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Ski Resorts

Lessons From Whistler: I Had It All Wrong

Looking back at all of my previous trips to Whistler, of which there must be close to ten, I now realize I’ve been missing the point.

I have had the opportunity to really challenge myself as a snowboarder – to get better and try different things – and instead I have consistently settled for days upon days of throwing myself down groomed runs, happy that they were slightly more challenging and much much longer than Ontario.

It took 150 centimetres over the past week – yes, that’s how much it snowed while I was in Whistler – to show me that Whistler is an incredibly gigantic mountain area with so much terrain that you never have to do the same run twice. It also showed me how much more I needed to learn to become even remotely good at riding (by anything but Ontario standards).

As I mentioned in a previous post, we started the week with an epic dump that would set the tone for the entire trip. It literally snowed a minimum of 10-15 centimetres every day. This meant there was plenty of terrain to explore virtually risk-free; I mean, if you flub a drop or a steep run all you’re going to basically do is land in powder anyway. We used the first day to explore areas we were already relatively familiar with, but that were now covered in powder.

But it was a mini-tour by a cousin of mine who lives in the area who really opened our eyes. On our second day, he took us straight over to the Whistler Bowl area, a collection of bowls and chutes that were simply packed with powder. And although they were all inbounds, a fair bit of it was difficult to access if you didn’t know where you were going (Doom & Gloom, Christmas Tress, Frog Hollow). Which meant the powder stayed in there all week.

After a couple of days learning how to deal with knee-deep powder all the time, Steve and I gained a level of confidence in our riding I don’t think we had before. And from that point, we made it our purpose to only ride areas packed with pow, which meant avoiding groomed runs at all costs and instead exploring all areas of both mountains (and putting ourselves in a few precarious situations as well).

A week later, I’m now back at home. I am sore as hell from digging my ass out of powder, hitting trees head-first (lesson: always wear a helmet), hiking, hitting unexpected drops, pulling myself back from the edges of cliffs, and spending so much time leaning on by back foot while I pointed my board through mountains of snow that I can hardly move it. As one guy I ran into on Blackcomb Mountain said, the place was a “powder barn” all week. And I fear I’ll never see conditions like that again.

Some other highlights of our trip:

  • We lined up for Blackcomb’s Glacier Express lift two days in a row, knowing there would be an assload of pow in there. As the few folks ahead of us made their runs down the mountain, everyone was cheering them on. They responded by hooting and hollering as they cut through knee-deep pow. It was pretty awesome.
  • Hitting “surprise stashes” one would think to be tracked out that never were. Example: taking the t-bar run from Harmony down to Peak Chair. Despite it’s easy accessibility, it was always full of crazy snow.
  • Spending 30 minutes hiking Flute Bowl for about four minutes of pow, and realizing it was totally worth it about 15 seconds into the run.
  • Discovering that the Harmony Ridge area can actually drop you into any kind of terrain you like.
  • Apres beers at the infamous Longhorn. Possibly the best place for beer in Whistler?
  • Visiting four stores in Whistler to try and replace my snowboard leash, until I finally realize no-one knows what I’m talking about because no-one has them.

I have so many updates to the Whistler Guide at this point that it’s not even funny. I will try to get on that as soon as I can.


  1. So what I am hearing from Adam is, “make sure you have travel medical insurance before going to Jay Peak because we will be slamming into trees”.

    Glad Whistler was so epic.

    Posted by Josh | January 23, 2010, 1:41 pm
  2. Indeed that does sound awesome and yes the Longhorn is the best slopside bar I’ve ever been to.

    Posted by Mark Mascolino | January 23, 2010, 5:07 pm
  3. Whistler is indeed huge, once you start exploring the terrain is almost infinite. I know a few places where you can find untracked snow 2 weeks after the last storm.
    Flute bowl is well worth the walk if you get there early, the shoulder of Lesser Flute is one of my favourite runs.
    Pay attention to the wind direction, the reason Glacier bowl (by the T-Bars) is so good is the wind typically blows all the snow off the ridges into that bowl
    Next time you’re in Whistler hire a guide and split-board from WAGB (google:Whistler Alpine Guides) and they’ll probably take you touring into the musical bumps (the mounds and ridges you saw beyond Flute), well worth a trip.

    lol, leash – been a while since I’ve seen one of those 🙂
    I love living in Vancouver…

    Posted by David Hayes | January 25, 2010, 3:30 pm
  4. The first time I rode pow-pow (the first time I ever boarded outside of PA or NY) I was like, “oooh – I get it now”. I have never went to an eastern resort since.

    Posted by MickR | January 26, 2010, 2:20 pm
  5. My friend is in Big White right now and I am extremely jealous. I have never experienced out west and need to. I can’t even imagine.

    That leash thing made me laugh!!

    Posted by Michelle | January 27, 2010, 9:59 pm
  6. Whistler is indeed epic on a good powder day. And sometimes too busy on groomer days to be worth it!

    There’s so much terrain at Whistler (inbounds AND out of bounds) that it truly is a fun mountain to explore, and there are always new places to be found.

    I’m a little miffed that you guys didn’t contact me and let me know you were going to be here! We could have had drinks! I’m at Whistler often.

    Posted by VancityAllie | February 3, 2010, 8:10 pm
  7. I wish I lived in the states, I have heard and read lots of great stories about jay peak.

    Living in the Uk sucks, lol.

    Think I will save up for a holiday there.

    Anyway glad to hear you had a great time even if it does make me slightly envious.

    Posted by Nitro T1 | July 10, 2010, 3:21 pm