It’s 7:30am, and my iPhone has gently been buzzing intermittently for the past half an hour. Still half asleep, I eventually pick it up and lazily look for the Whistler Blackcomb app – a ritual shared by many people that choose to call this small mountain resort home. And suddenly, there it was – the reason for my early wake up on my weekend – a glorious 32cm had fallen overnight. Time to get up, and get going.
Ten minutes later, I am up, I am in my ski gear, and I’ve already scolded my mouth from trying to gulp down my coffee too hot. Kind of strange how I never seem to learn to avoid that. As I step out the front door, the other thing that I constantly seem to fail to learn quickly dawns on me: thirty-two centimeters actually is quite a lot of snow. Like, a real lot. And even my trusty all-wheel-drive Subaru isn’t going to jump this snowbank. Ten minutes, a mild sweat and one broken shovel later, and I’m back on track.
When it snows, Whistler is buzzing
Whistler has an amazing feel to it anytime the snow falls. There’s this indecipherable buzz in the air – a mixture of tourists sharing their awe, and seasonnaires desperate to catch some fresh lines. For me, though, it’s neither. Whilst I still love to see the snow and am excited by fresh powder, days like this take me straight back to my first year in Whistler. I was only 21, everything was so surreal and new. To this day, I can say with complete honestly that my first year here was one of the best of my life. With the enthusiasm of a newbie, and the knowledge of a veteran, I make my way to all the secret spots I’ve found over the years – the perfect lines that remain untouched throughout the day in hidden corners of the mountains.
From Seventh Heaven to Spanky’s Ladder
The first few runs of the day are phenomenal, albeit somewhat exhausting. I made a judgement call, based on the weather, and took a gamble as I headed to 7th Heaven, on the southern slope of Blackcomb Mountain. The gamble paid off, and it presented me with some great untouched tree runs as it had only just opened. Following this, a ride on Glacier Chair takes me to where I really wanted to be, Spanky’s Ladder – aptly named for the small climb required to access the bowl. It can be a little tough to climb in deep snow with skis on your shoulder, but it’s definitely worth it. Right now though, I’m not in much luck. Whistler Blackcomb hasn’t opened it yet. I decide to wait it out, however, and stand alongside the other keen skiers and boarders hoping it will open soon. My luck turns around, and my wait soon pays off. Navigating round the cliff, fresh tracks in Diamond Bowl are both steep and deep. It’s fast, but the adrenaline is intoxicating. Another journey to the top of Glacier Chair, but this time into an area called Grey Zone, which leads me right to Crystal Hut for a beer and their famous waffles. I find it difficult to go a day without a stop here. Loaded with berries, chocolate, banana, even bacon and a shot of Bailey’s, they truly are the best addition to my ski day.
After a quick refuel, the rest of the day is spent playing around Crystal zone. Knowing I’ve already had the best snow I’m going to get for the day, I hit up some hidden areas that I know are fun but without too much traffic still. Since the installation of the new Crystal Ridge Express chairlift a couple of years ago, this area of the mountain has become a lot busier – but that’s not to say that there aren’t still some fantastic hidden areas that remain virtually untouched. Picking the right line through here, I avoid both the cliffs and other peoples tracks. Pick the wrong line….. well, I’ll save that for another story.
Time for Apres
As my legs begin to give up, I slowly make my way down the mountain back to Whistler Village. Tired yet content, I kick off my skis right in front of The Longhorn Saloon, where Whistler’s biggest daytime party is just kicking off. There’s patio DJ’s playing to a lively crowd of excitable skiers and snowboarders, all of whom are enthusiastically sharing stories from their day, reviewing their GoPro footage, or calculating how far they have skied during the day. As I step onto the vast patio, I’m greeted cheerfully by several members of staff, and see a large table of staff sitting by the bar tucking into beers and nachos. I know all this, because I am the General Manager, and these are all my staff. They’re a handful, but also a lot of fun.
For most people, a ski vacation to Whistler is but a pipe dream. But for me, this is my life, and this giant adventure playground is my backyard. All it takes is to watch the staff, smiling and cheering, to remind myself of when I was in their shoes, just beginning my journey in Whistler. Days like today remind me of how good life can be, and why I choose to call Whistler my home.