Situated in the southern Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains, Whistler is roughly 125 km north of Vancouver and 36 km south of Pemberton. Host to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Whistler is consistently ranked one of the top ski resorts in the world.
If you’re considering building a custom home in Whistler, the village and its residential neighbourhoods offer a lifestyle that is second to none, with a world class ski resort, 4-season adventure playground, spectacular natural surroundings and breathtaking views. The Whistler community and neighbourhoods offer the safety and feel of small town life, but with all the experiences and amenities of jet-set international ski resort, with award-winning cuisine, local shops or luxury boutiques, art galleries and museums and spas, with festivals, events, outdoor concerts, movies and more.
Lifestyle: Living in Whistler, the great outdoors, adventure and breathtaking natural surroundings are always right at your doorstep. And some things make the resort community truly special. Condé Nast Traveler’s annual reader choice awards ranked Whistler Blackcomb (WB) the best ski resort in North America in 2022, with a score of 88.37 out of 100. Whistler’s unique car-free Valley Trail is a paved trail and boardwalk network that connects Whistler’s neighbourhoods, lakes, and viewpoints. Enjoyed by visitors and residents alike, the Peak to Peak Gondola is the highest and longest gondola lift in the world, 1,400 feet above the valley floor below, and 4.39km in length.
During the winter months, Whistler is known for its winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, nordic and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating. Other winter activities include ice climbing, snowmobiling, ziplining, bungee jumping, sliding at the tube park, sliding down the world’s fastest ice track in a bobsleigh, dog sledding or some quiet ice fishing.
In the summer months, the vast network of trails in Whistler Valley comes alive with runners, hikers and horseback riders. Whistler also offers 186 rock climbing routes. Lakes are the perfect place to relax in the sun and have a picnic, or enjoy a few hours canoeing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. With the many glacial runoffs and pristine mountain rivers, whitewater rafting is very popular with Whistler thrill seekers. And for those looking for a few quiet hours on the water, Squamish River offers excellent fly fishing for coastal Cutthroat and Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and four Pacific salmon species. Golfers can play four of Canada’s top-ranked courses, and they’re all within 25 minutes of each other.
Small town life, but with all the experiences and amenities: Whistler is a small village and social community with roughly 14,000 permanent residents (2021 census), yet offers experiences and amenities that indulge all of the senses, drawing visitors from around the world each year. From cultural events and entertainment to award-winning cuisine, home-grown shops or luxury boutiques, art galleries and museums, or a day of pampering at the spa, Whistler has almost everything.
As a world-class resort community Whistler must provide the expected amenities for its international seasonal workers, who usually are on a limited budget, its permanent residents, who rely on merchants to stock everything they need to live in Whistler year-round, and the jet setters, used to the very finest services, dining, nightlife and entertainment, and accommodations. In stark contrast with the buzz and vibrancy of the Village, the Whistler neighbourhoods, dotting the Sea to Sky Highway, are quiet residential retreats, subdivisions made up of beautiful homes nestled amongst the trees, lakes and snow-covered mountains.
Whistler offers an eclectic mix of street food, laidback après ski food and drinks, authentic pubs and fine dining. Whether you’re strolling through Whistler Village, Village North or Creekside Village, or stopping in at one of the shops in the surrounding neighbourhoods, Whistler Blackcomb is a world-class shopping destination and they should have everything you need.
For essentials, there are 6 grocery stores, a farmer’s market, 3 pharmacies and 3 liquor stores. The ski, snowboard, mountain bike and outdoor lifestyle shops offer specialized mountain expertise. Like a luxury mall in the city, you’ll find fashion clothing and footwear, luxury boutiques, sporting goods and golf pro shops, a bookstore, jewellery and accessories, galleries, gifts and specialty items, and much more.
Events and festivals: Each year, Whistler publishes an entertainment schedule that includes festivals, events, outdoor concerts, movies and more. The season begins with Whistler Village’s festive lighting, roughly 6,500 strands and 350,000 LED bulbs in total, to lend a bit of sparkle to the short days and Whistler’s dark skies. You’ll want to bring your sled and enjoy the frosty fun at the Olympic Plaza till the end of March.
With the long ski days of Spring, it’s the perfect time to stop by the Whistler Sliding Centre, take in the sights and ride the bobsleigh like an Olympian with a trained pilot, sliding through ten twists and turns at speeds of over 125km/h, and acceleration producing up to 4 G forces. Or enjoy the sunshine and lunch on the outdoor deck of one of Whistler’s restaurants, and then an art exhibition at Audain Art Museum.
Mid-June, it’s time for the exhilarating XFONDO gravel cycling event, with courses of 42 – 60K, at an elevation of 1000 – 1300 metres, threading through winding gravel switchbacks and long flowing descents, before the backdrop of Whistler’s breathtaking mountains. And then, in early August, the three-day ultra endurance triathlon events – the Ultra 515 Canada and the Ultra 515 World Wide Championships – take place. The feature race in 2024 will be the inaugural Ultra 515 World Wide Championship.
Whistler’s Summer Concert Series begins at the end of June, offering free outdoor concerts all summer, with music genres ranging from indie pop or R&B to rock, and even the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Whether you book a reservation at a nearby restaurant or put down a picnic blanket near the stage at the Whistler Olympic Plaza, you’ll be sure to enjoy the 14 diverse performances presented by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Province of British Columbia. As the sun goes down, you’ll want to enjoy Summer Movies in the Plaza, with state-of-the-art audio and incredible digital screen quality.
Then, in September Whistler hosts the RBC GranFondo Whistler point-to-point cycling journey along the beautiful Sea to Sky mountain corridor, between Vancouver and Whistler. Traffic is cleared on the Sea to Sky highway and distance options range from 55 km to 122 km. In October, the Whistler Wine Walk offers guided walking tours of Whistler Village’s art gallery scene every Friday, while sipping a glass of of wine from BC wineries. As the month winds down, many of the restaurants and bars host Halloween parties, including the famous Tapley’s Pub Hallowingo event.
Cornucopia, Whistler’s annual fall festival of food and drink, takes place over 10 days in November. It’s a celebration featuring food and drink tastings, culinary demonstrations, seminars and more. During December, there’s the Creekside Village Christmas Market in Creekside Village, and the Whistler Bespoke Market at the Audain Art Museum; and you can expect to come across the Roving Christmas Carollers.
From the original pioneers who began to settle in the area in the 1880s, and the group of Vancouver businessmen who launched an original bid to host the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Whistler in the 1960s, to the less than 1,000 residents who incorporated The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) in 1975, the Whistler resort was built by entrepreneurs willing to follow their dreams and take risks.
Even though the first Olympic bid failed, Franz Wilhelmsen of the Garibaldi Lift Company was committed to the goal of erecting and operating lifts on Whistler Mountain, and in 1965 they opened with a four-person gondola, a double chairlift and a day lodge. That is the entrepreneurial spirit and vision Whistler was built on, and it inspires a new breed of business owners each year.
Whistler has become a global leader among destination mountain resort communities, with 2.7 million unique visitors each year, representing $1.27 billion in consumer spending annually. 24% to 35% of Whistler’s workforce is from out of town, arriving for the winter season or the whole year. Tourism is the heart of Whistler’s economy and makes living in Whistler sustainable.
Whistler’s permanent population grew by 19% from the previous census in 2016. In 2021 there were 13,982 residents, and 10,065 private dwellings, with 5,597 of those occupied by permanent residents. Whistler is not interested in unconstrained growth and does limit expansion to ensure that Whistler remains the place its residents moved there for. Whistler’s dramatic landscape, with floodplains and the agricultural land reserve, also poses some limits on expansion.
While Whistler is not aggressively pursuing new businesses, every year fresh businesses open in Whistler Village, Function Junction and the surrounding neighbourhoods, and existing businesses are sold to new owners. Businesses that support tourism and provide a valuable service to residents can be very profitable. Whistler has also seen significant growth in home-based online businesses and remote work since 2020.
Whistler is a wonderful place to raise a family, offering unmatched outdoor and recreational opportunities. The community can leverage the unique assets that remain after hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, to offer some of the best programs, facilities and sports opportunities to growing children. To attract permanent residents that support Whistler’s tourist industry and infrastructure, building a family-oriented community has been a focus, and that includes providing excellent schools.
There are two public elementary schools and one private school for primary-age students. There is one public secondary school for high school students. Located just north of Whistler Village, Myrtle Philip Community School teaches grades K – 7 and has an enrolment of about 300 students. The teaching staff holds themselves accountable for high excellence across the curriculum—in academics, athletics, fine arts and career programs.
Located in the neighbourhood of Spring Creek, at the south end of Whistler, École Spring Creek Community School also teaches grades K – 7 and has an enrolment of about 350 students. Spring Creek also offers Late French Immersion in grades 5 – 7. The staff is committed to providing a Deeper Learning environment to its students, helping them understand how classwork relates to their everyday lives.
Located in the neighbourhood of Alta Lake, Whistler Waldorf School (WWS) is a fully accredited independent school offering an alternative to the public school curriculum. The school teaches grades preschool through 12 and has an enrolment of about 200 students. Waldorf schools provide a classical education for the modern world, deeply rooted in the disciplines of humanities, arts and sciences.
Located in the Alpine Meadows neighbourhood, Whistler Secondary School (WSS) is Whistler’s only secondary school and it teaches grades 8-12, with an enrolment of about 350 students. The staff encourages hard work academically, but students are also encouraged to develop their unique talents including arts, global stewardship and sports.
Located in the neighbourhood of Spring Creek, at the south end of Whistler, École La Passerale is a francophone school that teaches grades K – 7, with an enrolment of more than 60 students. La Passerelle means “footbridge” and the name reflects the school’s mission to serve as a bridge between two languages, two cultures, and the two schools. (The other is Spring Creek Community School.)
To receive an accurate construction budget, you will of course want to work together with your architect or design-build team and a Whistler Realtor®. However, to get a rough ballpark figure, the Altus Group’s 2023 Canadian Cost Guide says that the cost of building a single-family residential house with an unfinished basement currently ranges from $180 – $290 per square foot in Greater Vancouver. Those building costs include the above-grade scope of work only, complete with foundations.
Many factors affect the cost of a custom home, in addition to the perfect lot with a view. The layout and topography of your building lot will have a bearing on the cost. And then there’s the square footage. Larger houses can benefit from economies of scale, resulting in a reduced cost per foot.
The architectural style and finishes of your dream home can increase both the cost of materials and labour, with features such as elevated decks, multiple garages, dual-pitched roofs, slate roofs with copper details, high calibre millwork and detailing, and more.
Another consideration is performance. Passive houses and net zero homes typically cost 10% more than a conventional house built to code, but will significantly reduce your energy costs, while delivering improved performance over your home’s entire life cycle. A high-performance home will have an airtight building envelope, minimal thermal bridging, continuous super-insulation, high-efficiency doors and windows, an energy-efficient HVAC system with ventilation, and possibly an on-site renewable energy source.
Both the Passive House and Net Zero certification labels identify your home as a very energy-efficient building, that consumes a minimum amount of energy for heating, cooling and lighting. Where they differ is their focus.
The passive house approach focuses on designing and building a home that adheres to clearly defined design principles to reach an exacting and quantitative level of energy efficiency while delivering optimal comfort for the home’s occupants. The heating demand for a passive house is typically no higher than 15 kWh/(m²a), which is negligible. This represents only about 10% of the energy used in conventional buildings. Whereas, net zero energy (NZE) homes are designed to generate enough renewable energy on-site to equal the total energy consumed annually.
Both building standards pursue energy efficiency targets, with an air-tight building envelope, minimal thermal bridging, installation of energy-efficient doors and windows, and thick continuous insulation. Because the building envelopes are sealed, they need a mechanical ventilation system to deliver fresh, filtered air to every room in the house, while removing the stale air. They rely on a heat recovery system, built into the ventilation unit, and are heated and cooled by an energy-efficient system such as a heat pump. Having the shared goal of drastically reducing energy requirements, a passive house can be a logical path towards reaching either ‘net zero ready’ (still needs a renewable energy source like a solar panel system) or full ‘net zero’ certification.
There are two primary approaches when assembling the design and construction team for your custom home.
The construction time is dependent upon many variables. If your custom home is being built on a bare, vacant lot, with the standard platform/stick framing method, you can expect the build to take between 10 and 16 months. If your home is being built with traditional, sustainable joinery, such as post and beam or timber framing, allow between 18 and 24 months.
Before meeting with the prospective architect, designer or building contractor, spend at least a half hour checking them out. Be sure to look at the portfolio on the company’s website. Does the company design or build the type of house you want? You can learn a lot about a company by looking at their website. If it’s outdated and in disrepair, with broken links, or missing images, and it doesn’t render properly on your mobile device, there’s a message there. It’s equivalent to the contractor showing up for a meeting in a rundown, dented pickup, with a missing fender and broken muffler. Look up their status on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website.
Here are some opening questions you could ask: