I got exactly 1/2 of one day skiing at Whistler last year. My bad—I had planned a big late season push and, well, we all know what happened in the late season. So I, like most skiers, was waiting with baited breath to see what this season would bring—especially given that we're stuck in our own (admittedly beautiful) backyard for the foreseeable future. And the news is, all things considered, pretty great.
Vail Resorts (Whistler's parent company) has always seen chirping from a cadre of locals since they bought the beloved local resort, but even the diehard gripers will have to admit that the resort handled last year's cancelled passes pretty well by compensating based on use rather than time of year, which helped out spring skiers like me immensely. And going forward, they're setting up a plan that looks to maximize safety over profit by limiting the number of skiers. Here the 6 takeaways:
1. Wear a mask or pound sand
This is probably the one area we won't see a phalanx of jugheads complaining about wearing a mask, given that if you're skiing and you're not ancient, you're already wearing some sort of face covering anyways. That includes all lift lines, gondolas and chairs. You think this limits your rights? Tough luck: no mask, no skiing.
2. You'll ride up with your friends and family
To maintain physical distancing on our chairlifts and gondolas, they "will only be seating related parties (guests skiing or riding together) or: two singles on opposite sides of a four-person lift; two singles or two doubles on opposite sides of a six-person lift; or two singles on opposite sides of our larger gondola cabins." This one will be a bit odd, but so is riding in an elevator these days. And to be honest, I generally just want to chat with my pals when I'm riding up in any event.
3. Reservations are your salvation
The days of strolling up to the window and buying a tickets are gone.To be fair, almost no one has done this financially crazy activity for the past few years unless they're trying to launder money. So if you're a pass holder, there's no just hitting the slopes—you'll have to reserve in advance as they plan on limiting the number of people on the mountains. Which means...
4. Less skiers!
One of the selling points to Whistler's #1 resort challenger, Deer Valley, is that it's always limited the amount of skiers on the hill. In reality, they almost never shut the tickets off (the bar for crowded is ample), but it gives perception of a resort that will never be crowded. This year Whistler will be following suit. They have not announced what the threshold numbers are, but we're assuming the occasionally epic lines when the Peak Chair is open may not be so common this year.
5. Priority to pass holders
If the mountain ever does get too crowded, priority will be given to season's pass holders. Likewise, the mountain will be the exclusive domain of season's pass holders from opening day (November 28) until December 8th, when non-pass holders can buy tickets. This sounds like a perk, but in reality it recognizes that less terrain is typically open early in the season, and as such, the numbers need to be circumscribed. Pass holders will also be able to choose seven key dates —presumably around Christmas and Spring Break— when they can make a reservation before the general public. This point is likely to be the one that will raise the ire of the bring-your-own-lunch crowd who've long complained that Whistler under Vail has prioritized pass holders. And there's merit to that argument if this were a non-profit organization. It's not. Pass holders are the bread and butter for a resort, and Whistler treats them well.