My Whistler Experience

So I thought I’d do a page on my experience rather than just a post. Here are some questions that might crop up and my experience relating to them.

It’s worth bearing in mind that weather-wise this was apparently the worst snow season in Whistler for 25 years, we got less than half the average snowfall (Just over 4-5m as opposed to 10m) and this is likely to have had an impact on my mood and activities over the course of the season. Hopefully its a bit of blip and you’ll get more snow.

How did you get the job? – I applied for the job via Whistler Blackcomb’s website, a fairly standard process, upload CV, etc. Then I had a phone interview, after that I was invited to an interview at a hiring fair in Toronto, and then offered a job!

Any tips? – Usual interview stuff really – Know the job, know yourself, dress well. Not all resorts do this, for the smaller ones you may have to be prepared to go to the resort first without a job. It was handy that Whistler and also Banff / Jasper did hiring fairs.

Where did you live? – I lived in WB’s “Glacier” staff housing, it’s important to sign up and reserve your housing as soon as you get your job offer!!!! Being caught in the village without housing can be very expensive, and lifty wages aren’t stellar.

How much was it then? – Minimum wage – $10.25 / hour.

How much was the housing? – $350 a month by the time you add in internet, which you have to sort out yourself, this is the cheapest you can get sharing a room with a bunk bed.

What was that like? – For the most part OK for me, as long as the place stayed somewhat tidy. It’s very similar to halls of residence at university complete with all the sights, sounds, and smells. Towards the end of the season the near total lack of privacy did start to get to me, especially as the flat / my room had become a total dump, despite me being a fairly tidy person……. If I was going to do it again I’d consider paying an extra $100ish a month for my own single room, so there was at least some sanctuary when things got messy. In the last month of the season I had my own room which was great, but I heard horror stories of people being stuck with smelly messy teenagers who they hated.

What were your options if you’d hated it?- There wasn’t many. Because of my low wage it would have been a big financial hit to move out of staff into the village proper, the cost was nearly double. I could have asked to move but there may not have been anywhere to go until near the end of the season and it may have cost more anyway.

Sounds like it’s expensive there!? – Its not cheap. WB recommends that you bring $3000 for the “lean times” to help get you through if there’s no work. I probably spent that on fun stuff (new snowboard, heli skiing if it had been on, weekend in Toronto, socializing) whilst still living sort of carefully. If you really want to have fun bring $6000 and expect to spend all of it.

What about food? – There are only two supermarkets in town and prices are what you would expect in an inner city store. Not the cheapest. I was spending about $160 every 2 weeks in order to have a decent diet, but without going to massive lengths to save money, bulk cooking, etc. I rarely did takeaway, although I did have a weakness for the local pie shop…….. Peaked Pies!! They’re amazing. I also spent about $5 a day on the mountain to bulk up my lunch with something hot.

Couldn’t I just bulk buy Kraft Dinner and eat that? – NOOOO!!! DO NOT sacrifice a decent, healthy, diet just to save money to spend on drinking and cocaine…. Lifty work is tiring at times, you need to stay healthy to prevent you from crashing after an early shift. I also saw one of my housemates go mad after eating to much of the same tortellini. People did make trips to the Walmart in Squamish for cheaper bulk stuff though, it’s good idea if you can organise it.

It can’t be that hard can it? – Well at it’s easiest you are stood at the lift waving and saying hello, but every lift has some kind of hard work associated with it, be it lifting skis on and off the gondolas, to lifting children on to chair lifts, and a fair bit of shovelling pretty much everywhere. You need to keep your energy levels up through the day to stay perky and cheerful for the guests and be aware of what’s going on around to keep everyone safe. Take a packed lunch!

No free food on the mountain? – Nope. Just the fruit that you can get in the locker room in the morning. Or perhaps if you know a mate who’s doing fresh tracks and can rob you sandwich. Some stuff is discounted.

Safety? How dangerous can a chairlift / gondi be?? – Very! A kid died somewhere in Europe after they got their bag caught and was strangled not long ago. As the lift crew you are responsible for the safety of guests getting on your lift, so if your hungover / mega tired it can be potentially dangerous.

Whoa that’s scary. Are there safety situations all the time? – Most lifts have about 5 – 10 stops a day which may be to prevent a possible injury. The worst I saw was 30 stops. You have to try and have a 180 degree field of vision, don’t concentrate on one thing for too long, things tend to happen in your blind spot while you’re watching something/someone else…. I only made one mistake of note because I was looking down at my ramp and raking a bit too hard. Most things are preventable if you spot them and hit the stop early, and are loudly instructing people who look a bit unstable / new to the sport.

But you must have gone to work hungover once or twice right? – Well I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but inevitably I did end up drinking on a school night. My best tips are to try and get the 11pm or midnight bus home, and of course moderate your drinking. At least that way you’ll only be a bit tired and can eat and tea/coffee your way through the day.

Plenty of partying around then? – Yup. You can go out any night in Whistler and they’ll be a club open full of people. I was trying to limit the financial damage so I stuck mostly to lifty related socializing. Consider Sunday Funday and Rounds nights to be a compulsory part of being a lifty!!! I did do a few other nights with Ralph and Laurie too.

What’s Rounds? – It’s a night once a month where everyone who’s cocked up during the month buys a jug of beer for the other liftys to enjoy!

Hang on, didn’t you mention something about cocaine back there!?? – Yep. Probably a side of Whistler that you might not expect. It is a part of the party scene and best avoided if you want to save money, amongst other reasons. Don’t get me wrong, nights out weren’t a bonanza of lines and clouds of the stuff, but most people had seen it being done, and could access it at some point if they wanted. Same for pot. Me and most of my lifty pals weren’t interested in it.

Sounds like a bit of a blast then, what was the riding like? Well like I said at the start it was the worst season in 25 years. Apparently. To be honest I didn’t notice the difference, being from the UK I’d not had such regular access to snow and had some insane days hiking to far away bowls and getting fresh tracks all the time. So for me it was brilliant. However there was a period of sustained unseasonal rain, which wasn’t fun, and I did meet a fair few grumpy locals. Apparently when things were slushy it was very similar to riding in Australia! (rubbish) But! Here’s a particularly good ride to work: –

On the days that whistler was on form it was incredible riding.

So you have to be a good rider/skier to be lifty? – Not necessarily. Even if you’re a complete beginner you can still be a lifty if you have the personal qualities they’re looking for, you’ll just work on a gondi until you can prove yourself. If, like me, you are having dreams of shredding those fresh lines on the way to working at you high lift with and insane view and a great ride-out, then yes you need to be an accomplished rider. The trails themselves are relatively easy, in good weather first thing in the morning, but you will have to do them at the end of the day, perhaps in thick fog, whilst they are covered in slushy moguls, or icey as hell. Or both on the same run going from one to the other as you go down! I wasn’t exactly a pro when I turned up but I was lucky to get on a chairlift with plenty of riding, and I learned quickly!

What if I fall over?

If you injure yourself while at work, or riding your designated route to work you’ll be covered by WB’s own insurance, if you don’t have a decent helmet get one, they are mandatory. Outside of work you’re on you own insurance, so make sure it’s decent. If you’re planning on staying in BC for a long time you can get BC health insurance. Top tip for avoiding injuring yourself – avoid the park. Most of the injuries I saw people get were from there!

Was there anything about the job you didn’t like? – Well no-one likes a rude customer, but these are quite rare. I only had 2 instances that I remember when I came into conflict with rude guests. Patience really is a virtue and as they say, kill them with kindness. People don’t always realise that even when you hit the stop button straight away the lift will take time to come to a full stop. If all else fails, most people calm down when you tell them you’re going call security…. Also if you really hate getting up early, then this job may not be for you! The average start is 0715.

Must have been cold at 0715? – Yup. See my kit list page for what to bring. Generally everyone had nice stuff for their days off and not so nice stuff for wrecking at work. Especially gloves.

Anything you’d do differently? – Like I said earlier I’d seriously consider paying more for a single room. I also regretted not seeing a bit more of the local area, my days off were spent either riding or hungover. I would have liked to get a heli-boarding trip in, but the weather wasn’t good enough in the period when I had a discount, and there is so much in bounds that I didn’t really feel like I was missing much, other a a cool helicopter ride. Other than that I had a whale of the time!


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