Local Life

An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: A mere week in ‘The Bubble’ and a visit from ‘Shaun of the Dead’

February 03, 2011 By Ashley McMillan

Another frenetic week in this part of British Columbia. This week sees Winter Pride in town. This is a truly unique celebration of diversity in what has now become an annual gay and lesbian ski week here in town.

It brings crowds into the village, into the hotels, restaurants and bars and helps generate a steady income flow into Whistler. Of course, for those of you who may remember, Whistler 2010 was the holder of the first ‘Gay Pride House and was celebrated along with the likes of Austria House, Switzerland House and Norwegian House (say nothing of Canada House of course!)

Read the full article in the Eastbourne Herald

Marathon Training in Winter

February 1, 2011 By Eastbourne Trav – Ashley McMillan’s Blog on Health and Lifestyle

So it’s cold! – Wrap up warm and wear layers. Consider wearing gloves and long running pants. Just because the sun’s not beating down on you and the temps are minus 5c, this doesn’t mean that we should be considering our hydration needs, especially on runs of over 45 mins or longer.

winter runner

If you live in a wintry environment, consider investing in some ‘yak trax’ http://www.yaktrax.com/ or some similar traction device that will allow you confidently run across snow and ice without fear of slipping and causing yourself damage. If things are too bad outside, consider using a treadmill. I log many a mile on the treadmill, especially when it’s raw ice around me or particularly when doing some repetitive speed training. Not all treadmill running has to be boring or painful, but it can certainly help keep you running when things get bad!

Read Ash’s fll article on Eastbourne Trav

An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: So it’s just a ski resort right??…

January 20, 2011 By Ashley McMillan

There are also a good number of events staged here (other than the winter 2010 Olympics!), such as a number of music festivals, film festivals, food and wine festivals, huge ski festivals…I could go on, but you get the idea?! Some of the world’s rich and famous come to play and hang out and some have residences, but the popularity across the globe attracts all kinds.

Read the full article in the Eastbourne Herald

Season over and this boy is headed across the pond!

September 21, 2010 By Ashley McMillan

Having accepted that this was my last week to indulge and coiffe the summer season’s last offerings, I managed to wave off the season with a bit of a whimper.
 

My prior engagement across the Atlantic, back on European shores – Berlin to be precise, had seen me throw my final dice at the training and tapering efforts laid down before heading off to compete in the upcoming marathon this weekend.

This has meant laying many of my eggs in one proverbial basket and missing out on a host of activities and events that I would otherwise have lapped up the opportunity to pit myself against. There have been times when I’ve had to bite down hard when asked if I’m running in this year’s ‘Rubble Creek’ trail race, the Terry Fox run, the 5 peaks series, etc, etc. However, I’d long accepted that my priority was to give it my all for this final (well, maybe we’ll see about such finality or not – never shut an open door is a good rule I tend to follow well) marathon of the year as I search for a PR and a sound position.

By leaving Whistler for a brief 3 week hiatus, this means that I personally will miss any more chances to hike up on Whistler or Blackcomb mountain as well as the infamous annual ‘Turkey Sale’ in which many of Whistler’s stores and locals take the opportunity to buy and sell winter gear at great discounted prices – always a good opportunity for any ‘newbies’ in town to obtain their equipment for the upcoming winter season if they know what they’re looking for.

It’s too late for any potential camping trips (talked about it a fair bit, but never delivered!), too late for most opportunities to obtain any gear around the stores typically put aside for ‘summer, spring, autumn clothing as we move rapidly toward winter and the impending season. Too late for any more lazy days around by the lakes or much opportunity for barbeques.

Many folk have began heading out of town for planned long vacations or perhaps even a good few months or more of travelling around far away shores and cultures. Some of these good friends and colleagues will move onto pastures new, be it around town or further afield, others have had the decision made for them with work visas expiring. These guys will cram what they can into their last few days or have already waived adieux to Whistler and its bountiful opportunities, but all will fondly take memories from a life that will remain forever.

Three weeks off work, eh! Nothing personal here for any of my managers reading this, but I’ve been looking forward to this break for some time. God it’s going to be good! Nothing to worry about but catching up with old friends and family and focusing on the challenge of race day preparations for the marathon. No sooner than we’ve all managed our way around the historical city, egged on by thousands of enthusiastic and vocal supporters around the streets, we turn our sights to sampling a new marathon ‘recovery’ method we’re testing out – Oktoberfest! Not sure if this will prove to be the archetypical purists culture sampling, but we’ll look into the study with some zest in our quest to recover aching, damaged muscles.

‘Gay Paris’ is next up and promises to provide culture in abundance. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but the French do present a great opportunity to indulge in, well..Indulgence I guess?! We here in Whistler often promote the joys of sitting on a patio with a drink or two and simply people watching. Why shouldn’t we?! It’s fun, we have some great, great patios and certainly an abundance of drinks to refresh even the most dehydrated of us out there. However, Paris also has one or two spots outside its restaurants, cafes and bars where one can simply watch the world go by and I for one can’t wait!

So having just touched down on terra firma after what I can only describe as some 8 or so hours crammed into our seated cage like a bunch of herded animals, doing wonders for my ever developing joy for flying (which I can only adequately word as sado-masochism at its finest), we finally eased our way back to the coastal town we previously resided within in our previous life.

What’s it like… too early to tell as yet, but it’s certainly a change of scenery. So with more planned scenery changes than your average low budget ‘B’ movie, I shall bid you farewell until next time when I should have much to report about pain and indulgence as we mix both together in our concocted adventure across foreign borders.


The last weeks of summer in Whistler… in the snow?
September 14, 2010By Ashley McMillan
If there was ever any doubt to Whistler’s commitment to a young, vibrant outdoor sporting community.
 

This last week saw the fruits of many dedicated, hardworking volunteers, athletes and organisers as the town was engulfed by athletes eager to achieve their personal goals.

Last weekend saw a couple hundred of North America’s finest off-road tri-athletes hit the lakes and trails around Whistler to pit their wits and compete in the Canadian National Championships with the respective age group winners gaining the added bonus of receiving entry to the World Championships next month in Hawaii. God I wish I’d taken part in that one now! That said, I kind of felt like I was at one point as I pounded along one of the longer undulating roads near by, which many spectators had gathered to support the competitors. Perhaps a tad naïve as some of these kind spectators were, obviously a little unsure of what to make of me (presumably way ahead of the pack as I was running long before anyone else!), they quietly cheered and coaxed me on and although I saw a couple of familiar faces who played along with this, their misguided encouragement certainly spurred me on for a good run that day! Thanks guys.

This weekend saw the inaugural Whistler Granfondo road bike race from Vancouver to Whistler. This beautiful ride saw 4000 riders grinding out their efforts on several thousand feet of elevation gains and descents. The front guys took a little over 3 hours to complete the beautifully scenic 120 km ride…others took a good few hours longer. There may have even been a few that actually had it in them to ride back down to the city again the same day, unlike the vast majority who were sensible enough to at least book a hotel room for the night. Speaking to a good few the next day, all seemed to agree that they would be taking part again next year. Great for the local business as the town was full again. Now, if only I can find someone to back me as I try to convince the appropriate organizations to lay on an Ultra marathon run on the same route next year, granted the interested numbers taking part may be a little lower, but interest there will be!

The town’s swollen numbers were aided by the now annual affair that is the ‘Red Bull 5000 Down’. Unfortunately for those riders taking part, it has rained hard on both runnings over the last two years, making for a rather ‘tricky’ experience. This was downhill biking at Whistler in all its glory. Some of the big guns from around the world’s downhill biking scene were in attendance, including the UK’s ‘Atherton’s’, who regularly feature in the World Cup events. This year’s start (mass start of over 200 hundred riders from atop of the highest point in Whistler) was commenced in snow, just to provide that added mix of danger that was already sorely missing…

The bears are still around the valley trails and from recent evidence, they have no immediate plans to pack their bags and hibernate anytime soon. Just last week walking home from work, my girlfriend and I were forced to make an ‘adjustment’ to our path as an ursine friend chose that very moment to crawl up an embankment and cross the road. Now its not that we should be afraid of these guys, far from it in fact, but you don’t really want to antagonise them. This guy (or gal?) was clearly a little uncomfortable with the amount of foot traffic and vehicles passing by and was determined to head on the most direct route to ‘safety’. This just happened to be directly across our path. We could have stood still, hastened our step or turned around, but you can’t help but have your attention drawn to these creatures, although your senses are heightened and the self preservation mode kicks in as you inadvertently do the right thing and give the guy a bit of room. Always a beautiful sight though, no matter how many or how often you see them!

So, there’s yet another fresh dusting of snow on the peaks. Yes it is only the beginning of September! No, I can’t believe that summer is as good as over? Yes, the snow pack will gradually build and dissipate over the coming several weeks as it visually teases us as we deal with the typically sodden, damp and occasionally miserable month of October and November, comforting ourselves with the fact that we can see the approaching winter ski season work it’s way down the mountain to us. But it is still September, right? It’s too early for snow to be falling. Admittedly it may well melt with a few days warmer weather we’re all hoping for, but since the last snowfall on July 1st it has now snowed on several occasions no more than 6 weeks later. The peaks are a beautiful sight when the snow adorns them, but we still can enjoy a clear bluebird day. You’re reminded of why you live in the mountains. There’s still plenty of activities to enjoy and sample and the reminder or allure of the impending winter is sufficient a sensory tease to leave us salivating for more. So winter will come, but let’s just make a little more room for summer. We haven’t given up all hope just yet.

Next week my girlfriend and I will sample a bit of good old ‘blighty’ as we touchdown in the UK before heading off for Berlin and the infamous marathon we’ve all trained so hard for. The training is as good as done as the muscles, tendons and depleted glycogen stores take their opportunity to repair, strengthen and replenish themselves as we ‘taper down’ the workloads on our bodies. The big day is nearly upon us, so it’s too late to make any last minute gains in endurance. It’s now or never (actually, never is no longer an option as we’re all being sponsored and can’t let anyone down!), so see you all soon.

 

Summer in Whistler
August 26, 2010By Ashley McMillan
Summer is still here and the crowds still pile into town to partake in their favourite ‘weekend warrior’ activity.Whether it’s downhill biking in one of North America’s finest parks or simply mountain biking around the hundreds of world class mountain biking trails… anywhere. For many, it’s their first time to ‘Eden’ – our little slice of heaven, perhaps on part of a longer trip taking in some of this part of the world’s most auspicious sights and revered beauty spots, such as Banff, Jasper. Many meticulously plan their trips being careful to guage how long to spend in each destination. Unfortunately I can confidently state that all too many visitors pack their travelling bags when readying to leave Whistler, complaining that they simply didn’t have enough time here. It’s easy for me to say this, but believe me, there are simply too many things for the average traveller on a two or three day visit to Whistler to take in. The positive side effect… they leave wanting to come back!
 

The ‘weekend warriors’ will always come to cram in what riding they can on their bikes, typically ensued by some good ‘re-hydration’ sessions on the ale (we all know that this isn’t the best way to recover from a day’s exertions and hydrate, etc, but heck… it’s one of the more fun pastimes enjoyed by many before and I’m sure many to come after us!). It’s the other demographics that make up the masses that show the biggest diversity. It’s always surprising to me how many people living as close to the mountains in and around Vancouver who never make it to their own mountains or even ours less than 2 hours drive north up the highway. The cold and the snow is not of particular attraction and each to their own I guess. However, as soon as the weather warms up and long weekends appear on the calendar, for example, many of these with ‘winter aversions’ come a flocking up the highway to let their hair down away from their own social circles. The most peculiar aspect of this particular demographic from around one of the greater Vancouver suburbs, is that they rarely partake in much of the abundance of activities on offer here. Preferring instead to soak up the sun and simply party.

This is not true of everyone of course and we have a number of individuals that may have a second home here in Whistler or perhaps friends and will jump at any opportunity to come up. There also a great many ‘day trippers’ that will arrive en mass off their coach tours, perhaps maybe already having been cruising around Alaska or taken the train through the Rockies. These travellers will often form a slightly older generation, though not necessarily any older at heart. What is certainly true is that those booking the beds in and around the hotels and apartments do typically stay far fewer days in resort each time they come during the summer months. Whether this is because the majority passing through town are either on part of a longer tour or simply away for the weekend, whereas in winter, people often travel further and stay put in one area – Whistler.

For those still planning on being around Whistler, there certainly are a number of events to be staged. September is the unofficial ‘month of pain’, with multiple sporting long distant events for the athletes abound. In a little over a week, we see the return of the ‘Redbull’ challenge that will have a few hundred top local riders hurl themselves through everything the mountain can throw at them from it’s lofty peak to the finishing line in the village. This is a ‘dicey’ challenge at the best of times and last years’ washout certainly made things more entertaining. Add a couple of hundred bikers all vying for positions and you have yourself a battle of wills. Next up there will be a return of an off-road triathlon to Whistler, with both longer and shorter event options. Also up are a variety of off-road biking classics, a newly staged road race from Vancouver all 120 km up to Whistler, an annually celebrated run in honour of a young gentleman by the name of Terry Fox who gave up his life trying to complete a cross Canada run on his prosthetic leg and dying of cancer. This event in particular happens right across Canada and all funds raised go to the worthy Terry Fox society.

I personally would love to be involved in all of this and ordinarily…I would. However, trying to be sensible about my priorities, I’ve just missed last weekend’s 5 peaks trail race. This was a race I was eager to try my hand at, but too many risks involved and I simply didn’t have it in me to go out, relax and enjoy it… too competitive unfortunately. I’d also love to try my hand at the triathlon, but this falls too close to the Berlin marathon in a month’s time. However, unlike myself, there will be many athletes from afar and locally who will participate in much of these events and will have a blast doing them. Good on em’ and here’s hoping I can emulate them better next year…

On a different note, yes it is still most definitely summer around these parts. However, a few days ago, we actually had fresh snow dusting our peaks. Can you believe this year??! We last had snow on July 1st and already in late August we’ve seen more. As much as I would actually often prefer cooler conditions than we’ve recently seen, I for one am not quite ready to see the back of summer and roll into winter again just yet! Let’s hope that winter is still one good season away, eh?!


Crankworx rolls back into town
August 17, 2010By Ashley McMillan
It’s been a busy couple of weeks here in Whistler.We’ve literally just seen the finale of over a week’s worth of mountain biking competition and demonstrations in what’s generally considered to be North America’s biggest mountain biking festival – Crankworx. We’ve been treated to some of the very best bikers atop of their game, wowing the crowds and proving what hard work and a little bit of madness can really do.
 

This biking festival certainly draws the crowds. They come a flocking from a long ways away and most of the hotel beds have been full most days. It’s certainly been busy in and around the village, aided by the numerous hotel deals of course to make travelling all that more attractive. However, once here, they are treated to free concerts, hours of biking footage of events taking place high above the valley, numerous sponsors, bike manufacturers, etc all willingly giving away goodies to all that pass by.

There’s also been a great patio and après scene for those who’ve had a hard day competing or riding in the downhill park, or for those who are simply here to soak up the vibe that is Whistler at it’s finest. There have been more bikes around the village than you can shake a stick at. Everyone, young and old has been riding their trusty suspension enabled ‘steeds’ either cross country style or through the world renowned park, mixing it up with the professionals practising ahead of their events. For those in the biking world and for those who simply follow the mountain biking scene, the world’s focus has certainly been upon us once again.

The weather has been steaming… still. For all those who will no doubt complain that we had a late start to the summer, they will doubtlessly reflect upon the season as being mostly dry and hot. Much like any summer resort or beach town, Whistler’s lakes and beaches this last weekend or two have been absolutely heaving. When anyone wishes to escape some of the heat of the concrete through the village and when they’re not biking, hiking, climbing or running, the scene is definitely around the lakesides for many. Personally I prefer life a little higher up on top of the mountains where the air is a little cooler and views just a tiny bit more ‘epic’. That said, none of us have got up there as much as we perhaps would have liked to. I certainly haven’t. Schedule hasn’t been kind in that respect and there has been so much damn snow up there covering a good deal of the great walking trails. They are slowly uncovering themselves as the sun’s intensity does it’s best to dissipate the snow pack, but we’re still not quite there yet.

So we’ve adopted that long held, misrepresented ‘sport’, cheese rolling! Yep, it’s heralded from good old ‘blighty’ and now forms a regular feature right slap bang in the middle of the biking fest that is Crankworx. What it’s got to do with biking, I’m not quite sure, but people have definitely taken to it! Hundreds of keen individuals (the slightly more sensible ones are suited up in bike armour and helmets to prevent injury) take to the hill to run rapidly down it, while chasing after the biggest ball of cheese you’ve ever seen, all eleven pounds of it! Winner gets to keep it, all the glory and perhaps a free season pass for the upcoming winter. Sure there are fallers and odd broken bone – that’s all part of the ‘sport’ isn’t it?! Fun to watch for all who attended though, but you can’t help wonder why all our perverse sense of voyeurism loves to see others fall calamitously, the more spectacular the better!

So the patios are full, the hotel beds are full, even the beaches and lakes are full. Good for business… must be? This certainly looks to have been the biggest ‘Crankworx’ to-date and it looks set to only grow bigger. Roll on next year I guess.

As for any British cheer – for any followers of the downhill mountain bike world, the Atherton family showed their class and what they’re made of with good results. Perhaps gone a little less unnoticed might be the antics of a certain enthusiastic Scot over here in Toronto. Anyone miss Andy Murray winning his first title of the year after beating Nadal and Federer in the Canadian Open? Go on son!

So here’s hoping your summer is going as well as ours… even if we could perhaps do with slightly cooler temperatures and dare I say, perhaps just a little bit of rain??


Hot and dry long weekend in Whistler
August 3, 2010By Ashley McMillan
This weekend saw the return of the annual Canadian National Barbeque Championships to Whistler.
 

This is typically a two day event that sees both locals and teams from afar come to the mountains to compete and showcase their ability to pull off the perfect feast. Sunday was the main event where cooks from all over North America gathered to go head-to-head in five competition categories: Pork Butt, Beef Brisket, Chicken, Ribs and Pork & Cork, where contestants were judged on their abilities to make the perfect match between BBQ pulled pork and Ravenswood’s legendary Zinfandel wine. Winners won cash prizes, but just as important was the opportunity to win an invite to the World Championships in Tennessee – a big deal in certain circles!

No surprise to see the crowds flock down to ‘Creekside’ at the foot of the slopes where the winter Olympic alpine skiing took place, where this taste bud tingling spectacle of a ‘cook off’ was being held. They were their to soak up the barbeque atmosphere as it was possible to sample much of the food being served up and make the most of the beautiful weather, local bands and general summer merriment that goes hand in hand with these events.

Now, you have to understand, that these championships, despite my words of jest, really are a big deal to some. To some of the competitors it’s a way of life or at least way more than just a keen hobby. The world of a barbeque ‘pit’ is a world of precision, technique and timing. The food must come out ‘just so’ when it has to be delivered in a small pre-defined window of time to the judges. The equipment in these ‘pits’ can run into several thousands and is an investment into one’s art form… or at least that’s the hope! Seriously though… some of these judges are certified and even carry initials after their name, much like having a degree or bachelor of arts, etc.

Regrettably, the continued good weather that we’ve been experiencing, will often lead to very dry woodlands and bush around the area. Despite being a wetland, the warm sunny days and winds can often lead to some very dry and arid conditions that leaves much of the areas up and down the ‘Sea to Sky’ highway susceptible to forest fires. It is in fact common for a good number of these fires to start up, most far from towns and villages and typically out of harms way and this year has been no different, although they’re always a cause for concern as you consider the local winds and how far the cinder will blow, etc. These fires are usually started by lightning strikes, or in worst cases, by humans with their barbeques or cigarettes. I’m sure you’ve all seen the devastating effect of some of the horrendous bush fires in Australia and California in recent years!

Last year, I myself got caught on top of Whistler Mountain on a few occasions during lightning storms. No big deal you may think, only lightning. Different matter though when you think about coming down the mountain in a gondola wondering what would happen if lightning may hit any of the cabins or towers. You then become a little more accepting when the safety decision is taken out of your hands to temporarily close the gondolas and ‘hold’ you atop of the mountain, perhaps in the restaurant while you’re being offered complimentary chocolate chaud for your inconvenience. On a few occasions I eventually had to be driven down the mountain in one of the many maintenance trucks as the safest mode of transference.

So once again, after a few weeks of being on extreme fire alert, we finally had a lightning strike ignite some of the trees high up on Blackcomb Mountain in some of the outer limits around the ski runs. Quickly extinguished as the crafted fire fighters flying high above, expertly collected water from the nearby lakes and swung round to drop the precipitation on the dried, singed and smoking areas to swiftly have matters under control. You become accepting of these incidents and our ability to control them, but one can never get too complacent when it comes to acts of God.

Personally I have felt most of the week go by uneventfully as I regroup, recharge and recover from my marathon efforts down in San Francisco last weekend. I’m mindful that the body will take a week or two (or more) to fully recover, muscle tissue damage, etc to repair and grow strong again and so I resist every natural instinct to lace up my sneakers and get lost on run after run. Chomping at the bit I naturally can’t actually manage to sit back, relax and do nothing and have sneaked in a few runs most days, nothing taxing but enough to starve off my demons that keep me running every single day. How can I relax when I’ve the biggest marathon challenge this year coming up at the end of September and if that’s all the excuse I need to pound the trails and asphalt, then so be it!

It’s certainly been a busy weekend in Whistler, where finding a bed or place to relax has at times been difficult. It’s a long weekend here in British Columbia and couple with the recent weather which always draws crowds, we have seen virtually all hotels in Whistler and right up and down along the highway as far as Vancouver, completely sold out. Tranquil wouldn’t be an accurate choice of words for the local patios, gondolas, stores and restaurants. It is great to see the walls of the town bursting again though. It can only be good for everyone here. That said, the numbers will have already dwindled by the time this goes to print as the ‘weekenders’ disperse back to their homes and offices, but I’ve a feeling they’ll keep a coming.

One final note of interest, we’ve all heard of old bylaws and loopholes in legalities across the lands that allow some strange, but legal activities to take place. It would appear that we have at least one of our own around here as well that’s sure to be ‘closed off’ as soon as possible. By all accounts it seems that local bylaws allow for licensed hunters to own and use a crossbow to shoot and kill the local bears if found at least 100 meters away from playgrounds or occupied buildings. Of course it’s a little more complicated than that, but a recent incident leading to another poor ursine cousin of ours being shot and left to die has caused lawmakers to look again at this loophole to protect everyone, including the bears. We’ll see how this one turns out I guess!

 



Escape to Alcatraz
July 29. 2010By Ashley McMillan
So I took myself out of Whistler for just a few days this weekend. Occasionally it does one good to escape the ‘bubble’ and get in touch with reality in the rest of the world.
 

There was a big marathon being held down in San Francisco and given that neither my girlfriend nor I had been there before, our tickets were booked and race entry fee cashed months ago, well, for one of us anyways.

This is the beauty of living in North America, as it is living in Europe of course. Many major cities and towns are typically within a few hours drive or flight, neither of which are my favourite modes of transport (in fact, no mode of transport ranks highly with me. I love going to places, hate getting there, being stuck in a small space where I can’t move, air turbulence, etc, etc).

We left full of preconceived ideas of what awaited us, none too naïve, but perhaps a little distorted. San Fran is actually just a short two hour plane trip south from Vancouver airport. Located in the state of California you might be forgiven for assuming that warm sunny weather would naturally await us – not the case! It was in fact downright cold at times, especially coming from a steamingly hot Whistler. We arrived in San Fran airport having being delayed for nearly two hours and collected our luggage. We met two very helpful local policemen doing their rounds on their push bikes through their airport. Evidently they don’t work for their tourism board. ‘What’s the best way to our hotel?’ we asked. We were very politely engaged in some intricacies of the area and advised not to wander too far from where we were staying as we ‘would be jumped’. Sorry! What was that again I asked? ‘Some of the areas around the hotel are a bit rough with some questionable characters, drug addicts, etc’.

I don’t think that knowing that this city had some less desirable areas was a great surprise as every town or city tends to have these problems. However, it’s fair to say that these nice gentlemen at the airport put the necessary fear of god into us that ensured we took a cab straight to our hotel door!

It was a trip that left us both needing a few days to recover. The following day after arriving was spent walking around and checking out some of the sights, taking in the obligatory, but at times slightly eerie Alcatraz, trying to find somewhere not fully seated to eat a reasonably healthy dinner before we headed to bed. My marathon was set to start the next day at the ridiculously early time of 5.30am! This may sound bad enough, but to ensure readiness, this means rising at around 3.30am to eat, hydrate, stretch, etc before tracking down to the start with the other thousands of early risers.

So here was the big day for me. I was already knackered before I arrived in San Fran from weeks of hard work training (although tapered down), juggling work and a pitiful social life, so the sightseeing and incredulous start time did nothing to further aid me. The race, somewhat unsurprisingly, starts in the dark of the night and does at least allow us to take in some of the sights and ambience of the city all lit up for our benefit with little else around to share it. Typically the infamous ‘Golden Gate Bridge’ was shrouded in its usual fog and mist and all I could see was the hill ahead of me. The hills in the first half kept coming and were definitely taking their toll on most of us. This was always going to be a challenging race, billed by some reporters as ‘the race that even most marathoners fear’. My head definitely wasn’t in the right place beforehand, I wasn’t ‘feeling it’ and this was only ever going to serve to make this more arduous than it already was.

Anyways, some 26.2 miles of various mind games and physical torture later I romped across the finish line, somewhat disappointed with my time (I’m my harshest critic, but my ‘end goal’ was always my time by year end / or the Berlin marathon in late September), to be led through the feeding stations, picking up my medal and into the runners lounge I was privileged enough to be invited into. My poor girlfriend had dragged herself out of her cosy pit in our hotel room to come down and see me finish, having already been awoken at 3.30am by my pre-race rituals, all before 8.30am. Just seeing myself and other finishers crossing the line must have been enough to make her think twice about her entry into the Berlin marathon with me! So that was it. We were both up and ready for the day of more sightseeing ahead. Just what I needed, another several hours walking around!

It’s fair to say that San Francisco is definitely a city built on many things, but not least on tourism. Hundreds and thousands of visitors from all corners of the globe pass through these streets every single day. We figured that during a typical day during our weekend visit, the Alcatraz boat tour (there is no other way to this island – now a national park) is ferrying probably something like 3-4,000 people to the island and back. The island itself leaves you very humbled and aware of some of the harsh conditions endured, not just by the inmates. The cells were tiny, much smaller than your average prison cell seen these days. Some of the stories, we all came to hear, of the various criminals and escape efforts were, at times, a little chilling. We’ve all heard of one late Alfonso Capone and how he was finally only ever put behind bars due to tax fraud, but did you all know he caught syphilis, which finally drove him mad and killed him?!

It’s an eclectic city with some very diverse cultures, great waterfront areas, typically full of tourists and restaurants. The weather could do with being a little warmer and more consistent, but it’s truly a great city to visit and we only wish we had longer to take it all in. However, work and a warmer, sunnier climate awaited us back in western Canada in the mountains and ensured that we dutifully headed for the airport (only to be delayed… again) for our hasty return.

So back in the hills life is still a little slower, still very hot, the ‘extreme’ fire warnings are still very much present and will probably remain so for a while now. We will see a flock of tourists and hard core mountain bikers hit town within a couple of weeks as the annual Crankworx festival arrives August 7th for just over a week. This will be a week of solid biking competitions, partying, advertising and general merriment for most. For a few, it will come as a surprise to see how busy it is and will cause thought for perhaps coming a few days earlier or later next year. One thing for sure though, it’s a solid marketing tool, bringing one of the biggest mountain biking festivals in the world to our home soil.

Let’s see how much more of this heat I can take as I recover from my marathon exploits and regroup in time for my next. Perfect opportunity to stoke up our propane barbeque and invite some friends over… perfect! Let’s hope I don’t have to cook!

 

Bear Warfare
July 20, 2010By Ashley McMillan
Casualties of bear warfare again in and around the village as another unfortunate victim of mankind’s imposition of a concrete jungle in the middle of such a beautiful bio-diverse wetland area, full of beautiful wildlife.
 

Admittedly, it’s not as ghastly as a dense city-dwelling concrete architecture, with most houses and villas around Whistler laid out in their own individual design, many with an alpine flavour, but even so, it remains the unfortunate effect of the humans cutting a trail blaze through the beautiful wilderness and inhabiting the land of some of God’s other creatures. Why must these ursine creatures continue to suffer because of us?

Regrettably in this latest instance, there was no stupidity on human folks part (such as trying to entice the big furry guy by feeding or goading it as can often be the case by some rather naïve or misguided individuals), but this bear had been caught in someone’s own residence making its way through their kitchen. This same bear, identified by tags on its ears (bears caught in the way of humans in an area its likely to come back to, i.e. houses, village centre, etc, will often be caught, tagged and taken far away in the hope to keeping them out of harms way), was also known to have been sniffing its way into one of the snack shops on one of the local golf courses. The sad fact is that many of these tagged bears, will eventually find their way back to an easy source of food and if this encroaches into human life, then inevitably they are deemed a risk to mankind and have to be ‘put down’.

Every time I hear of stories like this I feel a little sad. After all, what was it that these beautiful creatures really did wrong – they went looking for food in their own environment, now co-inhabited by us?!

On a positive note, the bears are still around much higher above the valley level, rendering them fairly safe from mankind’s ability to cause pain and anguish. Only today as I wrote this, I ventured on a rare day off actually with my girlfriend, up the mountain to check out the summer views and vistas. Within five minutes of jumping on the chairlift to ascend the hills, we were instructed by virtually every passing tourist and local alike that we were swimming against their tide, as we were pointed in the direction of one of these creatures basking in the afternoon sun, frolicking around in the grass, completely ignoring everyone passing by from above them. Always a joy to see and something I’ll never grow tired of.

I read again this week that one of the dangers we haven’t faced here now for nearly a year is possibly rearing its ugly head again. The local fire hazard warnings around the area are currently on ‘high’, teetering on ‘severe’. Now, alarm bells aren’t being triggered and panic hasn’t set in, but it does mean that everyone is being asked to be very sensible with not having any open flames, not having open barbecues, etc whilst camping or out in the bush.

Last year we had numerous forest fires initiated by bolts of lightning and cigarettes, etc. Despite living in a wetland area, most are surprised to see how dry and arid the landscape can become at times during our summers. Presently, it has not rained here for over a couple of weeks and the temperatures have been regularly in the mid to high 20s. The land quickly dries up and if this trend continues, some areas will soon become tinder boxes.

Fantastic weather for everyone to enjoy, bringing hundreds of tourists to our doors and many of us out to the local lakes and beaches, but each of us needs to be respectful of not triggering off any unnecessary flames. For now, we wait and see what happens, but if the warnings progress, it affects many of us, even including builders and worksites, where most machinery work will have to close down or at the least, cease by midday. These restrictions are again necessary.

All of this aside, the weather has provided the foundations for a great week of regular activities such as the beach volleyball season, touch-football (as in Aussie rules football – yes, there are that many in town that this sport is necessary, to them anyways!), the continual mountain biking series and abundance of ‘safe’ barbecues by the lakes and patios – mine has certainly been fired up much more over the last few weeks.

For me, I must ready myself for my trip down to San Francisco for this coming weekend’s marathon. I’ve trained long and hard and am literally chomping at the bit to get going – even at the ungodly start time of 5.30am, meaning I will need to rise at around 3.30am to hydrate and get some nutrition into my system to fuel me. Is it worth it, well I guess we’ll see, eh? I have some time goals and expectations, but irrespective of these, it’s for a worthwhile cause as I run it in the name of charity, the Spinal Injuries Association and hopefully this will go someway to raise further funds and awareness for those that dearly need their help.

So as I continue to ‘taper’ my training and mentally prepare myself for this ridiculously early start time to pound the streets that spawned great cinematography, such as Mr McQueen’s ‘Bullet’, Basic Instinct and other classics like the ‘Streets of San Francisco to name but a few, please spare a thought for our local wildlife and perhaps one or two for me as I suffer in the name of ‘sport’, personal bests, sleep depravation and of course, charity.

• Ashley will be running in the Berlin Marathon this September to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association – visit www.justgiving.com/Ashley-McMillan, if you would like to support this worthy cause. Click here to read more.

 


Chillin’ by the lakes? Sure why not!
July 13, 2010By Ashley McMillan
I’m going out on a limb here, but summer is officially here. There, said it now and can’t take it back!The sun has been out, beaming at us as only it can in the mountains for the last week or so. High temperatures around 30c and high humidity have seen the crowds rolling into Whistler. It has been busy and hot, hot, hot.
 

Personally, I could do with it dropping a few degrees to make moving around a little more comfortable and not having to rise so darn early to train and avoid the prospect of dehydration as I pound the streets and trails. Am I complaining about the weather? Of course I am, I’m still British after all…

I’m going to guess that for many there’s relief and perhaps, for others, there’s a big void left in your television programming? Wimbledon is all wrapped up – usual suspects turning up at the final of course and the World Cup has drawn to a final close in a game in which no-one wanted to lose, limped into extra time and was finally won by Spain after decades of underperforming in the ‘majors’.

Soccer widows can once again breathe a sigh of relief as their ‘betrothed’ now come crawling back from the pub for some ‘home life’.

Does this mean that the Tour de France is not being avidly followed? This is a personal favourite event of mine as we watch the world’s greats battle and sweat it out across France and occasional neighbouring countries, through the Alps and Pyrenees and ultimately onto ‘gay Paris’, where the top riders will be appointed the tour winner, king of the hills and stage winners. For anyone interested, it looks as if Lance has finally ‘cooked his goose’ and the mantle of current greatest has been well and truly handed over, but we’ll see!

Here in Whistler, there has been another event bringing interest to the biking community. There was the ‘Four Queens. A great four day event designed to challenge mountain bike riders on all manner of disciplines, including specialist downhill time trials and a variety of cross country trails – all on one bike with one set of tyres with no-one being able to switch up between their usual downhill bikes with their extra cushioning suspensions and their much lighter, faster cross country steeds. A tough challenge and I gather (actually, I’ve seen for myself) many bikes have been thoroughly pushed to (and beyond) their limits.

The beaches have been as busy by the lakes as they ever have. We continue to see scantily clad men and women around the village, now perhaps justifiably so at long last. The usual ‘red tan’ that inevitably continues to discolour many a sun worshiper’s hide can be seen everywhere. This ‘red’ phenomenon knows no boundaries and attacks with no mercy.

It appears no amount of government aided commercials or health related articles continually reminding us of the potential harm of the sun’s rays on our skin actually ever truly sinks in. “Don’t you look healthy!” Isn’t that what we all say when we see someone with a tan! Why is it that someone with a ‘good tan’ is deemed to ‘look well’? Remember the days when those who had a tan were frowned upon in society, typically found working outdoors in the fields, etc. It was the wealthy that felt that ‘pale’ skin was in ‘vogue’.

Little did we realise at the time that these were actually the ones who ‘looked well’! Now don’t get me wrong. A ‘healthy’ amount of vitamin D is a requirement of our fragile bodies and it does us good to get outside in the daylight and get ‘fresh air, but will we ever learn?

All that said, our beautiful beaches and lakes are simply too inviting for many locals. Many will hit the beach in the morning hours before their work. Most will simply relax – perhaps with a book; others will jump on the swing ropes, canoes, sun docks or break out their volleyball skills. Others may have chosen to escape some of this week’s heat by riding up the gondolas to our peaks where the climate was considerably cooler, albeit where the sun’s rays are even stronger.

At long last some of the small trails have been dug out to allow greater foot traffic to ‘discover’ the peaks and explore the mountain vistas. It honestly doesn’t look as if the bulk of the traditional trails will be ready to trek until well into August, perhaps even later. I saw one shot on Whistler mountain this week where having cleared a foot path, the snow banks were a good 2-3 meters high! Will it ever melt? Evidently it is slowly beginning to do so as some of our rivers run at high levels and some lakes reach over their neighbouring footpaths on their borders.

Now, perhaps more than ever, there are more activities than you can shake a stick at around these parts. The local marketing dollars are hard at work promoting activities such as bear tours, atv rides, zip-lining, white water rafting, mountain biking, horse riding, canoeing and summer glacier skiing – to name but a few.

Summer is a magical time here in Whistler and everyone has their views, but my feelings are that this time of year is perhaps even better than the winter time as there is simply so much beauty and so much to see and do. Just a shame that not everyone manages to experience the wealth that is on offer.

So come on over, if you can pull yourselves away from the weather you’re experiencing elsewhere and see the world through a different set of eyes… oh, and remember your sunscreen!

Oh Canada! Oh Canada!

 

 

 

July 6, 2010By Ashley McMillan

Well, all it really took was an excuse for a long weekend and the crowds came a flocking.Canada Day – July 1st saw the volumes through little Whistler town rising by the hour. Hundreds and thousands made their way up the coast to Whistler to celebrate their patriotism, many decked out in a variety of Canadian flagged jerseys, ice hockey tops and much other apparel adorned with maple leafs. The town was positively swelling, well, by recent standards anyways.
 

To mark the annual celebration, the now regular Canada day parade was organised through the pedestrian village stroll, where many local businesses had floats, some local winter Olympians joined in and showed off their medals and the stroll was packed with spectators at every turn.

It was something of a strange July 1st here in Whistler, especially when we awoke to find that it had snowed upon high and we had a fresh dusting of snow… on July 1st!!! This has been season after season of some of the weirdest weather. There’s currently so much snow up high this year, that they’ve actually opened up a tubing park to give the young and young at heart yet another activity to throw themselves into once they’ve alighted the gondolas to take in the vistas.

Just as well the power that is Whistler Blackcomb took this decision as the summer hiking simply hasn’t happened to-date. Personally, I can honestly see it being well into August before there’s any hiking on the peaks as there’s simply too much snow for the guys to clear off the kilometers of beautiful trails. I only hope it actually materialises at all. Especially thinking ahead to the five peaks trail running series which arrives late in August. This series of events can often offer the competitors the chance to run through snow and slush, but at the moment they’d literally be wading through the dense snow pack!

There’s definitely some different challenges around the mountains here this year. I can remember times last year when water bans were in place, which is kind of odd in itself when you consider we live in a ‘wetland’ area. So there were also bans on any barbeques or camp fires being built and lit for anyone going camping due to the ground and bush being like a ‘tinderbox’ at times.

However, this year, we still can’t get to the peaks of most areas or even close, owing to the fact that there’s too much damn snow – an overhang to an awesome winter that broke snowfall records. This means shorter hikes, definitely colder weather up high, camping a little trickier or perhaps just a little less desirable. I guess some of are just never happy, eh?!

Weather conditions aside, the BC (British Columbia) mountain bike race rolled into town for it’s ultimate stage in it’s seven day slog across the ‘Sunshine Coast’s’ plethitude of trails. This event in itself brought a number of travelling families and friends, etc of the many competitors entered into this year’s event.

By all accounts, the finale in Whistler is usually one of the more popular stages of the event and this year was no different. Some of the competing numbers were locals at the top of their game, others had flown in from around Canada and around the globe.

Another event bringing their own entourage into town, were the crew and partners of the many ‘dragon boat’ teams, competing in the annual festival, albeit in its infancy still. I personally have an image of ‘long boats’ all dressed up and adorned with fancy characters to look something more at home in a local town parade or float. However, I couldn’t be more wrong.

This is a very competitive event taking part over two days with everyone tailored up with their life jackets and paddles, chomping at the bit to push and shout their team squad to victory in the chilly waters (another weather jibe… sorry).

For those of you who simply have not had enough of the variety of televised sport currently blasting its way across our screens all over the globe, yes Wimbledon has now finished and the Fifa World Cup will indeed finally be over in four more short games (at the time of writing this anyways). Will there be any more ‘surprise’ results? Will you win the workplace sweepstake on that random team you were told simply didn’t stand a chance way back in early June?

So what will we fill our televised void with once this is all over? Maybe we’ll all put our remotes away and pull out those bikes so lovingly stored deep in the shed or garage and hit some of the local trails. Perhaps all this sporting prowess beamed through your digital boxes has inspired you to dust down your tennis raquets or lace up your football boots, or perhaps you’ll simply stay put and get ready for the Commonwealth Games?!

Whatever you do, can I ask for just one favour… say a little prayer that our current local weather forecast (it changes pretty darn quick here in the mountains and is probably the only place I know where frequent inaccurate predictions is accepted as the ‘norm’) comes to fruition and we can perhaps enjoy a few continuous days of the weather you guys have been lucky enough to sample of late.

Cheers.

 


Mountain BBQs, three lions and simplicity
June 29, 2010 By Ashley McMillan
So, in the spirit of encouraging summer to take its rightful place here in the hills, the mountain top barbeques are now running every weekend.Nothing beats being able to sit atop of the mountain range on a clear sunny day, chowing down on some very finely cooked dishes and allowing the tunes and vibes of the various bands sharing the day with you, to flow through you. This is a popular event for good reason and as the weather improves and the season produces some warmer days at over 2000 meters, this event will only see increasing volumes heading towards the skies. Failing this, simply nothing beats finishing a days work and heading up in a gondola for a beer on the mountain top patio, surrounded by vistas and wonderment at any given glance. There are a few other activities that have or are about to commence, usually suggesting that summer is somewhere to be seen. Various adventure activities are set up at the base of Blackcomb for the youngsters, the down hill bike park is open via the lifts until 8pm every day now, various water based activities are being pedalled upon us, the volleyball league is well under way, bear sightseeing tours have been for a while and the numbers spotted are still apparently increasing. Yep, summer is out there…somewhere!
 

For others such as myself, a couple of work colleagues and my dutiful girlfriend, we took the trip south this weekend to the city of Vancouver to take part in their half marathon. No surprises when ‘race day’ weather turned out to be a little damp and cool. Not bad conditions for running just a shade over 13 miles. Early start, as always, meant rising soon after 5am to hydrate and eat, etc, etc and make our way to the 7am start and get inline for the multitude of ‘port-a-loo’ waiting, last minute nerves n’all.

Turned out a good day for all. Many ran for charities, many ran to simply achieve this feat of conquering this distance, perhaps on their way to losing weight, overcoming some illness, but all had their own motivation. The crew from Whistler amassed some outstanding achievements of our own and journeyed back to Whistler later that day a little weary and sore but stoked for the early mornings’ romp. Personally my finish was dampened a little as I had found and cajoled a complete stranger to call his house and then in turn a friend and then a neighbour to find out the England v Germany score. The news wasn’t welcome!

For the financial gossip, the latest rumour carrying some substance around here and in the city markets, is that it would appear Intrawest is apparently looking to sell its prize asset – Whistler Blackcomb, to a Russian billionaire who is reportedly behind the build of ‘Sochi’ – the 2014 winter Olympic venue and other Russian ski resorts. It’s certainly a colourful rumour and one which will hold our interest if it continues to trundle along a while longer.

Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least put a little something extra in print about recent soccer events. Presumably the mighty ‘3 Lions’ had their minds on other things, perhaps even on getting out to the vast planes that so many safaris now scour in their attempt to satisfy their clients lust for sightings of wild animals in their element. Whatever it is, they certainly went down without so much as a whimper after barely scraping through their first round. One can only guess that perhaps this team of poor wounded ‘Lions’ will be put down or ‘out to pastures new’. I certainly hope that the FA don’t choose to further ‘reward’ our national coach to encourage his future with England, but would any of us truly be surprised?!

Hopefully Wimbledon has everyone spurred up and all patriotic, although I guess ‘Henman Hill’ just hasn’t been the same without Tim, eh?

So if anyone is still looking for something to celebrate, perhaps consider your Canadian cousins as they ready themselves for the July 1st celebration as the natives prepare to show their allegiance to their flag and everyone else simply uses it as an excuse to have time off work or party. We tend not to get too hung up on inconsequential matters out here, life can and should be simple, easy going and is there to enjoy… if we choose to. Perhaps raise a glass or two with us and continue to celebrate life, bank holidays, days out of the office and anything else to raise your spirits. I know we will.


Too much play in the mountains
June 22, 2010By Ashley McMillan
There are many, many positives to life here in the mountains.The playground that is Whistler, however, whilst there are many fit, healthy individuals reaping the benefits and trying to defy the onset of advancing years that their birth certificate would impose upon them, there is another side that many don’t see.
 

Whistler boasts an absolute plenitude of ultra fit athletes across the ages. Do not be surprised to be solidly beaten over a long distance trail run or mountain bike race or even out-skied by someone double your age, as hard as it may be to swallow your pride and except this fact, especially as they breeze past you.

The pay-off to this indulgent healthy lifestyle that many are in Whistler to enjoy, especially those who choose to settle here, is that a good many women will continue to see their bodies trained and taut well beyond what you may well otherwise be expecting to see around other communities.

The downside to some is that they may not ‘settle down’ or get round to considering having of a family of their own until it’s too late. Their bodies may defy the gravity effect of their years, but their reproductive systems unfortunately continue to age, no matter what level of exercise they have achieved. Anecdotally I’ve had it said that too many women are seen in their mid to late thirties, looking or thinking about having a baby, but often because of their advancing years (in baby making terms anyways), they simply can’t strike it lucky and may have to consider other medical options, fertility programmes, etc.

Tough pill to swallow, but I guess something that all women have to consider at some point or another is when or if they actually want a family of their own and within reason, there is a clock, biological or otherwise, that will often have the final say on the matter.

So can one have it all? Sure, why not?! After all, it’s just down to time management isn’t it?? – Now I’m not that naïve of course, but perhaps it’s just another reminder that us guys have it easy, eh?!

To matters more immediate, this coming weekend will see the commencement of the seven day epic ‘BC Bike race’, that stretches from Vancouver to Whistler, taking in some of the finest stretches of single track trails you’ll find – anywhere, across our coastline. The mountain biking around these parts is recognised as some of the best in the world, perhaps a ‘tad’ more technical than many other places, but great riding all the same.

These guys in this ‘race’ (both guys & gals actually) will have enjoyed and sampled some of the best and the worst the muscles and endorphins can dish out. It’s competitive and some highly decorated challengers will muscle their way through the course and hopefully onto the stage and final podiums here in Whistler. I guess Whistler will be a great place for a celebratory beer or two when all is said and done after seven tough days in (and out) the saddle, hopefully injury free.

This must mean that the world of mountain biking is in full swing in this part of the British Empire’s former colony as we have also just seen the ‘Test of Metal’ bike race this weekend in Squamish, down in the Sea to Sky Corridor (the stretch of land between Vancouver and Whistler). This race is part of a series of elitist bike races over many kilometers (67k’s in this case), mainly over single track trails and entices some of the finest racers from across British Columbia and Canada as well as many many locals who would also rank well amongst a number of other athletes around Canada.

The season of competition on foot or two wheels is well underway and there is a full line-up of events right through to October. I personally may not compete in the biking races that I have in previous years as I may take advantage of the many opportunities to compete in the various trail running events to compliment my marathon running. Too much to do, too little time.

The local ‘touch rugby’ season is about to begin with teams from the local bars, hotels and various other clubs and establishments grouping together for a good run out and a social après beer. The volleyball season is already underway with leagues for all abilities, with some leagues being perhaps a little more social than competitive.

The local Monday and Thursday night mountain bike rides are well underway and allow locals to get out and be tutored or add a smattering of ‘competitiveness’ to their ride around Whistler’s amazing array and myriad of biking trails. Of course, all riding is typically rounded out by one dusting oneself down and celebrated appropriately after a little sweat and toil.

There will of course be many other events to be added to the local calendar, but I guess the big upcoming date is July 1st – Canada day and a national holiday. Typically a good excuse for many to enjoy a long weekend or even stretch to a week. If the weather holds out (please cross everything for us on this one!), this should prove to be another busy time in town for everyone.

There will be local processions and floats and a good time will no doubt be enjoyed by everyone, young and old. I guess we should just be grateful it’s not ‘Aussie day’ as this is truly celebrated as only they can from dawn until well past dusk, with spontaneous break out games of Aussie rule football, national flags draped around the torsos and a swagger that can only be found at the bottom of a bottle – or several!

So once again, we’ll predict the arrival of summertime here in Whistler. Our barbecue needs a more regular workout than it’s been getting and our new patio decking has barely been sat out on. Fingers crossed I said didn’t I? Think it’ll take a bit more than this to convince the weather gods to smile upon us a bit more favourably!

 


The promise of summer and World Cup fever in town
June 15, 2010By Ashley McMillan
Yet again, I sit here about to write about summer perhaps finally arriving in Whistler.You’d have been forgiven for thinking so after the last couple of days around here. The streets have been abound with flip flop laden, skimpy top wearing young women (and some men). There have been those in their masses, visitors and locals, with their ‘new’ red suntan marks indicating that most still don’t understand the importance of covering up or the strength of the sun here in the mountains. Funny how some things never change, no matter how much money is invested by the various health organisations to heighten awareness of the dangers of the sun!
 

Of course, the promise (and reasonable delivery) of sun here throughout the weekend, brought the crowds aplenty back into town. Each arriving with their own agenda and plan to enjoy themselves, many enjoying the activities on offer, most sampling the delights of the ‘refreshment’ establishments. The patios have been full with plenty of refreshments being served and the local pastime of people watching has been re-activated and is once again well and alive amongst the masses soaking up the views and relaxing.

So here I am now, looking at of my window at the valley mountain range and seeing that all too familiar precipitation that we have been ‘blessed’ with for the last few weeks. Typically we have left our patio furnishings out there to get wet, but at least I’ll be running in the cooler weather rather than the baking sun. The promise of better weather (mountain weather forecast is more often than not incorrect in my experience and changes every few hours) is comforting though and will be welcomed.

Soccer fever, is in town (you’ll forgive the colloquialism, but there’s a need in town to be clear about the sports names here with American football, Aussie rules football and of course… actual football). Hard to escape the ‘magical game’ here for once as it is literally everywhere. I don’t know why, but I was perhaps a little surprised to see just how much coverage is being given to the games by the various bars, etc with their multiple screens. This is perhaps testament to the amount of non-Canadians, or moreover, the amount of Aussies, Brits, Japanese and Koreans in town. Great to see a large number of England football jerseys also being worn by many Canadians getting behind us. Not sure how long that support will last, mind, if we continue to play as we did against the United States.

Now, this said in jest, why is it when I was scouring some of the British ‘rags’ that in the ensuing days after this England result that we see so much distain and disrespect for our own players, coaches and staff chosen to lead our country in this majestic tournament. Why is it that the press across the UK find so much solace by tearing into sports heroes and personalities? Is it really unthinkable to actually get behind our boys and girls and fully support them? We all make mistakes from time to time and I’m pretty sure that Mr Green would not normally fall foul to this type of error in judgement and I’m sure his record in training and club matches do not suggest these as typical ‘holes’ in his game – hence why he was selected! So let’s get behind our boys and rally them! Let’s try a different approach in the press other than looking to belittle those that are adored one moment and loathed the next. It is a dirty mindset that the British press has gotten us all in to and there is a reason that they have a reputation across the globe as some of the toughest critics out there.

Summer (I use the term loosely of course) sightseeing on the gondolas has been well received, especially recently as the near blue skies only further enhances everyone’s views and experience. Of course, Whistler Blackcomb is banking on yet another record breaking summer season of ticket sales to recoup the millions invested a couple of years back in the Austrian technology that is in place today as the peak-to-peak gondola, linking both Whistler and Blackcomb together on a eleven minute trip high above the Fitzsimmons Creek and Whistler Valley. For those who really want the view, there are even two glass bottomed cabins on the gondola ride across… not everyone’s cup of tea I know!

So what’s left to happen in the calendar for June? Well, acknowledging that many community events are to be omitted from this short list (my apologies for anyone who feels I’ve left important events worthy of a mention on the side here), there are the final couple of weeks of the ‘Dine in Whistler’ offers. This is the last great opportunity before the next ‘shoulder season’ around October time where visitors and locals alike can take great advantage of the reasonably and uncharacteristically low menu prices across most Whistler eateries. Many, many restaurants serve up exquisite dishes and it’s not often enough that many of us can afford to dine out in these establishments – Chow time!

June 19th also marks the skiing and boarding season re-open upon the Blackcomb glacier. For those who simply could not get enough during winter and also a great opportunity where many youngsters enroll in camps to practice their skills in the parks and in the bumps. It can get a little congested up there in this reduced snow plateau that is beautifully manicured for all, but how many places can you ski or board in great warm, usually sunny conditions this late in spring and into summer?

For those of us who will probably not make the effort to get back up there for the snow and have already gracefully accepted that the snow season is over at least until next winter anyways, we wait patiently, oh so very patiently for the summer to finally bed in so that beaches and lakes can really be enjoyed as only they can around these parts. Maybe it’s the small nudist pontoon that attracts some, maybe it’s the impromptu parties, the beach volleyball games, the endless water activities on offer… or perhaps simply the opportunity to relax in the sun and maybe, safely catch up on their tans, appropriately using sun screen of course.

Until then, I’ll just have to make do with dinner or lunch with the barbecue on our patio, gazing at the boundless views. Never get sick of them, how could you?

 


Bear season… according to the locals
June 8, 2010By Ashley McMillan
So I realize that these furry co-habitants of ours are getting some regular press time from me of late, but these guys really are everywhere to be seen at the moment.The main reason for the frequent sightings, of course, aside from the fact that the majority are out from their winter ‘sleep-in’, is the snow levels. The exceptionally high snowfall levels seen throughout winter, coupled with the still cool conditions up on the hill has still left the snow pack levels lurking way down the mountains. It is gradually dissipating, but as they search for food, the fact that the snow is so low down the mountain still, forces these guys to look for fresh food toward the bottom of the hills and around the valley.
 

It’s not all that uncommon to spot these ursine creatures around at this time, but the snow has played its part. I for one have had to keep my eyes firmly open as I run and move around the Whistler valley, regularly coming across one of these guys grazing in the bushes or at the side of the road. Always keeping an eye out for the mother bear when you spot a cub is part of the trick. You will, from time to time, come across some individuals trying to coax a bear out to get a better view and you only wish they realised the danger they could inadvertently place themselves in. Antagonise a young bear and accept that its mother is probably very near by and she won’t appreciate it! That’s not to say that these guys should be avoided at all costs, but like any other animal, you come between them and their food or their young and they will react out of self preservation. Wouldn’t you?

Bears are responsible for bring a lot of tourism into Canada and around British Columbia and we would be naïve to think that tourists in town wouldn’t want to stop and catch these majestic mammals on camera. However, you do sometimes wish that everyone would use a little more of their ‘grey matter’ when they do spot a photographic opportunity. Countless times we’ve heard or read anecdotally about car accidents or ‘rubber-necking’ where drivers have pulled up along the roadside to gain a better viewpoint. There’s also been far too many reported cases where someone has tried to feed a bear – I mean, come on? How wonderfully stupid can we all be at times. That said, I did hear recently of a late night reveller offering a piece of his pizza to one of these ever-hungry guys. Not sure what the toppings were, but I think it was merrily wolfed down.

I heard again today, anecdotally of course, that deer as well as a possible cougar were sighted from way, way up on the Whistler gondola. Now cougar, there’s something to be a tad apprehensive about. Those guys don’t mess around and they don’t get scared away like the bears can and believe me, when they want to strike, they will… as simple as that! That said, I somehow doubt that it was a cougar that was sighted as we don’t usually have any in the area. Further south of us, about an hour’s drive further in Squamish though, they were spotted on a few too many occasions, but not around Whistler and it’s been this way for a few years. Let’s hope it stays this way too. That said, let’s just say that there’s a good reason you won’t see many domestic cats around Whistler… or perhaps that’s just the coyotes!!

On the homo sapiens front, we’re experiencing another one of the ‘lulls’ we see during the ‘in-between’ seasons. It’s been damp and miserable ever since I proclaimed summer was on its way… obviously! There’s no skiing to be had anymore, or at least not until the glacier ski camps commence mid June, we’re without any festivals or events for a few more weeks anyway and we’re still battling the week US dollar in our struggle to entice our southern cousins to sample life north of their passport lines (most US citizens still don’t possess a passport and of course, now require one to travel across their borders). To prove the impact of all of this, as I write this, the occupancy rate of some of the local hotels is as low as 20 percent full with now being the ideal time to steal a deal.

So what can we expect from here on in? Well, the warm weather will come. No doubt we will be talking about how dry the land and forestry is within a month or so as our ‘wetland’ areas dry out. The crowds will flock into Whistler to take advantage of the beautiful landscape, the bike trails and Downhill Park, the various sporting events, the festivals and the ongoing offers marketed toward the migrating thousands, ripe for the right offer to land at their door.

The wildlife will recede back up the mountain as the snow lines creep toward the skies. The summer hiking trails will once again allows us to view the glorious mountain ranges and lakes as if gazing upon them with new eyes as the natural beauty transports us to a higher plain of serenity high above the clouds.

So with everything to look forward to, I’ll bid you goodbye until next week folks. I will have no doubt aged my running shoes with another hundred miles of beating against the trails, roads and treadmills and picked up various training niggles in my quest to seriously reduce my running times. The bears will no doubt continue to leave us their little reminders about town to show that they’re still about… even if we can’t see them and without doubt will continue to block my morning commute as I constantly need to revisit my routes around the valley. So all is well here in our little wonderland. Fancy coming to see it?

 

Spare a thought for the local bears!
June 1, 2010 By Ashley McMillan
Busy weekend of sport again, here in Whistler. This weekend saw the return of the ‘Fluidride Cup’, which sees down hill bike riders, expert and intermediates, pit their wits down some of Whistler’s most technical curses.This is of course still very very early season for most local Whistler riders due to the lengthy winter season we have each year, but a competitive field merrily threw themselves (literally in some cases) down the slippy courses with tremendous handling skills and sheer determination (or perhaps just lack of control..?) . It brought some of the best of BC (British Columbia) out to showcase their talent… young and old and I think it’s fair to say that above the competition, fun was had by all on one of the biggest and best down hill bike parks in the world… albeit only half open.Saturday saw the now annual ‘Try a Tri’ and a healthy turnout from locals. For a good number, this was their first steps or attempt at any kind of three sport discipline and some were definitely better prepared for the rigours of this event than others. It’s a miniature version of the ‘typical’ triathlon events normally seen, designed to give everyone the opportunity to try their hand. However, let’s not take anything away from the guys and gals who took their turns in the local pool, hopping onto their steeds, furiously pedalling at as high a cadence as they can muster and sustain and finally running around some of the local trails. There were some fiercely fought positions out there and for some, this will be only the starting point of their future sporting prowess, irrespective of what dizzy heights they may reach. It’s about the competitiveness in ourselves, being able to improve one’s physical capabilities and quite simply, being able to enjoy the beauty around us in some very basic form of activity.
 

Sunday saw the annual ‘Whistler Valley Trail run’, giving options of five or ten kilometre for its willing participants. Not exactly a flat course, in fact, far from it. None the less, it was hotly contested over the very undulating course trails, with its lengthy ascents and far too infrequent descents. Smooth(ish) trails and loose rocks, it was all there. Take it from me; this was one very tough, but enjoyable course around some of the abundance of trails around one of most picturesque and popular areas for both tourists and locals alike. The many trails, some more technical than others, are beautifully crafted and cut for many, many individuals, families, friends and competitions to be enjoyed, whether they are ran, walked or biked. The central lake is sampled throughout the hazy, lazy days during the hot summers and many will simply flock to around the lake to chill out. That was most certainly not something on the agenda for the couple of hundred runners puffing and grunting their way around the designated route on this day.

To boot, this weekend also saw the American ‘Memorial Day’ long weekend. Coming hotly on the heels of last weekend’s riotous affair, there were once more a few sceptics about what fallout there may be from this adventure for many a travelling youngster from south of our border. There are many great adventures and activities here to entice the varying demographics from across the globe, locally and afar, however, sometimes it’s just as simple as the fact that the legal drinking age here is 19, compared to 21 in many states in the US. However, whether it was the miserable weather outlook, the weak US dollar against the ‘Loonie’ (Canadian dollar), the recession, perhaps even all of the above, but the expected volumes didn’t materialise and certainly nor did the debauchery of the previous weekend.

Last weekend saw a number of arrests, varying from possession of illegal substances, to drunk and disorderly to cases of violence – one being a young adult yielding a knife. A number of hotels had to forcibly evict a few ‘bad apples’ and many ‘warnings’ were issued by hotel staff, police and security. A number of hoteliers that I know increased their minimum age of their guests being allowed to check in as they attempted to control the partying and idiocy that has previously ensued on this weekend of Victoria Day in past years. I wonder, what, if any, changes the community and businesses at large will do to further discourage this behaviour in the coming years?

There was another ‘spike’ in the travelling volumes, largely because of the various competitions laid on, but perhaps not the volumes expected. It will be a few weeks before numbers really pick up once again and maintain their drive throughout summer until the end of the biking season finally closes in. In the meantime, the locals largely have their ‘treasures’ to themselves… or at least for now anyways!

This weekend also saw the ‘re-opening’ of the gondolas, including the ‘peak to peak’, which links both Blackcomb and Whistler mountains and offers breathtaking views and experiences of the surrounding mountain ranges and vistas from over 400 meters high above the valley. This ‘opening’ is great news for all as it allows access to for sightseers, who unfortunately have not had access to the mountain over the last week whilst the usual annual maintenance was underway. It also gives the downhill mountain bikers access to the top of their bike park, which will no doubt still be snow covered in many places and therefore very muddy and wet in others. It is almost aligned with the ‘end’ of our ‘close season’ or ‘shoulder season’ as this has long been the unofficial re-start of business as usual outside of our winter season. Some would have suggested that perhaps summer is well on its way, but after the last week or so with the pending forecasts, I think a few may review their predictions and hold back just a little longer before celebrating and proclaiming the arrival of summer to Whistler and BC.

Finally, a sad truth about life around ‘bear country’, which happens to encompass built up and commercial areas, such as Whistler and Squamish (midway between Vancouver and Whistler), is that we are slowly invading their privacy. Reports in the last couple of weeks show that motorists are spotting black bears in their habitat close to the roadside. Given our natural curiosity, we all slow down and ‘rubber-neck’ to get a good look at these amazing creatures. In one reported incident a male driver stopped his vehicle to get out and have a better look and was shortly followed by his unleashed dog. The dog attacked the bear, which defended itself and swiped out – understandable really. However, the bear spotting had been reported to the local police who came across this motorist and his protagonist dog and unfortunately, simply because the bear was afraid and angry and now near to humans, the police reluctantly had little choice but to put the poor bear down. Was it the bear’s fault – no, but faced with the prospect of a frightened and angry bear, who thanks to everyone who had now stopped and alighted their vehicles, was now close to humans in a slightly dangerous state, the police had little options. Subsequently they have now charged the driver with endangering the wildlife and not having the dog on its lead. This may seem a little unfair to some, but measures are necessary to try and protect this species.

Also, not for the first time, a couple of bear corpses have been found alongside the busy highway which had no doubt been hit by an unwitting motorist, speeding or otherwise. Bears will try to cross our man made roads from time to time as they seek food and unfortunately are not aware of highway safety. These incidents serve as yet another reminder that we are blessed with much wildlife around us, but respect must be given to all these creatures that now have to share their ‘backyard’ with us, not the other way around!

One last thought for those of you who have ‘endured’ something of a heat wave of late, please spare a thought or two for those of us who might not have seen quite so many ‘bluebird’ days and can only hope for some warm, dry weather to finally hit us… and hopefully hang around for a while. We know you’re excited about the options of sunbathing or perhaps dining ‘al fresco’, but please exercise just a tiny little bit of restraint when posting your Face Book and various other social network comments. Maybe, just maybe we’ll refrain from gloating ourselves, if and when our time comes!


Victoria Day in ‘Partyville’
May 25, 2010 By Ashley McMillan
This past weekend saw the official end to the very lengthy Whistler/Blackcomb ski season.Of course, there are still the glacier ski camps to come, but for most, this weekend was the final throw of the dice up there… until November anyways. We also saw the re-introduced ‘crud to mud’ race, first in the snow from the top of Whistler mountain, then amongst the dirt and now slippery roots on their trusty metal steeds to the bottom of the hill. As always a major hit amongst the locals and others in town and a much vaunted welcome return to the event calendar.This article could not go by without due mention of the ‘Victoria Day’ long weekend, when it feels like everyone from around the surrounding towns and cities with access, find it fit to come up to our neck o’ the woods. Traditionally a frenetic weekend, with an abundance of the younger crowd shouting and squealing, searching for the next party and dare I say, fuelled by some considerable amount of ‘hooch’. No different this time then!
 

The local police force had enlisted the assistance of the surrounding areas officers who helped to ensure that multiple road checks were in place, speed traps and I heard it anecdotally that many, many young drivers and their youthful passengers were being stopped on their way into the village, their hoards of weekend liquor found and removed from their sweaty clutches. Gutted I’m sure they were, but this was a sign of the zero tolerance policy to be enforced and required to show all the ‘out of towners’ intent to get messy and party hard, ignorant to those around them, that ‘you’re welcome to Whistler, but please respect our village and others around you!’

For the most part a good time was had by all, but there were a few reports of some troublesome hotel guests that had to be evicted and some damages to property, etc. It’s a sad truth, but unfortunately when hoards of youngsters come together and are fuelled by excessive alcohol, there’s inevitably some kind of fall-out. Happens everywhere of course, so don’t feel that Whistler is any more hard done by than any other town or city. Let’s not forget that Whistler as well as branding itself a safe welcoming environment for families, also welcomes the ‘party town’ title that it is often labelled by staging world events, concerts and the abundance of après venues of course. It just wants everyone to feel they’re in a safe, respectful and protected environment, where everyone, young and old, can come together and not feel uncomfortable walking around the village or in their choice of venue.

A by-product of all this of course, was the small matter of virtually all hotels being full to capacity. Needless to say, the many bars and clubs also managed a roaring trade, so we can’t have it all ways, eh? Many businesses were very happy with the volumes of trade in what is always an exceptionally busy weekend, coming in the middle of our ‘shoulder season’.

And as an aside, could it be… that the damn troublesome volcano that had nothing better to do than erupt and spew from deep within Iceland for weeks on end, has finally gotten fed-up and run out of juice! Reports are that this has ceased activity other than producing a lot of steam. Thank god! Perhaps we now only have to worry about the airline strikes to affect all our travel plans!

So there it was, the town was rammed full of pickled (yes literally) teenagers intent on keeping the rest of the town awake until the wee small hours and unfortunately all too many hotel guests suffered at their hands. It’s probably fair to say that most, if not all, of these adolescent visitors were completely unaware of the events going on up the hill, especially as they piled into some of their rather exuberant vehicles (perhaps mom and pop’s) and drove in their streams (probably still under the influence, but local cops glad to see the back of them anyways..) along the busy highway on Monday, back to their city dwellings and their suburbs.

So that’s that weekend survived for another year! Those locals who’d escaped for the long weekend can now come out of hiding and safely return to their own comfortable environments. This was the first time in the last three years that I’d personally been around and exposed to these (you’ll forgive my choice of words here as I probably tar a lot of very nice, well mannered and respectably behaved individuals with the same brush) ‘hedonistic, self indulgent and often all too ignorant idiots’ (my apologies for anyone unjustly caught in this widely spread web). I’d been made well aware of the potential for the weekend by many before my first time came around and I had so far managed to be out of town around this time each year. This is a notorious weekend in our calendar and not particularly cherished by most that live here, but we live by the sword and therefore must make the most of all that is thrown at us. However, many see this weekend, at the end of a long winter season as a great opportunity to be elsewhere – each to their own I guess.

Whistler’s many things to many people and it’s just a crying shame that for all its beauty and natural playground, some who travel to our boundaries care not to see or partake in any of the community’s wellness and magic, but merely to overindulge in all the possible debauchery excesses that can be accessed. I guess once again, we created (or at least ‘tweaked’) this part of Eden in our own design and will therefore have to sink on our swords. Can’t have it always all the time can we now!?

Looking to the summer to come, at least the warmer season’s gondola ride to the gods for all who wish to ascend the beautiful peaks and wonderment is set to re-launch again this weekend. Summer hiking will soon be upon us and I for one can’t wait. The array of wildlife abound that will no doubt will be spotted and digitally ‘pixelized’ for all to see. Miles of open and near empty mountainous trails and vistas for those willing to strike out and look for the serenity and opportunity to get away from any crowds way down below in the bustling summer village.

Hopefully this year I’ll be able to spend much of my time hiking and running the trails without medicinally prescribed casts on my limbs.

Here’s hoping!



Month of pain… not officially!
May 11, 2010By Ashley McMillan
Ok, so this is not the official ‘month of pain’, but May certainly is a welcome back to endurance events (OK, for some folk anyways) with quite a bang.This weekend sees the first of many long distance mountain bike cross country races, along with the inaugural ‘Tenderfoot Boogie’ trail running races, which range in competition from 28km to 50 miles for the ‘ultra marathoners’. To put this trail running ‘epic’ into perspective, it runs from Squamish to Whistler (depending on choice of event) and is difficult enough on bike. It is therefore a little challenging when you consider that the elite of those sadistic enough to take this on, will realistically be out there for some 6-7 hours (and the rest!!) and will encounter all types of terrain. What a shame I’m working that day… no, seriously!The following weekend we see the resurrection of the ‘Crud to Mud’ race, which sees enthusiasts tear down from the top of the still heavily snow clad mountain on their skis or boards until they reach the mid station point where it all gets a little muddy and snow-scarce.
 

Then the quick transition as they hop on their mountain or better still, their down hill bikes, as they then slip and skid over the muddy terrain and slippy wet rocks and roots trying to keep upright long enough to reach the bottom of the hill through the bike park. Sound like fun? The same weekend, the ‘Mountain Adventure Racing Series’ returns, where individuals and teams race distances of 30 or 50 km undertaking a combination of mountain biking, trail running, navigation and even rappelling.

The following weekend sees the locals try their hand at triathlon initiation – a miniature version of each of the disciplines. Also scheduled for this final weekend of healthy challenges is the Whistler Valley Trail run, which sees competitive and fun running individuals pit themselves around our local trails over events of either 5 or 10km – fortunately I will be off work for this!

Now, as you can see, for those adrenalin challenged, boundary pushing, endorphin rush seeking individuals that are bountiful around these parts, there certainly is a lot to keep them fully amused this month. You must understand of course, that although I and many others familiar with me would count me amongst these competition charged individuals, there are of course many, many more amongst us who look at the likes of us and break into a sweat even thinking about it.

I get it! Not everyone’s idea of fun is centered around pushing and challenging their physical abilities or training and pushing their limits to attain a higher ‘greatness’. I will say this though, for those who could think of nothing worse than getting up at the crack of dawn and venturing out on their bike or lacing up their running spikes to explore our trails, they’re missing out. Personal opinion of course!

However, despite being a little early into the season, I’m already seeing bears slowly foraging away on my morning runs. Nothing beats getting back home after an early workout, endorphins and sweat flowing, blood pumping having had the local sights, smells and wilderness all to yourself, especially if you’ve also managed to spot a local black bear along the way – although, not always a good thing when you’re forced to take a hasty diversion, typically adding unplanned additional time and travel on your route when on a precise schedule before work!!!!

The local wildlife does cause a great stir amongst locals and visitors alike. I count myself blessed for being fortunate enough to spot numerous bears throughout my week as I traverse around our valley. Those visiting are understandably inquisitive when they arrive in town, looking for all that this wonderland has to offer.

We’re sometimes fortunate enough to show of the best and the worst the ‘bear ecology’ has to offer. We have bear-proof bins all around the pedestrianized streets as these great lumbering creatures will occasionally venture into their old stomping ground searching for food as they simply smell the calories every which way they turn. Not their fault.

We built the village on the site of the original waste ground where everyone’s garbage was dumped. It’s historically where they’ve come when food wasn’t plentiful around the hills and valley – an easy win if you like. Of course, if we’re going to flaunt food in their faces, we have to expect the occasional visit from time to time. Even if you don’t spot one around, you can usually find their ‘tell tale signs’ they leave behind for us to stumble upon if you’re not careful – get my drift?!

On a serious note, we do need to be careful and perhaps a little respectful to remind ourselves that it us who are on their land. We can’t simply go around leaving waste or trash around the valley or hills. Similarly, one can’ be too careful about leaving cars open or house windows or doors open (on a lower level anyway).

They will sniff out the easy calories and come a looking. They have on occasion been found nosing around people’s kitchens and vehicles in search of food. Understandable really, but unfortunate as if they’re caught ‘in harms way’, they will be captured and driven far away into the hills and bush. If they come back (they’re not stupid and after all, an easy opportunity for food is a ‘no-brainer; as far as they’re concerned) again and again, they are finally taken away and put down. I feel sorry for them really!

So if you want to come to Whistler and simply take in the amazing views, be it from around the village or around the valley, one could hop on a bike from one of the many rental stores and explore the many, many kilometers of beautiful scenic fauna rich trails and the variety of wildlife, there is plenty on offer.

You could take things easier and simply ride up a gondola or the ‘new’ peak to peak gondola that links both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, offering breathtaking views and allow yourself to relax with the mountainous peaks around you. Many have enjoyed a relaxing stroll through the village or perhaps a break in one of the cafes or restaurants whilst ‘people watching’- an especially popular pastime when the sun is beating down and you can find a spot on one of the many bar patios.

Yes, there will always be those who find this pace a little sedatory for them and they will continue to chase the next adventure or pound around the valley on their wheels or on foot, but not everyone! For most, they are simply glad to be able to share their part of ‘Eden’ with the local wildlife and anyone else who cares to come up and visit.

Whistler has a way of drawing you in and once visited, most will endeavour to come back, sometimes time and time again. There is always something or nothing to do in Whistler and it is a great piece of escapism for many folk who dare to try it, for one day, one week or even a lifetime.

One thing’s for sure, no-one’s in any kind of a hurry to leave and it is usually only the promise of a better lifestyle or lack of working visa that finally tears people away.

So for this exercise mad, endurance freak who’s always in training for the next big event (the San Francisco marathon in July and the Berlin marathon this September actually), my roots are firmly planted here in all the beauty this little spot in British Columbia has to offer. Come and see me some time!

Just another week in Whistler?
May 4, 2010 By Ashley McMillan
Here I am, sat here in my new apartment as I write this and I’m looking out at the new snowfall that fell last night.More snow, in May, in the Valley? Admittedly its all melting pretty quick again as the temperatures at the village level are too warm, but what a wacky winter we’ve experienced this season! We’ve had record snow levels. The second heaviest amount of snowfall on record here. ‘El Nino’ is the weather system that came and everyone talks about with the air of their own authority – none of us are ever wrong, eh?It’s the storm cycle that brought us above average temperatures and precipitation, predominantly in the form of the heavenly white stuff. It’s what everyone predicted and called for. To be fair, it’s what everyone always predicts every year and it doesn’t always bring snow. A good few years back we had huge amounts of rain during mid winter, which washed much of the snow off the hills, top to bottom. Typically, after virtually ruining the season, it then dumped snow heavier than ever, but not before many a tourist and locals alike had denounced the season as a write off.
 

Other than this morning’s snow / slush fall, we’re definitely into our spring season. There, I said it! Probably cursed it, but too late now. Can’t take it back! That said, it doesn’t feel much like spring here now as I’m looking out at our new, improved mountain views. The valley’s native flowers and plants have definitely been coaxed, or tricked, into an early blossom, including our dearly loved, much maligned ‘skunk cabbage’.

I know, lovely name isn’t it. It grows typically amongst the wetland areas around the rivers and streams, etc and its early bloom is actually quite beautiful, a sort of yellow flower that manages to turn a few heads. Then it turns a little uglier and produces its very own unique blend of stink. Pungent yes! Beautiful – for a while! Unique, most definitely and has to be seen and smelled to ‘appreciate’ – perhaps not the best choice of word.

The snow line is gradually creeping up the mountains and I guess beginning to uncover the odd bear lair or two. There have already been a few sightings around the valley as they’ve come out to forage for food to top up their depleted winter hibernation stores and require a little fattening up.

There’ll be plenty more, but for now it’s perhaps a little early for most of the local furry residents, especially as much of the upper mountain has more snow cover now than we had for most of last year still. This means, that for now at least, although not perhaps entirely appropriately behaved, us townsfolk can afford to have our lower floor windows open and have the aromatic waft of our cooking drift outward without needing to worry about the hungry, inquisitive natives that so fondly adorn many a Whistler picture or postcard as a representation of Canadian summertime in our beautiful valley.

Another sure sign of the change in seasons here is the conversion of most ski stores into bike stores – rental & retail. It is almost a ‘given’ that when the arable winter months stop producing business, aside from the brief interlude or ‘shoulder season’ that allows some skiing in spring conditions with minimal operation costs to the ‘mountain, that these businesses then ‘replenish their land’ , or ‘restock’ with bikes for rentals, retail, parts and services.

Whistler has a great reputation as being an awesome playground for all during its winter months, but has now long been recognized as an equally great spring and summer destination. Its downhill mountain bike park is acknowledged as one of the best in the world, certainly in North America.

Aside from the bike park, there are also hundreds of kilometres of bike trails to keep everyone from the leisurely and gentile to the most ardent and adventurous of riders entertained for days and weeks. There are hiking trails galore with scenery to die for (not literally of course, although I did fear for myself when I came head to head with a moose on top of one of the local mountains last year who was intent on playing ‘chicken’ with me as he dared me to pass), lakes to simply lounge and relax around or throw oneself at the variety of sports and a multitude of activities laid on to provide additional adrenaline and excitement. Quite the year round playground these days!

As an aside; I have just returned from a personal record setting marathon held a good two hours down the highway in downtown Vancouver and have come to a few conclusions:

1) I intend to train harder and compete more often

2) Cities are way too frenetic and congested for my liking. Everyone needs to just take their foot off the gas and ‘chill’ a little.

3) Stress follows life around these city lifestyles

4) Someone always builds a damn hotel in the busiest, noisiest district in which its community wills it to party until the small wee hours.

5) I should know better than to stay in ‘said’ hotel when looking for a good nights’ sleep before a marathon.

Now, this said, as cities go, Vancouver is more relaxed and slower paced than many I’ve come across and its definitely one of the more aesthetically pleasing with its surrounding mountains and coastal areas. Each to their own I say, but for this displaced outdoor enthusiast, I’m only too glad to make it back to my comfort zone away from the smoke and hustle and back to the ‘bubble’ that is my home in the mountains here in British Columbia.

There’s a reason why a number of individuals and families ‘land’ in and around Whistler’s boundaries each year. Some are escaping the rigors and stresses of a previous life; many are simply choosing to place themselves with every opportunity to ‘play’ in the mountains on a day to day basis doing what they love.

For all though, it’s a slower paced way of life, mingling with typically more relaxed and welcoming individuals who are all here for similar lifestyles. It’s a growing community that looks after its own, although, no doubt they’ll be changes if things continue to develop and grow around here.

However, this is a town with ‘toys’ and ‘playgrounds’ for the young and young at heart, truly something to offer everyone, locals and tourists alike and all will continue to come whilst there is ‘escapism’ and adrenaline on offer.

So let the long sunny lazy hazy days of summer begin and perhaps take a minute or two to sit back, relax and picture ourselves in complete tranquillity, without the daily stresses gnawing away at us.

Where do your thoughts take you? Come on over, you might just find your thoughts here already…



One mountain down, one to go…
April 27, 2010 By Ashley McMillan
At last there’s some finality about the close of the winter ski / boarding season. As much snow as there is up top (and there is a huge amount!), there comes a point when the mountain operations have to call a halt to it.If we’re honest with ourselves, conditions are gradually diminishing, the snow base level is now, at long last (despite the recent drop in temperatures and snowfall) beginning to slowly, oh so slowly, dissipate…or at least on the lower half of the mountain anyway.Whistler Mountain finally closed for the season on the 25th April, coinciding with the final day of the Telus Ski & Snowboard Festival. Work prevented me from personally enjoying the closing day ceremony, but I along with a few hundred others caught the energetic performance of ‘Arrested Development’ on stage as they reminded us of why they hit the ‘highs’ in the 90’s with their very own special blend of vibes. They’ve still got it!
 

For those who’ve simply not had enough turns in the snow this year, they can console themselves that Blackcomb mountain is still open for business until May 24th, where we will continue to marvel in the lazy hazy days of spring skiing (typically a much more relaxed event spent soaking up the sun, chilling with friends, perhaps having a beer or two and catching the odd accident around one of the many ‘park features’ on which all too often accidents can happen). Happy days!

Now, on the flip side to all this, many of the mountain bike trails have been cleared gradually by the host of dedicated volunteers who turn out each year to do their bit. The year’s first ‘Loonie’ bike ride (named after the two dollar Canadian coin donated at the start of each week’s event by all mountain bike riders, that generously provides all with beer and food at the ‘after event’ – the food and drink is kindly supplied by the benevolent local businesses taking turns each week) has been marked in the town’s calendar for the coming weeks.

This always seems to come round so fast each year and catch me by surprise – funny really when you consider it’s usually around the same time give or take a week or so, depending on snow cover. I still have a few ghosts to slay after last year’s bike riding with left me with several x-rays, plaster casts and many weeks off the bike. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m perhaps a little apprehensive at this stage, but rest assured, back on the ‘old steed’ I’ll be!

A sure sign that we’ve entered our ‘slow season’ is when some restaurants temporarily close their doors and take advantage of the slower visitor numbers to perhaps renovate, decorate or simply take it as a good excuse as a good a time as any to get away for a couple of weeks before things get going again.

More positively, a good number of restaurants have already taken it upon themselves and advertised their new ‘low’ priced menus, designed at keeping business going by inducing the hard earned cents and dimes out of the locals. This is one time that the ‘locale’ doesn’t need an excuse to try out a restaurant or two, perhaps even indulging in the odd fine dining experience they may not otherwise feel they can justify.

This is a peculiar time of year when the ‘lesser spotted ski bum’ can be seen wandering the village in their ski pants, ‘hoody’ or jacket with their fetching goggle tan, mingling amongst the rest of the townsfolk in their shorts, t-shirts and even flip-flops.

No more so than when the kids ski camps enter town at the end of May, when skiing moves to glaciers only. I actually feel kind of sorry for these guys as they sweat it out in their long pants and regalia as the mountain temperatures begin the climb and climb. Not my idea of fun in these conditions!

So anyway, it’s the migrating season yet again already. The working visa’s are about to expire, jobs in the ‘real world’ are about to be embarked upon, some guys are about to head back to full time studies and others are simply taking off to explore other fantasies dotted across the globe.

This has ensured that many a rental unit or flat, etc have been advertised as leases are finishing and landlords seek to maintain their incomes and cover their overheads – Now is actually a great time of year to secure a good deal on a new lease as a tenant. Spring and summer are lower income earners for the modern Whistler landlord as the numbers living in town (as opposed to simply passing through as ‘vacationers’) are typically lower than in winter season and many owners will opt to secure a steady long-term income if one is on offer over twelve or possibly more months.

It has long been understood that anyone arriving in Whistler for a winter season should do so and secure housing by October or early November to be sure of procuring a roof over their dreamy little heads. Many a business owner or employer won’t hire someone until they have secure lodgings as historically, there have been too many individuals who’ve obtained a job, but couldn’t find anywhere to live and eventually had to leave town.

This is how scarce housing has been in the past, work all too easy to come by, but housing… now there’s a different problem altogether. Times are changing though. Less numbers are making the pilgrimage to ‘park-up’ in town for a winter to remember. Perhaps put off by the press reporting less hiring being embarked upon or maybe the ‘high rents’ previously seen. This last season saw this new trend in a new light. Whistler Blackcomb, along with many other businesses, publicly stated they wouldn’t be hiring as many staff as past years (what with the Olympics n’all!).

There were simply too many unknowns, too many variables – would the visitors stay away in lieu of the Olympics? Would people feel that the village would simply be too busy in the lead up and après Olympic hype and wouldn’t be able to obtain beds? Therefore, businesses took it upon themselves to recruit as the season wore on, prepare closer to the ‘main event’ by upping the new recruits later and later.

Housing will be different again this year as the post Olympic ‘athletes village’ is converted to affordable housing and more and more beds are created across town. The high number of construction workers previously seen in town working on the ‘new’ highway and other projects ahead of the Olympics have now left town in their droves, freeing up many more beds. The expectancy is that all of this will help drive rental prices down… we’ll see.

Personally I think the Olympic hype will assist in bringing higher visitor numbers to our valley. Property prices have shown signs that they have bottomed out and are ready for a slow ascent once again. The proverbial crystal ball is merrily being passed around the town’s realtors and sellers like a ‘hot potato’. Time will tell though, as it always does and no doubt it will all be played out with its usual fanfare around here.

For now, I try hard to quell any thoughts I have about the rights and wrongs of landlords and tenants rights and focus on my more immediate marathon plans. Hopefully, after a successful outing I will get a few days in to work on my own goggle tan and develop a strategy to stay a fraction more upright on my galloping mountain bike this year. All in a good days fun in the hills though and I can merely hope to spend a little less time rehabilitating in the gym’s stationary bike section.

Fingers crossed, eh?!


April 20, 2010 By Ashley McMillan
Stuck in Whistler… don’t feel too sorry for them! Who’d have thought? In this day and age did any of us expect to be grounded and kept on ‘terra firma’ by a distant, but oh so active volcano!Everyone stuck, unable to reach or return from their destination abroad. Absolute and glorious chaos! Once again the gods conspire to let us know who’s really running things around here.There are many an item of beauty that Iceland has created in its landscapes. It’s also been more infamous of late for virtually bankrupting itself with its banks imploding themselves with their highly leveraged bankers simply making one bad decision after another as the world’s financial woes unfolded.One ‘natural beauty’ we hadn’t seen coming, or at least everyone who wasn’t a geologist, was that there was a major volcanic eruption coming, that would blow through an icecap and continue to spout in the days that ensued. Of course, as most of us are all now firmly aware, these volcanic ash clouds have been carried on the various wind cycles across northern Europe from beautiful Iceland and literally crippled the airline and tourism industries. 

From here in Whistler, probably no different from any other resort destination, we have had hundreds of guests left with difficult decisions as they awoke on their ‘departure’ dates, only to find that they wouldn’t be leaving Canadian shores today, or possibly even the next.

No-one has had the magical answers provided by their airline carrier, or by their travel agents and even their insurance companies are still unable to give real assurances – many trying to work on the ‘act of god’ clause in their small prints. I guess we’ll continue to watch this space as some airports across Britain are talking of opening, but by no means all.

For those without the travel woes, or those simply accepting of the fact that they’re stuck here for a few days more, there’s the Telus Ski & Snowboard Festival to amuse them.

This is now in full swing, the crowds have started to arrive (although most will arrive this coming weekend as everything builds to a crescendo), the competitions have started, the ‘freebie’ energy drinks and associated products that always appear on the Whistler festival stages are handed out all day long.

The competitions are building and the free concerts are going to continue every day, along with the new movie premieres (centred around the bike & ski worlds of course!) and art shows. Oh, and to top it all off, the sun’s been out to play in its attempt to make its mark on the season and it’s the ‘Whistler Dogfest’ show his coming weekend – not to be missed… Not exactly a tough ‘pill to swallow’ for those unfortunate enough to be ‘stuck’ in town for a few extra days, eh?!

Now, what was I saying about the ‘short wearing’ few around our streets last week? Apparently spring has sprung and the days are most certainly warmer. So we’ve all now joined the ‘few’ and short pants are the flavour of the day.

Flip flops, or ‘thongs’ as they’re often known around these parts (especially as there’s so many Aussies around here – Little Australia don’t you know!), are being slipped and slapped along the walkways. Might as well get used to the noise of the girls summer shoes and the heels too as the weatherproof shoes and boots get ditched, waving ‘au revoir’ to the winter wear down in the village…for now!

So the sun is out, the patios are filling up, the visitors obviously up from Vancouver and possibly more acclimatised to warmer days by the parks or beaches, possibly luring us into a false sense of security over just how ‘spring like’ things really are, have come to play. Always somewhat surprising to see folk in town who have no intention of venturing up the mountains (summer or winter) or taking to the endless trails around the valley where nature shows off its bountiful beauty in its abundance.

Nonetheless, as the warmer weather approaches, the numbers who come up to Whistler to grasp an opportunity to celebrate the next momentous occasion in their calendar, perhaps simply because there was a void in their calendar, continue to appear. Why do they come, who cares? Does it matter…heck no! We’re all glad when everyone comes.

Sure, there have been a few occasions when those briefly in our wonderland for a few days or hours have left us with a sour taste in our mouths as they’ve been disruptive and cause of enough trouble to merit police involvement and investigation. These incidents are very, very few and far between though. The general malaise around these parts is one of a very relaxed happy atmosphere, where nothing is too much trouble.

So as we continue to do our little sun dances, work effortlessly on our goggle tans, enjoy the refreshing libation or two on the oh so welcoming patios (whilst the sun is up of course…damn cold still once the sun goes down!!), perhaps spare a thought or two for those unfortunate enough to be stuck here. Not their fault that the ‘act of God’ has sought to keep them here…

 

Fun… in the mountains! Whatever next!
April 13, 2010By Ashley McMillan
It’s official… second snowiest season on record with over 47 feet of snow.In case anyone’s wondering, that’s a lot! The draw of the slopes is too much for many. Anecdotally I heard it said it’s been some of the best skiing and riding of the winter. I say ‘anecdotally’ as I’ve barely gotten up there in the last couple of weeks – marathon training I’m afraid.The lure of the fresh stuff and the deep snow pack pulls at the minds of many a ‘powder hound’. A good few will ‘duck the ropes’ in search of the best ‘fresh lines’ and enter the world that is considered ‘out of bounds’, where ski patrol don’t regularly control avalanches or actively monitor the snow pack or skier activity out there. T’is true that this is often where some of the best snow can be found, but there can also be the inherent risks when you are out of sight and even if ski patrol are alerted to someone in trouble, it can take a while at times to reach them.There has been a couple of fatalities and not necessarily from inexperienced skiers or boarders. Accidents can and do happen. The mountain is in control of us all and not the other way round. It commands our respect and we should never forget that, but it has its rewards and for those who have managed to sample the experiences the beautiful mountain environment has to offer, most will endeavour to sample it again, and again…
 

We’ve just had the world’s future generation of champions in town. It’s been the turn of the best 11-14 year olds from around 23 visiting countries at the annual ‘Whistler Cup’. These kids are something special and unfortunately, all too often a sharp reminder of how below par some of our own performances really are. You get used to it, but you can’t help but want to chase after some of these kids as they zoom past at mach speed.

Living in and around the mountains as a young kid growing up, definitely provides a huge advantage over anyone coming to the sport any later in life. Like all skills and sports, the younger and earlier we start to fall in love and hone our abilities, the more natural it tends to come. If only I lived in the hills as a kid….

Hot on the heels of this event in Whistler, will follow the eagerly anticipated TELUS World Ski and Snowboard Festival. This will draw crowds from all over to participate, party and celebrate ‘new school’ skiing and snowboarding (some may just party and celebrate for the ‘hell of it’ of course!).

The festival will bring thousands into town, many won’t go near the slopes, instead opting to sightsee or ‘relax’ around the bars, being careful not to ‘relax’ too much. Others will take advantage of the ‘heaps’ of snow that is never going to disappear this year, or so it seems at this point. For some, it’s a good excuse to come and see a number of free bands and live concerts and sample much of the art and talent on display. Simply put – a good excuse to come up to Whistler!

The sun has come out and it certainly has a feel of spring down in the valley. The mountain bikers are growing by the day, the local golf courses are looking clearer every time I see them (won’t be long until they’re open). The numbers adorning shorts around the village are growing and they can’t all be mad, it must be getting warmer!

The income and numbers that all the array of festivals bring into town is approaching the time when employers have to start looking at their wage bills as the last ‘big one’ for a while, rolls into town this week. They’ll be the usual bounty of free energy drinks and protein bars along with other goodies the various sponsors chuck at us during their tenure here, then, as soon as the festival is done and some of the strong willed at last drag themselves off to their sleep havens, Whistler mountain closes for the season. What..??

With all that snow on it?! – It always beggars belief when this happens (every year, should be used to it by now), but the visitor numbers are now thinning out dramatically. The snow, as vast as it is up top will have thinned to the point where only the careless, stupid or those who could care less about their equipment, will actually try to ski or ride out down to the valley.

That said, it’s always a tricky one. Ski out as best as possible trying to avoid any stones that could potentially tear up the base of your board or skis…or download via the gondola! Mmm…I know, I know. Nothing worse than having to download!

The good news, Blackcomb Mountain won’t be shutting right up until the end of May!

This means plenty of skiing in t-shirts and hoodies and the impossible task of avoiding a goggle tan as the strength of the sun intensifies. Good times!

For those who haven’t had enough adrenalin pumped through their veins this winter, the long awaited return of the world famous Whistler Downhill bike park opens on May 15th. Possible to ski or board early in the day and down hill on two wheels with a minimum of 5-6 inches of suspension underneath you in the afternoon, sure!

Likelihood that there’ll be even more individuals, locals & tourists, limping around with arms in slings or various casts to display as their badges of honour, quite probably! Bring it on I say. We wouldn’t have it any other way…although I might after last years’ summer spent on a stationary bike in the gym, recovering from one affliction or another.

Day by day, the lower echelons of the mountains and valley are slowly revealing why many locals can often be heard proclaiming their preference for summers in Whistler. There is an abundance of beauty that really is difficult to truly appreciate. Many in town only for the winter season will rarely get to experience any of this. Some will manage to find their way around the valley before they leave.

However, most will never come across a black bear foraging at will, carefree and totally undeterred by the fact that humans would like to pass, but are at least sensible enough to stand back at a safe distance. The rivers and lakes offer up more beauty and options for activities and most ‘seasonaires’ will again forfeit the luxury of experiencing the magic these have to offer.

I feel a little sadness for all these folk who pack and move on before truly experiencing all that is on offer in this part of the world. However, this transient routine continues year after year and this year should prove no different.

For those who haven’t already made the transition, bikes are being dragged out, dusted off and serviced. The running shoes have been found and hung out to air with the promise that one day the new season’s resolution of getting fit by running will finally happen.

Golf clubs and bags are at the ready and those barbeques that may have actually gone unused for a while (unusual round here…) are being prepped ready for the first excuse to have a few friends round and sink a few cold ones.

Funny how I rarely mention work in these pieces, eh?

One last thought:

Quote of the week I heard from a local sports station, from the world of golf at Augusta – Commentator as victorious Phil Mickelson hugs his wife; “Tears from the eyes there…”!! Had me thinking for a while.

Classic commentary to dine on!

April 6, 2010
Records, events and good times! By Ashley McMillan So more records continue to be set. This is now officially the third snowiest winter season since records began here in Whistler and yet more snow is in the forecast.In fact, there has been so much snow of late, that those in control of mountain operations (and the money…) have extended the season closing dates by a further week. Some may cynically suggest that this is because they feel they can milk some more coin from the eager ‘holidayers’ and day skiers from around the area who don’t already own a season’s pass.They may be right! Vancouver, with its local mountains, all but closed it’s skiing a month or so back as was so well documented through the Olympics coverage. The hoteliers and Whistler Blackcomb will have many ‘deals’ on the table as we fall out of the ‘peak’ season rates and with such spectacular snow levels and conditions, just a little too tempting for many!In the mean time, a belated ‘Happy Easter’ to all who read this. This Christian weekend captured the ‘Mexican week’ this year and so the added holiday traffic, both local and Latino, saw the slopes, the line-ups and the village mightily busy. We did exceptionally well to see the number of Mexicans who managed to travel here actually when you consider that for some political or beaurocratic reason, the government imposed a new policy that meant amongst a few other countries, Mexicans would now have to apply for travel visas simply to come here. 

This was no doubt after some concern over migrant workers ‘losing’ themselves under the radar, but given the nature of the financial foundations underpinning Whistler, the reliance of this steady visiting trade was supposedly to suffer deeply due to these new restrictions. Certainly its safe to say that trade was good over the last week or so for many businesses.

There was certainly a mix of ‘demanding’ and sometimes ‘expectant’ individuals from ‘further south’ and others from around the local cities and towns, or those who simply take full advantage to globe trot to their ‘fave’ ski destination as a family whilst school’s out and deals are to be had.

Its peculiar to see how the different visitors directly affect those who gain or lose work around here, dependant on their home geography and demographics. For example (and there are those who will challenge me on this..), it is perhaps more noticeable how ski instructors are more in demand when many of our South American friends visit and perhaps over the typical holiday periods when families tend to travel more, such as Easter, Christmas, etc.

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious around here when there other such contributing factors right across the tourism industry, such as snow levels and conditions, the economy (many will still travel if their ski fix can be met!), strength of the Canadian dollar, ability to freely travel up here and park, hoteliers willingness to lay on ‘deals’ to drive traffic into town, etc.

Next on the cards for this now infamous resort is the ‘Telus Ski & Snowboard Festival. This is due to commence on April 16th and is a ten day (and night) festival of all the latest and greatest in the ski and snowboard world, on hill freestyle adrenaline extravaganza’s with some of the worlds top competitors, Canada’s largest free outdoor concert series (mindful that the Olympics provided some pretty special music spectacles), lifestyle, fashion and photography and non-stop nightlife to frazzle even the most hardcore amongst us.

Its quite something and brings yet more colourful character to the town. There’s definitely a different buzz around town at this time, when the weather is typically a little warmer and sunnier and everything conspires to draw the celubrious crowds towards the patios with their thirst quenching servers at the ready. This typically is the assumed curtain being drawn on the season, or at least the ski holiday season for many as we’re firmly into spring skiing usually at this point.

This said, if the gods and El Nino continue to contrive amongst themselves this year, winter may still have enough puff in its lungs to keep spring at bay. Although once temperatures eventually warm and the snow eventually ceases to dust us, the snow caps can at times dissipate fairly rapidly, but it’s a little difficult to see summertime hiking on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains any time soon!

For a number of mountain folk, thoughts for the energetic amongst us have turned toward other activities on the horizon, such as mountain biking now that the lower level trails are finally showing us what’s been awaiting us underneath all the snow. Others may be eying up the various running events on the various trails or upcoming road events now that the weather is a little more conducive to comfortable levels of activity.

For me, this means that marathon season is a’ coming. I realise not everyone’s idea of fun, but nonetheless, my days are currently filled with working, training for hours, eating and sleeping… oh and a bit (nowhere near enough..) of skiing.

For the majority of others around this little slice of heaven, nestled a couple of hours drive north of Vancouver, their thoughts are perhaps turning toward time spent on beer patios, copious amounts of barbeques (traditional way of cooking for many outside of winter), lazy days by the lakes and working on some tan lines (other than the ‘oh so fetching’ goggle tans!).

Whatever the fancy, there’s something on the cards for everyone! Whistler is about to ramp up a notch again and the media will no doubt capture much of these events. The fun goes on, the activities continue and life in the ‘bubble’ that is the slightly disassociated world of Whistler, will continue to roll on delivering its promise of fun and adrenaline, serenity and beauty to all who pass. Fancy coming?

 



March 9, 2010
No time to relax! The show must go on…again! By Ashley McMillan There really is a feeling of emptiness around Whistler as I write this.We’ve been left with a huge void to fill since the world left us just over a week ago. Passing through the village the very next morning after the infamous hockey gold medal game, it was almost as if the 2010 Winter Olympics had never happened! Stands and specially erected platforms for the media presenters, etc had already been dismantled and the visiting thousands were on their way out of town. Eerie actually!Now, this said, I think I can safely say that many living in and around Whistler will feel the effects for a while to come. It was all too obvious the next couple of days that many were all partied out. Hung-over is probably a quite accurate word, but in truth I think the effects of just trying to keep going and soak up all this ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, had finally taken its toll. Now finally able to relax a little, many an internal combustion unit seemed to have imploded; immune systems pushed to their limits had finally taken too much stress and given up.With little time to regroup and reflect, the organising committees will see that the Paralympics hits town on March 12th. In fact, the Paralympics torch has already begun its travels on its way to Whistler yesterday (8th), ascending the mountain and crossing the huge structural feat that is the ‘Peak to Peak’ gondola, before descending once again. This will be a much more subdued spectacle than its older, bigger brother of the Olympics, but will provide the town with a way of filling its void. 

Perhaps it’s a little unfair to suggest that there’s nothing much going on here in this destination resort town right now. After all, there’s still the huge mountain ranges to be conquered. There’s still the much vaulted and printed media about the resort’s infamous après and party scene. There’s also the annual festival in town, ‘Winter pride’, which celebrates gay and lesbian diversity and inclusiveness. ‘Pride House’ has been ‘stationed’ in Whistler from the very outset of the 2010 Olympics and is the only national or other ‘House’ (think Swiss, Austrian, Canadian, Norwegian… even Jamaican House in place to celebrate and for media, etc evolved for the Olympics) that still remains and will keep its doors open throughout until the closing of the Paralympics.

The day lots are back open to the public once more, meaning keen enthusiasts from around the Seattle, Vancouver and coastal areas are inclined to take the road trip up here once again…now that they can park. Oh, and what a difference a sunny, ‘bluebird’ weekend makes. It’s been a while since Whistler has seen its parking lots full and line-ups in the village as everyone scrambles to upload via the gondolas onto the hills. The town’s businesses were afraid that there would be such an aversion to travelling up here before and after the Olympics, that a few shut down operations or leased themselves out where they could until some ‘normality’ returned. It would now seem that given the right conditions (tons of beautiful snow, clear blue skies and somewhere they can actually park having made the pilgrimage), that people will still come. Some curious to see any legacies that the Olympics gave us, some just eager to ski here once again, some just eager!

Looking to Sochi 2014, many have and will continue to question the ability of Russia to pull the ‘games’ off. Many will speak of nothing else but that fact that we have another ‘Vancouver’, with Sochi being a seaside resort town, receiving warmer than average temperatures one might expect to see at a Winter Olympics. It is in fact, the benefactor of a humid subtropical climate, with the reported annual February temperatues of around 6°C and is considered amongst many as the summer capital of the country. Thankfully, the alpine activities will be placed some 40+ kilometers from the sea level resort. It is also thought that around 12 billion dollars are being invested in the area and infrastructure to bring it up to the high levels the athletes, media and the world will expect. There are, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, even more rumours abound of where these funds are to come from…

To complicate their planning and organising abilities, Sochi is also to host the World ‘Bandy’ Championships at the same time. For anyone unfamiliar with this term, as I was: Bandy is a sport akin to football (or soccer for anyone outside of Europe reading this), played out on a huge ice pitch with eleven team members on skates with hockey sticks and a ball. They have very similar rules and objectives to football and it is a huge sport typically dominated by the likes of Russia, Sweden, Norway and the Ukraine. There are a girth of countries though who actively particpate ranging from the afore mentioned to the perhaps unthought of Mongolia, Netherlands, Ireland and even India. Characteristally, England played a big part in forming today’s modern version of the game, modelling much of it’s format and rules around our association football, now only to have little or no part in any games or championships.

The representatives and scouts of Sochi 2014 have been in town since before the commencement of the games here in February, hoping to learn good, bad or indifferently from us what should, or should not, be taken and built into their ‘game plan’. They will also be in London for the summer games to learn, but I have been promised by a number of their representatives whom I have spoken to, that they ‘hope’ their games will be as good as ours! Confidence inspiring, eh?!

So, there’s a few more days to kill before it all begins once again. I have every intention of attending one or a few events where possible. Having marvelled at a few of the aplinists last year in some ‘world cup’ events, I can confirm that many of these Paralympic athletes are nothing short of awe inspiring. Imagine tearing down the slopes on just one leg. Consider ripping down that same hill whilst being parttially or even totally blind, solely reliant on the guy skiing just a few yards ahead of you yelling directions – ‘Left, right, hard left, etc’. That’s nothing to say of the ‘sit’ skiers and the many nordic athletes in their biathlons and cross country events. These are guys who ‘suffer’ from various differing afflictions, but simply refused to let their ‘difficulties’ get the better of them and now dedicate their time and efforts to ‘living their dreams’and making the most of what they have.

Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from these dedicated guys?! Life is too short to let is simply pass us by and why can’t we create our own destiny’s?

So give us a few more days rest and we’ll all be ready to go once more. The townsolfk levels of energy and enthusiasm have perhaps understandably waned a little in the last week, but we’re a resiliant bunch and will have our ‘game faces’ back on when needed.

Keep them peeled guys!


February 9, 2010
Hold On To Your Hats! By Ashley McMillan The Olympic torch is doing its rounds and Whistler had its moment of glorious celebration. With it came the inevitable crowds and the town was awash with a huge variety of media crews. For a few brief hours the crowds rocked across the village. The crescendo of the planned events culminated when the former Olympian and Canadian ‘hall of famer’ Steve Podborski (also one of the original ‘Crazy Canucks’ from their famed heyday back in the early eighties) skied down to the base of Whistler mountain and passed the flame to a future local Olympic hopeful to light the cauldron. The crowds went wild and for a while, there simply was no getting around anywhere in the village… I valiantly tried, but was forced to retire unsuccessful as the crowds beat me down.The events don’t formally start in Whistler until the 12th, but for most, this was the start of one of the most spectacular events they will ever have the opportunity to be this close to. The teams are now all headed into town, the athletes are, or will imminently be, ensconced either in the athletes village or lodgings around town. The variety of national outfits being worn by athletes, team staff and tourists alike, are now becoming increasingly visible with every day that passes. The various ‘national houses’ will open the doors to the public in the next few days, inviting them in to mingle with them, sample their national menus and perhaps share a tipple or two.Perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated openings amongst many here is the ‘Swiss House’. Anticipated for a number of reasons, but not least because of the daily handouts of free chocolate and the skilful chocolateers who are being flown in to make, craft and design daily samples of offerings to tingle our taste buds and induce our endorphins – also to put Canadian chocolate to shame! Actually this ‘house’ officially opened on the 6th to a huge line-up of eager-beavers all keen to get their hands on the tantalising goodies of chocolate, cheese and booze. I’m happy to celebrate with them if they keep this hospitality up!Otherwise, for the locals final few moments of sanity in the very maligned lull before the inevitable storm, this has been the perfect chance to tear up the mountains without having to share it with any visitors. The slopes have officially been ‘dead’ and just what every Whistlerite would wish for. In fact, the suggestion is that this may well be the way the hills stay as the hoards of visiting hundreds of thousands will typically be momentarily here for the events before being whisked away back down to Vancouver or associated or attached to the various Olympic teams or work groups established to manage the flow of foot traffic, etc and altogether too busy to go skiing. In other words, thousands of visitors and workers, but few actually here to ski or board. 

If the torch lighting event is anything to go by, there will be a few (probably quite a few) changes or ‘inconveniences’ (said with tongue firmly in cheek!) to get accustomed to. Those in the village that presented themselves as the ‘neediest’ of individuals and groups, were the media. Regardless of what was going on with paying guests around them in the various hotels, etc, they needed, or wanted our services first and behaved like it was a divine right of theirs.

They wanted somewhere to store their equipment, they wanted somewhere to sit and download stories, etc after the ceremony, and they wanted the attention ahead of anyone else and appeared to think their jobs merited the attention. Now I know these guys have got a job to do, which will be pivotal in showcasing Whistler and its events, however, manners and courtesy will always take you a lot further, especially when dealing with me.

I can’t stand ignorance from anyone in any walk of life – Simply no need for it! So let’s hope they recognise that there are others around them that are perhaps paying for services, such as those guests of hotels, who quite rightly deserve the attention first and foremost.

People around here are always happy to help others out and will often go out of their way to do so. It’s the way things work and what keeps this town ticking over, but we have our limits guys. Work with us, not against us!

Another by-product of the media and a minor inconvenience, but because so many worlds reporters were trying to download material and send this back to their various broadcasting networks and papers, the internet systems around town virtually ground to a halt. I’d liken the effect to trying to send a text after midnight on New Years Eve and getting nowhere for an hour or so. We’ve just got to smile and be happy its all here. It was what we pushed and fought for several years ago after all.

Actually, I think the torch ceremony was perhaps a little bit of an eye opener for us all. For an hour or two, whole sections of the village were simply impassable. Its probably quite clear now that we’re all going to have to leave a lot of time to get anywhere and be prepared to get there early and stand in line.

Even trying to get into one of the usually quieter bars yesterday to catch some of the Super Bowl was hard work, with many establishments turning people away. All we wanted to do is be parted from some of our hard earned cash. I’d just come back from a day’s cat skiing in the back country and simply wanted to sit my weary butt down and chat with a few friends on the trip over a cold brew about how good it was and give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back. Was it too much to ask for one bar, just one of many here, to have a few seats for some winter enthusiast who felt they’d deserved a refreshment? I guess we all feel we deserve certain treatment at times. We all have a divine right to something, right?

Its going to take most of our revered laid back Whistler attitude and approach to stay on top of things. The world is here and despite a few moans and disgruntled locals here and there, we really wouldn’t have it any other way. The stages are approaching readiness, as are the finely tuned athletes preparing to put their years of hard work and dedication to the test. We all need to just go with the flow, take a deep breathe and join the party. There is no point fighting or resisting it anymore!

Its here, like it or not and for most of us, we will never get to see the like again. Savour the moments, enjoy the ride and perhaps I’ll have a frosty one or two for you all back there as we raise a glass to team GB… if I can find a seat anywhere!

So share with me if you will. Salut! Prost! Slaine! Na zdravi!


January 7,2010
Daryl’s Bobsleigh Antics part deux (Continued from previous post)

Next up, my turn to pilot. I’ve bungee jumped, sky dived, white water rafted, gone scuba diving with sharks, etc. One could safely say that I have a healthy appetite for adrenaline. However, I can honestly say I have never been as nervous as I was before this run. I jumped into the front, brakeman behind, green light, thumbs up to the starter and we were away. Corners 7-10 were fairly ok as we didn’t have too much speed at that point…. corner 11 and we were halfway up the wall on the huge u bend banking right, me desperately trying to remember what Jill had told me about where to steer. Out of 11 and corners 12 – 16 were a complete blur on that first run…. Not sure how much driving I actually did but somehow we were spat out of 16 still on all four runners, me screaming with relief and Rob doing his job braking in the back. WOW!! Hit a top speed of 120km/h out of turn 15 into 16…. Massive, massive adrenaline rush!

Next run I was brakeman, Rob piloted… we crashed out of corner 14, slid on our shoulders and aptly named, “crash helmets”, through 15 and 16….. came to a standstill half way up the outrun… no major injuries. My next run piloting went pretty well, it all slowed down a bit in my mind and actually felt like I was driving the sled. Hit 120km/h again. Rob piloted next, crashed again… I was ok, he damaged his neck and shoulders and hasn’t been in a sled since!

4 weeks later I am now starting at corner three, have crashed 3 times when piloting (one we ended up on our sides through 14, 15, 16 then slid backwards though 16, 15 and 14 before coming to rest at 15), had one brakeman end up on Oxygen after two crashes in one session (thanks Ken), irreparably damaged two crash helmets and hit top speeds in excess of 130km/h. Perhaps needless to say, but I still have a very healthy dose of fear before every run.

Next season am hoping to take tourists down in a four man bob… providing I stop crashing.

Editor’s Note: Probably best if they don’t read this blog the night before riding with Daryl.

– Daryl West, Director of Finance.


January 4th, 2010

Daryl’s Bobsleigh Antics

I had volunteered as a start official up at the Whistler Sliding centre during this years FIBT world cup and got to experience first hand the tension, speed, and drama of the sliding sports. This experience lodged it in the back of my mind that it would be pretty damn cool to actually get in a Bobsled and slide down the track. Not really imagining that I would get the opportunity to actually pilot one!

So when I received an email from the sliding centre notifying me of a Bobsled pilot course coming up in November I replied straight away saying I was keen. Once I received a reply from the track to say I was in, that “keen-ness” quickly transformed into mild fear.

First day at Bob school was spent setting up our sleds, walking the track and learning the fundamentals of the sport from our coach, Jill Bakken, an Olympic Gold medalist winner in Salt Lake City. I was partnered with Rob, an ex gulf war fighter pilot – we were to take turns braking and piloting for each other. By the end of day one my mild fear had turned to terror as I realized Bobsled is actually a pretty dangerous sport and we would be hitting speeds of around 120 km/h on our very first run. I didn’t sleep very well that night!

Day two (first day of sliding). We walked the track again, Jill was showing us the different pressure points at the corners and how we should be steering the sleds into and out of each transition. This vital information all went in one ear and out of the other, as my mind was fixated on the incredible speed I would be attaining in that tiny sled. The sleds are essentially steered by two d rings on bungee cords at the front of the sleds, attached to the two front metal runners, moving them right or left into and out of the corners.

I drew the short straw and was braking for Robs first run (at this point we were starting from corner 7, which is considerably lower than the Olympians will be starting from.). As brakeman you spend the entire run with your head between your legs, with the track lights speeding past the corners of your eyes. After the first three corners the g-force pushes on your back and you cannot move until you come out of corner sixteen, stick your head up and pull hard on the brake in between your knees as the sled goes up the finishing straight to slow down. Not really fun! But we didn’t crash, I didn’t take too many hits and we clocked 117km/h…. Happy days.

More to come…

Daryl West, Director of Finance.

[Next, Daryl tries his hand at piloting a sled.]

Daryl visualizing his impending doom


December 19, 2009

The Morning Commute

A conversation I had today with a guest while riding the 7th Heaven chair lift reminded me just how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful little pocket of the world. As we took our seats and began our climb up the side of Blackcomb we began the typical conversation that occurs hundreds of times a day on the lifts of each mountain. “How is your day going?”, “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” and “How are you enjoying your time in the resort?” And so on and so forth.

As it turns out, these folks happened to be from the same part of Toronto that I had grown up in. We traded similar stories of the huge growth of the city, how much it has changed, and a topic that is always front of mind with Torontonians (other than how bad the Leafs are!) – the traffic. As we traded war stories on our crusades up and down the Don Valley Parkway, the 427 and the 401 it suddenly dawned on me. I had traded my morning commute up and down those narrow lanes for the narrow cat tracks of Whistler mountain. As I explained this to them, I suddenly realized that I was a million miles away from the reality of my old life and in that moment, though I didn’t think it possible, I fell even more in love with my current way of life. Their look of envy mixed with partial disbelief said it all, and I began to understand just how special our way of life is up here.

We are quite fortunate to work and play in such an amazing place. We have two world class mountains, beautiful lakes and a community of some of the nicest people you will ever come across. For however long we choose to stay, one thing remains consistent across all people and that is our love and appreciation for this magical little bubble we call home.

Ken Mair – Guest Experience Manager

December 2, 2009

A Movember to Remember

So it was really a November to remember!  Whistlerites were treated to a strange sight throughout the village, thanks to what has become a global phenomenon known as “Movember”, where men grow out their moustaches to celebrate that which testosterone has bestowed upon them while raising money to help fight prostate cancer. A large contingency of males could be found roaming around town with differently styled moustaches.  Some looking just downright dishevelled, some with “Herecule Poirot” pencil thin stache, some with the biker handlebars, and others with the real deal, the coveted “magnum PI”….

Additionally, November also hosts one of my personal favourite events of the year, Cornucopia.  This event happens every November, it is a week of epicurean delights.  Many of the finest wineries from all over the world converge to present seminars, tastings, paring with restaurants for multi course showcasing of their product, as well as the most amazing parties of the year.

This year, I started on Thursday with the “Wine and Vine” party at the Players Chophouse in Creekside.  This was the first time I had attended on of their events, and I can guarantee you that I will be back!  First, the venue is a beautiful open plan, cathedral ceilings and a genuinely warm ambiance that errs away from the usually dark innards of most steakhouses.

They had several stations set up, each paired with a different wine.  The yellow tuna poke in the wonton cups was fantastic; I made several trips to the beef tenderloin.  Travis (the General manger) and Jon Campbell (Executive Chef) conspired to make an amazing event, the bubbles were nice and plentiful.  If you haven’t had the chance, make sure it’s at the top of you list for next year!

Next, it was on to Artrageous at Dusty’s.  Thanks to the genorous flow of libations at the Chophouse, I hear from others that I had a really good time. I do remember walking through all kinds of very cool art displays, and catching the end of the saucy burlesque show.  I also remember dressing up in Elvis glasses and a giant boxing glove and having my picture taken…

Friday night started at the Bearfoot Bistro, drinking some amazing pink champagne. Their bar has a frozen rail of ice, under lit with different coloured lights.  The champagne is served in stemless flutes, which you drop in holes in the ice.  If I stay too long at the Bearfoot, I tend to lose my ability to leave, so I soon ventured over to the  “Lace & Chopsticks” party at the Longhorn Saloon.  It was a sensational show, all I will say is that the food was tasty, runway show was great, leave your kids at home though…definitely for the adults!

Saturday night, I once again seasoned the Champagne Bar at the Bearfoot for some more pink champagne (love it!).  With my champagne quota filled for the night, I proceeded to a party that I hate to miss: the “bubbles and Oceans” at Araxi.  Basically, it’s a dressed up affair, a huge list of luxe champagnes, and massive seafood towers in between all the tables of champagne…. It is an experience to behold, if you love really good champagne, plus all the fresh shucked oysters, lobster, prawns, and sashimi you can handle,…then this event will blow you away.  It sells out every year for a reason.

Finally, we get to Sunday.  I attended only one event on Sunday, it was very exclusive, not even advertised.  It was called staying at home and watching TV.  After a fantastic Cornucopia experience, I needed to take a day to just relax, reflect and savour the experiences of the days and nights past.  The events that I attended only scratch the surface of what is offered.

All of this was just before what was to become a mind boggling record breaking snowfall, sometimes dropping over 2 feet of snow a night for consecutive nights. Between Cornucopia, moustaches, and the record snowfall for November (over  560cms!!!), this is truly a November to remember in Whistler!

Mourad Meratla – Guest Services Agent

November 29, 2009

An Australian’s 1st Day Up The Snow Covered Mountain

You can watch snowboarding movies and study their techniques until your heart is content, however nothing will prepare you for your 1st day stepping foot on a snowboard. Believe me when I say, it is NOT as easy as it looks!

Last Wednesday morning, after a huge overnight dump of powder, I decided to take my 1st trip up Whistler Mountain with a fellow colleague. The trip up in the Gondola was Amazing, looking back down on the Village covered in a huge layer of white snow was just bliss. After about 10 minutes of being on the Gondola and the Village had vanished out of sight, I started to get a little anxious as I had forgot how high the mountain actually was and knew I had to get down it somehow.

At last we arrived at Roundhouse station, walked off the Gondola and headed out into the beauty that awaited me. I sat at the top of a small slope where people were lined up strapping themselves in. I strapped myself in, rolled over onto my stomach, stood up…. AND I WAS OFF (not intentionally)! I did what I thought came naturally and tried to move my legs in the direction I wanted to go, however none of that works when you’re strapped to a board that is flying down a mountain at what feels like a thousand miles an hour, so I bailed and came to a crash landing. I thought I had done quite well until I looked back up and realized I had only moved about 5 metres from where I stood up… Oh boy, this was going to be a very long trip down the mountain!

That it was, I pretty much fell, rolled and slid half way down the run until my mind & body couldn’t take the frustration anymore. Then in a complete temper tantrum, I un-strapped my board and stomped down the rest of the run to the chair lift thinking of how much I hated this, and that I would never get it, and never even try it again.

I finally reached the chair lift after what seemed a week long hike. I strapped one foot back onto my board and wondered how I was going to manage getting on and off this lift; I didn’t really care as I knew it was the only way back down the mountain without falling, rolling or sliding all the way. I managed to get on the chair lift with no worries, and it was the best part of my day: enjoying the scenery, giving my feet a rest, and watching all the other snowboarders busting their moves.

Before I knew it, it was time to get off the chair lift. Time to panic. Ahhh! Well I put my foot down on the snowboard and stood up just like I was told to, but my foot didn’t make it onto my snowboard, it ventured to my colleagues instead so we both went bottom up, but survived.

I was SOOO happy I didn’t have to get back on my board! My remedy for the day… Roundhouse followed by a double Jim Beam and Coke.

I have recently been up for my 3rd time and can actually control my snowboard, I have stopped falling over every 2 seconds and just started to link turns. It just goes to show, you can only get better.

DON’T GIVE UP!

Kahla Anthony – Guest Experience Manager (Soon to be pro snowboarder)



November 13, 2009

Movember Update

For the month of November, the staff at both Pan Pacific Whistler properties are casting their sense of fashion into the wind and growing their best moustaches all in aid of Prostate Cancer Research. So far, the staff has raised in excess of $250.00 for this very worthwhile cause. Working with the Movember Charity, our staff have sought out donations and will spend the entire month of November growing their moustache in support of this cause. We have been able to raise wonderful prizes and support from both the hotel and the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub to help drive participation.

The staff are very proud of the work being done to raise money for Prostate Cancer Research. It is a cause that affects men nation-wide as indicated by some of these facts below:

  • 25,500 men will be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer this year alone (2009).
  • 4,400 men will die of the disease this year.
  • During his lifetime, 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with the disease.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to afflict Canadian men.

The reception of this initiative has been wonderful among staff and guests alike. Beneath the good natured ribbing and grins from friends, colleagues and guests there is a very serious and deserving cause that is benefitting from these efforts. It seems as though everyone has been touched in one way or another by cancer and when an opportunity comes along to help combat it, people are most supportive.

For those of you who would like to support our team in our fight against Prostate Cancer, please visit https://www.movember.com/ca/donate/your-details/member_id/47069 to support the Pan Pacific Stache-letes in our quest to end Prostate Cancer.

– Ken Mair, Guest Experience Manager

November 10, 2009

Guess I must be having fun, because time sure is flying!

Wow! Things can move pretty fast even when you’re relaxing. Seems like just last week I was sitting on my dock on one of the numerous sunny days we’d had this summer, watching the Province’s fire-fighters kicking into high gear to water bomb Blackcomb after some lightening started a fire on our beloved mountain. (Due to all those dry, but sun drenched days we’d had.)

Then, before I knew it, I was sliding my kayak into a foggy lake as summer finally gave up the ghost late in September, releasing the heat of the water in a steamy effect that gave a surreal feeling of paddling through a cloud. Next thing I know I’m losing a bet on when the snow will first hit the village, though I can’t complain when I lost because the snowfall hit earlier than I expected. Snow in Whistler village the week before Halloween is nothing to put on an ugly face about.

me&KahlaHallowe'en

Guest Experience Managers, Kahla & Pete, celebrating Halloween

I barely had time to put my costume together before it was time to head over to the pre Halloween kick off: the B-Grade Horror film festival. A goofy little fun filled film festival which quickly grew from a small get together of local film makers to THE hottest ticket of the year. Last year they sold out in less than 5 minutes, which prompted them to move to a larger venue. And even with the release of 1100 tickets, anybody looking for one in the week before the event would have had to offer heavy bribery. If you’re looking for a night out with herds of Whistler’s “creative types”, in a celebration of the schlock, the shocking, the silly, and the just plain hilariously goofy, mark down October 30th on your calendar and keep your eyes peeled for ticket announcements in early October.

And of course that’s just the warm up. Talk to any bar manager or cab driver in town and they’ll tell you that Halloween in Whistler is second only to New Year’s Eve. You can take your pick of any bar in town as they will all be having big Halloween parties, with prizes for best costumes, of course. In a town affectionately known as “the bubble”, it’s no surprise that so many locals revel in a night that celebrates the ability to don masks and create whole new personas for the night.

Those are just snippets of fun times that have gone by, and already I have Cornucopia bearing down on me full speed this weekend. Rather than mere debauchery, this is a weekend that celebrates decadence of the palate. People come from far and wide to sample fine wines & fine foods in sophisticated settings, which in the past have featured suits and evening dresses, lovely showgirls, body painted servers, and all sorts of distractions which can’t help but elevate one from the mundane.

Cornucopia is certainly something to look forward to, but this year it pales in comparison to what Ullr, the snow god, has lain at our feet. This past week gone by has been fantastic for all those who eagerly look forward to sliding down fluffy white mountains. Whistler Blackcomb is teasing us with pictures of puffy pillows of snow as low as midstation as recently as Nov 9th.

Locals are now scurrying to ensure that passes are activated, boards are ready, and hoping they didn’t slack off on keeping in shape over the summer as much as they suspect they did. Rumors are abuzz of the mountains opening ahead of their scheduled opening date of November 26th. Possibly as early as this Saturday….

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Responses

  1. Enjoyed reading your blog, and finding out what is happening in Whistler.
    Keep up the good work. Its really very interesting

  2. Love the Haloween pic! And check out all that snow early season. Looking very promissing for an excellent season to come. Can’t wait to shred some pow pow this winter. Bring on the Olympics.

  3. Keep up the good work…Prostate cancer is a terrible disease..
    Norm


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