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“Son, we moved here to ski,” my father used to tell me on big snowy Whistler mornings, “so let’s go skiing.” Then we’d drive right past Myrtle Philip Elementary School straight to the the ski hill. I was lucky to have parents who understood the truly important things in life and even throughout high school, so long as I kept my grades up, “The 30 Centimetre Rule” was in full effect.

The Origins of The 30 Centimetre Rule

No one knows for sure where it originated but most ski resorts in North America have some version of The 30 Centimetre Rule — any time the mountains are blessed with a foot or more of fresh powder there will be kids that don’t have to go to school and shop employees who won’t be scolded for showing up late.

The rule was pretty standard here back in the ’80s and ’90s, but that was then. Has the rule survived?

“If anyone comes in to work before noon on a day of even 10+ centimetres they will be reprimanded and punished unmercifully,” says Toad Hall Studios owner Jorge Alvarez. “I tell my employees even if they don’t feel like skiing/riding that day then stay home and just come in at noon with wet hair and pretend you did. Some things in life are sacred.”

A skiier plows through deep snow in Whistler.
The 30-centimetre rule is as good as law in Whistler. PHOTO: BEN GIRARDI

The awesome part is he’s not even kidding. Toad Hall benefits from being a bit of a behind the scenes business — they run a design studio/printing house with an office in Function Junction, an industrial/arts district far from the front lines of Whistler Village. In fact, it seems many of the businesses in Function Junction are big supporters of The Rule.

Is ‘The Rule’ Universal?

“The 30-Centi rule is definitely applied,” says Ian Ritz of Chromag Bikes which is also located in Function Junction. “There are a lot of loose rules around here that allow employees to take liberties.” Chromag workers spend their summers riding bikes together to try new designs and just enjoy the sport they spend the rest of the week working around. “We carry the Friday Ride over to the winter as well,” Ian explains. “The 4-day work week is the way to go.”

“We actually have a 20 centimetre rule,” says Dew Millar from the Prior Ski and Snowboard factory, also in Function. “It seems like a bit of a long-lost tradition but we do it. People come in at noon and stay a bit late to make sure the work gets done. I think things are probably a bit different in Whistler Village.”

A bit different indeed. Whistler Village businesses offer considerably less leeway on the snow days. As the centre of operations for the entire resort, Village shops can’t really just shut down and go skiing. “I wish,” says Chris Ankeny, owner of Mt Currie Coffee company. “But people like to drink coffee on 30 centimetre days too.”

They also like to rent gear, buy jackets, gloves and googles, eat food and enjoy themselves. That’s hard to do when everyone in town is getting overhead pow turns. But there are always exceptions—on a quick stroll through town the Whistler Insider did find a couple Village businesses making the 30 Centimetre Rule work.

Skiiers stroll through the snow in Whistler.
There’s nothing like the excitement of a powder day in Whistler. PHOTO: Blake Jorgenson

Making it Work

“We have snowboarders and mountain bikers working here,” explain the staff at Evolution a local bike and board shop. “So on big pow days the shredders can take a morning off and the bikers will cover for us because they know we’ll do the same some sunny morning in the spring.”

Another happy compromise comes from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. “We open at 10 AM,” owner Scott Grieve says. “So if it is an epic day on the hill and my staff want to get some mid-mountain laps and come in at 11 or so, yeah that’s not the end of the world. Especially if they give me a heads up in advance.”

Of course, the real beneficiaries of The 30 Centimetre Rule are restaurant staff. Lunch generally starts at noon, and many waiters or bartenders don’t punch a clock before 5 PM. Self-employed locals also seem to have it all figured out. “Our rule is ski whenever you want,” grins Jon Burak, publisher of Mountain Life Magazine.

And the winningest winners of all? Whistler’s guests – you’re on holiday and it’s snowing. Go get some.

Or at least check out this “Late for Work” video from Insider Editor Feet Banks. It’s not 30 Centimetres, but it will do.


Feet Banks moved to Whistler at age 12 so his parents could live the dream and ski as much as possible. He ended up living it too. After leaving home Feet did a few good stints in warmer climates and 4 years of writing school before returning to the mountains to make ski movies, hammer out a journalism career and avoid the 9-5 lifestyle as long as possible. He’s been a hay farmer, a hole digger, a magazine editor and has a jump named after him on Blackcomb Mountain, Feet’s Air. It’s tiny.