Getting Schooled on Whistler Blackcomb
Being a relatively new resident in Whistler, I’m not as “hard-core” as many of the skiers/boarders who shred our slopes. Shamefully, I don’t take full advantage of the mountains on a regular basis and this means my friends often must “pity” ride with me– rather than blazing through trees or ripping steeps they are confined to simpler runs and waiting at the cross roads. Basically, even though I don’t totally suck, I’m a burden to ski with.
But you don’t get better unless you try – right? So this past weekend I signed up for a Max 4 Ski Lesson with Whistler Blackcomb. A maximum of 4 people per instructor (only two in my case – which rocked) means you get some great one-on-one ski instruction. You’re also guaranteed to not wait in any lift lines – as ski instructors get the golden ticket of on-mountain VIP treatment– lift line priority (Tip: gloating and/or eye contact with the throngs of people waiting in the regular lift line is not recommended.)
I actually haven’t had a lesson in years, mainly because I ski OK enough to get down the hill and basically hit all the runs with some degree of competence. But I have not yet reached the “sexy skier phase” – you know, like all those people swishing past making it look effortless.
Right from our initial turns our instructor, a super-nice, down-to-earth urban mountain man named Michael Sanderson, was awesome. With a trained eye, he assessed our technique – apparently I swung my upper body too much and didn’t bend into my legs enough, which caused me to lean back and generally feel out of control. With a quick technical adjustment and a few practice drills I was well on my way to correcting those little glitches and feeling a lot more stable on my boards.
While Michael was great at the teaching component, what I actually found most helpful was his advice on which runs to ski for our ability level (especially helpful as not all greens, blues or blacks are created equal.) He even took the time to point out distinct landmarks and area identifiers, enabling us to find each “secret” spot again on our own.
Michael’s wealth of knowledge didn’t stop there however. He also schooled us on where and when to stop for lunch to avoid the crowds (Chick Pea @ 11:30) and where to avoid the afternoon wind that had picked up (runs ending at Garbanzo Express lift kept us happily wind-free.)
Instructors like Michael are on the mountain full-time and they log more ski days in a year than many of us will in a decade. So for anyone relatively new to Whistler Blackcomb a ski lesson can be so much more than just a technical adjustment or skills refresher. It can be an opportunity to get to know the mountain on a more personal, comfortable level. It’s like going to a new city and having a buddy already there to show you all the hottest hangouts. So party on, ride hard, and have fun (oh yeah, and maybe learn a thing or two.)