Somehow I wanted to think of a much more exciting, catchy title for this post, but if you’re into winter, skiing and/or snowboarding, than it’s likely that Whistler Blackcomb is enough of a draw card for you. If you’ve read any past posts of mine, you may have already seen that we’ve been to Squamish and Whistler in autumn of last year. But Whistler is most famous for it’s skiing and mountains in winter, and you simply cannot live in Vancouver and NOT go there. Blackcomb is the mountain next to Whistler that essentially is a part of the same ski field, joined together by the peak-to-peak gondola. Whistler/Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010, and clearly has some good skiing around, as well as cross country skiing (which you will see I wrote about here).
For us to make a day trip to Whistler from our place in downtown Vancouver, where the first gondolas start to go up the mountain at 8:30 a.m. (you get a gondola ride part way up the mountain before you get to where the chair lifts start), we have to leave here between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. Our first day up to Whistler Blackcomb we arrived a bit late, about 9:00. Some friends came with us, and by the time we all put our boots on and got our boards/skis out of the car, it was closer to 9:30 a.m. and well time to get going for the day. There are a number of parking lots at Whistler to cater for the number of people who come there to ski. The “upper” lots, which are closer to the field, cost to park in (but I’m not sure how much). We parked in lot 4, which is free, and the weekend we were there, a bus provided free transport to the lowest gondola, a short ride of about 5 minutes, which takes only about 10 minutes to walk. I really cannot understand why anyone would pay for parking when there is a free car park and a free bus service provided, or a 10 minute walk…. anyway.
We did our thing for the day and then met back down the bottom of the mountain at a pub for a beer. M was the driver, so asked for a small glass of beer, only to be told they couldn’t do a small glass (hmmm, really?). For the other 3 of us who could enjoy a beer, it tasted really good (even for me, the non-beer loving person!). We had booked a hotel for the night in Squamish (hotels in Whistler at this time of year were RIDICULOUSLY expensive, and yes, we do book rather last minute, but our only options were $700 plus! What??!). Squamish is half way between Whistler and Vancouver, so about a 45 minute drive, and the hotel we stayed at (Executive Suites) was great! Really nice, fabulous room, lovely hot spa (enjoyed sitting in that with a cold beer!) and a restaurant that served surprisingly good food (M wanted to tell our server that he found the food “surprisingly” good – meant fully as a compliment, but we talked him out of saying it that way as it just doesn’t come across in quite the way he was meaning it). Plus a really reasonable price (especially when we could split it between 4 of us). I definitely recommend them.
We headed back to the mountain on Sunday for another day of boarding, and it was really started to snow this day, so we became stuck in crawling traffic coming back…. It took us more than 2 hours to drive to Squamish because there had been an accident or two up the highway ahead of us. Made for a long trip home, that’s for sure (yawn, tired anyone?).
We have now been up to Whistler Blackcomb 2 weekends (we purchased edge cards, which is a discount lift pass for locals when you buy 3, 5 or 10 days lift passes – hence we had to get up there a few times to make sure we used up the days we had purchased). And in those 2 weekends, I actually haven’t been on Whistler mountain…. What????!! I hear you say! Well, Blackcomb is pretty cool. I am an intermediate level snow boarder, and it has a lot of different blue (intermediate) runs that were really fun. And cat tracks (those relatively flat tracks to help you traverse between different parts of the field) are often so flat that snow boarders have difficulty to get along them without having to unhook one foot from their binding, or even both feet, and walk along, and that is just annoying.
Our second trip up there, we chose to go for just the day. Unfortunately, we chose the Sunday when day light savings kicked in. That meant, instead of getting up at 5:45 a.m., like out clocks said, we had skipped an hour and it felt like 4:45 a.m. – ouch (we were trying to get there in time for the first gondola)! But when we reached car park number 4, the view was pretty amazing. And it had also snowed a LOT during the week, and I got my second ever powder day.
For some people, powder is the orgasm condition. And it did give me the opportunity to try going off piste. Under some of the chair lifts, the powder was really deep and virtually untouched, except by other skiiers/boarders, although at that time of morning, and on the first day of day light savings, there had not been so many people up there before us. The down side for me was that although I am intermediate level on groomed runs, I clearly don’t have a lot of experience in boarding on powder that hides bumps and dips, and suddenly I was falling over again. On the up side, it didn’t hurt to fall over. On the down side, there were a couple of times I simply couldn’t get up again because no matter how far I dug my arm down into the snow looking for something to push again to get up, the powder was just too deep (is there such a thing as powder that is too deep? Well, when you’re stuck on your ass in the snow under the chair lift and can’t get up, yes). I felt like a beached whale except (or because?) my feet were firmly attached to a piece of polished wood. But it was fun and I even started to learn how to deal with moguls a bit better (those big annoying humps of snow that some people love and some don’t!). Plus it was a stunningly gorgeous day with sunshine kicking our butts all day.
We also bought lunch up the mountain. Usually we don’t do this because when you start to add up petrol, lift passes and then buying food on top, it does get pretty pricey, but this time we just did it. At the top of Crystal Ridge chair lift (on the Blackcomb side), there is a hut where hot lunches can be bought, and what a treat it was to sit down (after waiting for a while to find a seat – it gets super crowded) to a yummy hot meal.
I have to say the whole Whistler Blackcomb thing has been a very positive, fun experience for me, and I’m really pleased about that. I heard a lot of Kiwi and Aussie accents up there (and of course Canadian). The 2 fields combined are really big and even allow more advanced skiiers like M to zoom around for a few days without getting bored. So, for all you skiing/boarding friends of mine, if this sounds like a place for you, then come on already!