Learning to Ski – Whistler (& my epic ski-losing fall!)

Learning to Ski – Whistler (& my epic ski-losing fall!)

Whistler - Skiing for NewbiesI’ve written one other post about learning to Ski on Mount Seymour. So our next adventure was a little further afield in Whistler. I did look at signing up for skiing lessons in Whistler, but they were reeeeeally expensive. So, we decided to spend the day practising what we’d learnt during our first lessons. We have more lessons booked on Cypress Mountain in February, so anything we can do to improve before that, would be great! We had a fantastic day BUT I did manage one epic fall that I’ll share with you all, despite how incompetent it makes me sound! I’ll also share a few tips for other newbies, just in case there are other newbie-skiers reading!

Getting to Whistler:

It’s pretty easy to get to Whistler from Vancouver. If you do not have a car, then there is a shuttle bus from Vancouver for $32. If you DO have a car, then make sure you have a safe car with winter tyres. Some people are slightly crazy with their driving style between Vancouver and Whistler, so drive safely! If you can, go extra early to avoid the more colourful drivers.

As we drove past Squamish, the Chief was looking amaaaaazing with beautiful ice patterns. If you can, I recommend taking a teeny detour in Squamish for a hand-pie from Golden Crust. I had a rhubarb and raspberry pie. It was so, so good!

Tips for Renting Equipment:

I wish I had known more about this. There were long lines for ski-rentals in the morning, or at any time of day. We woke up early and were in the line by 8:10, but it took soooo long that we didn’t make it onto the slopes until 9:30! It takes a while to measure feet and find equipment for each person, so even if you are near the front of the line, it’ll take a while.

  • If I rent in Whistler again, I will line up the night before OR arrive before the rental shops open!
  • If you’re staying in a hotel, ask them for advice about where to rent – we did and they had 10% off vouchers for us.
  • Expect it to be pricey. We rented bashed-up beginner skis (with boots and poles) but it was still $60ish each!
  • If you can, rent equipment in Vancouver or Squamish. It’s a lot cheaper. There is a rental shop on Broadway called Ski Junkies where you can rent for the whole season for $200.

Whistler Accommodation:

Normally we plan to drive up to Whistler early in the morning, and then drive back home at night. Most of our friends don’t stay in Whister as it’s slightly out of our price range. However this time was different. We were soooo lucky with accommodation for this trip! My friend Tegan’s Aunt has a time share in the Legends hotel in Whistler’s Creekside. She let us sleep on the sofa, and Tegan brought an airbed…so we could all stay together right next to the mountain!

If you book in advance, there are some pretty good deals for accommodation in Whistler. Legends was really nice! We had a kitchen to make yummy food in the evening. And there is a hot tub when our muscles were tired after skiing.

Getting started:

Once you’ve got your ski equipment, look at a map and choose your route. The way up the mountain from Creekside is a gondola, so if it’s your first day you don’t have to worry about skiing off the chair lift! We decided to keep going further up the mountain in a chairlift straight away…so my very first skiing moment was sliding off the chairlift! Argh!

Chairlift Tips:

I get really nervous on chairlifts! It is super easy to get *on* to them. Once the chair in front of you has gone past, shuffle forward onto the line in the snow. Then you stand facing up the slope, still wearing your skis. The chair scoops you up and you leave your legs dangling.

The problem for me is getting off again! You’re meant to stand up, and then allow the chair to sort of nudge you forward. Sometimes I manage it easily. Once, we all ended up in a tangle. Another time, I fell over, right by the lift (argh!) And once I was in the middle, so I couldn’t go forward without crashing into the other men who’d ridden up with me. My slight delay meant by the time I stood up, I was in the air! Eep! I didn’t actually fall that time, but it was my first experience flying with skis.

If you have your camera safely around your neck, chairlifts are great for photos. At least until your hands freeze.

Why Whistler is Awesome!

There are soooo many possible routes down the mountains! You can ski down Whistler, or Blackcomb, or both! There is even a peak to peak gondola that takes you between the two! It looked like there were plenty of blue and black runs, but even if you are a newbie and want to stick to green runs, there is a huge variety of routes. It was cold and snowing on our ski-day. But although I couldn’t see all the views, I was sort of glad, because the soft powder is really nice to ski down!

The other really good thing is although the lifts are busy in Whistler, once you’re up, you have a long way to ski before you have to line up again. This means you actually get more time practising.

My Epic fall:

I started off pretty well on our first slide down the mountain. Marc goes a lot faster than me, but he was also falling down quite a lot more than me. I am a little nervous about falling, so I take each run quite slowly, twisting and turning as I wind down the slopes. Once I feel a bit more in control I plan to allow myself to speed up. For now, I am trying to be safe.

But…half way down the slope on my second slide, a snowboarder came from behind and cut me up. This meant I had to turn before I was ready, and I fell over. It wasn’t too bad, and I could hear the snowboarder shouting apologies. The problem was, I landed on a large icy patch of snow. So, once I was ready to ski again, I did a more spectacular fall and my ski fell off and went flying down the mountain!

There is a brake on skis, so it *should* have stopped in the snow. Unfortunately the brake malfunctioned and just kept zooming further and further away. There was a slight uphill slope further down the mountain, and it looked like my ski would stop. But it just slowed down, and then swished over the edge of a steeper section! I ran down after it and spent a while with Marc trying to spot my rouge ski, but to no avail. It might have escaped into the trees, or it might have zoomed down a blue run. We just couldn’t tell.

So, I was stuck halfway down a slope, with just one ski!

I wasn’t sure what I should do, so I took off my other ski and started to hike back up the mountain. Marc had to keep going without me! Tegan and her aunt spotted me on their way down and gave me advice about taking a gondola back down to the village. Walking in ski boots is quite hard work, so you can probably imagine, climbing up a snowy mountain is exhausting! I was warm and glowing by the time I’d made it up!

Unfortunately the Whistler staff were not very helpful! The man looking after the chairlift was really unhelpful. He just said I was not allowed to ride down on the chairlift. So, I went to guest services, who pointed at the peak to peak gondola, and told me to ride that down to the village. It turns out there was another gondola behind the peak to peak…so they had sent me off on an extra adventure carrying one ski!

Mini peak to peak adventure by mistake

The peak to peak gondola is brilliant! It starts near the top of one mountain, dips down into the valley, and then finishes near the top of the other mountain! I didn’t really mind that the guest services staff had sent me the wrong way because I got to ride and see these amazing views! Once I made it over to Blackcomb, I asked staff which gondola would take me down the the village, and they told me to go back to where I had started! So I rode the peak to peak back the other way! Oops.

Eventually I made it back over to Whistler mountain and found the right gondola to take me down to the village. I found Tegan and Marc (who were both pretty exhausted) and managed to rent a new pair of skis. I did have to wait in line for ages again, and I *might* have to pay for my lost ski if no-one ever finds it. One of the staff told me that lots of people lose skis when the snow is so powdery. At least I’m not the only ski-failure.

So, I missed a big chunk of our skiing time, but I was raring to try again! We went back up in the gondola and Tegan guided us down some of her favourite runs. I had soooo much fun on this final run. It wasn’t too steep, so I could be more confident and really enjoy the swishing and the views.

I actually really love the less steep sections. They allow me to be less of a scaredy cat and pick up some speed while still maintaining control. I stopped a couple of times to take photos, but mostly I was just enjoying it all.

Marc improved on this last run as well. He can (sort of) do parallel turns, so he is really speedy. He did fall down quite a lot (as you can probably tell from all the snow sticking to his jacket!) Anyway, he is way better than me already!

This is right at the end of our run, before we had to take a gondola back down to Creekside. I cannot wait to come back and see these views again. Hopefully next time, I won’t lose a ski!

It was twighlight by the time we made it back to our hotel. We bought wine, relaxed in the hot tub, and then had a lovely evening cooking spaghetti and playing card games and jenga. The photo below is the view from our balcony. How amazing is that for a place to stay!?

After our spaghetti and games, we were all pretty exhausted, so we had a pretty early night. We didn’t plan to ski the following day, so we woke up slowly and made waffles.

So, these are the final views from Tegan’s Aunt’s balcony. The lines for the gondola that morning were sooo long! There was a huge crowd at least half an hour before the gondola opened, and it just got busier and busier until we left! It must have been a brilliant day for skiing with views though! Hopefully everyone had fun after waiting in those lines!

Our next adventure on the way home was snowshoeing at Brandywine Falls. I wrote about that straight away, so you can read about it here.



25 thoughts on “Learning to Ski – Whistler (& my epic ski-losing fall!)

  1. I had a great time in Whistler, though I agree it is rather on the pricey side for me. We were only able to make it work by going during the off season. Not all the runs were open, but there were enough to make it worth our while.

    1. We bought a ski-pass for 5 days. It was the most expensive thing I’ve bought this winter – and that was the price for locals!!

      Winter sports are not cheap! ๐Ÿ™

  2. OMG this scared the living daylights out of me! One piece of advice I give to new skiers is to take lessons, especially if you are in a new resort. I know they are expensive, but you get so much out of them. Plus your instructor will take you to the parts of the resort to suit your level and experience. You don’t have to book a whole block, just one or two to get you practising. As a skier with over 50 weeks of skiing experience, I still take lessons if I’m State-side as I’ll enjoy myself much more if I know which areas to avoid. You can stay safe whilst having fun.

    1. Eep! Sorry that I scared you!

      We did book some more lessons in Cypress (for February), but I’ll have to think about booking some at Whistler too. The thing is, there are soooo many green runs, I don’t think they’d be able to introduce many of them!!

      1. Phew! As long as you stick to the green runs, you’ll be okay. It’s very easy to end up somewhere outside your comfort zone in Canada and the USA (I once ended up on a double diamond run). Do I sound like your mother? Sorry, I don’t mean to!

  3. That had me laughing so hard. I know, rude of me. My apologies. But the cartoon that I created in my head of you and your falling ski… priceless. Great reporting and pictures.

    1. Lol yay! I am glad you enjoyed it.

      The fall didn’t hurt, so it was quite comical to watch…until I realised I had lost that blooming ski!

    1. They don’t work when you’re wearing them! When you crash and the ski comes off your foot, they are supposed to automatically come on, so they can’t go hurtling down the slope on their own. Seems they don’t always work ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Ha ha! Love the chase for the ski but poor you having to climb back up! Reminds me of when I was there, we went down a blue (blues are easy runs in Europe!) and found it a bit trickier than expected. As I was turning carefully down the slope, my friend overtook me on his backside shouting “how do I stop?” as he accelerated down the icy gradient like an exocet!! Luckily, he came to a halt in full view, unlike your ski ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. Oooh good for you! And wow for your friend! It sounds like he must have improved really fast after that! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      We didn’t graduate onto many blue runs yet…but we’ll get there!!

      1. We went midweek in late April when it was really uncrowded. I take your point about the costs though. Although we found cheap accommodation at that time, skiing costs were twice as high as France where I’d skied the year before. Lessons were similarly more expensive, so we dispensed with those, wisely or not :S

  5. How could you possibly know that my husband and I were just discussing skiing lessons!!
    I grew up in California and have been on a few mountains, but trying to ski Whistler feels intimidating. But, I like your approach–there’s lots of ways down a mountain.
    I remember heading down for one of my first runs ever and not being able to stop–epic fall.
    The hills in Minnesota (because “mountain” is just not what we’re dealing with) are waiting. I think we’ll all take some lessons in the next few weeks!

    1. Yaaay! Let us all know how it goes!!

      I think it is far less intimidating if you take some lessons, rather than trying to work it all out for yourself. Sometimes, you need a guiding hand!

  6. Even though I live near Whistler and have been there countless times to hike and snowshoe, I’ve never skied there! I’ve heard there is world-class skiing, but since I’m a beginner skier (and have been since my first time on skis at age 11!!!) I didn’t think it was worth going to. Thanks for showing that skiing as a beginner at Whistler can still be worthwhile.

    1. Oooh you can join us if you like! My friend Tegan didn’t ski since she was a child, and Marc and I are total newbies.

      …Although if you give it a go, I hope you will be better than me and won’t lose a ski!!

      (p.s. sorry about my slow reply. I was away and not blogging for 2 weeks!)

  7. Okay, I could have sworn that I commented on this post – I swear I remember writing it. I must be losing it, ha! Anyway, wonderful post, Josy! I have been downhill skiing just twice in my life. Once when I was about 5 (my parents couldn’t believe how I could ski at 5), and once when I was 16-years or so. This latter incident was a lot of fun, but I did end up in the woods once or twice. And, I unknowingly went down a black diamond hill too – I thought I was going to die as I was going straight for the warming lodge. Alas, I didn’t – I survived. Perhaps I should have taken a beginners class. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for another great article!

    1. Thanks Erin!

      Maybe it was on one of my other skiing post – the one where I kept skiing into a tree!?

      I am sooo impressed that you made it down a black diamond! I am still too scared to even attempt that!!

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