It's that time of year again, the time of year we get down to the serious business of being Whistler.
Not the really serious business, mind you. Not the kind of business that wonders exactly what in the heck the Fraser Valley Fire Hydrant Services people were doing last fall when they were supposed to be getting Tiny Town's fire hydrants ready for winter, or why exactly the one in Emerald the fire department tried to hook up to was a hydrantsicle. Not that kind of serious business.
Not even the kind of serious business that questions why really important jobs like keeping the hydrants flowing have been outsourced by the RMOW, although it would be heartwarming to know exactly how much we were saving by doing so and how much more we might save by outsourcing it to, say, a call centre in Bangalore, who might do almost as good a job for a whole lot less.
And not even the serious, if whimsical, business of wondering whatever happened to the highly touted Whistler Value Equation, which took a serious drubbing this past weekend. Not namin' names here but you know who you are.
No, I'm talking about the time of year when the tourists return in earnest. Not the Christmas bubble. As busy as that is it's the storm before the calm or, as may be more appropriate this season, the last oasis before crossing the desert.
Dead President's Day/Week is the kickoff to the meat and potatoes and gluten-free garlic bread of the season. It signals the beginning of a parade of very welcome guests who come during various reading weeks, spring breaks, the movable feast of Easter and for no special reason at all. It culminates in the 10 days of sport, culture and debauchery known affectionately as the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, after which things slow down to a ferris wheel-like pace, which, rumour has it, is high on the list of Additional Attractions those who are bound and determined to turn this town into an amusement park would like to see constructed.
It's the time of year when people who haven't skied yet this year finally show up. As unfathomable as it seems, people just like them keep showing up until the end of the season. Many of them live what are known in non-ski resort towns as "Normal Lives." They have Monday-to-Friday jobs, families to raise, lives to lead. Lives that do not include more than a few days on snowy mountains each year. That's each year, not each week. Locals may have trouble grasping that concept but try; it's important if you're going to be at all empathetic.
Many of them aren't even certain where all their ski gear is, unlike people in town whose ski gear is where it always is, right by the back door. Many more of them burden themselves with ski gear they purchased in a hopeful moment back in the 1990s. No, seriously, they bought it and have kept it and brought it with them from far away. They didn't stop at the compactor or Re-Use-It and pick it up.
It is for them, I offer the following "Rules to Live By." Of course, these Rules only apply in Whistler. You can forget them when you go home. But for now, these few tips — offered in the spirit of brother and sisterhood — will add immeasurably to your holiday.
Don't Drive: You need five things to drive successfully in this town. A good car, snow tires, skill, luck and a clear understanding where you're going. Very few of us who live here have all five. You probably have no more than two, one if you rented a car at the airport.
Whistler is built around a pedestrian — from the Latin, pedester, meaning on foot — village; walking is the best way to get around. If that seems just too out there for you, grab a taxi; taxi drivers have at least three, maybe four of the five things needed. And if you happen to have Washington plates on your car, I don't care how many of the five things you think you have covered. Just don't drive, please.
Rent Skis: Unless your skis are just a few — from the Old Norse, fylja, meaning young female horse... no, that can't be right, meaning... you know what a few means — years old, rent skis. Getting here was expensive. Staying here is expensive. Getting up the mountain is expensive. Eating is expensive. I appreciate that. But sliding on twenty-year-old skis is just silly economics. Don't do it. Rent something new; you'll think you're a better skier than you really are. They're that good.
Boots: Unless you're never going to ski again, don't rent boots. Buy boots. Buy boots here. They'll be almost as cheap as the ones back home in Nick's Sporting Goods and they'll be the right size, unlike the ones two sizes too large that Nick will sell you just to shut you up about how tight the right size boots feel. Don't worry. We have a fringe breed of technicians here called bootfitters — from the ancient Finnish, saapas puuska, meaning princes among men — who will make them feel so good you'll want to wear them home. Don't. It only makes TSA suspicious and they're hard to get off at the scanner.
And while we're on the subject, boots should have buckles. Three or four. The only time you should ever hear or speak the words "rear-entry" is in the privacy of your boudoir. Just sayin'.
Miscellany: Under no circumstances should you carry your skis like so many bags of groceries. Put them together, base-to-base, and carry them over your shoulder, either one. Tips front is orthodox but no one will be pedantic if you go switch.
If you're strong enough to ski, you're strong enough to carry your own skis. Let's have some dignity out there, people.
Poles point downward, not to the rear where you have no idea whose eyes you're poking out. And if your poles are straight, unlike, say, racing poles, under no circumstances should you ever assume what you believe looks like a downhill racer's tuck on the hill. You look more like a frightened porcupine and the people following you are laughing.
When disembarking a chairlift, keep going. No one appreciates your version of the Wall-o'-idiots.
Snow is white; skiwear should not be. I can't begin to explain all the reasons for this, but if you ever saw the bottom of your white pants from the point of view of people behind you it would make you shudder.
Finally, if you snowboard, there are no rules. At least none you'd follow. Just pull your pants up and ride.
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