Day Ski: Ski Callaghan
Nordic Winter Paradise
Ski Callaghan is the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games' gift to the growing cross-country skiing community on B.C.'S southwest coast. Whistler Olympic Park (WOP), the Nordic-skiing venue built specifically for the Games, is located less than 30 minutes from Whistler and less than two hours from Vancouver. Conveniently combined in a joint venture between WOP and neighbouring Callaghan Country Wilderness Adventures, Ski Callaghan now offers more than 130 kilometres of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails easily accessible to communities from the Greater Vancouver area, all the way up through the Sea to Sky Corridor.
The season at Ski Callaghan typically runs from the end of November until late March or mid-april, depending on conditions. The average snow base is 191 centimetres, and WOP'S elevation ranges between 840 and 930 metres, while Callaghan Country reaches heights of up to 1,382 metres at the Journeyman Lodge, which is frequented by backcountry skiers on overnight trips.
As Ski Callaghan is located in B.C.'S Coastal Mountains, average winter temperatures are mild and rarely drop below -10°C, with an average daily high of +3.3°C and a daily low of -4.0°C. The snow temperature generally hovers around 0°C, so wax for that range is ideal. While waxing, skiers should also bear in mind that the Pacific coastal snow usually holds much moisture.
The folks at Ski Callaghan are proud of the diverse mix of groomed and track-set ski trails on offer, with terrain for all abilities ranging from flat routes to challenging climbs. The trail network winds through old-growth forest, traverses open meadows and tops out at breathtaking viewpoints. For advanced skiers, Ski Callaghan features North America's longest continuous Nordic ski climb with an elevation gain of a whopping 560 metres, along with some of the steepest descents.
If visitors crave a break from skiing, there is a large tobogganing hill on site, electric-assist fatbikes for rent, as well as a newly introduced activity – baseboarding. Best described as a hybrid of the sport of skeleton, bodyboarding on snow and tobogganing, riders descend
a slope on aerodynamic boards. Ski Callaghan's 1.5-kilometre lift-accessed course opened in December.
With the expanded Nordic terrain Ski Callaghan has had on offer since 2010, the region has experienced significant growth in Nordic ski-club membership and general participation in the sport. The extra infrastructure has helped broaden the public's exposure to racing and development of Nordic sports through school and outdoor education programs that see 2,500 to 3,000 children and youth enrolled each season.
Ski Callaghan receives approximately 55,000 to 60,000 skier visits and another 15,000 for other activities throughout the winter season.
The facility hosts events in various winter sports, such as cross-country skiing, biathlon, Nordic-combined and ski jumping, attracting athletes of all levels with such regional, provincial and national competitions as the popular Sigge's Payak Loppet and this season's Haywood Noram Western Canadian Cross-country Ski Championships, Canadian Championships Ski Jumping, and Nordic-combined Championships.
The Games infrastructure has enabled the introduction of ski jumping in the province, and the construction of junior jumps in the summer of 2014 has led to the development of a youth ski-jumping program.
The WOP facility regularly hosts training camps for all kinds of sports, such as Ski Jumping Canada, Canada Para Snowboard, Canada Snowboard and adaptive sports.
Staying true to its creation as an Olympic venue, WOP is continuing its high-performance legacy with the Whistler Nordic Development Centre, founded in 2016 by Wop/whistler Sport Legacies. With access to the Whistler Athletes' Centre for accommodation and the internationally sanctioned sport venues within WOP and Whistler's varied training infrastructure, the program provides coaching and performance services to B.C. athletes who want full-time training. The Centre was first accessed by a group of promising B.C. biathletes, and will be expanded to include all Nordic-sports athletes in the future.
One of Ski Callaghan's most popular weekly events is “$5 Wednesdays,” when on Wednesday evenings, the WOP facility opens a five-kilometre network of lit trails for a $5 trail fee. Wednesday nights regularly attract many locals and guests to the park with discounted trail passes, rentals and meal options.
Ski Callaghan features a full-service day lodge at WOP with a restaurant, sport school, rental and retail shop, while Callaghan Country offers its own rental and retail shop, snow school and food services at its base area.
Another unique feature of Ski Callaghan is its dog-friendliness. The area offers more than 35 kilometres of dedicated trails for snowshoeing, walking or skiing with dogs, making it one of the region's biggest winter off-leash areas.
With a ton of activities that appeal to a wide array of users, Ski Callaghan is a true winter playground and definitely worth a visit. Although there are no accommodations on site besides the small backcountry Journeyman's Lodge, Whistler itself has many overnight options just a short drive – or shuttle ride – away. Ski Callaghan conveniently provides a daily shuttle service from Whistler Village to WOP from $10 round trip.
(facing from top) Just a short drive or shuttle ride away, Whistler Village offers excellent dining and accommodations
Electric-assist fatbikes are available for rent.
A legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Whistler Athletes Centre provides a venue for high-performance training and accommodation.
(above) Callaghan offers more than 130 kilometres of crosscountry-ski and snowshoe trails.
(left) Callaghan also features a large tobogganing hill for kids and adults alike.