Whistler – Blackcomb
As I mentioned in my last Ski blog, learning how to ski was a must do for my trip to Canada, the question was when and where?
Like Petra in Jordan and the Pyramids in Egypt, Whistler is a must do when you visit British Columbia. And like all must do tourist sights there is (for me at least) often something a little tiresome about the constant insistence that you must do them- until I visit and then I become one more in a long line of people who will now tell everyone I meet that they must visit!
Whistler and its brother Blackcomb are only two of many mountains stretching farther than my imagination can take in. Highway 99, otherwise known as the Sea to Sky highway takes you from Vancouver to Whistler Village and the road itself is now on my must do list. In fact I stayed an extra night so I could do the return run in daylight. As I sit in the Greyhound peak after white topped peak flash by in the December sun and the big deep waters of Horseshoe Bay reflect it all back, doubling the wondrous panorama. When we break the drive in Squamish the whole area is ringed with the lacy up and downs of snow capped mountains. As is so often the case when man and nature mix, the town itself seems squat and almost squalid in comparison to the natural surrounds. And then we are off again up to Whistler.
After spending quite a bit of time tramping along public footpaths and mountain tracks in the UK it took a while for the slowly shifting gears of my brain to realise that when I visit Whistler- Blackcomb I was not visiting mountains exactly but a resort.
The resorts physical infrastructure marks out how visitors will interact with the mountain; there are cafes at varying altitudes, chair lifts, gondolas, moving carpets, snow machines and of course ski trails of varying difficulties.
Along with the physical infrastructure to get people up and down the mountain and feed and water them the resort requires man power- and in mid December as it gears up to service hordes of snow tourists the resort attracts job seekers like honey to a hungry Pooh Bear. And why not with such a spectacular location. While staying at a backpackers almost everyone I meet is looking for work and or accommodation for the season, and everyone is anticipating a blessed life of hard work and hard play at the snow.
And it is absolutely true that Australians are in the majority.
This Australian however is not here to look for work, I am on the other side of the fence: I am going to ski school.
Gearing up on the first morning I soon discover that while there are bonuses to coming prior to the official season (in the form of discounts) there are trials as well. The very new staff don’t quite seem to know which way is up. Luckily the blanks in the knowledge of those dealing with gear hire do not translate into deficits in our teachers. We were well provided for by our instructors knowledge, both of the mountain and of skiing in general.
Because of my half day on Grouse I start out as a Level Two skier and we spend a sunny day on the long slow training slope where I ski with poles for the first time, manage to keep myself upright, perform both left and right hand turns and occasionally almost ski parallel.
|The Carpet on the teaching slope at Whistler.|
I graduate to Level Three for my second day. We have sun again and although there is some complaining about the lack of new snow, I personally am happy to have blue skies and sunshine as we explore the sights, slopes and challenges of Whistler and Blackcomb the best way possible, whizzing by on our skis. In between runs we trundle about in high enclosed gondolas and rocky ski lifts, with me still chanting ‘stand up’ to myself every time I exit in case I forget and accidentally get stuck on the lift Bridget Jones style.
|Chair lift on Blackcomb|
The mountain’s infrastructure is imposing but I cannot imagine how we would get about without it, as I have enough trouble just carrying my skis and poles over short distances and still have not mastered the art of moving over flat snow in my skis.
Although it is a grey day, life is good on day three. My body is still functioning, I have hardly had a tumble and although I can feel the fatigue of two days skiing I am keen to have another day on my skis. Fog and all.
On our last day we get a taste of what it is like to be on a busy run. On our longest and possibly highest run there are skiers and snowboarders rocketing in from everywhere.
I do finely take a couple of tumbles after lunch and I discover the difficulty of righting myself on a steep hill while trying not to slip off the edge, but I am comforted by my brother’s statement that: ‘a few good tumbles usually indicates that you are pushing your limits at least a little.’
On the most part even our little troupe of novices manages to navigate successfully. Something I thought I would never master- avoiding other people on my ski’s while moving at speed is now coming quite naturally.
And even my one collision with a snowboarder is navigated by both parties without incident. It was not until after I have turned to the boarder, smiled, said ‘nice’ in relief at neither of us tumbling over that I realise he had a camera strapped to his helmet. Our almost crash at slow speed probably wont make it to a snowboarding video near you but you never know.
At the end of day three I have a new bruise or two, confidence on my skis and a smile on my face. I have enjoyed myself immensely and having always thought of myself as a fairly uncoordinated lass, the discovery that I have inherited some of my families sporting abilities is quite a nice feeling.
I don’t suck!
And I will be quite happy to tell anyone who asks that they must visit Whistler and they must learn to ski.