Between my last opinion piece and this one, my opinion of Whistler has improved several times over. If you’re wondering why that is, well, it’s simple: I finally got to ski Whistler Blackcomb (WB), and I finally get what all the fanfare is about!
The hype around Whistler makes much more sense to me now, after coasting down the mountain with the sun poking through the cloudy sky. The snow shimmers as small flakes fall from above. It’s stunning, and the view is breathtaking.
One big revelation was how the mountain ski culture connects so many people in a way I’ve never experienced before in Whistler. Like fitting in a final piece of a puzzle, it just clicked, and suddenly I discovered something we all had in common, be it municipal councillors or the regulars down at the pub: a passion for skiing and experiencing the mountain.
So having finally skied Whistler and Blackcomb, what did I learn?
The biggest surprise from my first skiing experience here was WB’s sheer enormity. I know the ski resort has the claim to fame as the biggest and best in North America, but I didn’t understand the true scale until I got to the Roundhouse—and realized there’s another chairlift that takes you even higher.
By the end of my first day, on my sixth or seventh run, my untrained legs felt like Jell-O in a laundry machine as I slowly tackled the most accessible green runs I could find down Whistler Mountain.
I grew up skiing Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, and don’t get me wrong—Sun Peaks is fantastic. I imagine it’s like what Whistler was before the population exploded and turned Tiny Town into a resort big enough for city status.
The runs at Sun Peaks are substantially shorter and more straightforward. You can easily do a dozen or more in a day. On the other hand, Whistler and Blackcomb took a lot more time, and by the end of my first ski day, I relished those long gondola journeys back up to the top to rest my legs.
Another lesson I learned is to take a break. My sore shins indicate I should have spent more time soaking in the view at the Roundhouse, and maybe even had a snack at the top. There’s a whole food court up there, after all—another thing I didn’t know.
Yet another lesson was learned in the local parking lots: arrive early or take the bus.
I heard you could park for free at Lots 6, 7 and 8 at the top of Glacier Lane, near where Vail Resorts is planning to build more much-needed affordable employee housing. However, I also learned that everyone is well aware of the free parking, and having arrived at nearly 10 a.m., I was far too late.
To the pay parking lots I went, and soon learned those, too, were nearly full to the brim with just a handful of open spots in Lot 4. Not wanting to pay for a locker, I put on my ski boots while sitting in the back of my trunk, then carried all my gear the kilometre or so up to the gondolas.
The walk up wasn’t so bad, but after you’re tired from skiing, that hike back is arduous. So the lesson there is either take the bus to the village, take the shuttle while it’s running from Creekside (free parking at Creekside Parkade), or get there early so you can ski in and ski out from the Upper Lots and save yourself the pains of the long ski boot hike.
My goals for the rest of winter are simple: Make friends, do sports, and ski better.
And, although it might sound silly, I want to do a shot-ski with many people. I feel like it’s a “classic Whistler” thing to do, and it just looks like a lot of fun! (Any takers?).
Beyond skiing, I also hope to experience the other winter sports mostly unique to Whistler: bobsled, luge, skeleton and biathlon.
If all goes according to plan, my rookie season at WB will culminate with my first successful black diamond run, which I’ve already picked out as the one named after Whistler Councillor and former WB employee Arthur De Jong (Arthur’s Choice). It just makes sense as the council reporter to finish out with the councillor run.
Maybe he’ll join me on the shot-ski afterwards.