Having skied Whistler Blackcomb for many years we have accumulated a short list of our favorite advanced runs at Blackcomb. There are hairier runs, but either they are too dangerous, too difficult to describe in print, or too sacred to the local ethos to write about. 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. Gladed runs: Where’s Joe, Overbite, Outer Limits and others (from various chairs)
Blackcomb has a number of really fun gladed runs where you can practice your short radius turns. These are best in fresh powder during or immediately after a storm. In between storms the moguls can get very large.
Chair: Several, including Outer Limits, Arthur’s Choice and In The Spirit, are located off the Crystal Chair. Others, such as Where’s Joe, Yard Sale and Raptor’s Ride, are located off of the Solar Coaster or 7th Heaven chairs.
Recon: Blackcomb Glacier Road for the Crystal Chair runs; Sunset Blvd for the 7th Heaven runs.
Escape: From the top of each run all are easily abandoned.
2. Cougar Chutes, from Secret Bowl
The chutes are pretty short and fairly steep but are fun to negotiate in good snow. In poor conditions, the snow will be very firm and the rocks plentiful. The snow in Secret Bowl on the way to Cougar Chutes, is often wonderful.
Chair: Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven. Navigate down the easy Blue Line road. From the road go past the turnoff to the Couloir Extreme. Stay fairly high and angle to the left to access Secret Bowl through a gate above the entrance to Pakalolo. Stay above the entrance to Pakalolo and head skier’s left to access a horizontal band of rocks above the Cougar Milk run. These are the Cougar Chutes.
Recon: From the Jersey Cream chair take the Cougar Milk run and look up to the right to view Cougar Chutes.
Escape: There’s no easy way out once you’re looking down the chutes, but, if necessary, you could side step back up to access the steeper and longer Pakalolo.
3. Blow Hole/Blackcomb Glacier
The Blackcomb Glacier is the crown jewel of Blackcomb, offering spectacular backcountry views after a very short hike. The glacier itself is hugely wide and intermediate so everyone of intermediate skill and above should make the less than 10-minute hike to experience glacier skiing. At the top of the hike, the Blow Hole will be evident immediately to the left, a steep, unusual formation that looks like an upended half-pipe. Advanced skiers will enjoy the challenge of the Blow Hole. After the glacier, skiers will enjoy a several mile run back to the Excelerator Express chair.
Chair: Showcase T-bar. You’ll exit right from the T-bar at the top of the Showcase run. Angle left toward the top for a short hike.
Recon: The Blow Hole is visible from the top.
Escape: The Blow Hole is entirely optional, and you can easily make your way to the intermediate Blackcomb Glacier.
Pakalolo is a steep chute that starts off with a few narrow turns and then opens up a bit.
Chair: Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven. Navigate down the easy Blue Line. From the road go past the turnoff to the Couloir Extreme. Stay fairly high and angle to the left to access Secret Bowl above the entrance to Pakalolo, which is signed.
Recon: Pakalolo is visible from the Glacier Express chair.
Escape: There’s no way out once you’re at the entrance.
5. Spanky’s Ladder to Ruby, Garnet, Diamond, & Sapphire Bowls
The ladder is a steep wall that requires not only a hike, but a firm whack of the toe of your boot into precarious toe holds for purchase while balancing your skis in one hand and poles in the other. Not for the faint of heart. Every year the ladder is a little different; sometimes more treacherous than others. The reward is a series of fantastic, steep bowls that collect deep drifts of snow. It’s best to start with Ruby Bowl until you familiarize yourself with the terrain.
Chair: Glacier Express. Take a left from the chair, then traverse up the hill on your right. You’ll see people crawling up the hill. Take your skis off and carefully kick your way up the hill. After getting your gear back on head down the initial slope angling skier’s left. A short traverse past cliff signs will bring you to the edge of the wide Ruby Bowl. The rest of the bowls, arrayed to skier’s right of Ruby Bowl, are somewhat steeper and narrower, and because of cliff bands, are best accessed with someone who knows the terrain, or by carefully studying the features from the bottom, from Blackcomb Glacier.
Recon: Spanky’s Ladder is visible from near the top of Glacier Express. The bowls are visible from the run-out of the Blackcomb Glacier, so do Blow Hole or the main Blackcomb Glacier first to scope out the bowls.
Escape: After you’ve climbed up Spanky’s, there’s no way back.
6. Couloir Extreme/Big Bang
The granddaddy of all runs, the Couloir Extreme was rated among the Top 10 steepest ski runs in a ski area by Skiing Magazine. It’s steep, prolonged and guaranteed to get your heart rate up one way or another. If the main entrance is too tame for you, try the higher entrance at skier’s left next time. If the main run is full of bumps, try sliding skier’s right over to the entrance to Big Bang. It’s just as steep but less traveled.
Chair: Horstman T-bar or 7th Heaven. Navigate down the easy Blue Line road to the entrance to Couloir Extreme.
Recon: the Couloir Extreme and Big Bang are visible from the top of the Jersey Cream chair.
Escape: You can easily back out from the entrance of the Couloir into Horstman Glacier. Once you go over to the entrance of Big Bang you’re pretty much committed.
See related articles
- Top Intermediate Ski Runs at Whistler
- Top Intermediate Ski Runs at Blackcomb
- Top 10 Advanced Ski Runs at Whistler
- Top Advanced Ski Runs at Blackcomb
- Top 10 Advanced Ski Runs at Squaw Valley
- Squaw Valley’s Top 10 Expert Ski Runs
- Whistler Blackcomb: see site for current lift ticket prices
- Canadian Ski Council: Check out the Canadian Ski Council packages for significant discounts (some restrictions apply) on packages of 20 tickets. Tickets may be shared among family members and friends but may not be re-sold.
- Whistler Blackcomb is part of the Epic Pass network.
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 between the airport and Whistler.