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Which run is your No 1.

In celebration of opening day, locals share their favourite spots on the mountain

Finally. Whistler Blackcomb’s opening day has arrived. 

It’s the moment most passholders have been impatiently waiting for since the resort abruptly closed for the season last March as local COVID-19 cases spiked. 

After that extra-long summer, it’s fair to assume that a majority of locals would be frothing to get on a lift and start sliding down any kind of slope, on any kind snow at this point. But with two mountains, 3,307 hectares of terrain, more than 200 marked runs, a handful of terrain parks, 37 lifts and an hourly lift capacity of nearly 70,000 skiers? It’s just as fair to say everyone has a favourite run or ski season routine they’re particularly stoked to get back to. 

There’s the die-hard Creekside crew, the people who might as well have a reserved parking spot in Lot 7, and the village dwellers. Early birds and snooze button-pushers (unless it’s a pow day, obviously). There are riders who beeline for the park and others who prefer to spend their days weaving between trees. Have kids? You could probably find your way to the Magic Castle or the Tree Fort with your eyes closed.

All this, while the Whistler vs. Blackcomb debate is very much alive and well.

Spend enough time exploring the mountains and you too will probably find a favourite warm-up lap and a preferred route down at the end of the day, a favourite view that fills up your camera roll, the ideal spot for a snack break and the best place to find leftover powder stashes long after the storm has passed. 

Speaking of weather, those on-mountain rituals are also subject to change according to Mother Nature’s whim—the weather, the time of year, even the day of the week. 

The point here is one skier’s routine isn’t better than another’s. 

The same goes for marked runs. While nine of the world’s 100 best ski runs are located within Whistler Blackcomb’s boundaries, according to CNN’s 2014 ranking, general consensus on which local run takes the title of “best” is still hard to come by. 

(CNN’s judging panel was comprised of Whistler’s perpetual favourite local and godfather of freeskiing Mike Douglas; American skier and Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht; Powder magazine editor John Stifter and Fall Line magazine editor Nicola Iseard, if you’re wondering whether it’s legit.)

That said, the ranking named Whistler Mountain’s Dave Murray Downhill—the site of World Cup Downhill and Super-G races in the ‘90s and alpine events at the 2010 Winter Olympics—as the second-best ski run in the world. (A part-tree run, part-terrain park in Avoriaz, France called The Stash took the top spot, if you’re curious.)

Whether you’ve been here for 20 days or 20 years, there are always new zones and runs to toss into the rotation, or at least revisit. So in the spirit of rebuilding our winter routines, Pique caught up with a few of the people who know Whistler best and asked them to share a couple of their favourite spots on the mountain, and some of their resort rituals.

These locals need no introduction, but we’ll give them one anyways. 

CATHY JEWETT

This municipal councillor first came to Whistler from Toronto in the ‘70s, like a lot of locals, for one season. Also like a lot of locals, she ended up staying for a little while longer than she originally planned.

Jewett arguably knows the mountain better than the back of her own hand. In the more than 40 years since her arrival, she’s worked as a lifty, dispatcher, and patroller before supervising the Mountain Safety program on Whistler and Blackcomb. 

Based off that experience, where’s her all-time favourite run to go for a rip when she’s off-duty? “So hard to choose,” she says. “On the perfect day, Flute Shoulder.” On a not-so-perfect day? “Old Man/Franz’s to Dusty’s—basically the Peak to Valley race runs,” she says. “Non-stop of course.”

If she’s hosting visitors, Jewett’s favourite run to bring them to is Sapphire Chutes on Blackcomb, “but they better know what they’re doing,” she says. 

For those without the skills to tackle a double-black diamond, Jewett cited her favourite green or blue on the mountain as Matthew’s Traverse to Burnt Stew Trail on Whistler. 

JOHN LESLIE 

A Whistler local by way of Arnprior, Ont., Leslie is a two-time Paralympic snowboarder who has also competed in events like the X Games and Dew Tour. Since announcing his retirement from competitive snowboarding earlier this year, he’s been working as a personal trainer at the Whistler Creek Athletic Club and is looking forward to getting more backcountry projects under his belt in the future. 

For those who are also looking to venture past the resort’s boundaries this winter (just make sure you have avalanche gear and training and a similarly-knowledgeable crew first), Leslie says his favourite slackcountry zone is located on Blackcomb. “I love taking Body Bag Bowl over to Disease Ridge,” he says. “The laps are quick, snow is normally deep, and you are an easy ride out at the end of the day.” 

If staying in-bounds is more your scene, Leslie’s favourite bluebird day runs can be found on the other side of Fitzsimmons Creek. “Big fan of Dave Murray Downhill on a bluebird day or taking Peak to Symphony,” he says.  

But the most important question here: which snacks does he lean on to fuel all of these adventures? “My bag generally always has meat sticks, carrots, and some hummus,” he says. 

LEANNE PELOSI

Originally from Calgary, Pelosi has earned a reputation as one of canada’s best snowboarders since relocating to the Sea to Sky almost two decades ago. She’s translated her experiencing competing in contests like the X Games to carving out a career in the backcountry, earning accolades like Snowboarder & Transworld magazine’s Female Rider Of the Year and Influencer of the Year. She also founded Runway Films, and directed and starred in Full Moon, the first all-women’s backcountry film.

So what’s her favourite Whistler Blackcomb run to ride on a storm day, when she’s not on a backcountry mission? “Goat’s Path to Lower Insanity,” she answered. On a bluebird day, that answer changes to “Peak to Creek,” she says. 

While snowboard film fans know a soundtrack always accompanies Pelosi’s riding on screen, she doesn’t tend to pop in the ear buds while she’s cruising through the resort. “No music while riding,” she says. “I like to catch up with friends.” 

JACK CROMPTON

You’d hope any mayor would feel deeply connected to their respective town, but for Whistler Mayor Crompton, those connections go way back: His grandparents were original shareholders in the Garibaldi Lift Company. Now, the father of four—who also founded a series of transportation companies in Whistler prior to being sworn in as mayor—is raising the next generation of Whistler ambassadors and doing his best to find time for a few turns in between. 

What’s his all-time favourite run on Whistler or Blackcomb? “Shale Slope,” on Whistler Mountain, he says, specifically “before anyone else.” 

As for the best run to ski as a family, “My grandad used to take us on ‘technique runs’ at the end of every day,” Crompton recalls. “We would all follow him top to bottom [on Blackcomb] finishing on School Marm.”

The dark side is also where you’ll find Crompton’s preferred spot to stop and appreciate the view. On a clear day, the best sightlines the resort has to offer are “into the Spearhead from Blackcomb,” he says.

MARIELLE THOMPSON

Better known to her Instagram followers as “Big Air Mar,” this Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum is the 2014 Olympic ski-cross champion and a three-time Crystal Globe winner. Since 2011, she’s won 24 World Cups and stood on the World Cup podium a total of 41 times. That said, Thompson knows a thing or two about speed. 

When she’s home instead of competing around the world, the Whistler local says her favourite run to ski fast is Ridge Runner on Blackcomb, mostly because it had “lots of big turns and terrain to navigate.”

As for her favourite chairlift to lap on a powder day? “Peak chair,” she says. “So much terrain opens up off the top of Whistler and there are lots secret spots… shhhh. Many chances for powder!”

COURT LARABEE 

Larabee (also known by his traditional Indigenous name, Siginaak, which translates to Blackbird) is the founder and executive director of Indigenous Life Sport Academy (ILSA). The snowboarder serves as Whistler Blackcomb’s Indigenous relations specialist, as well, and was named Rising Star of the Year at the 2020 Whistler Excellence Awards. He’s originally from Thunder Bay, Ont. and is a member of the Anishinaabe and the Lac des Mille Lacs nations. 

So, as a self-proclaimed “Blackcomb pirate,” what’s Larabee’s favourite early-season run?

“Crystal chair hit laps with friends,” he says. 

Larabee also names his favourite run to lap with the ILSA crew as the “Old terrain garden.” 

Speaking of the terrain garden, no XS – S features will be found in Blackcomb terrain parks this winter. Those can be found in the School Yard and Chipmunk Park on Whistler, while Blackcomb’s Catskinner zone will be home to Choker Park (M-L), Grey Line (L) and Highest Level (XL). The area just above the Magic Castle that was once home to the terrain garden is part of green run Easy Out. 

JULIETTE PELCHAT

A member of Canada Snowboard’s next-gen slopestyle and big air team, the 16-year old is also a ringleader behind the Real Wild Kittens. What started as an all-girls snowboard crew comprised of Pelchat, her younger sister Amalia and friends Maggie Crompton and Irie Smith—its name a play on her snowboarder dad JF Pelchat’s legendary Wildcats crew—has since turned into a full-fledged business offering private skateboarding lessons, multi-day camps and ladies’ skate nights, all in an effort to grow the women’s skate scene. But with snow back on the ground, her focus has shifted from the skate park to the terrain park. 

“My favourite feature in Blackcomb Park is the S rail, because it’s always a challenge to make it to the rail,” she explains. “I also landed a few technical tricks on it that I am proud of.”

But it’s not all park, all the time. “My favourite run on a pow day is the crystal hit lap! It’s so fun to get a good crew and do some party laps,” she adds. 

As for her favourite on-mountain snack? “All time favourite snack to toss in my pocket for the hill are tamari almonds; so salty and tangy!!”

GEOFF BUCHHEISTER

With two full years as Whistler Blackcomb’s Chief Operating Officer now under his belt, Buchheister’s job is to oversee pretty much everything that goes on within Whistler Blackcomb’s boundaries. That means he also knows the best place to spend a few minutes on the mountain when work interrupts his ski day. 

“I have found some spots that mean a lot to me and on the mountain,” he says. “I don’t think this will be a shock to anyone but when you get up onto Harmony Ridge or even the Peak Chair, when you find that elevation and you see the Black Tusk come into view … you don’t get to see it every ski resort. So for me, I do find that I go to the to the top of the Harmony Chair, and there’s kind of a little bit of a bluff there, and a lot of times if I need to go think or take a phone call, or just kind of get away from it all, I find myself walking up there and looking at the Black Tusk and just being appreciative of these mountains. It’s unbelievable.” 

And as a former University of Colorado ski racer, that also includes knowing which runs are best for turning on the jets. 

“There’s so many good ones,” he says. “I’ve become quite fond of finishing my day—any day that I’m out there—I come down Catskinner to Slingshot to lower Gear Jammer and do that non-stop. On a day where it’s freshly groomed, there’s nothing wrong with that.” 

PIERRE RINGUETTE

Considering his experience as Whistler Blackcomb’s grooming manager and a former private instructor, Ringuette knows the intricacies of the resort’s slopes in a way most skiers never will. 

That means he’d know the best place to head on a powder day, right? In truth, his favourite pow-day run “depends on the day,” he says. “If it’s in the middle of a storm the mid-mountain trees and gondola lines are the best! Seppos is a win. On a bluebird day, West Bowl to Frog Hollow.” 

Like a few other locals on this list, Ringuette names his favourite groomed run as the 11-kilometre Peak to Creek, “when it’s been done,” he says. “It’s the most significant effort to get it groomed and an iconic leg burner when you ski it.”

 Of course, pump-up tunes are a necessity before a Peak to Creek lap. For Ringuette, that typically means “70’s rock anthems,” he says. “[They] are my feel good ski jam[s].” 

KIRA CAILES

It’s safe to say Cailes, Whistler Blackcomb’s long-time senior manager of mountain safety and risk management and a former patroller, knows how to navigate the resort’s terrain safely. She also knows where to go to make the most out of the current conditions.  

With that in mind, her favourite opening day run “really depends on how much snow there is,” she says. “I am always happy to be on the hill on opening day and if I had to pick, a rip down Honeycomb is a great way to start the year.” 

But when the alpine chairs crack, Cailes can’t deny her favourite all-time run is Ruby Bowl, off Spanky’s Ladder. “Shredder,” she offers as an explanation. 

When she has visitors in town, her favourite spot to lead them to is the top of Flute Bowl. Says Cailes, “The views, the experience, are unforgettable.” 

CHAD CHOMLACK

Chomlack is a renowned action and adventure photographer who has worked with brands like Volcom, Billabong, Vans and Oakely, to name just a few, in addition to earning the title of 2016 Deep Winter Champ. He’s also known for his work on film projects with some of the biggest names in snowboarding. 

On opening day, you’ll probably find him riding through Blackcomb’s Jersey Cream zone, “with quick laps cause my legs are out of shape,” he says. 

When it comes to his favourite all-time run, Chomlack names Whistler’s “West Cirque to Frogs Hollow to Lower Insanity on a full pow day,” he explains. “Nothing better; it’s like the [most fun] heli drop run in-resort.”

Favourite spot to snap a photo? “Kind of can’t tell you that ‘cause I have some secret spots,” he answers, “but I love shooting off of Blackcomb alpine.”

LESLIE ANTHONY

A Whistler-based author, biologist and weekly Pique columnist, Anthony is also an accomplished figure in the ski industry. He’s the former editor of Powder, Bike and SKIER magazines and wrote White Planet: A Mad Dash through Global Ski Culture.

The adventurer names his favourite early-season run on Whistler or Blackcomb as “The safest, least rocky run that nobody else is on... which is usually right beside the one that everyone else is on.”

Anthony isn’t willing to give away any specifics when it comes to his favourite in-bounds pow day run, either. 

“It’s war up there on pow days, and the first rule of war is Don’t Get Caught Behind Enemy Lines,” he says. “Which for me means avoid the enemy at all costs. Of course, I can’t tell you how because the second rule of war is Don’t Give Away Your Position.”

And with many of his winter days spent tromping through the untouched powder of the backcountry, Anthony says his favourite backcountry zones in Whistler “are always those that lead directly back into the resort, so they can be planned as part, but not all, of a day. 

“Also, if something goes wrong it’s easier to get help,” he adds. 

WHISTLER MEMES

Arguably Whistler’s most influential influencer, the anonymous local figure behind this Instagram account is singlehandedly responsible for numerous Nordic pothole repairs and convincing a select group of Whistlerites that jumping from a particular bridge to a particular rock is the only acceptable way to end a night out in the village. Footage of disoriented tourists driving down the Valley Trail and devastatingly relatable jokes about life in Whistler have earned this account nearly 30,000 followers. 

Where’s this mysterious icon’s favourite place to ride on opening day?

“One lap of the Ego Bowl 500 to multiple laps of the Umbrella Bar,” they write. 

As for their favourite all-time run, the long-time local refuses to blow the spot by naming it outright, but admit they “always enjoy a freshly groomed Saddle rip on a sunny morning.” 

The most burning question Pique had for Whistler Memes is, obviously, where to find their favourite spot on the mountain to take a break and create some content. “The Blackcomb Gondola usually offers plenty of unscheduled time to make memes,” they answer.