The Whistler Insider

Whistler Tips: How to Ace the First Day of the Ski or Snowboard Season

The Whistler ski season started on November 17, 2017 and will likely go through to May 2018 – long season! Check out the Opening Day coverage with @GoWhistler and get up here! 

Ah, your first day in Whistler for the season. Whether it’s on opening day, or the first day of your vacation, it’s hard not to feel like a kid at Christmas in the days before. But are you ready to venture out on your skis or board? To help you out I’ve pulled some key points that will help you ace your first day of the ski season.

November 23, 2016 – this was opening day last year. You ready to shred? PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Before you arrive

Book ahead

If you take only one piece of advice from me, make sure it’s this one – book your vacation as soon as you know you want to come.  From Stay & Ski Packages to rentals and lessons, you will get the best price and selection by planning ahead. Take the opportunity to book your vacation from the comfort of home so you can have a stress free vacation. Insider tip: book before November 15 to save, and remember that EDGE Cards and Season Passes will not be sold after November 19, 2017 so get those locked down now as well.

Dress for the weather

The weather in Whistler can vary greatly over the course of the day, and from valley bottom to the mountain tops. Overall, our coastal climate is great – we enjoy warmer weather and abundant precipitation (yay for deep snow!). Locals know that rain in the valley usually means it’s dumping snow on the mountain, so don’t let a grey day scare you. Make sure to pack a ski jacket and pants with good waterproofing to keep you dry while traveling up to the good stuff. If you don’t already have the right gear don’t stress – our pedestrian friendly village is packed with shops loaded with the latest gear for all budgets including brands made and tested right here in Sea to Sky Country.

How to dress for success, Whistler-style. PHOTO JUSTA JESKOVA

Make sure your boots fit properly

Wearing poorly fitted boots is a mistake that you only make once. If your feet hurt, or are too cold from tight boots, you’re going to have a miserable day on the slopes.  Modern boots have come a long way in terms of comfort, but to really get that ‘Cinderella’ fit I recommend getting your boots professionally fitted – and Whistler is overrun with highly trained ski boot techs. Want to learn more about how to get the right fit? Rob Cook, boot wizard at FanatykCo Ski and Cycle  shared with us 6 Tips For Comfier Feet.

Tune your gear

Before your trip make sure to give your gear a good once over to save any unpleasant mid-run surprises. This is something that you can do yourself at home, or is quickly done at a local shop. Check for loose screws and bolts, gouges on your base, and apply a fresh coat of wax. Want to tune your own gear, but not sure how? Here’s some tips on how to wax like a pro.

When you arrive

Take care of business the night before

On your first day of skiing the only line you want to be waiting in is for the chair to take you up the mountain. Stop into guest relations the night before to pick up your lift tickets as well as check in and sign waivers for your lessons. For maximum time savings make sure to pick up your rental skis or snowboards the night before. You can take your time getting fitted and have your gear ready to go straight from your hotel to the lifts in the morning.

Going up? Having an upload plan gets you to the snow faster.

Plan your morning upload

When you wake up to your first day of a ski vacation you’re going to be antsy to get on the slopes as soon as possible. This is where having some local knowledge can help save you some precious line waiting time (particularly on powder days).

Here are my top tips for a quick upload:

  1. Whistler Village Gondola almost always has the longest line. If you arrive to a long line consider uploading via Fitzsimmons and Garbanzo chairs. They’re a little less direct, but will get you on the slopes more quickly.
  2. Make the trek to the Upper Village. For just a short 10 minute walk from Skiers Plaza, you’ll be rewarded with significantly shorter lift lines on Wizard and Solar Coaster chairs.
  3. Plan to get in line a little bit early. The lifts typically open between 8-8:15 AM. Arriving closer to 7:30 AM can save you a huge amount of line time. That extra time doesn’t go to waste. Send one person from your group to grab coffees and you can sip and wake up while you wait.
  4. Get tickets to Fresh Tracks Mountain Top Breakfast. You not only get a tasty breakfast, but also an early upload on the Whistler Village Gondola. Fresh Tracks runs from December 15 to April 1.

 On The Hill

Where to go

Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are huge, with the perfect variety of terrain for all skill levels. All of the runs are well marked with the classic green circle to double black diamond difficulty signs. It’s important to note that if you’re visiting from far away, everything is bigger in the mountains. As an Ontario transplant I can vouch that a blue run in Whistler would likely be rated a black run in Ontario.

If you’re unsure where to start, Emerald Chair on Whistler is a pretty safe bet. It hosts a range of wide runs that are a great place to warm up and get a feel for the terrain. Our guide to Whistler’s green runs is another great resource, and if  it’s your first visit to Whistler it’s a good idea to consider getting a lesson. You’ll get lift line priority, skill pointers, and they’ll take the guesswork out of finding the best terrain.

Blackcomb Mountain, one of two massive mountains you could ski this winter. Need a map? PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Lunch

It can be tempting to ski non-stop all day, but it’s important to take time to fuel up for the afternoon. I always plan my lunch break for before 11 AM or after 1 PM. Not only will there be more tables available when dining, but you’ll also benefit from smaller lift lines while the majority of people head in for lunch.

Fuel time at the Crystal Hut, springtime. PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Ski Out

At the end of your ski day the long runs back down to the village can be serious thigh burners. The last thing you want after an amazing day on the hill is a tumble on your last run.  If you’re committed to ‘death before download’ make sure to take lots of breaks on the way down. Another option, especially in early season conditions, is to download. There’s no need to be a hero here. If your legs are feeling gassed, take the chair back down to stay safe for the next day.

With this much terrain, legs are bound to get tired. Pace thyself. PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Recovery

Après

Getting some cold drinks and yummy food after skiing is practically mandatory in Whistler, and there’s a ton of après venues from casual to classy within a few minutes (or seconds) walk of the lifts. Learn about some of our coziest places to cuddle up after a big day on the slopes.

Nachos and Caesars at the Longhorn, not a bad way to end the first ski day. PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Soak and Stretch Your Aches Away

It’s important to take care of your body while on a ski vacation. Even seasoned locals feel the satisfying ache in their legs earned by a full day on the hill. To restore your body for your next day make sure to find time for a stretch and a soak before heading to bed.  If your accommodation doesn’t have a hot tub consider stopping by the Scandinave Spa to treat yourself to their restorative pools.  Sitting in a hot pool while snowflakes fall around you is a magical experience you won’t want to miss!

Hello, hottub. Head to a spa or make use of the facilities at your accommodation like this one at the Coast Blackcomb Suites. PHOTO MIKE CRANE

Ski with a Smile

Of course the most important things to bring for a great first day on the hill are a positive attitude, and your best friends and family to share it with. So round up your favourite chair-mates and start planning for an unforgettable first day on the hill.