The Whistler Blackcomb Peak 2 Peak gondola has become the new Grouse Mountain lumberjack show. Remember the summer of 2011 when I had friends and family visiting so often I watched that show four times in six weeks? This year I’ve been lucky enough to have my parents and in-laws visiting within a week of each other, so naturally we’ve done some of the same activities twice. Throw in an engagement-moon weekend in late July and Whistler and the Peak 2 Peak (the longest and highest lift in the world, connecting Whistler and Blackcomb mountains) has become the getaway of choice. Even though we did the same trip up the same gondola three times in two months, our mountain experience changed significantly with the weather.
When you check the weather forecast on the Whistler Blackcomb website you get three temperatures. One for the village, one for mid-mountain and one for alpine (a.k.a. the very top of the top). When it’s 25 degrees on the ground in the middle of a long, hot summer it’s easy to forget 6 degrees at the top of the mountain is very, very cold. The one thing each of my visits had in common was a wish that I’d taken a warmer coat with me, only to decide the next time that ‘it can’t have been that cold, can it?’
Our first visit in July was our postponed would-be-engagement weekend which we cancelled because of forest fires. It’s a good job that James decided to propose on the original weekend anyway instead of waiting two weeks for the trip, because the weather pretty much sucked. It wasn’t too bad in the village, and the sun was even peeking out behind the clouds. Unfortunately when we got out of the gondola at mid mountain it was very cold and the clouds looked pretty ominous. It was our first time up the mountain in the summer so we decided to go ahead and take the chairlift up to the summit anyway. The clouds got darker as we got higher, until we couldn’t see anything in front of us or below us. And then the hail started. Let’s just say our tour of the summit was ‘whistle-stop’ to the extreme and we were back on the soggy chairlift within minutes. We were so cold and soggy that we didn’t even get off the Peak 2 Peak at Blackbomb mountain. Thank goodness the chalet served hot chocolate.
Our next trip to Whistler was with the in-laws in August. It was a beautiful weekend with clear blue skies and zero percent chance of rain. The views from mid-mountain were fantastic, and this time we made sure to explore to actually get out at Blackcomb Mountain and explore the other side of the Peak 2 Peak. The chairlift ride up to the summit was much more enjoyable in the sunshine, and we laughed at how low to the mountain we actually were now that we could see the rock below us. The laughing continued when we finally saw the stunning views that we missed on our previous visit when we were literally in the clouds.
Our latest visit was in September with my parents. It was a really warm day in the village so I convinced myself I didn’t need to bring a proper coat with me. Luckily there was on rain on this trip, but it was bloody cold at the summit. My jacket was well and truly zipped up and my hood was definitely staying up. We got some good photos, but were also happy to get back down the mountain again. The view from the Peak 2 Peak was distinctly autumnal and the leaves were definitely more orange than green. On this visit we were lucky enough to see some very Canadian wildlife: bears and marmots, just hanging out on the slopes.
We knew when planning our first trip that we’d be heading up the mountain more than once, so we paid $20 to upgrade to the Peak 2 Peak 360 pass which is valid all summer. We’ve saved $80 in lift passes so far and also took advantage of a Peak 2 Peak 360 ticket package to sample the all-you-can-eat Mountain Top BBQ buffet on our first visit. It was delicious and well worth the extra $15. Contrary to what this post might suggest I don’t actually work for Whistler Blackcomb, but I have had fun at their mountain this summer. Hopefully the weather will cooperate more next summer and we’ll get some proper hiking in. Cheakamus Lake, here I come!
I’ve been aware of the Legend of the Turkey Sale for quite some time, and have never around over Thanksgiving weekend to make the most of it. This year, I took the plunge and headed up to find a new….everything. I came away with a new snowboard, bindings, boots, jacket and pants, though not without learning a few lessons on the way. The first one being that although the sale is advertised as up to 70% off everything, the ‘up to’ is the key phrase. I had no idea what to expect in terms of prices and savings, so have listed the details of my haul below to help you prepare:
- Burton Feelgood Women’s Snowboard:
$649$449 Saving: $200 (30%)
- Burton Lexa EST Women’s bindings:
$259$149 Saving: $110 (42%)
- Salomon Ivy Boots (2012):
$249$149. Saving: $100 (40%)
- Burton Eclipse Snowboard Jacket:
$269$209. Saving: $60 (22%)
- North Face Summit Series Ski/Snowboard Pants:
$249$125. Saving: $125 (50%)
- TOTAL SAVINGS: $595 (37%)
I’m so excited with my sale success, especially as I had some reservations before going. Will I really save money? Am I prepared enough? Can I actually make a quick decision? Below are my top 10 Tips for navigating the Whistler Blackcomb Turkey Sale.
1. Go early!
This was perhaps the best advice I received in advance of the sale. If you can’t make it up (or aren’t eligible) for Local’s Day on the Friday afternoon, you’ll be aiming for Saturday morning. The sale opens at 9am so I left Vancouver at 7am to get there for the opening. In the end I arrived at 9:15am, and walked straight in. It was already busy, but by the time I left at 11:30am the line was at least an hour long. And it was a very cold day to be standing outside! Apparently they do add new gear on the Sunday too, though same goes for the early arrival.
2. Head straight for the boards/skis
If you’re on the lookout for a new snowboard or pair of skis, go there first. These will be the first things to sell out, especially if you’re looking for a specific or popular model/height. I went to the snowboards first and was immediately overwhelmed by the rows of boards (mostly Burton, though some Forum and a few DC), most without any kind of label to let me know what type of board each one was. I grabbed four in my size and flagged down a staff person to help me choose between them. The finding/selecting process took about 30 minutes in total, and the number of boards was rapidly decreasing during that time.
3. Scope the sale before committing!
I was very impressed with myself when I found a Burton jacket I’d admired on the website and picked out two pairs of pants to try with it. This is where I fell down. I’m an awful decision maker under pressure, and I spent an hour trying on these two pairs of pants and parading up and down the (really, really busy by now) floors staring at myself in the open mirrors. I eventually picked one pair, only to spot another on my way to the exit. I tried them on and loved them immediately. What a waste that past hour was! Even though I advise you to head straight for the hard equipment, keep your eyes open on the way there so you don’t miss anything on the way back!
4. Do your research…
I know I was woefully underprepared going into the sale, and I spent the drive up to Whistler scouring the Burton website. This helped, to a certain extent, but I was still a little lost when faced with all of the options. Saying that, there weren’t as many brands of hard equipment as I thought there would be, and having a limited number of products to choose between really helped. When it came to bindings there were only a handful of women’s models in my size (and they were all Burton) so I just went for the best quality one I could afford. Done!
5. …and ask for help!
Even if you’ve done your research, you may still have questions when you get there. There were staff members in bright green t-shirts available to help, though nowhere near enough to serve the masses! After loitering quietly in the back for half an hour hoping someone would offer to help me, I soon learned to be more assertive and stalk the staff until they were free to help. They were all really helpful with great knowledge about all of the options available, so use them when you can!
6. Set a budget
The Turkey Sale is renowned for heavily discounted prices, but it’s amazing how quickly everything adds up. Setting a total or itemised budget can help you make quick decisions between products when time is of the essence. Saying that, I did go over my rough budget, and most of that was on my board. I ended up getting a better model than I’d hoped, with a discount that was a little less than I planned. I had no idea what to expect or how realistic my budget was, so was prepared to go a little over to get everything I needed. I’m also incredibly bad at standing up to the pressure of the sale environment, and am known for overspending on almost every area of my life. Either way, a budget will help your search!
7. Wear layers
It was so cold at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, and my body was shocked back into remembering what 5 degrees feels like after such a long summer. After an hour inside the sale, I was roasting and stripping off as many layers as I could carry. Of course, when I emerged into the sunlight as a flustered, sweaty mess, it wasn’t long before I was shivering again. Layers, layers, layers!
8. Bring a friend!
Whether you’re a slow decision maker, have a lot to carry, or just need some moral support, bringing someone with you can make a huge difference to your Turkey Sale experience. I learned this the hard way, after sending my significant other off to a coffee shop to catch up on some work. I quickly learned that the only thing worse than him having to follow me round a crowded tent for two and a half hours was me having to struggle through by myself. Everything was going great until I left the snowboard area and attempted to look for a jacket and pants whilst carrying a board, boots and bindings. Luckily, the staff took pity on me and let me stash my goods behind the changing rooms. This did not help my indecisiveness (see #3) and I really could have done with someone to tell me which pair looked better. Or to scout for pants in the exact colour that I was looking for (which I later found less than 20m away). When I finally made it to the exit I still had to drag everything to the car. Needless to say, my arm muscles are still aching as I write this. Bring. A. Friend.
9. Look outside the main sale
Turkey Sale fever must be catching…all of the stores in the Village had sales over the weekend! I managed to find a discounted rash guard for my upcoming Hawaii vacation less than an hour after buying all of my winter gear. Only on the West Coast!
10. Make the most of Whistler…or don’t!
I haven’t been to Whistler for more than just a day in a really long time, so wanted to make the most of the trip and spend the night there. The hotel we picked was great, and we enjoyed a really nice lunch, dinner and morning stroll the next day before heading home again. When I add up the cost of the Zipcar, hotel, parking, lunch, dinner, drinks and copious coffees, the money I saved on my sale purchases starts to rapidly dwindle. I prefer to look at this as that the money saved on my gear paid for a great weekend in Whistler. However, if the bottom line savings are more important make sure you plan ahead to take advantage of the cheaper advance Greyhound tickets. Don’t forget to pack your blinkers so you can make it to the bus home without any distractions!