Even just a few years ago, anyone considering a ski vacation to a far-flung destination had offices full of travel agents at their disposal, ready to help those skiers choose a resort to visit, a hotel to stay at and even restaurants to reserve.
Since Google became the go-to first stop for anyone planning a trip, the in-person travel agency industry isn’t quite what it once was. Now, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the world of travel planning could soon change again.
In a video posted May 18, James Pavelick, founder of the skiing-focused YouTube channel and travel website Rise and Alpine, tasked AI with planning a late-spring ski trip to Whistler. Using the popular tool ChatGPT, the technology managed to plan out an entire day at the resort, from where to stay, which runs to ski, and where to eat. That said, not all of the AI bot’s recommendations were helpful.
“Some people way smarter than me plucked away on computers for years to develop artificial intelligence, but they’re not using it to its true potential,” Pavelick said in the video. “This weekend I’m using AI and ChatGPT for exactly what it was developed for—planning a ski vacation,” he joked.
After some small talk with the AI bot, Pavelick asked ChatGPT to name the best hotel where he and his girlfriend should spend the night in Whistler Village. It recommended a few of the resort's highest-end and most expensive locations, like the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Four Seasons.
Following Pavelick’s request for options that might be “more affordable for ski bums,” the AI recommended the Pangea Pod Hotel, Listel Hotel, Aava Hotel and Blackcomb Lodge.
As for what time the couple should leave Vancouver to arrive in time for Whistler Blackcomb’s 10 a.m. opening? The bot recommended hitting the road no later than 7:30 a.m. It also encouraged Pavelick to make time for a hearty breakfast before hitting the slopes, offering up a long list of suggestions like oatmeal, eggs, greek yogurt, a smoothie or whole-grain toast with nut butter. (However, the AI tool probably didn’t anticipate the YouTuber’s breakfast of choice: he opted to combine all of the bot’s breakfast ideas into one bread-yogurt-nut-butter-blueberry-banana-and-egg-white smoothie.)
Whistler Blackcomb’s best ski runs, according to AI
After arriving at the resort, Pavelick continued following the bot’s suggestions. ChatGPT recommended various runs on Blackcomb, beginning with “taking the Excalibur Gondola to the top of Blackcomb Mountain”—despite the fact that Excalibur only travels to the bottom of the Excelerator chair. It instructed the skier to, “from there, head down the Crystal Ridge Express chairlift to access Crystal Zone.”
The bot recommended Pavelick warm up on intermediate runs in the Crystal Zone, “such as Crystal Ridge, Ridge Runner and Short Cut.” ChatGPT was only one-for-three when it came to those suggestions: for the uninitiated, Crystal Ridge and Short Cut are not names of any runs on Blackcomb.
After getting a few blue runs under their belts, the bot encouraged the skiers to head further uphill to challenge themselves with a few black diamonds, “like Pakalolo, Ruby Bowl and Spanky’s Ladder.” (We’ll forgive the robot for failing to specify that Ruby Bowl is only accessible by climbing Spanky’s Ladder. Or that spring conditions were in full effect, with limited snow cover in some areas.)
The bot’s recommendations then took an even more confusing turn. It suggested heading over to the 7th Heaven Express lift to access “some of the most challenging terrain on the mountain,” including “Seventh Heaven, Ridge Runner and Arthur's Choice.” Of course, the latter two runs ChatGPT named are located in the Crystal Zone, on the other side of the mountain.
Asked what the pair should eat for lunch, the bot suggested a stop at Blackcomb’s Glacier Creek Lodge to refuel with an order of beef chili or a chicken sandwich.
Then, the AI tool recommended a ride up the Glacier Express chairlift to access intermediate and expert terrain in the Glacier zone, including “black diamond runs like Showcase T-bar, and”—again—”Spanky’s Ladder.” The blue-square Showcase ski run falls alongside the Showcase T-bar tow lift, but that’s an easy mistake to make.
Finally, to finish off the ski day, the bot suggested heading up the Jersey Cream Express chairlift to access blue and black runs “like Cloud Nine, Ridge Runner and Upper Cruiser” before riding out. (Looks like the robots are big Ridge Runner fans.) Again, the AI tool’s accuracy was one-for-three: Cloud Nine is accessed from the top of 7th Heaven, while Ridge Runner is still all the way over in the Crystal area.
The AI’s suggestions didn’t stop at the slopes. The bot advised Pavelick to cap off the day on the mountain with a stop at Whistler Brewing Company for a “Mango Wheat beer”—maybe ChatGPT meant the brewery’s Hazy Trail Pale Ale, with its notes of mango, or its new Mountain Mango Sour?—before sitting down for dinner at the Keg Steakhouse and Bar.
Overall, ChatGP’s guidance for the YouTuber was decent. Its suggestions about hotel options, travel time and even where to eat would likely be helpful for most visitors planning a ski trip to Whistler. But when it comes to directions on the mountains? There are some obvious flaws.
Unless you want to spend an entire day skiing Ridge Runner, that is.
Press play below to check out how Pavelick's full AI-planned ski day went.