Whistler Demographics

This section presents an analysis of population growth trends,demographic, socio-economic, and household characteristics for Whistler’s permanent resident population. This analysis also includes some data for the neighbouring communities of Squamish and Pemberton. The principal data source is the most recent Canada Census of Population and Housing conducted by Statistics Canada in 2001 and released through 2003. Age statistics and family and household characteristics however use the most recent 2006 Canada Census data. Annual population estimates are from BC Statistics.


As of April 2010, Whistler’s permanent population was estimated to be 10,531. Whistler experienced rapid population growth between 1988 and 1998, with an average annual growth rate of 13% per year, adding 6,255 new residents overall or an average of 625 new residents per year (equivalent to 250 new households). Population growth has slowed significantly since that time to an annual average rate of 1.3% per year with a decrease experienced between 2004 and 2005 and again between 2007 and 2008. The population did increase by 5% however between 2008 and 2009 recording Whistler’s highest annual growth since 1998. 2010 posts Whistler’s largest population seen.

Whistler Population Equivalent

The nature of Whistler being a tourism community means the number of people in Whistler on any given day is greater than the population counts provided Canada Census or BC Statistics estimates. The total population equivalent is an estimate of the total number of people in Whistler on average at one time. The indicator is often used in ‘per capita’ measures to normalize the data and make it comparable to other communities. The following figure provides an estimate of the average number of people in Whistler overnight per day during the Summer 2010 and Winter 2010/11 season.

The estimated number of people in Whistler overnight per day averaged 28,122 almost 2.5 times greater than the permanent population of 10,531 residents.

  • Whistler had an estimated seasonal resident population of 2,754 averaged throughout the year.
  • An additional estimated 3,672 employees on average commuted into Whistler on a daily basis, primarily from the neighbouring communities of Pemberton and Squamish increasing the yearly daily average population equivalent to 31,794.

Sea to Sky

Whistler grew 3% from 2009 to 2010 whereas Squamish grew faster than other Sea to Sky communities in 2010 at 4%. Squamish continues to have the largest permanent resident base in the Sea to Sky Region at approximately 17,898 residents. After five decades of steady population growth primarily associated with forestry, the District of Squamish experienced a net decrease of 45 residents over the five year period from 1998 through 2003. Though the population dropped slightly between 2005 and 2006, between 2003 and 2007 the population increased by 15%. Pemberton continues to have the smallest population, with 2,437 residents, but has experienced the most rapid population growth in the past ten years with an average annual growth rate of 4% to 2010.

Demographic & Socio-Economic Characteristics

This section profiles Whistler’s permanent resident population, including distribution by age, marital status,family composition, labour force participation, as well as school enrollment information.

Age Distribution

  • The age distribution of Whistler residents is less balanced than is typical for the province as a whole, with fewer children, youth and seniors, and a larger percentage of young adults
  • Whistler’s age distribution is centered around a median age of 32 years, nine years younger than the provincial median age of 41 years.
  • Fifty-seven percent of Whistler’s population is between 20 and 44 compared to 34% for the province. Fifteen percent of B.C.’s population is over the age of 65, whereas in Whistler, people aged 65 and over make up less than 4% of the population.
  • Between 2001 and 2006, Whistler experienced increases in the number of residents in each age category with the largest increase (170 residents) in the 45-49 age cohort. The largest percentage increases occurred in the 70-74 (100%) and 60-64 (85%) age categories.
  • The proportion of residents between 20 and 39 years of age decreased from 62% in 1996 to 55% in 2001 and down again to 48% in 2006. In fact the the number of residents 20 and 39 years of age decreased by 400 people on an absolute basis between 2001 and 2006. This absolute decrease in this segment of the population was countered most significantly by an increase of residents over 45 and 64 and 5-14 years of age over the same period.
  • Overall, Whistler’s age distribution continued to exhibit an aging population trend between 2001 and 2006; however, this trend was not as significant as for the province as a whole.

Family & Household Characteristics

Whistler’s family and household characteristics are different from those in the province overall with a large percentage of single individuals, one-person households and households comprised of non-family members and a smaller percentage of family households with children.

Marital Status

In 2006, 57% of Whistler’s permanent resident population over the age of 15 years was characterised as single, compared to 32% for the province. The number of permanent residents legally married or in in Whistler (33%) was far less than that in Squamish (48%), Pemberton (40%) or BC (50%) as a whole.

Household Distribution

One-person households and households comprised of non-family members represent 54.2% of all households; 26% are households with couples without children. Nineteen percent of Whistler households are made up of couples with children, compared to 26% for BC, 30% for Squamish and 28% for Pemberton. The distribution remained similar to 2001 with couples without children decreasing from 27% to 26%, couples with children decreasing .5% from 20% and one-person households and households comprised of non-family members increasing 1.2% from 53% to 54.2%.

Household Size. Average household size is 2.3 persons per household slightly smaller than the 2.43 recorded in 2001 , similar to that for Pemberton (2.3); Squamish and BC as a whole have larger household sizes at 2.6 and 2.5 persons per household respectively.

Labour Force and Employment Structure

Whistler’s resident work force has grown steadily and has a high participation rate focused on tourism-related service sectors, including food and beverage, accommodation, recreation and entertainment, retail trade, business services, real estate and transportation.

Total Labour Force & Employment Growth

Whistler’s labour force increased almost seven fold over the 20-year period between 1981-2001, with the greatest growth reported between 1986 and 1991 at an average annual rate of 18% per year. Growth in the labour force slowed to an average of 3.9% per year between 1996-2001, then the growth rate was slightly negative to 2006. By 2006, the resident labour force totaled 6,925 people, representing 31% of the regional labour force of 22,195 people in the SLRD, a decrease from 33% reported in 2001. The number of employed residents grew slightly from 6,540 in 2001 to 6,560 in 2006 and the growth rate was significantly smaller than rates between previous census periods.

Participation Rate

A much higher proportion (85.6%) of Whistler’s population participated in employment in 2006 compared to the SLRD rate of 77.3%. Whistler’s 5.3% unemployment rate was 1.7 percentage points less than the SLRD’s unemployment rate of 7%, and lower than Whistler’s 2001 rate of 6.3%.

Employment and Occupation by Sector

Service Sector

Eighty-eight percent of the workforce was employed in the service sector in 2006. Other services, comprised of accommodation, food services arts and recreation services and other, represented almost one half of all employment, compared to 33% for the SLRD. The second greatest concentration of labour force activity was in business services (17%) followed by retail trade (10%).

Goods Production

Only a small percentage of Whistler’s workforce is employed in goods production (12%), with the majority being employed in manufacturing and construction (11%). Whistler has very little employment in resource-based industries (1% of total), compared to 5% for the SLRD.

School & Day Care Enrollment

Whistler’s student population is primarily accommodated within two elementary schools and a secondary school administered by the Howe Sound School District No. 48, which spans from Squamish to Pemberton. Whistler’s public school system is complemented by a number of alternative private school programs, including the Waldorf-inspired Alta Lake School, the Adult Learning Centre, several preschools/daycares and language schools.

Whistler School Enrollment

Whistler’s student population has decreased by 5 students over the past five years, from 861 students in 2006 to 856 in 2010. Current enrollment is below the highest enrollment of 919 students experienced in 1998 and slightly lower than the 2009 enrollment total, 858.

Whistler’s three public schools have official operating capacities of 330 students for Myrtle Philip Elementary, 430 students for Spring Creek Elementary and 375 for Whistler Secondary after completion of an expansion in 2004/05.

Spring Creek Elementary opened in January 2004, helping to address overcrowding and use of portable classrooms at Myrtle Philip and Whistler Secondary. Spring Creek opened with an enrollment of 215 students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 and increased to 244 in 2007; with the redistribution of these students, enrollment at Myrtle Philip dropped to 249 students from 479 students the previous year.

Myrtle Philip enrollment is currently at 247. Enrolment at Whistler Secondary was 358 students through the 2003 school year, decreasing to 282 students with the redistribution of Grade 7 students back to the elementary level in 2004. Whistler Secondary currently enrolls 342 students.