Image: Whistler mountain
Tina J. Liddle  /  Special to msnbc.com
Lots of fresh snow on a picture-perfect day at Whistler.
updated 12/11/2007 12:34:13 PM ET 2007-12-11T17:34:13
CYBERTRIPS

You haven't made your ski reservations yet? Whistler's Web site boasted that it already had a 47-inch base in the first week of December. And it's just one of the ski areas piling up snow in the mountains of British Columbia.

See the latest depths and forecasts by clicking on "Weather" at Whistler Canada and while you're there, check out the recent photos and Web cam. If you're not familiar with this popular ski destination that will be part of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, click on "About Whistler." There are two mountains with more than 8,000 acres of skiable terrain, and when you're too tired to ski, the resort village has more shops, restaurants and bars than some small cities.

For info on Whistler's skiing and boarding, click on "Activities." They advertise more than 200 trails, with 38 lifts that can haul more than 61,000 people an hour. And 17 mountain restaurants for refueling. Save a buck or two by buying your lift tickets online in combination with a room reservation. Rooms range from budget level up to private chalets and pet-friendly luxury accommodations.

If you have the bucks, you can expand your skiing opportunities to little-visited terrain beyond the resort boundaries. Visit Whistler Heli-Skiing and see what you can do with a helicopter instead of a ski lift. A tourism guide called Go Northwest has links to more aviation services in the area.

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Whistler is far from being your only destination in the big mountains of British Columbia. The skiing and boarding guide at British Columbia.com shows the breakdown, from the mild climate on Vancouver Island to the Coast Mountains that includes Whistler, Thompson Okanagan farther inland, the rugged Kootenay Rockies, the less-developed Cariboo, and remote Northern British Columbia where some resorts get 40 feet of snow a year. According to the resort profiles, in spite of Vancouver Island's mild climate, its Mount Washington boasts good snow until after Easter and is the province's second-biggest winter destination behind Whistler.

Take a quick glance at conditions at select B.C. ski areas at Ski Report.com and try out the links to ski cams for peeks at the slopes. Ski Central has more ski cam links.

Regulations for returning to the U.S. from Canada by land or sea are scheduled to change on Jan. 31, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to start requiring travelers to present driver's licenses plus proof of citizenship — such as a birth certificate - at the border. Go here and click on "Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean" in the upper-left corner for details. For entering Canada, go to British Columbia's official tourism Web site and look for "Notice to U.S. Citizens" to read about passport requirements.

And while you're there, explore the information on the province's regions to see what else you might do in the vicinity of your chosen ski resort, including "Related Web sites" for links to tourist Web sites specific to each region. Try the Web site's "Things To Do" section to find more destinations and activities to round out your vacation.

You'll likely reach any regional ski resort by going through the city of Vancouver where you could easily be distracted into stopping over for a couple of days for the local scenery, nightlife, festivals, shopping and events like the Vancouver International Boat Show coming in February.

And if you decide to bag the skiing and just go for the scenery, forget the car and take a train through the mountains. The "Vacation Packages" section at Rocky Mountaineer has Winter Rail Vacations, plus a Whistler Mountaineer that will take you from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond.

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