Whistler Blackcomb Introduces RFID Access

RFID ticket scanning arrives at Whistler Blackcomb resort

“Welcome to a new age!” That’s how Whistler Blackcomb is prefacing the news around its introduction of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) access to the resort for the 2014-2015 season.

All guests who visit Whistler Blackcomb during the 2014.15 Winter Season will receive a new RFID Access Card.

According to the published information, all Season Passes, EDGE Cards and Lift Tickets will include the new RFID chip starting this season. The upgrade is part of an overall $12-million investment in the resort. $6-million has already been spent on upgrading the cabins on the Whistler Village Gondola.

However, the new cards come with some ‘instructions’ which may make some people wary. For example, you must keep the card on the left side of your body, as that’s the side the scanners are located. You should also keep the new cards away from your cell phone or any aluminum, as it may interfere with the RFID chip. And that’s not all – Whistler Blackcomb also recommends not ‘hole punching’ your card as this could damage the antenna.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park riders already enjoying RFID access

The new RFID scanners have already been installed at the base of all lifts on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Whistler Mountain Bike Park riders have been able to use the new cards since September 9th, 2014 via the Fitzsimmons Chair and at the Whistler Village Gondola. We think this will be a big plus. Fighting the pockets on your TLD shorts to find your pass can be a tricky task, often involving removing your gloves or getting a few jeers from your buddies.

Watch Whistler Blackcomb’s short video explaining how RFID access will work at the resort:

RFID Access – New for Winter 2014.15 from Whistler Blackcomb on Vimeo.

Whistler Blackcomb is encouraging Season Pass and EDGE Card holders to pick up the new RFID cards, free of charge, at Guest Services between 9am and 5pm.

More information, including an FAQ section, can be found in the Tickets & Passes section on the Whistler Blackcomb website.

WS Interview – A seasoned local

Trawling through facts and figures on official websites will only tell you so much about a place; to really get a feel for a town you must go there and talk to a local, and Whistler is no different.

Local folks, local knowledge

For those living around the world who are yet to get into town, that is near impossible, so WhistlerSeason.com set out to provide the next-best thing. We asked Queensland native Joel Walker a few quick questions about life in Whistler from the perspective of a four-season ‘local’.

WS: As someone who has done multiple summers and winters in Whistler, punctuated by a year back home in Australia, what is it about the place which brought you back, and makes you want to stay?

JW: The mountains are the main thing that continue to draw me back here. The type and style of terrain, and the sheer amount of it are what keep me coming back season after season, summer and winter.

WS: For a Whistler winter season worker who hasn’t considered staying for the summer, what’s great about it in your view?

JW: Summer is not just about riding bikes. You get a lot more “non-sport tourists”. There are plenty of lakes, hikes, fishing and other leisurely activities to undertake. Not to mention the days last a lot longer so you have plenty of time to fit everything in.

WS: Any ‘local knowledge’ style tips for life in Whistler?

JW: Do a bit of research in your first few weeks. Figure out a budget quick and find the best places to shop. Most importantly, start talking to anyone and everyone, as the people in Whistler are your best resource for absolutely everything you need. (WS: We can’t stress this enough!)

WS: So the terrain is awesome and the people are great, what about the town? Specifically, any special advice for your countrymen?

JW: Bring more money than you think you’ll need! If you’re just coming for a season you can still work, but you will want to party, go exploring, etc. Unfortunately Whistler is a tourist town, especially in summer, and in a tourist town, those things cost the most money. Other than that; have fun, stay safe, and don’t EVER say “Whis-tralia”.

Cheers Joel, top advice for everyone looking to visit Whistler!

Insider Part Four: The Whistler Season Pass

Editor’s note: This is the fourth, and last, in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White

Grabbing your pass for the Winter season

It’s all up there waiting to be enjoyed … endless days searching for powder, lapping the parks or cruising down your favourite run. But it comes at a price. There are a few options to set yourself up with your season pass, depending on what you expect from your Winter season in Whistler. We outline what’s on offer so you can make the best decision for your needs and budget.

The Unlimited Adult Pass

For the 2013/14 winter season, an unlimited adult lift pass, including tax, was just over $2,000. Whoever you are, that is a colossal amount of money. Not many seasonaires end up paying the full price for a season pass, but just in case any of the options below don’t work out, be prepared to fork out if you want to enjoy unlimited snow days on the mountains.

The Spirit Pass

As detailed in Insider Part Two, if you get a job working for Whistler Blackcomb (i.e. ‘the mountain’), you will get your pass for free. If you work elsewhere, you may be eligible for a Spirit Pass, which for the 2013/14 winter season cost $1,330 plus tax – plus a $30 admin fee – and requires you to satisfy certain conditions. Be sure to check out whether your prospective employer is one of the participating businesses, and whether you meet all the other eligibility criteria by clicking on the links below. Be warned, however, that your pass will be deactivated should you lose/quit your job.

Understandably, getting on the hill is the number one priority for many seasonaires coming to Whistler. If you have the cash, you can buy a full-price pass when you arrive, and get the difference (full price less Sprit Pass cost) reimbursed once you secure work with a qualifying employer.

More information about the Spirit Program is available on the Whistler Chamber website.

The Early Bird Pass

If you’re the type of person who likes to plan well in advance, then you probably already have your bags packed for the next Winter season in Whistler. If so, you might be interested to know that early bird passes go on sale in April each year. One of the advantages of buying your season pass for the next winter season is that you’re guaranteed the lowest open-market rate available. Early Bird Season Passes for the 2014/15 Winter season cost $1,399 plus tax, with a $199 downpayment in April. Check out the Whistler Blackcomb website for current season pass prices.

The Volunteer Pass

Volunteering for the mountain is another option for securing a free Winter season pass, but it does come with some  caveats. For a start, you must complete 23 full-day shifts during the season, meeting as early as 7am for some departments. Presumably you’re working another job to pay for rent and food, so this is 23 days of riding instantly gone. If you’re working 5 days a week, that’s a big investment … but so is $2,000 for a pass – the choice is yours! That said, it can be a great way to get acquainted with established staff and mountain operations, should you wish to pursue a long-term job with the resort, or get an introduction into how it all functions. There are various roles available, depending on what opportunities are available at the time (for current postings, visit the Whistler Blackcomb employment website):

  • Mountain Host
  • Mountain Safety Host
  • Ski Patrol
  • Avalanche Awareness Guide
  • Event/Race Host

Just be aware that you’re only a volunteer, not a qualified avalanche technician. So no, you won’t be throwing explosive charges out of helicopters to control avalanche terrain. But there’s still lots of fun to be had.

Volunteer positions are posted on the Whistler Blackcomb employment website. You can apply online and interviews are usually held in the second week of November each year. If you’re planning on grabbing a Volunteer Pass then make sure you arrive in Whistler in time for these interviews.

The Student Pass

Lastly, and probably of least relevance to those travelling to Whistler to work, is the Student Pass, whereby full-time students in BC or Washington State can get a season pass for $499 plus tax (2013/14 Winter season). You do have to be registered, and have all the qualifying documentation to be eligible. Given the costs of full-time education, this is not a saving in any way whatsoever, but it is worth knowing if you happen to be here to study, and want to ride as well.

The Whistler Summer Pass offers extended perks all season

Some of the positions offered throughout the Winter season extend into the Summer season too. For example, Food & Beverage departments will require staff year-round. If you’re planning on staying longer than a Winter season then it’s worth settling into one of those jobs in order to secure steady work for the mountain during Summer  months. There are also a number of positions available in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park for the summer. Positions available include Bike Guide/Instructor, Ticket Validation and Mountain Host Supervisor. Further details can be found in the employment section of the Whistler Blackcomb website.

Volunteering is also an option for the Summer season and gets you a free pass to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. You must complete 10 shifts throughout the summer – and these usually involve marshalling at the Phat Wednesday race series and other events held by Whistler Blackcomb.

A full-price season pass for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park would have set you back $599 plus tax for the 2013 summer. A limited number of early bird season passes were available for $549 plus tax, so expect to see similar offers advertised each May. It comes with a few perks, like 15% off food at GLC, 20% off at Roundhouse Lodge and 20% off retail at Garbanzo Bike & Bean and the Whistler Mountain Bike Park Demo Centre. The pass also gives you free access to the Peak2Peak Alpine Experience.

Part One – Tips for Service Industry Jobs
Part Two – Work Life Balance
Part Three – Saving Money
Part Four – The Lift Pass

Insider Part Two: The Whistler Work, Ride, Party, Sleep Balance

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White.

Arguably the hardest art to master, the balance between what you want to do, and what you have to do, is something which only you can figure out. There are pros and cons to everything; believe it or not, you can ski too much, and you can definitely party too much. However, sometimes such things are unavoidable, so here are a few secrets which can be employed to get you through your day/shift.

Nutrition

Waking up aching and sore every day isn’t conducive to getting up for first lifts. Whilst they may seem to be the preserve of gym rats and athletes, recovery supplements such as protein shakes can in fact be found in the bedrooms of many long-time seasonaires. Learn from those who know!

The Cure

Some swear by poutine as the ultimate hangover cure, specifically from a certain shack on the way to the lifts (hint: it begins with ‘Z’). This is an exclusively Canadian speciality – just like the Caeser (another Canadian hangover cure) – so take advantage of it.

Socialising

Not so much a secret, more a recommendation to go drinking (no, really!). Going out in any ski resort is expensive, and Whistler is no different. However, due to most seasonaires living in private housing, rather than in the places where they work (e.g. European chalets and hotels), there are a lot of house parties. The close-knit community and hospitable attitude means that most people know someone at the venue, and as long as you bring your own drinks, friends of friends are usually welcomed. These parties are rad for a few reasons: First, you spend far less, second; you meet far more people than you would in a public venue, where people tend to interact only within their group. Thirdly, when you bump into said acquaintances on the mountain, an impromptu riding crew forms, often resulting in some of the best memories of the season. A flat-out 12-man train down A-Line has to be experienced to be believed, and the thought alone is often enough to get you through a seemingly endless shift.

Powder

For those here for the winter, there is NOTHING on earth which cures a hangover like fresh tracks. Do everything you must to crawl out of bed and onto the lift. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Water

Sometimes, only a bit of R+R will do. In the summer, Whistler’s many lakes are a haven of cool water, grassy shade, and rope swings of varying gnarliness. Lost Lake and Alta Lake are particular favourites. In Winter, find a friend with a hot tub if your house is one of the few without. Cold beer + hot tub = win.

Part One – Tips for Service Industry Jobs
Part Two – Work Life Balance
Part Three – Saving Money
Part Four – The Lift Pass

No snow? No problem. Whistler winter activities off the snow

Whistler’s reputation for delivering snow during Winter seasons over the last few years has been stellar. Just look at the Snowfall Totals by Month and Season on Whistler Blackcomb’s website, showing snowfall records for the past 10 years. It’s pretty impressive. Monthly records were broken three years in a row between November 2009 and March 2012. Ah, they were good years!

Every now and again mother nature has a habit of taking a break – and so far the 2013-2014 season looks like one of those times (March has typically been a good month for snowfall so there’s hope yet). With snowfall levels at record lows halfway through the season, it’s not looking good for those of us yearning for a repeat of the continuos pow days of recent years.

However, all is not lost. It might be Winter right now – although it’s getting harder to tell – but Whistler is a year-round resort. What that means is that there is always Winter activities off the snow. Here are a few ideas …

Ice Skating

A true Canadian experience – best enjoyed with friends and hot chocolate! Check out Tourism Whistler’s website for more info.

Bungee Jumping

Thinking of doing a bungee jump? Done one before and want to go again? Then Whistler Bungee is the answer to your prayers. Open year-round, this is an awesome way to spend a day with friends off the mountain.

Ziplining

This is fun. Honestly, if you haven’t tried it yet then now is the perfect time. Ziptrek and Superfly have some amazing packages, so go check them out.

Bobsleigh and Skeleton

This truly is a unique experience. The Whistler Sliding Centre now offers two thrilling rides down their world class sliding track. Bobsleigh and Skeleton rides are open to the public. Check out their website for the Winter schedules.

XC Skiing & Snowshoeing

Okay so technically this one is on the snow. Open 12 hours a day throughout the Winter season, Cross Country Connection offer rentals, tours and lessons for all abilities. Why not try something a little different?

Indoor Exercise

The Core, Whistler Creek Athletic Club, Crossfit and Meadow Park offer plenty of options for those wishing to keep active while waiting for the snow to fall.

Bars & Restaurants

Yep, there’s always a burger and beer deal somewhere in town. There are way too many options to list here, but keep an eye on Pique Newsmagazine and The Question for weekly deals.

Legendary Turkey Sale Is Fast Approaching

The Legendary Whistler Blackcomb Turkey Sale is a must for any Whistler newcomer looking to get setup for the Winter season.

The annual event, which returns October 11-14, sees thousands of eager shoppers scramble for big brand ski and snowboard gear at huge pre-season savings. There’s plenty of accessories, clothing and equipment available – some of which is sample sizes of new stock – at knock-down prices. It’s hard not to find a deal.

Look out for local retailers like Comor Sports, Skiis and Biikes, Fanatyk Co and CAN-SKI, as well as big name labels such as Salomon, Burton, The North Face, Quicksilver, Columbia, Patagonia and many others.

Check out Whistler Question’s video recap of last year’s event …

Also, it’s worth checking out the Whistler Mountain Ski and Snowboard SWAP. It’s just next door in the tent at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. There’s plenty of bargains to be had as locals usually offload tons of excess gear to try and make some extra cash and raise funds for the ski club.

Don’t forget it’s the last weekend of the Whistler Farmer’s Market which will be in full swing both Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

For full details, visit Whistler Blackcomb’s event page.