We hadn’t actually planned to go to Whistler for New Year, but the whacky pre-Christmas weather in Seattle meant that by January 30th we had spent most of the previous 10 days rattling around the house and everyone was suffering from cabin fever. WanderDad heroically took the boys sledding and we went for some walks in our neighborhood, but the weather was truly conspiring against even these feeble attempts at exercise. The precipitation seemed to be switching randomly between snow, sleet and rain causing us to get sopping wet on each expedition.
Just for kicks, late on January 30th, we had a look at deals and specials on the WhistlerBlackcomb website. Surprisingly, even with the recent economic woes, there didn’t seem to be any significant reducations available for accommodation (our biggest expense on a trip to Whistler). Interesting, but suspicious. I checked a few of the internet booking engines, but again, didn’t find anything which jumped out as a recession-worthy pricing. At this point, the WanderDad, his heart set on a few days of hardcore powder fun, dismissed my obvious ineptitude and took the driving seat. Going straight to Priceline.com he entered a ridiculously low bid price ($150) for a 4-star hotel room in Whistler Village – and it was accepted! For New Year’s Eve!!
It’s exciting to see how Whistler is pulling out all the stops for the 2010 Olympics, starting with the improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Hwy 99) from Vancouver. Our trip to Whistler took 4.5 hours door-to-door including 20 minutes at the U.S.-Canadian border. More passing lanes and better road surfaces on Hwy 99 are welcome improvements and definitely make the road safer to drive.
Whistler Valley from the Peak2Peak Gondola
The Peak-to-Peak gondola is definitely an exciting addition to the resort. Before our trip, I was adamant that I would wait a few seasons before taking the 11minute ride between the Roundhouse Lodge (on Whistler Mt.) and the Rendevous (on Blackcomb Mt.). As we all know, when you travel with kids, you will do anything to keep them happy and so my terror of unsafe engineering, collapsing gondola towers and almost 2 miles of unsupported span was tossed aside and I marched into the super-sized gondola. We skied Whistler in the morning and Blackcomb in the afternoon and didn’t loose the hour it has taken in prior years to download from one mountain and upload to the other. I’ll just need to work on my worries before we visit again.
For various reasons, making the pre-season ski swaps and sales didn’t quite make my list this fall, so we found ourselves packing the car for our trip without any equipment for our boys. Without time to check out local retailers, we decided to rent at the resort ‘just this once’. So, here’s a quick summary of this year’s equipment rental pricing:
The resort offers rental packages which can be booked in advance with a 30% discount at Equipment Rentals. You can ignore this. The rates – with discount – are higher than rates for comparable packages at rental locations in Whistler village. We used Summit Sports paying $60 for a four-day skis/boots/poles package + a 10% discount since this outlet was in the hotel where we were staying. Affinity Sports has slightly better pricing ($50 for four-day rentals). For comparison, a weekly rental for the same package costs $30 at the Joe’s Sports store in Seattle. (Guess where I’ll be this coming weekend.)
When you ski with kids, it takes longer than you think it should to get out in the morning; they need take an unbelievable number of food and potty breaks; and if it’s too windy, too cold or just too something, you may end up coming down the mountain early. But on a good day, it’s so worth it. We committed to learning how to ski and teaching our children to ski ten years ago when we first visited Whistler – inspired by the many multi-generational family groups we saw out on the mountain together. Our investment is finally paying off. On this trip, we were definitely playing catch-up to our kids.
If you’re visiting the Whistler area soon, here’s our choices for ‘run of the day’ (chosen by BigB and CAM):
Day 1: Whistler Mt. Roundhouse to Creekside: Pony Trail to Franz’s – a long, long run to get your ski legs going.
Day 2: Blackcomb Mt: Wishbone to Zig Zag – fun, fun, fun. Some wide sweeping sections, some narrow steeps and a long curve around to the Excelerator chair.
Day 3: Blackcomb Mt: Dragon Alley (Kid’s Terrain Garden) to Connector. This is what makes Whistler such fun for families: kid-sized gladed tree runs – groomed, no less. Dragon Alley and it’s pair run Black Forest both let out onto Connector for a lazy swoop down to the Solar Coaster Express.