THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN A GAPER on the slopes. Someone with no idea what is going on, where they need to be, and what they need to have with them in order to keep it together on the mountain. Whistler Blackcomb pro snowboard instructor and guide Andrew Purvis, affectionately known as Dahj, walks us through his tips for keeping yourself together when heading on an international ski or snowboard trip.
1. Ski with a local or guide, and listen to them.
“Grab a guide or instructor for the first couple of days at least,” Dahj says. “You can explore this place really easily but we know it like the back of our hands.” Don’t drop off the other side of a spine and end up atop a 60-foot cliff while your guide waits, far in the distance, for you to hike back out to the other side where you should have been in the first place.
2. Have a good ski or board bag.
Bringing your own gear, if you can, will make the overall experience better as well as cut down on costs. “I definitely want all my gear ready to go,” Dahj says. “Gear tuned, board waxed. I want to have a look at the weather and figure out a general temperature and how it’s going to be, make sure I’ve got the right clothes. Obviously spring trips can be very different from winter trips with cold temperatures.”
In order to fly your gear around efficiently, you will need a solid bag. Gear bags typically run between $100-$300 US, but are more than worth the expense. They’ll allow you to have a sort of home base for your equipment and any trail maps or other media you pick up along the way. You also won’t be that person that a) can’t find their goggles or b) has everything strewn about the hotel room in disarray and then leaves something behind.
3. Get your lift tickets and lodging set up in advance.
“I like to know where we’re staying and have the lift tickets all sorted out,” Dahj said. “That way you can avoid having to do too much of that in the morning. A lot of stuff can be pre-booked and sorted out online.”
If there is a hostel available, that will be your best option. You will probably meet like-minded travelers as well as people who have been there for a while and can tell you where the best spots are, when to go, and how to approach certain lines. “Or find a local to stay with,” Dahj says.
4. Don’t be cocky.
Locals in a ski town take pride in their mountain and where they live. Typically, you’ll find them to be friendly and welcoming, but if you act like a know-it-all don’t be surprised if you receive the cold shoulder from locals. “I’ve had only one or two guys that I’ve been like, ‘Now you’re just being a dick,’”Dahj said. “Not too many.”
5. Have a food and beverage plan.
Don’t get stuck paying $30 for lunch on the mountain. At Whistler, the Rendezvous Lodge is your best bet for on-mountain dining. A food court with a burger stand, burrito stand, sushi, Thai noodle bowls, and more, the Rendezvous is reasonably priced and offers large portions. Still, you’ll want to hit a grocery store or market and pack a lunch if you can. Save your money for the bar.
6. Take in the entire experience.
Don’t miss the little things like the views, the people, the food. Participating in apres activity and generally checking out the town is a good idea because it will help you get to know the vibe of the town and the people who live there. Ski towns are notoriously great party spots because everyone there, from the locals to the tourists, are there because they want to be there. This means it is easy to make friends and ask questions.
“The town, the size of the place, and the snow that we get — those were what brought me to Whistler in the first place,” Dahj says. “It ticks all the boxes.”
7. Quickly figure out where the locals hang.
“Dammit, let’s go to the Fitz!” We were only about two hours into our day on the mountain when Dahj gave me this tasty tidbit on where to get a drink. I made my way down to Fitzsimmons Pub later that night, had a few pints, and chatted up some locals. I was the only tourist in sight. It may have been a bit demeaning for myself, but local spots are where you will find the best of everything. No matter where you are in the world, ski towns are expensive. The locals know how the get the most bang for your buck, have the best conversation, and which spots to avoid. In Whistler, The Fitz is where you want to be.
8. Don’t forget your passport on an international trip.
Please don’t be that person.
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