Autumn at the famed winter resort area may have a slower vibe, but it’s nonetheless vibrant in the fall. Take your pick of festivals, contests, culture and culinary events.
Often overshadowed by mighty summers and legendary winters, fall is arguably the most underrated season in Whistler, British Columbia’s revered resort area two hours north of Vancouver off Canada’s west coast.
Renown for winter skiing and snowboarding at Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, Whistler in fall offers unparalleled access to backcountry routes, a laid-back pace and a stunning explosion of reds, oranges and purples across the mountain vista.
Locals relish autumn as a time for relaxing and taking life at an altogether slower pace. But for visitors, the season has a lot to offer those seeking a quintessential Canadian getaway.
Here are four reasons to visit Whistler in the fall:
Horrorfest and Axe Throwing
What better way to celebrate Halloween than with a scarefest in the mountains of Whistler? The annual Heavy Hitting Horrorfest returns on Oct. 30 and this enduring independent horror film festival will once again showcase terrifying and sometimes hilarious cinematic creations.
Filmmakers at the event compete for the Silver Skull Trophy, while horror fans enjoy a feast of music, fun and films as well as a red carpet pre-party. While costumes aren’t compulsory, why not wear them to get in the Halloween spirit?
Before you don your witch’s hat or vampire fangs, head to Forged Axe Throwing in Function Junction for an edgy way to kick off the spooky proceedings. Popular as a party pastime and even an international sport, ax throwing sees participants hurl axes at a wooden target with the hope of hitting a bullseye.
The hour-long drop-in sessions prove most popular and the friendly team will provide an all-important safety briefing as well as offer tips to aid your throwing technique. Prepare for things to get competitive as you take on your friends and see why ax throwing is rapidly becoming one of the leading party and team-building activities.
Beer and Biking in Whistler
Fancy trying beer yoga? Well, now you can, at the Whistler Beer Festival (Sept. 9 -15). The festival marks the end of summer and the start of fall, with more than 140 beers and ciders on display from 70 distinct breweries.
The seven-day event is predictably popular with beer lovers from across British Columbia and beyond, although the festival offers a host of entertainment even for those people less enthusiastic about the latest craft.
Expect tasting events, cask nights, beer battles and plenty of food to fill the event’s busy timetable. The Master Crafters blind taste test competition is not to be missed on Friday evening, Sept. 13, at the Longhorn Saloon. Attendees sample unidentified hazy beers during the evening and then have their say on the best brew.
Mountain Biking in Whistler
After all that beer tasting, it’s time to work off the hazy head. Luckily, fall is the most accessible time to explore the numerous back country trails and enjoy mountain biking in Whistler. There’s a trail for every skill level, and Lost Lake Park is a great place to familiarize yourself with the terrain.
You’ll take in a multitude of mini landmarks, including the Fountain of Love and Tin Pants Trails. Once you’re ready, head out on the 150 miles of single-track trails and take in the stunning scenery, or opt for a guided bike ride and explore the surroundings with the help of a local.
Whistler Writers Festival
The Whistler Writers Festival (Oct. 17-20) is in its 18th year, and while books are at the heart of the event, the festival includes a packed itinerary with music, food and workshops. Aspiring writers and avid readers will find themselves in good company, with more than 70 authors, publishers and guest presenters heading to the mountains for this literary extravaganza. Whether you need advice ahead of your first book release or just want to network with fellow bookworms, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Once the final chapter of your latest read is complete, head out on a magical night walk and experience the Vallea Lumina, a collaboration between The Adventure Group and Moment Factory. This multimedia night walk retraces the footsteps of two hikers of old along a long-lost trail hidden between the trees and the many supposedly wondrous and magical things that happened to them while in Whistler.
Whistler Wine Walk
The Whistler Wine Walk is a great way to check out Whistler’s bustling art gallery scene while sampling hors d’oeuvres and wines from BC wineries every Friday night in October. Each week, four public and private galleries will offer a taste of Whistler’s eclectic cultural mix featuring local, regional and international artists, as well as interactive art experiences. It’s the perfect way to start the long Canadian Thanksgiving weekend Oct. 11-14.
The most difficult decision you’ll have to make during Thanksgiving is where to eat. Choose from an abundance of formal and casual restaurants offering a traditional turkey dinner or mix things up with an Italian pizza feast.
As one of the last fall events of the season, the Cornucopia Festival (Nov. 7-17) is a must-visit for foodies. The event celebrates the latest and greatest in the dining world, and brings together the best chefs, winemakers and producers from British Columbia and beyond.
Locals describe the event as “where wild meets refined,” with the province’s bounty of natural ingredients widely used after a busy harvest.
After a day of fine food, head to one of Whistler’s art galleries or museums to fill up on culture. Despite being one of the newest additions in town, the Audain Art Museum has already made a splash thanks to an impressive permanent collection of artworks from around the world.
The Audain’s Emily Carr exhibition is a much anticipated event, running from Sept. 21 to Jan. 19. The exhibition highlights new information about Carr’s approach to painting over the course of three critical years: 1910 to 1912.
Drawn from national and international public, private and corporate collections, the exhibition provides visitors a rare opportunity to view more than 50 paintings, watercolors and drawings by Carr, who was inspired by Pacific Northwest Coast Indians and landscapes.
A selection of work by Carr’s instructors will also be on display, with exhibits from English painter Henry William Phelan Gibb, Scottish painter John Duncan Fergusson and New Zealand watercolorist Frances Hodgkins.
The Whistler Museum is also worth a visit to discover the history of the area and unique mountain culture. Check out the many historical displays and photographs, and don’t miss the original gondola cabin.