With all the necessary COVID-19 safety rules on Whistler Blackcomb (WB), this year’s winter experience is bound to be different.
In fact, it might return us to the roots of sliding on snow along with fewer creature comforts.
You might be surprised, but backcountry skiers and riders subject themselves to these types of conditions as often as they can and they might just have some tips to share for the uninitiated.
My guess is that their tips might look something like this ...
1. Bring a puffy: Puffys are a critical piece of backcountry equipment. With flow through eating, outdoor loos and well-ventilated gondolas there won’t be as many opportunities to warm up. Wear or bring a warm puffy to trap your heat.
2. Pack a Thermos: The rare WB barista is able to take the poor-quality beans and make a good espresso-based coffee, but this year—no baristas, just drip. If you want good coffee or tea, bring a Thermos.
3. Go for a hike: Go to Flute or Blackcomb Glacier. The hike up will warm you up and keep you in shape so you can stay out longer. Really cold? Hike up the Horstman T-bar line. The lift (RIP) won’t get in your way.
Eating and Après
4. Brown bag it: Skip the reservations, stay outdoors and brown bag it like a backcountry user. Bring warm soups, tea and high-energy food like nuts, cheese, salmon or beef jerky, pepperoni sticks and, of course, chocolate.
5. Tailgate party: With limited après options adopt the backcountry ski or sledder practice of tailgate après. Bring, chilli, music, and juice cups. Stick to your parking stall to distance.
6. Location, location, location: With more brown bagging and grab-and-going with food, we will be eating outside more often, so pick a visible spot in the sun, out of the wind (below the tree line), and away from hazards like tree bombs, tree wells and errant skis/boards. On wet days, be prepared and bring a tarp!
7. Doing it outdoors: Lineups for bathrooms will be long, so outdoor bathrooms will likely be added. Prepare for these at home by opening up your own bathroom windows and turning the heat down. If you choose to use nature for No. 1, choose one tree away from a drinking water course and use it all winter long. Better yet, buddy up and use the same tree to concentrate it. Watch out for tree bombs and tree wells.
Get the right gear
8. Get backcountry gear: With longer lineups, enclosed gondolas and word of an uphill climbing track, consider getting touring bindings and skins so you can zip up to the closest chairlift for ascending.
9. Use that old backpack: All your extra items are bound to pile up, so bring an old pack, wear it or hang it in a tree. At lunch, sit on it to keep your butt warm.
Planning, travelling and being present
10. Stick to one mountain: Avoid doing it all. Lineups and use of Peak 2 Peak gondola will make switching mountains less attractive. Pick one mountain (Whistler) and stick to it instead of wasting time, energy and worry trying to get to greener grass. Enjoy what’s in front of you, because like backcountry travel it will take a long time to get over “there” safely.
11. Be patient with reservations: Due to high demand and chronic underfunding to BC Parks, camping and backcountry users have become used to having to make reservations for campsites and more recently trail use. It’s a pain and the web interfaces are horrible. Just accept it and learn to breathe through it. As therapy, pen a letter to your Premier about increasing BC Parks funding and the crownland trail systems.
12. Spread out: When travelling in the backcountry, one of the best ways to reduce risk when crossing or skiing potential avalanche slopes is to spread out. Mimicking this approach in lift lines, bathroom lines and food lines should reduce the risk of transmitting COVID. Aim for two metres at WB facilities.
13. And finally, take it easy: With COVID circulating, we don’t need to put our safety personnel at greater risk. Dial it back a notch, skip the terrain park as one would in the backcountry when you are far away from help.
Most of all be kind, be calm and be safe out there and enjoy the fresh air and 2020-21 season!
Dan Wilson // Whistler
Proposed tax increase of 4.89% out of touch
It seems that the mayor and council have their rose-coloured glasses on when it comes to budget issues for Whistler.
After a very difficult year for all Whistler businesses, and worse in sight by way of closures and restricted travel bans ... Whistler businesses will have another bad year [in 2021], with many considering permanent closure.
With the increase in taxes the past few years and a whopping increase in our water bill in Function last year, there is only so much mom-and-pop owners can carry.
With other provincial and federal governments scaling back and also helping businesses, Whistler council seems to think all their taxpayers have bottomless pockets.
With the $10 million in project spending [proposed for employee-restricted housing], it’s obvious to me that council doesn’t care about small business or the other property owners that are struggling at this time.
Come on, mayor and council! Wake up and sharpen your pencils, get to work, do your job and do the difficult thing and cut back.
James F. Smith // Commercial property/ small business owner in Function Junction
Bratz Biz 2020 halted, for now
This year, 2020, has certainly proven to be challenging, and it continues to push us all to find ways to adapt.
We know many of you have been eagerly awaiting Bratz Biz 2020. Our team has spent every possible moment looking for ways we can present our Outdoor Winter Wonderland Market. Unfortunately, with the recent Provincial Health Order and the ever-changing directives for community events like ours, we are now not permitted to proceed with the market as planned for Nov. 28 and 29.
It is with deep regret that, as of 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24, Bratz Biz 2020 is postponed until further notice. We have worked tirelessly and exhausted all potential avenues; ultimately, we must abide by the recent ruling specific to Bratz Biz made by Vancouver Coastal Health.
We know just how much this annual event means to so many of you. Every year, our hearts are warmed knowing how hard our vendors have worked on their businesses and the opportunity for youth that Bratz Biz represents.
We are devastated that Bratz Biz 2020 cannot go on as originally planned; however, we know that our amazing young artisans are also resilient entrepreneurs. Our team is currently working on a way for our vendors to promote and sell their crafts in time for Christmas. Please check our website and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for further details as somehow, some way, Bratz Biz 2020 will happen!
Lee Erickson and Craig Lovell // Volunteer Bratz Biz Organizers
Is Whistler acting in its best interests?
We spent several ski holidays of a few weeks each in Whistler prior to 2016.
We are now looking to rent for February and March to ski and to look for a house to buy. Asking rental rates have increased substantially, yet there are tons of empty properties, even for Christmas, on the web.
Are we going to see an empty ski hill and village this winter?
Are property owners shooting themselves in the foot when they could be attracting more Canadians than normal?
Neil McCubbin // Calgary
Do you hate your neighbour?
There has been a trend lately of installing additional “Private Property—No Trespassing” signs around strata complexes.
These signs are being deliberately placed on shortcuts that are used by local residents to get home more quickly—tourists typically aren’t familiar enough [with the area] to know these routes.
In my experience, these routes are used by Whistlerites to get to and from their homes in the fastest way. Not to mention that most streets do not have sidewalks or lighting and are therefore hostile to pedestrians, especially in slippery winter months.
Why do we continue to erect these signs?
In many cases, these same strata complexes already allow nightly rentals, so a fear of strangers seems misguided, but perhaps that’s the case. In many strata complexes, even long-term owners don’t know each other, but for some reason would prefer that fewer Whistler residents walk the paths of their complex.
What problems are we trying to solve by erecting “Private Property—No Trespassing” signs?
Wear and tear of a driveway/staircase/rocky trail by a few pedestrians a day?
Privacy? Are we scared of seeing our neighbours as they walk home? Are we scared they might see into our home for one or two seconds while they meander to work?
Noise? Are the trespassers typically ruining strata owners’ quality of life? OK, maybe they are bit loud sometimes, but in my experience, this is a few seconds per week, max.
Litigation? Does Whistler have a rising trend of litigation by injured trespassers?
Are people coming home to picnicking families on their patios?
What am I missing?
Brendan Ladner // Whistler
Community leaders need to be more outspoken on pandemic measures
As rumours fly around Whistler of multiple cases of COVID-19, we have heard nothing from our leaders of this community.
How bad is it? How safe are we?
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were signs posed on the highway at the village warning of the dangers. Now things are much worse and cases are springing up around town in multiple locations. I personally service eight to 10 different homes a day and am at high risk.
My concern is we have heard nothing. Are there 10 to 50 to 500 cases? No one knows.
Each day, I am terrified to go to work into the unknown. How about some leadership? Where is our mayor who should be informing us of the current situation?
I take all the proper safety measures that are available to protect my family and myself but have never been so scared to go to work in my life.
Close down those [who] can afford to do that. You are the leaders of this community; step up and give us reassurance.
There are a lot of very nervous people in this community right now. Please lead as you were elected to do and stop leaving the community in the dark.
Please be safe everyone.
Mike Steeves // Whistler