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TR: Whistler Ski-moon 20-27th Jan 2019

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Time for another long-winded and over detailed intermediates-on-tour trip report from me... snowHead Thanks to all the SH's that gave advice before the trip, especially Dabber for recommending his favourite restaurant!

This trip to Whistler was part of our honeymoon, so the whole hol also included a stay in Vancouver and sea plane (yes! do it, amazing!) to Victoria for a few days. Both good fun, good museums, good food and cocktails. We also went to Grouse Mountain for the day, more on that at the end.

Travel: Flights Heathrow -Vancouver we booked using a years worth of saved avios, a companion voucher, and just over a grand in cash for 1st class return, BA. So that was fun. But a warning, the BA breakfast is amongst the worst things I've ever failed to eat.
We did coach transfers from and to central Vancouver with Pacific Coach Lines up (65 CAD for 2) and Whistler Connection back (150 CAD for 2, eek, but the time worked for us). Both ran smoothly, and the journey is incredibly scenic. The cost included two biggish 'hold' bags plus two small bags (so boot bag and hand bag).

Accommodation: We didn't try and stint it being honeymoon and all, so it's fair to say there are absolutely cheaper ways to stay in Whistler - though there are also far more expensive ways! However, we chose an apartment (1 bed, bath, open plan kitchen/diner/lounge with fireplace, big balcony) at Legends which sits near the bottom of the runs in Creekside. The apartment was massive, probably bigger than our house, and had everything we could need including a dishwasher and washing machine/dryer. It was serviced everyday so none of that apartment tidying nonsense. This for 7 nights was £1700. Ouch.
A word on location. I'm not even sure why we decided to stay in Creekside rather than the main village, but we both really liked it. It's really chilled, it has the Waitrose of Whistler that is the Creekside Market wink , and a little further from the main drag it has a couple of the best restaurants we ate in. Good choice.

Eating and apres: We ate rather well in the evenings, again not stinting, and aside from one night when we failed to eat (I blame the gays, of which more later) we tried Araxi (good but a bit up itself, amazing oysters), Rimrock (excellent, friendly, brilliant wine list), and Red Door Bistro x 2 because it was just so good (honestly, once will not be enough, I would like to live next door to this restaurant, the food was completely gorgeous and the waiters wear shorts). That leaves a couple of other meals - oh yes, obligatory Dusty's (good fun, great ribs) and a panic burger at 10pm in the bar at the Nita Lake Lodge. The food in general in BC is ridiculously good if you like to stuff yourself with meat and fish, they don't mess about on portions! There's nowhere I wouldn't recommend. Lunches we grabbed on the mountain, good old poutine, and we made bacon and eggs in the morning. I feel fat just writing this.
As for apres - well, we failed a bit. Totally. We spent our evenings eating! However, I still blame the gays as our one wild, eating is cheating night was with a group who were in Whistler for Pride at the GLC in the Village. Started with beer, for some reason someone suggested ceasars (mmm, drunken clamato juice), and ended inevitably in vodka shots and being posted onto the bus by our ski instructor.
A word on Pride - we made no effort to avoid it, and skied for three days with a Pride visitor, but it only seemed to be happening in the Village! So if you want to party hard in Pride week, stay in the Village and you won't be disappointed. If you value your liver, stay in Creekside. Anyway, it was all very friendly and lovely and according to our new ski buddy, a lot of fun. Razz
The panic burger - was needed the night we went to the very beautiful Scandinave Spa for a steam, soak, sauna and silence mission, plus a good massage. It was snowing while we were in there; gorgeous we thought, until we came out to schnee chaos and about 30 no longer relaxed people waiting for taxis which couldn't get there. Tip - anyone says 'we have a little room', jump in there! No wait, got dropped back in Creekside after an impressive drive round doing other drop offs, by a sweary Aussie taxi driver, she was a hero.

Oh, yeah, an Aussie - I think there might be about 2 actual Canadians living in Whistler. Otherwise everyone is from elsewhere. You can tell as they all have name badges that say where they are from! Shocked

Anyway, on to the useful stuff...

Ski hire: We booked with Coastal Culture in Creekside who were brilliant, from answering daft questions before the booking, to the bear of a bloke who sorted us out in the shop. Top tip from him: "You don't come to Whistler to ski rivers!" Laughing £125 each for the 'premium' skis and poles for 6 days. The better half took the Head Kore 93 in 176 which he adored straight away. I took the Nordica Santa Ana 93, in 153 length, which took me a day to get into but by the end of the trip I was deeply in love. It's the way they deal with bumps and lumps, I'm a rubbish skier and these flattered me massively. They cope with my skidding about in a pathetic way on groomed runs as well, in all a marvellous do it all ski.

Lessons: We booked the Max4 lessons, which are a full day, on a book two, get the third day free deal. It was ridiculously expensive but also it has to be said very good value. The quality of instruction was really very good; Lisa from Melbourne and Steve from Manchester (!) both had many years of experience, have been in BC for years, and were superb (have to say Steve had the edge with his pure love of the mountains and knowledge of conservation works etc). We booked for level 4; it was all a bit confusing as the runs are marked differently, but it was right if challenging for us as a pair of dodgy intermidiots with 4 years of skiing and a determination to throw ourselves down European reds. We were matched up with a Brit and an Aussie, and matched so well we managed to stay in the same group for all three days (same instructor for the last two).

The skiing!
Finally got there... just want to note here our own experience/thoughts on that whole run grading system. We found that greens there could be anything from Euro green to stiffish blue; blue there is anything from a Euro decent blue to a real red; black is Euro red to probably black (not that I've ever skied any!), and not often groomed except for certain runs; double black we didn't go near, and these are pretty much never groomed. The other confusing thing for us is that the 'runs' you see on the map could be anything - popping through trees, off piste, moguls under the lift... so if you're not super confident, you have to watch what you're up to in case things are not as they seem!
It's also worth saying that the groomed runs are generally not groomed to a perfect smoothness, and with fresh snow (which we got for a couple of days, bonus) the ungroomed are super fun but not like anything I've experienced before (never done any off piste or skied in deep snow)
The lift system is pretty good, would have loved a few Austrian style covered chairs but guess that's just because I'm spoiled.
We got pretty much all over the mountain in our 6 days, especially in our lessons, so here are the standout runs as an example (good and bad!). Do note, again, that we are not good skiers, we're improving, but still very much at the learning stage, so all comments on steepness and difficulty reflect that!

Whistler:
Dave Murray Downhill (my run of the week) - this is the best way home to Creekside, and a cracking, always groomed, smooth and if you want to, fast as hell black. There are some steep sections, but nothing narrow or uninviting. We re-named it the Vanessa May Downhill because I ski so slowly, but I loved it because I'm a groomer girl at heart, and it was easy on the knees after all the bumps whilst being a perfect end of day blast.
Jeffs Ode to Joy/Adagio/the Glades - over by Symphony lift, which seems to close quite often, is probably the most beautiful place in the whole resort. We had lots of fun pottering in the tree glades (which I never thought I'd say, I hate tree skiing), and when you're at the lift these little birds (whisky jacks!) come and land on you. It's magical. Jeffs Ode to Joy is indeed a joyful blue run. Warning though - the lift gets very busy, and it's a sun trap, so there can be a lot of sweaty waiting around.
Peak to Creek - we were warned about this blue by the ski hire man. Skullie He was right. Allegedly it had been groomed. Ha. Bumpy hell, all the way down, clearly everyone wants to ski this as it's a bit of a classic but it was absolutely not for us (we tried twice). However, the views from the top of Whistler Peak are glorious so if you're a good skier you'd just do the nice bowl below and avoid that nonsense. Note that you can do the top half then cut out across Highway 86, not a special run in itself but a blissful experience if you've raged down that far.
The Saddle - ARGH! My blue nemesis. I came unstuck on here in a frozen, can't turn, total novice kind of way, and yet really there's nothing wrong with it. It is steep - steeper than it looks from below - and a bit of a lemming ledge where it pops out between two big rocks with people taken by surprise by the steepness maybe. I tried again the day after, when it had been freshly groomed, and managed absolutely fine. My other half really liked it. Bah. rolling eyes
Harmony/Harmony Ridge - lovely cruising blues, and nice bowls of relatively easy off-piste to the sides; fun to lap.
Emerald zone - the ski school area and good warm up with wide greens (some of which looked suspiciously blue to me!)
Bear Paw/Tokum - both routes down to the Village, black and blue respectively. Good, straight, missioning runs to blow away the cobwebs, nothing too steep on the black (in our minds) or too slow on the blue.

Blackcomb (accessed from Whistler mountain by the Peak to Peak gondola which is pretty spectacular and oddly not scary):
7th Heaven - nice, but busy on a sunny day. The views are fantastic and the runs mostly blue, so can understand why. We went over here on our first day and I remember thinking that Hugh's Heaven in particular was a bit steep; not in a bad way, but in a 'oof, I have no ski legs, what just happened' way. Marvellous for getting up a bit of speed though!
Blackcomb Glacier - came here on a lesson thank goodness! Involves a t-bar up, then skis off for a short but painful hike uphill to the ridge off which the bowl is accessed. Tip - take a rest at the top... Then basically it's a case of find your line down the bowl! We traversed right, across to the less steep area, and then had our first experience of blasting through deep snow. It might have been fun if I hadn't been pooping myself, my OH absolutely loved it though, I think he may turn gnarly. It's not hard really, just different if you're an improver - and set us up for a bit more playing off piste for the last couple of days so it must have helped our confidence. A great intro to a new skill.
Brownlie Basin - OH's run of the week. Off the top of the Glacier Express chair, you can go right and take the Blue Line down (a lovely run), or left and go over to Brownlie. It's a black, and the drop in is rather steep- it's one where you have to take a bit of a gulp to get the first couple of turns in, then you're swooping down the rest thinking it was the best idea you ever had. Again, a superb confidence giver for improvers.
Twist and Shout/Rock and Roll - fun, fun, fun wide blue pistes through the trees, not hugely steep, rolling and twisting. As the names suggest! Would include Ridge Runner here but we found it busy and bumpy, far better to take the other less travelled runs.
Cruiser/Lower Cruiser - only not my run of the week because the Dave Murray took me home. This run is well named, and a true blue anywhere; I skied down this shouting 'yippee' at every turn, and actually got some nice smooth speed up for once (not like me). It really is a cracker, and not at all busy whenever we hit it.

Some general observations... WB is entirely non-smoking in resort owned areas, which is probably lovely but caused me some biting of nails. In fact, there are signs at the lifts - 'Please do not smoke or curse in the lift lines'... but, my two favourite things?! Laughing
People working in resort were unfailingly friendly and helpful, it's so damn civilised. People on the slopes were mostly likewise but there were a few hooners who seemed to dislike anyone going slower than them - standout was the guy who came from behind and skied straight over the front of my OH's skis. We cursed him loudly and viciously as he hared off down the mountain leaving my OH in a heap. As an relatively inexperienced skier the proximity some people seemed to like to have to me when passing bothered me, and in much of the resort there's no excuse as the pistes are wide - I can only assume it's a plot to scare people away and leave the 'proper' skiers their mountain to themselves!
And a final thought - maybe it's just me, but I found Whistler ends up removing any sense you have of run grading and what's steep/not steep. I'm not convinced any of it made a difference except in terms of grooming, which is a GOOD THING. We've been fixated on 'yay, skied a red' in Europe, but here it's more 'looks ok, it's groomed, let's go', 'looks a bit bumpy, break out the new skills', or 'ooo, that's steep, slow and steady eh!' without really thinking about colour. The lessons were probably part of the cause of this - you just follow, listen, do, and find out afterwards what you've just skied. Then go and play in the trees or off piste because suddenly it's all fun rather than scary and dangerous.

So overall, Whistler is great! Would I go back? Hell yeah, like a shot, already plotting how to get more avios. Is it different to Europe? Hell yeah, but in the best way possible to improve your skiing, I really believe we learned a huge amount. Do I miss the poutine already? Absolutely! snowHead
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That's a great read, thanks for posting. Brings back happy memories of skiing there with my wife and kids. We liked Whistler but also really like staying in Banff and skiing at Sunshine and Lake Louise (it's a different experience, you have to drive or get a coach from the town to the slopes).

We also fell in love with Breckenridge in Colorado. Can't put my finger on exactly why, but the mix of doorstep skiing, outdoor hot tubs and a decent sized town just worked for us. We are back in Europe for a couple of trips this year but we are definitely not done with skiing in North America.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Read with huge interest- thanks! Very informative. My daughter will have her study a year abraod in Vancouver and we are thinking if visiting her over xmas and possibly having a few days on the slopes. So lots of good info on here, thanks!
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@ElzP, Thanks for the read very well said. Off soon for our annual visit to see daughter.

The grading is a hoot, they get round it by saying that the Green is easiest and Blue medium with Black being hardest; but it is from that specific point on the mountain hence all over the place. The Max4 or using the free guides is a brilliant way to find out what you like in runs as they know what to do and what not.

Hope you get chance to go back. Now Red Door must give that a go (opps says they are fully booked until Feb23 and all March weekends), though we stopped going to Rim Rock as Taxis are very difficult to get hold of. We stay in the Village so a bit of a trek to Creekside - though we do have to make the pilgrimage to Dustys.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Thanks both! A bit War and Peace... Laughing

I forgot to add the bit about Grouse Mountain (which your daughter may find of interest if she skis and will be in Vancouver)

Grouse is a small ski area a 20 minute taxi ride (public transport also possible) from downtown. You go up in a long gondola and the runs are all at the top of the hill.
Good things: It's so near to the city! And the views of the city are incredible on a clear day (or night - they have night skiing until 10pm). It has a variety of runs including a couple of tree runs, and a big park for those who like trying to break their necks. There is a very nice restaurant (Observatory) so you can night ski then get some grub with a view (note, they ask you not to turn up in ski gear - there are pay lockers at the ski hire). I was impressed by the amount of adaptive ski instruction happening while we were there, they obviously have a lot of capacity for that.
Bad things: When we were there it had not snowed for a while so everything was man made slush or icy; bear in mind we'd just been spoiled in Whistler but it felt a bit like skiing in a snowdome! The ski hire is not great, just various types of Elan skis handed out willy-nilly (assume they have a deal with them), and no difference that I could see between the basic and premium. My skis were back-to-beginner floppy terrors. It's busy, especially at night (we went during the week) and we were told that if there has been some snow it's absolutely rammed on a weekend with huge queues for the gondola up.
Worth a visit - yes if you need a weekday snow fix from Vancouver. But maybe not if it hasn't snowed for a while, and not at the weekend.
Local's tip is to go to Cypress instead, a bit further away but not as busy.
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And Mt Semour too which is further away and even quieter.
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@Jake43, try dropping Red Door an email - we got a cancellation spot for our second meal there. Or definitely go next time. Madeye-Smiley You can get the bus to Rim Rock also - anything that stops at Highlands, the stop is just next to the lane down to the restaurant. We did that on the way there, walked back having realised there's a footpath back to Creekside.

We'll certainly go back - but also want to try Banff, and indeed other NA ski resorts now! Best get fiddling Amex deals for max avios!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Yep I know about the bus but with 5 of us (one of whom has a bus pass!) it is just sooooooo much easier in a Taxi. It was side swipe, agreeing with you, about how useless the Taxi service is now. This is mainly due to the cost of living there, assuming you can find a roof over your head at all, there are many service jobs just not getting filled.

It was one of the best bits of Whistler trip the happy staff everywhere. They are now so over worked it was nothing like as good last year and we will see in a couple of weeks how it is this year. Could be our last trip after 15 years.

At least with Vail they are doing more grooming - which I like too.
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@Jake43, Laughing I totally missed that, ha, can I still blame jet lag?! Yes, the taxi driver was saying they just don't have enough people. Bit crazy really considering the traffic of desperate taxi seeking tourists (and presumably locals).

I also love a groomed piste - no matter what the ski hire guy says about skiing rivers! Twisted Evil
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I really enjoyed reading this - my husband and I had our ski-moon in Whistler and Vancouver and seem like similar skiers to you! Your low down on the runs had me remembering it vividly - Jeffs Ode to Joy, what a run - aaaahh, great memories.

We went to Whistler as a "once-in-a-lifetime" ski trip to Canada but loved it so much (despite a historically bad snow year - bottom of the mountain bare!), we've since skied Banff twice (just back on Sunday from Banff actually, so cold!!), and Jasper once (plus a summer Ontario road trip!). We've only once been back to France in between but there is something about Canada that we can't stay away from!! Apres ski wings and jugs of beer might have something to do with it!!

Have a look at some of the interior ski resorts from Calgary for a future trip - the dry snow is a dream!!
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SLB79 wrote:
I really enjoyed reading this - my husband and I had our ski-moon in Whistler and Vancouver and seem like similar skiers to you! Your low down on the runs had me remembering it vividly - Jeffs Ode to Joy, what a run - aaaahh, great memories.


That bit at the bottom when you come into the trees and every time you can choose a different glade to go down - absolutely lovely. Little Angel

Will defo be trying some of the interior, we nearly chose Banff this time round so that is probably next on the list. Also Big White in Montana...
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@ElzP, so pleased you had an amazing time , and the red door lived up to my hype , and that you found the amazing blue runs off crystal chair , rock and roll rocks snowHead

what is it with BA and half arsed breakfast bacon rolls , we fly out at least four times a year and have never had a good one yet Evil or Very Mad
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Dabber, it rocks, and i shouted all the way down twist and shout! snowHead

It was a terrible 'full English' for us - two words, powdered egg... Skullie
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You know it makes sense.
@Dabber, We always fly Air Canada but there breakfast wrap is not much better.
Think the days of decent food on a airline in Economy have gone.
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@ElzP, what a wonderful write up thanks for sharing! I was wondering, how did you deal with the no smoking thing? I'm visiting next year for the first time and whilst I use e-cigs at home I tend to like a real cigarette when boarding, were you able to sneak the odd one here or there up on the hill?
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@Minion1980, I didn't - too chicken! Had two before first lift, a couple if we came down for lunch, and had a pair ready rolled for getting off the hill at the end of the day. rolling eyes Sad really.

I'd take your vape and find a quiet spot, saw no one smoking on the hill.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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@ElzP, haha ok thanks, yes seems a bit draconian to me especially as no one in the Alps cares and many smoke! Thanks again for your report it sounds like a wonderful trip you had.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I am not sure that they are too unhappy about vaping. Yes other people do not want to share smoke on a lift, but doing it someone quite would not be an issue - I think. They did have a huge problem with the filters when the snow cleared and it was a huge clear up job so hence the ban.

Seems to work though did not see any on the mountain at all.

How do you manage a 9hr plus plane trip though if you can't cope with a few hrs skiing.
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Jake43 wrote:

How do you manage a 9hr plus plane trip though if you can't cope with a few hrs skiing.


Skiing mildly terrifies me. Flying I can sleep through. wink

Actually, the whole day up the hill was fine, we only came to base for lunch a couple of days. I'm currently eyeing up giving up smoking (yet again) and that's one of the things I remind myself of - it's not a necessary thing, it's just a habit.
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@ElzP, Good luck with that - be strong. Just think the money you save can get you back to Whistler Madeye-Smiley
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