"Whistler’s That Way” is a sardonic bumper sticker often seen adorning the rears of rundown RVs along the Powder Highway in British Columbia, Canada. True, many of those who prefer the BC interior for their stormchasing, scoff at the world-renowned dual mountain resort, long having relegated it to the place for Australian seasonairs, Weekend Warriors from the lower mainland and the dreaded tourists.
But something magical still exists in Whistler, despite the growing perspective that it’s “Disney World” and has lost its old ski town vibe. This magic is a local’s secret, hidden away from overtourism’s keen eye. It’s not geo-tagged and it’s not gloated about over après Kokanees. It’s a matter of “if you know, you know” and it’s sacred amongst long-time locals. It’s how they keep Whistler feeling authentic, how they keep it feeling like their own. Given that the Sea-to-Sky corridor is Mons’ new home, we thought it blasphemous to not make our way up to Whistler for a day on the mountain. But, we made sure we had our token locals in tow – they know how to find the elusive “old Whistler” of yore. And so, with Mons ambassadors Leah Mulholland, Peter Wojnar, Connor Browne and Joel Loverin along, we set about Highway 99, making tracks for the ski world behemoth, Whistler Blackcomb.
Every Whistler local will staunchly defend to the death their choice coffee shop. Whether it’s The Lift Coffee Co. for its proximity to the Village gondi or Mount Currie Coffee because “it has the best food, duh”. For us, however, our choice coffee spot goes by the name of Daylot 4. That’s right, nothing kicks a day off at the most expensive ski resort in the world by coffee time tailgating in the free parking lot.
Post Colombian bean elixir, we human-slalomed our way through the throngs of tourists to the lifts and joined the uploading masses. There’s one thing you can say about the lift lines here, the energy is contagious. Everyone is stoked to get up the mountain; friends call out where they’ll meet each other at the top, groups debate which zone is best to ride and everyone chatters excitedly about where the premium snow can be found (“his housemate said there’s a stash just off Booterville that’s untouched from Wednesday’s dump – don't tell anyone!”)
After uploading, we managed to hunt down a few of the aforementioned stashes and found that, although the Coast Mountains get a bad rap for heavy snow, up here at this elevation it’s as fluffy as we could’ve hoped for. Having a set of locals on our side proved to be invaluable as we were shown lines that are totally unknown to the larger on-mountain population. As we weaved through countless tree lines and pop out onto the piste for more powder goodness, it was impossible to keep a smile off our faces. Laps on laps and we still managed to never cover the same stretch of terrain twice. Whistler is a mammoth for a reason.
Somewhere along the way, that local knowledge paid off yet again and we found ourselves opening up a patrol box tucked away into the snowy hills. Inside, we were treated to a couple of on-mountain refreshments, perfect for the last couple of laps that we had left in us.
At the end of the day, we avoided the après rush of the main village by opting to cruise down to the Upper Village where local pub favorite the Handlebar welcomed us with incredible BC craft beer and a colorful patio. Reflecting on the day, it was hard to pick a favourite moment, let alone a preferred stash (although we're willing to bet the one below was a contender).
It’s true, Whistler is one of the best-loved ski resorts in the world and often succumbs to its reputation of being overcrowded. But overrated, it is not. The best kept local secret is that Whistler’s old ski town vibe is alive and well - as long as you know where to look for it. Now that Mons has found its new North American home In the Sea-To-Sky, we’re betting that we’ll know where to look from now on.
Photos: Tom Brownlee
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