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 Three: Save Money in Whistler

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

This is an area open to your own interpretation; you can save money in a fairly significant way, but it does involve some effort. It essentially boils down to a play-off between what you’re willing to risk and sacrifice, or what you’re willing to spend.

Save money on accommodation in Whistler

We’ve covered this in more depth in our Whistler accommodation pages, but a few points are worth noting. If you want a private room, be prepared to really pay for it. Ask yourself how much time you will realistically be spending in it, and whether some earplugs/headphones wouldn’t be a whole lot cheaper… Same goes for location; you may save money living out of the village, but a monthly bus pass and fewer amenities may not equate to money well-saved. Some rooms are advertised as unfurnished, and are consequently cheaper. Craigslist advertises a wealth of free stuff, so if you have a friend with a truck, you might be onto a winner.

It’s also well worth checking out the Re-Use-It Centre and the Re-Build-It Centre run by Whistler Community Services Society. Both of these community focused projects are located in Function Junction, Whistler, and sell a huge variety of second-hand household items from saucepans to sofas, and almost everything in between. Prices are extremely low, so be ready to possibly kit out your new digs for $100 or less!

Save on banking costs in Whistler

Canadian banks offer accounts at varying costs per month, often depending on the of number of transactions. Work out how often you are going to use you card, and go from there. Read our Banking guide for a quick rundown on Opening a bank account in Whistler. You will be charged for using other banks’ ATMs, so either embrace the extra walk, or pick a bank closest to where you live/work. For those in hospitality, living off tips (if you get enough) is a great way to save your actual wage.

Cell phone savings

Canadian phone plans are limited to region (e.g. a Whistler number will be charged roaming in Vancouver), and very expensive for what they offer. As such, many seasonaires go without. A smartphone and almost blanket WiFi coverage mean that Skype, Google chat, Facebook, What’s App etc. can all be used to keep in touch for free. However, if your manager decides to change your shift, and can’t get through to you, expect consequences. Rolling up to work when you could have had a lie-in/fresh tracks, only to find your shift has changed does not equal happy times. Read our introduction to cell phones – Choosing a cell phone in Whistler – for more information.

Save money with sensible food shopping

Whistler is 120km from Vancouver, so most things have to be driven up there. Thus it is considerably more expensive. Of almost mythical renown amongst seasonaires is the ‘Shopping Trip to Squamish’. Pretty self-explanatory; someone you know is going to Squamish (home of large food stores and lower prices), they ask for a few bucks for gas, and everyone loads up on vats of milk, cooking oil, pasta, cereal, etc. This is likely a worthwhile venture for the longer-term. Some stores even offer free shipping, so do your research first.

Many restaurants and cafes allow their employees one free meal per shift, which certainly saved me a whole lot of dollars. Scouting around the village reveals various cheap food options, from re-heated day-old pizza slices (hey don’t knock it!), to the now legendary Baked Potato and toppings from a certain establishment for a mere $3.49 inc tax.

Other, more alternative schemes

These comprise all sorts of ideas, each requiring a certain amount of inventiveness. One guy I lived with decided bread was too expensive (valid point), so he hitched to the Re-Use-It Centre in Function Junction, bought a bread machine for a few dollars, got a lift to Squamish to buy sacks of flour and yeast, and subjected the machine to such heavy usage that it eventually burnt out and died. He did however save money in the long run.

Others crochet woolly hats and sell them online/in the village. Others offer language exchange or resume help. Such schemes obviously require effort, and are not guaranteed a regular return. But if you’ve got a skill then it’s worth trying to leverage a few dollars for your time.

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

Insider Part One: The Service Industry in Whistler

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

The service industry is the source of most seasonal jobs in Whistler. Dishwashers, line cooks, servers, and bar staff all come and go, and there is a ready supply of newcomers waiting to fill the gaps. For the most part, pay ranges from $10.25 (minimum wage) to around $12-13 per hour depending on experience and expertise. Tipping is prevalent in Whistler, so if you’re lucky enough to land a job in a bar or restaurant frequented by tourists then you’ll take home some extra cash. Shifts are most often single blocks, usually around 8 hours duration with an unpaid, optional break.

Bars and Restaurants

Use some common sense – don’t try and hand your resume to the flustered waitress during lunch service expecting her to rush it straight to the manager, when she is serving four tables of families all demanding menu alterations. Either go in the morning, if open, or in the afternoon, before evening service commences (between 3-5pm is ideal). If at all possible, try and speak directly to the manager or section leader, and briefly talk them through your resume. They already have 60 pieces of identical paper swimming around their desks, so try and make yours the one they read.

Similarly, asking bar staff about potential jobs at 9pm on a Friday night whilst they pour your beer is also somewhat optimistic, if not downright naïve.

Sports and Rental Shops

The same restrictions apply here, except the mornings and weekends are the no-go time. There are a great deal of holiday-makers and day-trippers renting gear, and the staff will be flat-out trying to accommodate them all. It is not unusual for the managers to be involved in this as well, so hold off until the middle of the day when everyone is out on the slopes.

Preferred Jobs in the Service Industry

Presumably you are coming here to ride, so the best jobs are those which give you the most mountain time. In the winter, lifts operate roughly 08:30 – 16:00 (depending on hours of daylight), so evening shifts allow you to get fresh tracks, and a solid ride before work. Just beware that 4 hours of charging powder must be followed by 8+ hours on your feet waiting tables or pouring drinks.

For the bulk of summer, the bike park operates until 8pm, so a job which finishes around lunchtime gives you plenty of time to smash turns and float jumps. One summer I worked in a kitchen 6am – 2pm, and enjoyed hours of dusty alpine laps in a deserted bike park flooded with evening sun. Recommended if you can stand the heat!

If you prefer, some employers offer a 4 x 10-hour week, giving you maximum time to get outdoors. However, you obviously won’t be on the hill for 4 days at a time, unless you enjoy the dawn patrol. Tourism Whistler is one such employer: www.whistler.com/careers. Also check out Whistler Blackcomb’s job listings page for regularly updated available positions.

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

The Shock Factor – Some Thoughts and Advice from a Whistler Insider

While Whistler Blackcomb was voted the number one resort in North America by Skiing Magazine for 13 years in a row, and is very keen to tell you so, the resort generally holds an air of mystique and wonderment to all those within gravity sports. No matter where you hail from, and no matter if you’re a freeskier, a park rat, a downhill racer, or a wannabe A-Line hero, everybody considering a season in Whistler has seen the place on film, whatever their chosen sport or discipline, and they all want to go there.

Making the move to Whistler

I moved to Whistler off the back of a few years skiing and riding in the Alps where I had seen the tall tees, the fat skis, and the Troy Lee-clad pinners. Each resort had a hierarchy of local fast and gnarly guys and gals, and there was often a lot of hushed talk and bravado amongst seasonaires about this exact subject. (Tip: this is Whistler … many of the folks here are pro!)

Unsurprisingly, it naturally follows that the most famous ski/bike resort in the world has the highest concentration of die-hard resort-bums in the world. People flock to Whistler from around the world, and as such, competition for jobs and housing is extremely fierce, and can come as a shock to those used to the all-inclusive benefits of working for a British tour operator in the Alps.

Finding your feet

As is detailed in the accommodation pages of this website, $500 for a shared room is standard, as is taking out a mortgage to buy a season pass (kidding, but only just). A single bag of groceries can easily cost $40, and a single pint of lager will leave you disappointingly little change from a $10 bill. Thus it follows that working a 5 x 8 hour week is not unusual; it pretty much needs to be, given the above costs. In spite of this, employers and landlords are so inundated with resumes and enquiries that a lack of any reply is a familiar situation for those new in town. Fresh and enthusiastic though they may be. Thus the onus is on you to be judicious in your timing and approach. After all, this is Whistler, you are here for a reason, and are prepared to do what it takes to ride here.

The above isn’t meant to be a doom-laden warning, more a pointed note of what to expect. More often than not it is the small things which go the furthest; always smiling, being chatty but on-topic, saying hello to all the staff/housemates you see, and generally having an air of easy-going confidence are the things which people remember.

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