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.