WHISTLER, British Columbia I have been a beginning skier for about
20 years. Which means that on those rare occasions I find myself in
a snowy place with a mountain, I strap on a pair of stubby, rented
But Whistler seemed intimidating: North America’s premier ski
resort, a winter wonderland for rich, beautiful ski fanatics, the
kind of place you’d probably get sprayed with ice for going too
It is. And it isn’t.
Whistler draws expert skiers from around the world with more than
200 gorgeous trails spread across two mountains (Whistler and
Blackcomb), some of the longest downhill runs in North America,
beautiful hotels, memorably scrumptious food in even the smallest
cafes, a hopping après-ski scene and great shopping. But it is also
a comfortable, welcoming place for beginners or families of mixed
ability with about three-quarters of its trails suited to beginners
or intermediates, excellent instruction and an easy, step-right-up
My husband, Satu, and I arrived for two nights with absolutely
no plans to ski. We figured we’d bum around the village, check out
the art galleries, maybe go on a sleigh ride and put in some pub
But within about an hour we realized that not skiing at Whistler
is like not going on the rides at Disneyland.
And Whistler was ready for us. We walked into a building right
next to the ski lift that said “SKI SCHOOL” in big letters, handed
them our credit card and received in return skis, ski pants, ski
jackets, lift tickets and a day-long lesson, all for about $230 for
two of us.
It was 15 degrees below zero when we showed up for our lesson
the next day. We both landed in the 1.5 beginners group (meaning we
had once held a pair of skis and possibly stood on them) with four
other people. Our instructor Bob checked each of us from our boots
to our ears, making sure our equipment was on straight and our
heads were well covered before whisking us up the mountain.
A third of the way up the hill in the instruction area, Bob had
us run around without our skis, then with one ski. Pretty soon we
were wearing both skis and doing turns. By lunchtime, we were all
skiing or some approximation of the sport.
After lunch, with 90 minutes left before the lifts closed, Bob
led us to an easy chair lift. We practiced getting on and off and
skiing the short distance between its drop-off and pick-up points.
When Bob was satisfied his work was done, he gave us the option of
hanging around with him or skiing down ourselves. He warned us,
though, that if we tried to ski all the way to the bottom of the
mountain instead of doing the short runs we’d just practiced and
taking the lift back to base we might encounter those ice sprayers.
Satu and I decided to chance it.
People couldn’t have been nicer. Even the experts endured our
slow criss-cross of the mountain, giving us wide berth without so
much as a nasty gesture as they passed. And when one of us fell
(not me, but I’m not gloating), someone even stopped to help.
Back at the bottom, we snapped off our skis and slapped our
frozen cheeks. We trundled over to the Irish pub just a few yards
away, grabbed a stool and got comfortable feeling this was one
Guinness we’d truly earned.
Booking ski vacations can be tough if you don’t know the lingo
and have never skied yourself. A number of active sport wholesalers
Sportours is one of the largest on the West Coast and offers
everything from land-only to fully inclusive tours that get clients
seamlessly from their home to the slopes. For non-skiers in the
group, Sportours can hook you up with dinner sleigh rides,
snowmobiling and other winter sports. They’ll walk you through the
process and help you close the sale.
Sportours pays a 10 percent commission or can quote a net
All tours are customized, so there are no set prices, but early
December and the month of January are the least expensive
Agents who want to brave it without a wholesaler can receive a 5
percent commission on packages that include accommodation and lift
tickets through Whistler’s resort reservations service.
Lift tickets, equipment rentals and ski and snowboard lessons
can also be purchased directly through the property agents for
clients, however, no commission will be offered on those additional