Whistler : Ski Season to Neverland Tale
January 1, 1970
Sell everything we own, save our pennies and move to the other side of the world.. Some said “you’re crazy” we say, best decision we ever made!
From surf bums to snow bunnies, ski season in Whistler, Canada
We went through a company called “The working holiday Club” couldn’t recommend the programme more! Cheers Jake! The team there will help you every step of the way, line up jobs, help with visas and any questions you have along the way.
Arriving into Whistler
Arriving in October is a must as you will get to experience the vibrant colours of autumn as they gradually fade into snow covered winter. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is named “Sea to Sky highway” or also known as “Sea to die highway” I believe this nickname is due to the amount of accidents caused by the constant distractions of the unbelievable beauty out every window! This drive has to be one of the most breathtaking landscapes both Nate and I have ever witnessed we were speechless and full of excitement as we stared out the windows at the distance snow capped mountains and bluest of blue lakes. As we passed through Squamish our friends said “alright you’re first Wal-Mart trip … try not to go overboard!” it’s safe to say we went overboard, that place has everything, the car trip home was crammed! Regular Wal-Mart trips over the season became a must , car pool and split the fuel and load up because remember Whistler is a tourist village and priced accordingly.
Tips before getting to Whistler for your season
- Get most of your boarding gear in Vancouver – 4th Avenue has loads of stores , but any thermals and winter clothing you need too as Whistler shops are resort priced!
- load up at wal-mart on toilet paper, basic cooking stuff like sauces, pastas, snacks and a cheap electric wok will be your bestfriend, especially if you live in staff housing
- join the facebook page ” whistler buy and sell” everyone uses this site and its great for getting cheap snowboarding gear!
- bring a halloween costume and the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find (trust me you’ll use it )
What a village!
Arriving into Whistler we were overwhelmed with excitement, there no place like it in the world! This adorable village that almost looks fake, is surrounded by mountains and forest with walking paths winding around the entire village and out to all the lakes. Although very beautiful it is very confusing, you will get lost on many occasions. We had the village map hung on our wall and it still took me weeks to know my way around. Main places you need to know – Furny’s they have a delicious menu and everything is $5 ,shop at the IGA for big shopping as its cheaper (but at the opposite end of town) for grabbing small bits of food head into the grocery store the staff always a friendly , Crystal Lounge have great wings and cinnamon bear has free pool.
Working for Whistler Blackcomb
If you work for Whistler Blackcomb you are offered staff housing, a ski pass, free staff snowboard / ski lessons and discounts on food, beverages & retail but the best advantage is working with hundreds of other employees in such a large company means staff parties and a huge network of friends, it’s the perfect way to meet loads of people!
It would be easy to find work in Whistler if you arrive jobless, as long as you are actively looking at the right time (right before the season starts) you can pick up jobs at bars, restaurants, retails store, grossery stores and cafes. Just keep in mind most of these you dont get a free lift pass so you will have to buy this yourself however these jobs usually pay a higher rate then Whistler Blackcomb will and you get tips.
First point of call is to head up the hill to House office to find out where we are going to be living…. Suspense.. and then boom we are given a 1 bedroom apartment at Brio ! There are three staff housing buildings Glacier , Brio and Creekside to sum them up;
- Brio is the location that most couples get put it’s a little quieter, nicer units and only a short walk to the village we were so stoked with Brio and even more happy when we realised we had a 1 bedroom apartment to ourselves full kitchen, bedroom bathroom and little balcony on the bottom floor.
- Glacier is the location where most of our friends were, its located up the top of the dreaded “staff hill” a huge walk and not advised after late night clubbing, luckily there is a free gondola in the winter that runs till 9pm, if you arrive before winter prepare to hike that hill with all your groceries. Glacier is great for single people it’s always fun with “common room parties” and 4 roomies crammed into tiny apartments in bunk beds like a boarding school on steroids and without any rules. Nate and I had the best of both worlds we were in a nice apartment to ourselves not far from the village but could easily cruise up the gondy to Glacier to party with our friends and trash their apartments rather than ours.
- Creekside is a bus ride from the village so you will need a bus pass but the Creekside village has everything you need if you want a peaceful less party orientated season Staff housing there is more “mature aged” You have access to a gondy straight up Whistler Mountain and there’s Timmy Hortans win win!
We both started training for our jobs almost straight away, I worked as a guest services agent and Nate was a lifty. Nate loved his job as a lifty he was at the top of whistler gondy which meant he wasn’t out in the weather as much and got to have many many ride breaks! He worked on the gondy with fellow lifty mates and spent his days greeting people on and off the gondy and riding. Guest services for me was a little daunting with so much to learn and the job involved a lot of complaints management but a supportive huge team and a really diverse job with no day ever the same! I made friends from guest services that will be lifelong friends other perks are it was one of the best paying positions and you get 3 days off a week and the option to swap between validating, ticketing and guest services.
Autumn days “dead season”
The great thing about being a couple in Whistler is so many companies are willing to coordinate your schedules so we had the same days off every week so we could shred and explore together! During Autumn our days off consisted of adventuring to the Blueberry Docs with a blanket and tim bits, strolls to lost lake, rainbow park, train wrecks and even hiking up to the tube park with speakers, beers and other snowboarders desperate to find some small snow hills to muck around on. We spent our anniversary with a night in the Fairmont Chateu, a castle nestled in the mountains with views of snow-capped Blackcomb Mountain from our bed. Halloween was definitely very different in Canada , everyone gets involved even from the very start of the day … I jumped on the bus at 8am to work and it was full of face painted scary looking villains.. Not the best first thing in the morning with a cranking hangover. Nate and I dressed as batman and cat woman and partied the night away at Garfs with a bunch of new friends.
As the leaves began to fall, the creek running through the village turned to ice, the snow line on the mountains began to creep lower and lower and the hype and excitement for the mountain opening began to grow! Nate and I were so excited we would strap into our snowboards on the bed and practice.
Opening day for the mountain was crazy, the lines to the gondola wrapped around the village we were both working but not concerned as we have a whole season to go up and enjoy riding without huge crowds. The first morning snow fell outside our window is a day neither of us will ever forget! I was frantically getting ready for work (late as usual) when Nate was screaming out “jess jess come here” I ran over as he opened the blinds and fluffy white snow was falling outside our window! I felt pure happiness, we both stood out on our balcony in awe.
Learning to Board
Now that the mountain was open the First and only thing on our mind was learning to snowboard… we surf so how hard can it be? Let me tell you HARD (well for me it was, Nate was a natural). But trust me when I say it’s well worth the pain, frustration and agony because there is no better feeling in the world when you conquer your first run top to bottom S’ing. My biggest advice is firstly DO not get your boyfriend or husband to give you lessons.. This will end in a almost guaranteed break up and very silent gondola ride down! Take full advantage of the free staff lessons or if you’re not staff fork out the money to have lessons it’s so worth it and good to be in a group with people at your same skill level! I am not afraid to say I hung out on the bunny hill for many weeks on my days off.
Best thing about boarding is once you’ve got it you’ve got it! It’s like it just clicks and from that point you just get better and better. Don’t be afraid to ride with friends who are at a higher skill level because they challenge you to be better. No matter the conditions or that horrible hangover get out of bed and up the hill because at the end of the season you’ll be stoked with the number of ride days up your sleeve , plus the cold fresh air is the best hangover cure!
Once we could both board well we would spend every day off exploring the endless terrain over both Whistler and Blackcomb mountain with friends, randoms or each other.. Whether it was a powder day or an icy day or just a day of exploring, hiking and drinking every spare moment was spent up the hill.
In whistler weekends don’t exist, there is always something to do every night of the week and locals preferably don’t go out on weekends because that’s when the tourists roll into town. From insane 5 story house parties in the snow to staff housing common room parties to retro nights at Tommys to Bob Marley nights at GLC to comedy nights to live concerts in Olympic park to Swedish après at Cinnamon bear where we sing in Swedish and do the chicken dance in our snow gear till 10pm to ski shots to late night hot tub jumping to casual afternoon wings and beers to Karaoke nights the nightlife is insane and will be the funnest time of your life so embrace it, make loads of friends and get amongst It!… even if you’re a couple !
In Whistler where you go out each night really depends which day of the week it is, certain places are fun on certain nights took us a while to figure it all out so here i have done all the work for you ;
Sunday- Longhorns and then Mo Joes after 12 for glo party
Monday – max fishhh or if you have a big group for a birthday and want to get weird go to retro night at Tommy’s
Tuesday – Tommys
Wednesday – Bills
For casual beers go to tapleys on a Monday for bingo and karaoke at crystal lounge is fun on a Tuesday.
Christmas was one we will never forget; living in a winter wonderland around Christmas time with your soul mate couldn’t be more special. Nate organised a sleigh ride through the snow on Christmas Eve we had blankets, hot chocolates and sat in each other’s arms overlooking the amazing scenery. We spent Christmas night with our whistler family we ordered bulk pizzas and had a secret santa , we spent the night snow tobogganing on the hills and laughing with our best mates proving the meaning of Christmas is to surround yourself with special people in your life.
New Years Eve
The new years eve house party we went to was insane, the party is actually on youtube and is a night we will never forget! Check it out , this will get you pumped ; whistler house party
We were lucky enough to witness the northern lights one night on our walk home after a large house party, we looked up into the sky and couldn’t believe our eyes! Speechless!
Blue bird days, powder days, alpine days, drinking on the mountain days and fresh tracks
There is no better day the heading up the mountain at the crack of dawn for “fresh tracks” you fill your belly’s (and pockets) with buffet food and race out when the bell rings to be the first on the mountain. Whether its a Blue bird day, a powder day or an icy day where you just head up in to the alpine its always a good time and worth the early wake up call.
There are so many days throughout the season that are spent with buddys on the hill having growers apple cider, fireball and hanging out.. These are the days you will remember the most! One of our favorites was Aussie day on Blackcomb Mountain this is hands down one of the best days of the season, the ride out with hundreds of drunk Aussies is carnage! Another is gaper day, dressed in our best retro attire with a boom box , beers and nothing but excitement we all gatherer around a skimming lake off whistler bowl with not a care in the world as to how we were all going to hike back up it! Many naked backflips and sunburn bodies with goggle tans that day.
A place where there is always plenty to do! Eating, drinking , catching a free concert at the Olympic rings or ice skating in the park, fire and ice shows to snow ball fights in the street after late night clubbing. It’s a magical place where no matter what you’re doing weather your walking home from work or doing your groceries you can guarantee you will see friends in the village and straight away have random plans of doing something… if your ever bored or lonely no need to text or use facebook all you have to do is go to the village.
The best thing about this fictional location in a faraway place where all people come from all walks of life, is when you enter reality fades away and you are in the Whistler Bubble. Just like Peter Pan you never have to grow up and you cease to age. Every day is an adventure and you are surrounded by people on that same adventure all in the same boat, broke travelers looking for memories and friendships of a lifetime.