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Never Ever Days on offer this weekend

Whistler-born program has gone national, with over 80 resorts taking part
SICK DEAL Whistler Blackcomb is offering a package deal aimed at newbie skiers this weekend. For $25, skiers get a lesson, lift ticket and equipment rentals. Space is limited. Photo by Justa Jeskova Photography courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb

For people who grew up around ski resorts, finding their way around is almost intuitive.

But for those who have never set foot in one, ski resorts can be intimidating places, filled with jargon that's not easily understood.

This weekend, for the eighth season in the row, Whistler Blackcomb is offering Never Ever Days-a program designed specifically with first-time skiers in mind.

First developed by Bart Barczynski, general manager of Whistler Blackcomb's adult snow school, for the 2011-12 season, Never Ever Days are now offered at over 80 resorts across the country.

"It was basically an initiative to attract new skiers to the sport and eliminate the barriers to entry, like the price tag, so people would have no excuse not to try it," explained Barczynski.

"And if they like it, great-but if they didn't, no harm no foul."

Whistler Blackcomb's Never Ever Days ski package is open to B.C. and Washington state residents who are at least 19 years old. It costs $25 and includes a lift pass, rental equipment and a lesson.

Registration is limited, with 225 packages available for Saturday Dec. 15 and 225 available for Sunday Dec. 16; those interested are asked to sign up in advance by calling 1-800-766-0449 and selecting option two.

According to Barczynski, the program was actually offered for free the first year-but that came with a bit of a hitch. "Because there was no commitment from people, they just didn't show up," he said with a laugh.

So far, Whistler Blackcomb has had some 3,000 participants take part in Never Ever Days, and according to Barczynski just over 30 per cent of them have continued on with skiing or snowboarding in some capacity.

Never Ever Days addresses a blind spot that resort operators have traditionally had, said Christopher Nicolson, Canada West Ski Areas Association president and CEO.

Operators in the past may have assumed that people know where to rent gear and buy tickets, he explained.

"As an industry, we have been bad at making assumptions on things," said Nicolson, adding that in this day and age, when there "is a lot of competition for people's attention," programs that introduce people, and particularly new Canadians, to skiing and snowboarding are important to the long-term health of the sports.

Nicolson's observations were echoed by Paul Pinchbeck, president and CEO of the Canadian Ski Council, which has played a big role in growing the program nationally.

"I think that resorts-all of us collectively-probably got stuck into (thinking), so much about delivering a speedy rental experience that we forgot about (the importance of introducing people to the sport)," said Pinchbeck.

The national organization began working with Barczynski back in 2016, and first unveiled the program nationally in 2017. They were shooting for 20 resorts to take part-but ended up with 81.

"Across the country, people recognized that this is something that's cool and different," said Pinchbeck.

"We've been studying the drop-off in skiers and snowboarders ... and we've shown that having proper information pre-arrival and a proper welcome and lesson, followed by a follow up, really are the keys to making a good experience happen."

Pinchbeck credits Barczynski and Whistler Blackcomb for helping to take this program national.

"We've given (Barczynski) a special award of merit from the Canadian Ski Council on behalf of all ski resorts," said Pinchbeck. "For Whistler to develop this program and turn over the assets to the Canadian Ski industry has been fantastic."