Whistler for Beginners

Even with no planning or gear, skiing Whistler is no problem

By: Michele Kayal

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 Rossignols.

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 slow.

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 attitude.

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 time.

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 can help.

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 price.

All tours are customized, so there are no set prices, but early December and the month of January are the least expensive months.



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 products.


www.whistlerblackcomb. com

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