Winter Ziplining in Whistler with Ziptrek Ecotours
Who knew ziplining in winter was possible or could be so much fun? We sneaked in a long, holiday weekend getaway last week to Vancouver and Whistler before the year was over. While we spent some time at Whistler’s world-famous slopes, we also decided we wanted to do some activities to enhance this winter getaway. Our whole family eagerly anticipated zip lining in the snow and what a thrill.
Our ziplining adventure was with Ziptrek Ecotours which offers an array of zip line tours all year no matter the weather conditions. We chose the Bear Tour which consisted of trails, suspension bridges and five ziplines that crisscrossed between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and across Fitzsimmons Creek. The tour was between 2.5-3 hours which was a good duration and was perfect for families and first-timers.
We met our two tour guides (Bobby from Canada and Freddie from Sweden) who then drove us ten minutes away to a shack at Blackcomb Mountain base.
Along the way, the guides gave us some educational information on the area. This wasn’t just a zipline adventure but also an ecotour. It was interesting to find out that we were going to be entering a coastal temperate rainforest. Yes, there’s actually a rainforest in western Canada.
There were only nine of us in the group with my kids being the youngest. The other five were all adults from Australia who were ziplining for the first time. We were fitted with our helmets and equipment while at the cozy and warm shack. Ziptrek uses a five-point, full-body harness similar to ones we’ve used in Honduras and Mexico. Somehow, these felt more light, comfortable and less bulky considering we were wearing layers and thick winter jackets. It was very easy to walk around with them.
We walked briefly on a snow-covered trail and into a small forest of trees to our first zip line. The guides were very reassuring to the first-timers and explained everything well. One guide ziplined first to the next landing platform while the other one connected and launched us. It was an efficient, well-run system that minimized what guests have to worry about.
Our first line was short and quick but was a good way to get acclimated to ziplining in the cold and a nice introduction for the first-timers. Can you tell this boy is so excited to go?
It has been a couple of years since we’ve ziplined. It was so wonderful to have that exhilarating and carefree feeling of soaring over the treetops again. My daughter and I screamed in excitement after stepping off that ledge. There was something very special with ziplining in snow-covered scenery instead of a tropical jungle. Whistler had a few inches of snow a couple of days earlier so this was winter wonderland at its best.
We felt a little jolt at the end of the line which was their braking system before the guide pulled us in. This was vastly different to ones we’ve been on where the lines were designed to slow our momentum at the end and the guides pulled us in to the platform too. Their braking system was a nice surprise but I felt so much safer with it. The rest of our ziplines were through a private road that eventually led us to the rainforest. It was such a picturesque landscape.
The kids loved the multiple suspension bridges and boardwalks we walked on to get from one platform to another. It added another layer of fun and adventure.
They also enjoyed climbing to the top of the tree platforms that almost looked like treehouses. Our group was a decent size but it also involved some waiting.
These tree platforms provided a great place to enjoy the panoramic views. It got pretty cold when we weren’t moving as much so dress warmly.
My kids asked the guides if they could go upside down like they’ve done before by the second line. The guides were more than willing to oblige and helped them.
Here’s my tween showing us how it’s done.
Our favorite lines, which were also the longest, were the ones that crossed over the Fitzsimmons Creek and the river valley. It transported us from one mountain to another. This was my view before takeoff. I almost wished it didn’t go so fast so I could have enjoyed the scenery longer.
Heights have never been an issue with our family. But, the lines in this Bear Tour really weren’t that steep with the highest at 200 feet (61 m) above the creek. It was easy to forget the height part once we were quickly cruising past the trees and scenery.
My biggest fear during my first zip line was falling but I learned to trust the guides and equipment. I can certainly understand any apprehensions especially for anyone with a fear of heights. But, the guides were very professional, encouraging, friendly and really worked well with nervous first-timers. Actually, by the time we got to our third line the first-timers were having so much fun.
It’s not often one travels between mountains while looking down at a frozen river with snow falling. It almost felt surreal. The winter wonderland scenery was just breathtaking with some of the freshest alpine air. This was my husband’s perspective on one of the longer lines.
We really liked the sustainability education part of this tour. The tree platforms had signs that showed the animals that lived here and the trees that surrounded us. Many of them were towering fir, hemlock and spruce trees that reminded us of a giant Christmas tree farm. It was easy to forget this part when you’re having so much fun and I’m glad they’ve integrated the ecotour seamlessly.
The ecosystem talks were brief, informational and sometimes funny that it actually captivated my kids who were anxious to move on to the next line. It was a good break in between zips. It allowed us to catch our breath and learn something about the local ecosystem that surrounded us and sustainability efforts to keep this forest looking pristine. It was wonderful to find out that Ziptrek uses part of the zipline fees to contribute to various conservation projects and charities.
These green, hair-like threads, moss-looking plants were abundantly hanging in many of the trees. They were a specific type of lichens or witch’s hair. Lichens (pronounced ly-kens) are made up of algae and fungi in a mutually beneficial relationship. Most lichens grow less than a millimeter a year so these have been here for ages. They thrive on non-polluted environments which was a testament to how clean the forest air that surrounded us.
Current weather conditions and a person’s weight determine one’s speed down the zipline. The guides warned us that there’s a chance the kids could get stuck due to wind conditions but they didn’t want to do a tandem zip. Unfortunately, my kids got stuck almost towards the end of the longest line. I’m glad they didn’t panic and actually didn’t mind being stuck since they had the chance to enjoy watching the river below and the scenery around them. Though, my husband and I felt bad for our guide, Freddie, who had to retrieve them two separate times.
This was my 9-year-old son in a cannonball position before getting stuck near the end of the line.
The Bear Tour actually allows tandem ziplining for kids who are over six years old but weigh less than the minimum weight requirement of 65 lbs (30 kgs). The kids get to zipline three of the five lines and go with the guide for the longest lines. Let Ziptrek know in advance if your kids fall in this category since there are only two tandem spaces per tour.
We were so excited when it started snowing halfway through our tour. It was an added bonus to an already amazing experience.
The guides encouraged us to be a little bolder and go “freestyle” on our last zip line which crossed the river one last time. My kids and husband didn’t hesitate to go upside down. I don’t do well hanging upside down so I settled for letting go of the handles. One of Ziptrek’s photographers was there to capture this last line and for a group photo. This tour went a lot faster than we expected and we all wished we had a couple more lines to go.
It was definitely worth braving the cold and elements for an unforgettable and family-friendly winter adventure. We had so much fun and felt completely safe throughout the tour. If you find yourself in Whistler for a winter getaway, go venture beyond the slopes and zipline between the mountains. We highly recommend doing this activity and regretted not having done this sooner.
Winter Ziplining in Whistler Basics and Tips
- Prices (as of December 2014): Bear Tour which is great for families and first-timers: $109 (Adults); $89 (Kids 6-14 and Seniors over 65). $20 discount for Non-Peak tours (early morning and late afternoon but times vary).
- There are three other zipline tours including a Twilight tour to suit various challenge levels. This can also be combined with the Peak 2 Peak gondola ride.
- Book in advance online for busy weekends and holidays to get the tour time you want. Book online and save 15%.
- Minimum age restriction for the Bear Tour is 6 years old.
- Weight restrictions: Minimum 65 lbs (30 kg) and max of 275 lbs (125 kg); Kids who are over 6 years old but weigh less than the minimum weight can do tandem zips but let Ziptrek know in advance since tandem space is limited.
- Check in at lower level of Carleton Lodge and to fill-in paperwork 15 minutes before designated tour time.
- Storage is available for backpacks and purses (no big items) at the shack. Leave personal belongings in your rooms or secure them in zippers so they won’t fly off.
- Show your receipt at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub (near the Blackcomb base) afterwards for a discount.
- Bring your Go Pro cameras and they fit securely on their helmets.
- Pictures are displayed and various packages can be purchased afterwards at their tour desk.
Have you zip-lined during Winter? Would you try this adventure?
DISCLOSURE: Our family was graciously hosted by Ziptrek Ecotours but all opinions about our amazing experience are our own.