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It could be a great year - so long as Lower Mainlanders are allowed to travel again soon.
It’s opening day at Whistler, and with an 86 centimetre base – almost a metre! – it’s looking like the predictions of an excellent El Niña season are proving true.
Excellent, of course, except for the big Covid question mark that hangs over everything right now.
What we do know: there’s a non-essential travel advisory on right now, which means that Lower Mainlanders are encouraged to stick locally until December 7. Whistler Tourism folks are respecting that (they’re leaving it up to the individual, whether it’s essential travel), but hoping that sacrificing a couple of weeks in early season will mean a truly great local season for late 2020 and all of 2021.
So what does that look like? First off, the Epic Pass is still likely your best bet for the season. It’s only on sale until December 6, but it gives you priority access in the reservation system to booking your days on the hill first. As of December 8, limited day passes go on sale – and like most activities, those will also have to be booked in advance. Epic Passes now come with included Epic Coverage – a cash refund if there should be resort closures, or if the holder can’t ski due to personal injury.
You’ll board the lifts with only your family/bubble, but singles won’t necessarily be riding alone; that’s lift-size dependent. A six-seater, for example, will have three single riders: one on either side, and one in the middle; gondolas can hold two singles, with the windows open. And while it seems like it should go without saying, everyone must be wearing a face covering: that can mean a scarf or a Buff.
You’ll also be able to pre-book times in most of the on-mountain dining facilities, as well as to-go options. Epic Pass holders get a 20 percent discount on on-mountain food, as well as rentals, lessons, lodging and more on resort. In town, the Doors Open Directory will let you know what restaurants and stores are open, what their protocols are, if they’re doing takeout and delivery, etc.
Après-ski wise, a number of new ventures like Picnic Whistler and Good Grazing Whistler offer to-go packs for hanging outside with your bubble, or back at your condo/rental.
There are also plenty of non-ski adventures throughout Whistler too, like the Campfire Cookout with Canadian Wilderness Activities, which includes a headlamp-guided hike through the Callaghan, and brings a safer outdoor dining experience for your bubble or family.
The biggest takeaway is that yes, Whistler is open – and everyone is hopeful for a great local’s season. You’ll need to plan ahead a little more than you might have before – though they’ve launched an Ask Whistler WhatsApp if you want help with, say, figuring out where to grab dinner that night – and of course, wear a mask.
Just do that everywhere, ok people?