There’s nothing that quite gets the locals talking like Whistler Blackcomb Opening Day. After a turbulent early winter snowfall, the weather this week looks be building a decent base for the season’s first shred. It’s official, Whistler Mountain opens one day early on Wednesday, November 23.
In order for you to get the most out of the Opening Day festivities, we’ve compiled a list of equipment, strategies and tips for how to get the most of winter’s official kickoff in Whistler.
Ready your body
While professional athletes have been pre-season training for months, most average Joe Skiers have been procrastinating while the snowline creeps down the mountain. There’s actually a lot more to getting fit for skiing and snowboarding than doing squats or leg presses at the gym. Mike Conway, a local Whistler physiotherapist at Back in Action, has developed a smartphone app called SKIRAD (Ski Ready, Avoid Damage) in partnership with Whistler Blackcomb. The app has dozens of video demonstrations for pre-snow warm up, post snow recovery, concussion information and specific exercises targeting certain limbs and joints. But the best thing about SKIRAD is the “Fit for Snow Screen,” a series of strength and flexibility exercises that gives you a definitive answer on whether your body has the best chance to avoid ski and snowboarding injuries.
Wake up early
For the last few years, the Whistler Blackcomb Opening Day line up has been populated by groups of local secondary school students camping at the base of the lift for up to two nights before the official opening. So if you’re looking to be first, you’ve got some pretty strong competition.
This year The North Face is taking the Whistler Blackcomb Opening Day campout to the next level with the Basecamp Celebration on the eve of Opening Day on Tuesday night (Nov 22) at Skier’s Plaza. The event is completely free and there’s a bunch of prizes to be won and a few TNF athletes (including Ian McIntosh, Nick McNutt and Tatum Monod) will be be there from 7 p.m.
Most locals will arrive at the base of the Whistler Village Gondola in the pre-dawn hours of Opening Day, patiently waiting in the cold and even bringing along camp chairs and sleeping bags for added warmth and comfort. Regardless of how much snow is on the mountain, expect the lineup to be spilling out of the corral before the sun comes up. So set the alarm and get an early night’s sleep.
Choose runs wisely
If you’re in the first few hundred people of the Whistler Gondola line up you’ll enjoy the first couple laps on the Emerald Chair without much of a lift line. Same goes on the Big Red Express for those uploading from Creekside. Once the crowds get past the bottleneck, lift lines will swell and it’s time to start hiking. Rabbit Tracks (a few hundred metres up Pika’s Traverse from the top of Emerald) is an easy hike for fresh tracks before the Harmony Express Chair opens. Just make sure to obey any closure signs while ski patrol is performing avalanche control. If you’re lucky, some opening days you can hike all the way to the Peak Chair zone.
Ski with caution
Every year, Whistler Blackcomb Operations reinforce the message that early season conditions on the mountain are fraught with hazards. Rocks, fallen logs and creek crossing can all end your season before it has properly begun. There’s always a few people that require a toboggan ride and download to the medical clinic on Opening Day. So if you do decide to venture past the temporary boundary, watch yourself! It’s probably not a good idea to take up your brand new skis or snowboard either. Rock skis and boards are on the feet of every seasoned local on their first day – and even first weeks – up the mountain.
Looking to head out into the backcountry in the next few weeks? Check out our early season avalanche courses.
Whistler Blackcomb Opening Day is just two sleeps away. See you on the hill!