Sometimes when I plan a trip far in advance, my excitement during booking escalates but then dwindles until about a week or so before the trip. I think some of my happiest, giddiest moments are when I am booking flights or when I am leaving work to start a vacation. My ski-cation to Whistler wasn’t any different.
Andy and friends picked me up at my office building on our way to Canada. My energy levels rose throughout the day as I counted down the hours for a long weekend getaway with some friends. During the drive, my excitement continued with seeing Mt. Baker on the horizon while driving up I-5 North to the Washington/Canadian border.
Since we worked almost a full day, we did not arrive at Whistler until after dark. Is anyone like me with arriving at destinations at night? The next morning feels like Christmas because I get to actually see the surroundings and explore this new place. This is probably the only benefit of working full time with limited vacation–the pure excitement to have a break from my normal routine. Ok, enough rambling. . .
I woke up with great views of Alta Lake from our AirBnb vacation rental. The snow covered mountains and trees made me excited for my first day of skiing. After a quick breakfast and coffee, the skiers/boarders headed out bright and early for a full day of skiing.
The area was developed in the 1960s with plans on hosting the 1968 Olympics. Operating as two different ski slopes, Blackcomb and Whistler (previous London mountain) resorts later merged in 1997 to become one resort. The mountains would be connected in 2008 by the Peak2Peak gondola, which gave guests more access to both mountains without having to head back down to the village. The work put into both resorts made it possible for Vancouver to host the Olympics in 2010, which was roughly 40 years in the making.
Day 1 – Getting Acquainted with the Mountains
Since it was Friday, we opted to drive into Whistler and park at one of the free parking lots. With a few of us needing to pick up our Edge Card (lift tickets), we headed to guest relations before choosing what gondola to ride. Starting on the Blackcomb gondola, we decided that is where we would spend our morning.
Taking multiple lifts above the tree line, we started to ski icy, alpine conditions. I followed my mountain guide, Mitch, who has been to Whistler a few times. We found Inuksuit statues throughout Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort. The statue was the mascot for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. It became a symbol of hope and friendship throughout Canada and was used by the Inuit tribes as cairns for navigation.
At the top of Blackcomb ski runs.
After seven runs of mixed blues and blacks, it was time for lunch at Rendezvouz near the Peak2Peak gondola. I ordered poutine and a burger. I was refueled and ready to head over to Whistler Mountain for more exploring.
Without knowing there were glass floor gondolas, we boarded the Peak2Peak and enjoyed the ride between the two mountains. I took pictures of us during our ride and the views of the village and surrounding mountains. What a beautiful ride. I can only imagine it being better on a clear, blue-bird day.
Riding the gondola.
With most lifts closing at 3 or 4, I was only able to get in four more runs. The remaining Stevens Pass crew (Andy, Tobias, and I) lasted to the end of the day as others headed back to enjoy some early après ski festivities. Andy and Tobias decided to do one more run before skiing down to the village. Since it was March, the lower level skiing was melted but fun.
- Runs: 11
- Max Speed: 35.9 mph
- Distance: 17.5 miles
- Vertical: 16.1 k feet
Day 2 – Blackcomb Mountain
We parked at the top of the Blackcomb gondola. After hitting a few tree runs and navigating the moguls, my legs were tired. Skiing through the glades were fun and made me feel like I was in a black and white movie. Since there were only a few of us skiing, we called an early day and headed back to the cabin for dinner and drinks; yesterday was more exhausting than I thought.
- Runs: 6
- Max Speed: 30.2 mph
- Distance: 8.7 miles
- Vertical: 9.9 k feet
Day 3 – Whistler Mountain – Fresh Tracks and Fresh Pow
Tobias, Mitch, Andy, and I all signed up the day before for fresh tracks. Fresh tracks is an additional $20 but includes breakfast at the Roundhouse Lodge and a head start from those who have lift tickets for the day. Whistler sells hundreds of tickets but only allows the first 650 through. We stood in line to ride the Whistler gondola starting at 7:15 to 8:00 am.
After riding the gondola to the top, we were served a buffet breakfast with pastries, eggs, and meat. A bell then rings after the terrain is cleared by avalanche patrol to start skiing the freshly maintained mountain. Fortunately for us, it was a powder day, and we had access to the Emerald Express and Big Red Express lifts prior to the normal 9 am lift start.
Andy felt a little under the weather, so the guys and I left to get in some turns in. We hit the tree areas and had a great time floating on the fresh pow. I was getting some great turns in before suddenly going over a 6 foot drop into a nice pile of powder. The guys saw it unfold and were surprised. The picture does not do the height justice.
Mitch and Andy finished early, which left Tobias and I. We headed up Peak Express and found some great untouched pow. Even though it was not fun at the top with icy slopes, the fresh powder turns made the effort worth it.
- Runs: 9
- Max Speed: 37.5 mph
- Distance: 16.1 miles
- Vertical: 16 k feet
Even though I could have skied one more day, I chose to be a tourist and explore Whistler. Those who remained Monday skied perfect blue-bird conditions. Overall, I am happy I did not opt into a fourth day of skiing and had fun exploring on my own (more on that later).