bowl and Gun Barrels from the bottom of the Harmony Chair.
Escape: You can continue on the road if you don’t want to go down Boomer Bowl. If you get down Boomer Bowl and don’t want to continue down Gun Barrels you can traverse skier’s left to get to the main Harmony run. It’ll be more open there, but is usually filled with moguls.
The snow is almost always excellent in Cockalorum. The crux is the entrance, a side-angled traverse from a gaping cliff. Every year it’s different and some years the entrance is easier than others. The highest entrance is always steep and tight, but slide down and look for other traverse lines to find easier entrances. Cockalorum leads into West Bowl, which is accessed by a number of different lines.
Chair: Peak Chair to Frontier Pass. There is a sign to Cockalorum, on the right after a moderately steep pitch.
Recon: From Highway 86 you can get a good look at Cockalorum from the bottom of the run.
Escape: You can easily back away from the cliff and ski Bagel Bowl, an easy black diamond.
5. Stefan’s Chute
Head down from the entrance to Cockalorum to a cluster of trees and rocks to the left to ski a steep chute separated from Cockalorum by a buttress.
Chair: Peak Chair to Frontier Pass. There is a sign to Cockalorum, on the right after a moderately steep pitch, then slide down skier’s left from Cockalorum.
Recon: You can’t really get a good look at it from the bottom as it’s hidden from Highway 86.
Escape: You can bail and ski further skier’s left to access Bagel Bowl.
6. West Ridge to Christmas Trees
This slope is in the same vicinity as Cockalorum but is approached from a different angle and lift.
Chair: Peak Chair. Go down Whistler Bowl (the bowl located right under the top of the chair), stay relatively high and head skier’s left to angle around a large rocky buttress. Traverse past the next bowl, staying high above Doom and Gloom. When you reach the far ridge you’ll be looking into West Bowl, below Cockalorum. There is an open run going straight down, but if you head skier’s right through the Christmas Trees you’ll often find good winter snow. Start by going through lines more to the left of the trees, working your way right on subsequent runs as you become familiar with the terrain—there are cliffs so be smart and do your homework.
Recon: Access West Bowl from Cockalorum and look to skier’s right to check out the West Ridge slope.
Escape: If you don’t like what you see you can back up and head down Doom and Gloom, which is also pretty steep. There is no truly easy way out, but the exposures are so different that the snow conditions may be better (or worse) in Doom and Gloom.
7. Flute Bowl
The best thing about Flute Bowl is that it gives you a sense of backcountry adventure with a nice, long hike within the relatively safe confines of a patrolled in-bounds slope. Before the Symphony Chair was installed this was an epic hike, now reduced to simply a long, 30-45 minute hike. The hike is not particularly steep, so it’s more like a long slog. There are a couple of steep lines that are fairly short and then it’s a nice, easy cruise through Glissando Glades back to the Symphony Chair.
Chair: Symphony Chair. Take Harmony Chair, then ski down to Symphony Chair and take it to the top. Take a left from the chair, stay high and ski as long as you can. Then remove your skis, throw them over your shoulder and start walking.
Recon: View Flute Bowl as you’re riding up the Symphony Chair.
Escape: Once you’ve hiked up it’s the only way down, however, there are a variety of routes down, ranging from intermediate to advanced.
8. The Cirque
The Cirque and Couloir (the Whistler Couloir, not Blackcomb’s Couloir Extreme) are located side by side and have the same feature in common—a sometimes very nasty entrance that gives way to often excellent snow. Neither are very long and it’s more of a tick list item than one we repeat very often.
Chair: Peak Chair. Head straight from the chair and head skier’s left on the road toward the saddle. Keep a sharp eye out for signs to the Cirque and climb up. The entrance to the Cirque may involve a lengthy side slip over a narrow ramp that extends skier’s right to get to a place where you can start turning.
Recon: From the Peak Chair follow the road to the Saddle. From Harmony Express head straight and veer slightly to the right to the Saddle. Ski down the Saddle and stay high on skier’s left. After clearing a rock wall you can traverse off the groomed run to an open slope, which is the bottom of the Cirque and Couloir runs. From here you can look up and scope out the entrances.
Escape: If you don’t get too far down the ramp you can reverse directions and return to the road to ski the Saddle.
9. The Couloir
Located near the Cirque the crux is very different. The entrance is usually a hair-raising traverse that swoops down skier’s left to the open bowl. The challenge is due to a fairly substantial bump in the middle of the nadir of the swoop, so make sure you are centered and keep your knees loose so you can absorb the bump. After that you’re home free.
Chair, Recon and Escape: See info for the Cirque, above.
10. West Cirque
Two things make this run challenging: the entrance often involves a tricky side step over some pesky rocks that are almost never covered with snow due to the exposure, and the extreme steepness.
Chair: Peak Chair. Go down Frontier Pass. As soon as you make the first turn onto Frontier Pass stay skier’s right and proceed onto a path that stays higher than the main road. You can also access it more directly from the broad landing area in front of the chair but it’s hard to describe. You’ll be angling to the right. There is usually a higher and lower entrance, but the higher entrance is usually better.
Recon: Go down Whistler Bowl, stay relatively high and head skier’s left to angle around a large rocky buttress. When you’re in the broad bowl above Doom and Gloom look up to view West Cirque. This is how you get to Christmas Trees, so you can check out West Cirque if you’re headed over there.
Escape: Once you’re clinging to the rocky entrance it would be difficult to bail, but before that you could reverse direction to get back to Frontier Pass.
Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb, Advanced/Expert Edition by Brian Finestone and Kevin Hodder (Intermediate Edition also available). To find detailed maps and descriptions of the runs I’ve recommended, plus many more, pick up this guidebook at local ski shops, or on Amazon. Most of the runs I’ve listed are double black diamonds. The book lists many triple black diamond runs as well.
To reach Whistler from the U.S., fly to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in British Columbia, Canada, then rent a car and drive 1.5-2 hours to Whistler Village. There are convenient bus connections from YVR to Whistler.