With over a mile of vertical and 7500 acres of open, skiable terrain Whistler offers some of the best spring skiing in North America (not to mention probably THE best après) but even the perfect spring day on the slopes can be made better with a few simple tips gleaned from years of local experience. Check ’em out:
1. Crack-of-Noon Club
One of the best things about spring skiing is you can sleep in and not feel guilty. Last winter we talked to ex-ski patrol and avalanche forecaster Joe Lammers about the “freeze/melt cycle” but basically on your average spring day the snow will be fast and hard until the sun hits it long enough to soften things up. This means there’s nothing wrong with sleeping in and uploading just in time for the fresh “corn” at noon. (But be wary! With such big mountains it will often snow up in the alpine and you can have real pow and spring corn in the same day. It’s worth it to nominate someone to set an alarm and check the early snow report just in case).
The sunny days of spring are really best enjoyed outdoors so it makes sense to hit the patio of the on-mountain restaurants but this time of year can also be seen as an excuse to pack a bag lunch and bask on a warm rock somewhere scenic. Bonus points if you have a 70s-style wineskin (full of water of course… staying hydrated is important in the warmer spring months).
3. Dress for Success
More than ever, spring is about proper layering. Go for light pants if possible, you can ski harder to fend off the morning chills of those first few runs. Conversely wearing a too-insulated jacket can turn your afternoon runs into an unzipped alpine sauna. Yuck. A shell outer layer is best then you shed your warm layer as the day progresses. A small backpack is great for this (also for holding the lunch and wineskin).
4. Stay on Point: Watch Terrain and Weather
Know the mountain, what aspects get the sun first and will therefore soften up first? Also, where are the cornices? Has any debris chunks (aka “Death Cookies”) broken off and rolled into your run? Stay on point. Also, watching the local weather is important because even on a nice day, spring squalls can blow into the mountains pretty quickly. And that will suck if you are riding in your bikini.
Sunscreen sunscreen sunscreen. The snow reflects about 80% of the sun’s UV rays right back up at you so don’t forget to screen the underside of your nose and chin. Reapply sunscreen at least once as the day progresses and if anyone has any of that old zinc-oxide kicking around from the 1980s, rock it with pride.
Also: sunglasses, or goggles if you are the “hey check out my sick goggle tan” sort. That same bouncing UV radiation can cause photokeratitus (aka snowblindness) if you don’t have proper eyewear. Snowblindness is essentially a sunburn on the cornea of your eye and is about as painful as that sounds.
When the sun hits the snow you can bet it’s also bathing Whistler’s patios in sunlight as well (Fun fact: the Village was laid out specifically to maximise sunshine on the outdoor seating areas). So make sure you replenish your vitamin D and rehydrate at one of Whistler’s après-ski spots where the spring vibe is strong. Check out our Guide to Spring Après for a more in depth look at the good times.
The key to a great ski day is to celebrate it, and if you happen to end up singing and dancing in your ski boots that’s not the worst way to end a day now, is it?
Bonus – Slush Cup!
There’s usually an unofficial slush cup on Gaper Day (last day of the winter season) but the awesome GO Fest Whistler usually has a legit one planned for May long weekend festivities, stay tuned for more details. You haven’t lived until you’ve donned a wild costume and hurtled yourself off a hastily formed jump at a freezing slushy pool of good times amidst inflatable float-toy obstacles and an energetic crowd rabid for mayhem. A slush cup is what spring is really all about and a great way to cap another fine season. But don’t be shy – Whistler’s costume culture is a year-round affair so don your onesie and 80’s garb any day you fancy.
Other than that, spring is about having fun so enjoy the mountains and don’t be afraid to try any of the other great spring activities Whistler has to offer. Sun’s out, fun’s out.
March 17, 2016 – Sunscreen, sunglasses, sun stoked. BRIAN HOCKENSTEIN CINEMATOGRAPHY