So. Youre new to Whistler. Probably looking for work. If youve found work already, youre probably looking for more hours or a second job by now.
Welcome. Enjoy the rainy season. Go to movies. Play board games. Cook spaghetti. Lay low. The snow will be here next couple of months. Stick around because it will be worth it.
Found a place to live yet? I know, its expensive for what you get, but hey, this is Whistler, one of the top mountain resorts in the world. Our reputation for expensive and cramped living conditions precedes us. You had to know what you were getting into.
Sleeping on a friends couch until you find something? Been there, done that. Just remember to buy beer regularly, give up the remote control, and do a bit of housework here and there. Make dinner.
You should also try to wake up when your friends do. They wont feel like youre cramping their morning routines and tire of your presence. Besides, you can go right back to sleep after they leave. What else do you have to do?
Welcome to ski bumming in 2003. Its not the kind ski bumming that Whistlers freewheeling originals glorified a generation ago, which was all about working summers, skiing winters, squatting on public land, and partying long into the night. This is nouveau ski bumming, which is far more desperate and a lot less fun.
The difference is that the originals were ski bums by choice, choosing to ski rather than work. Nouveau ski bums dont often have that luxury, and instead are driven into a life of poverty by low wages, and the high cost of rent, food, booze, ski passes and entertainment. Nouveau bums need to work two or three jobs just to stay two steps ahead of the collection agencies.
Come to think of it, were more ski slaves than ski bums these days, trading our freedoms for lives of indentured servitude. Our first master is the snow, and our second is the company we work for.
"Where were you last winter?" theyll ask.
"Ski slavin in Whistler," youll reply.
Works for me.
There are some simple rules of etiquette that youll have to accept as a Whistler ski slave.
1. You can call home twice for money and thats it. Any more and your family and friends, who have already been cut off and disowned, will start to resent you.
2. Dont try and compete with the pros. You cant afford to dress like they do, or use the same equipment. Jackets and pants rip, gloves get lost, goggles get scratched, and there are literally thousands of rocks up there, buried under a centimetre of snow or so, just waiting to drill a core shot into your base or rip your edges off.
3. If you have a credit card, put it away now. Mail it home or give it to a trustworthy friend to hold onto in case of an emergency. Youre going to need that card if you ever want to leave Whistler again, even if its just for a short vacation. Emancipation from ski slavery comes at a price.
4. Before you huck that cliff, or enter the double black diamond park for the first time, ask yourself what happens if you should happen to break something. If you have some money in the bank, or can do your job on crutches, then go for it providing you think you can get away with it, that is.
The Whistler Health Care Centre processes more than a hundred people a day during the busy season, so dont think it wont happen to you. Get yourself health insurance. Put some money away. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
4. Pace yourself and go easy on the bank account. You cant afford any monkeys on your back, or fool yourself believing that youll start getting regular pay cheques in November.
Last year it didnt even snow in Whistler until Christmas, so regular work started about a month late for a lot of people. Depending on the timing of that first shift, it will be another two to three weeks before you see your first real paycheque. Thats right, you may not get paid until January.
Even if we get an early snowfall this year, after the American Thanksgiving weekend it does slow down again until just before Christmas, so you may not be getting all the hours you need.
5. You also might want to think about toeing the line. Show up for work on time, do whats asked of you remove the tongue ring, cut your hair, lose the attitude, whatever because at this time of year you are easily replaced. Things change in mid-winter when most employers complain about the lack of available staff, but the fall months are leaner and hungrier.
Remember, Whistler is almost entirely non-unionized, staff are transient, and there are only a handful of businesses in town that can guarantee you housing, a ski pass, and discounts on food, gear and clothing.
6. Watch your back. The lack of jobs, combined with the fact that neighbourhoods are full of new faces with new stuff, often results in a crime spree at this time of year. Homes, cars, businesses are all hit hard, and hit often.
Get your new landlord to change the old locks, and make sure all your roommates have keys and use them. Lock your bike and equipment inside your home if possible, and whatever you do, dont leave money or expensive gear just sitting around.
If youre one of these autumn thieves, then have a heart. Remember that a lot of the time youre stealing from people who have less money than you do. How bad do you want that kind of karma catching up to you?
7. It may sound like Whistler is a horrible place, but it will start to make sense when the snow starts falling, and youre waist deep in it.
Everyone is a slave to something, they say. Might as well be skiing.
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