This wasn’t my first time to Whistler. I was there for a couple nights in November, a couple nights in 2017 as well. I’d been as a kid, for the skiing. This trip though was seven nights at a timeshare/hotel room right in the village, overlooking the Olympic Plaza. Our room could hold six people and there was a hot tub shared by all the guests of our building down a series of hallways. I never used it.
We arrived on a Friday. What I remember most about that day was actually the journey there. Three of us took our time, as check-in wasn’t until 4:00. We stopped in Squamish on our way; met a friend and took a bone chilling swim in a river, then enjoyed a donut and coffee at a cafe. We sat there for a long time before continuing our drive. I didn’t shake off my chill until I had a nap in the car with the seat heater on. Splendid.
Saturday morning, our group, now seven large, woke early and drove further north, past Pemberton. We were loaded with backcountry gear — shovels, beacons, probes, skins for our skis — that day we were going up and down on our legs. We assembled just beside the parking lot with our skis on. We were fortunate enough to be led by a friend’s dad who is a certified guide. We got to hiking, him at the front. It was a sunny day and it didn’t take long before I was sweating through my layers, the heat insulted by my backpack feeling like a hot water bottle. We weaved up a logging road, short-cutting through some trees to the base of the bowl we sought to conquer. The skins are impressive technology — you stick to the snow firmly, and with trust, you can slide up steep terrain. Into the bowl, we did sharp cutbacks through conifers, broke for a snack, and dug to test the quality of the snow — all the while learning from our guide. At the top, though not quite the summit, we took in the view and transitioned for the decent. The fun part. My skiing skills were put to the test in the deep snow and it was a blast. We rode out the logging road, and drove back, rested, ate a bunch, then rested some more. That was a glorious day, and it wasn’t in Whistler.
Sunday, most of our team had to head back to Vancouver for the work week. I was left in the room with Mac. We didn’t do anything until dinner, then we cooked for two other friends that dropped by. Our shared meal was a top-three highlight of my week.
Monday through Thursday were simply a vacation. In the room during the day I had tutoring work online, I started reading a new book, and was sometimes entranced by cable television. I tried to do some writing. Mac worked. At night, there were no shortage of bars in the village to spend obscene amounts of money on a couple drinks. It was during those four days that I started to think about the Whistler experience. The village is an enchanting place: there are twinkling lights, wide footpaths, bridges, a consistent lodge architecture that houses your favourite boutique retailers and restaurants, and an awesome view of the mountains. There’s this nice feeling. But it’s paired with a fake undertone. Walking, it becomes impossible not to sense the faux rusticity or alpine facade around you. And the walkways themselves cradle you towards the mountains. You’re reminded at each patio you sit that you are supposed to be on the slopes. By the end of the week, as someone who wasn’t there to ski, it was an irksome sensation. Vacationing is vacationing — it’s lovely. I had a lovely time. But Whistler didn’t make it that way.
Friday, after packing up and leaving the hotel room, I went touring one more time. There was only three of us — Mac, my brother, and myself. We drove south to the Callaghan Valley and went up towards Rainbow Lake. The trekking was hot and great. Skiing down took longer than it usually does — a good thing; the snow was heavy and deep. I was swallowed up by it a number of times, causing laughter from the other two and myself. We drove back to the city, eventually hitting the rush hour traffic.
Whistler isn’t a destination. Isn’t a place that is an end unto itself — where just sitting and taking it in satisfies (and one can only walk the village so many times). No, Whistler feels like it was built to channel me into the bars and onto the slopes. Based on its reputation, I felt I needed to give the following description of my time, and that anything less was a failure of a visit: “DUDE. BRO. GUY YO. I went to Whistler for a week during peak season. I skied everyday, shredded the powder. You wouldn’t believe it. Drinks in the village after, then back to the lodge for a hot tub and a deep sleep, just to do it all again the next day. You should have been there…” Is going to Whistler in any form a blessing? Yes. Was my week there a ski-bum or instagram influencer’s magical dream? No.
Reflecting, I am left with the famous motto that it’s not where you are but who you are with that matters. My best times were with my friends. I would ski any hill, share a meal in any kitchen, laugh on any couch with those fabulous people.
B.F. Greeno, aka
A Cynical Cedric