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Whistler Advice for Intermediates (First Tracks, Tour Guiding, etc)

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, heading to Whistler for the first time ever next Wednesday. I couldn't be more excited, but I'm looking for some advice from you Whistler vets.

 

We are a group of intermediate skiers. We really enjoy the long blue cruisers, steeper (for us) black runs, and a few adventures into to the trees.

 

We'll be skiing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We're staying in a ski-in/ski-out condo near Creekside Gondola; we're told it's just off the Homerun and Lower Peak to Creek runs. My specific questions are:

 

First Tracks Breakfast?

Is this really only accessible by the Whistler Village Gondola, and more importantly, is it worth it?

 

Driving from Creekside to Whistler Village in the morning really ruins the appeal of our Creekside ski-in/ski-out condo. (And I think it's $8 a day for parking?) From reading some previous threads, it sounds like they don't actually open the runs, even for the First Tracks ticket holders, until about 8:00 AM.

 

That said, we absolutely always ski from the first chair until mountain close, and always wish the days were longer. The added time would really be appreciated, but I can't decide if First Tracks is worth it given our situation...

 

Getting Around the Mountain?

Lastly, any tips for most efficiently getting around the mountain and avoiding crowds would be awesome.

 

We want to see the whole place, but the mountains are huge and the days are short. Any advice on how to best beat the crowds for a group of people looking for some blue/black cruisers, tree runs, and any other can't miss spots?

 

Last year we skied Park City/Canyons. We studied the trail map, but between taking the inter-mountain gondola, battling some crowds, trying to find runs we liked, and then making sure we were back to the Gondola before closing, it seemed like we hardly got any time to explore the Park City side of the mountain. Would love to avoid that this year, if possible.

 

Thanks for any help.

post #2 of 9

First tracks was OK, I'd consider doing it again. But it wasn't a must-do. I do believe it only goes up from the Whistler Village Gondy from what I can remember. We went right around Christmas a couple years ago and never had an issue with crowds the place is huge. 

post #3 of 9
Blackcomb: Crystal Ridge Chair early AM has long blue cruisers and is deserted. 7th Heaven was pretty deserted late PM this past weekend and on Monday AM. Lots of options there.

Whistler: was more crowded than Blackcomb this past weekend. Harmony early was OK; try Sumphony if it's running.
post #4 of 9

Yes only the village gondola runs early enough to get you to the breakfast. I've always thought it would be worth trying but in dozens of days there I still haven't. (I have a hard time with early starts).

 

Do one of the mountain tours (or do both). You'll learn a lot about the mountains and you can get tips as to where to ski that day taking into account snow conditions, visibility, crowds and your ability.

 

One problem with avoiding crowds is that the crowds are generally on the terrain that you want too.But Thursday and Friday shouldn't be bad, just Saturday will be (so that would be the day to do First Tracks). If the freezing level has been staying low (so, no thawing mid mountain), and I have to think it has since down here in Seattle it's been freezing cold for a month, the runs off of Garbanzo Chair feel overlooked. I've had some really nice times lapping that and skiing right to the chair when other chairs had huge lines. I agree Crystal Chair gets less pressure too. But again you should be fine with Seventh Heaven, Symphony, and the popular areas on the weekdays. A lot of skiing W-B depends on visibility--go up to the alpine when you can. If it's clear, don't put it off. In terms of groomed blacks Dave Murray is a lot of fun but gets crowded and skied out, so do it early.

post #5 of 9

I did First tracks once. Not really worth itl I get up early and get there at 7am. they take you  up to Roundhouse - and get you breakfast. They open only two lifts and you get only about 30 min before the regular crowd comes in. 

 

If you are really interested in Fresh Tracks - I would go to Blackcomb - where everybody gets on at the same time. 

post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tips everyone.

 

Had an awesome three days, although we did struggle at times getting around. Here's a trip report from an intermediate POV:

 

Day 1, Thursday:

Total powder day. Started at Creekside and rode up to Roundhouse. Patrol was still avalanche blasting Peak/Harmony/Symphony areas from the 20+ inches in the past two days, apparently the alpine areas hadn't been opened at all recently because of the snow and wind. We took the advice from a local who said the Emerald Express area would be a good spot for warm ups on this day.

 

We lapped the Ego Bowl/Cougar/Jolly Green Giant for a few runs to get used to skiing snow so deep. Made the mistake of thinking Harmony was open, only to ski all the way there to find no chairs on the lift. Had to take the green cat track (Sidewinder, I believe) all the way back to Emerald... really flat and absolutely miserable cross country poling with so much snow.

 

Our mistake behind us, we cruised down to Whistler village. Either Seppos or underneath the Gondola line was one of the best runs of the day, although we never made it back once we realized Harmony was open. Spent a while lapping Harmony and skiing both yesterday's 15 inches and the 14 inches of accumulation during the day... finding deep, deep powder was no problem at all, and honestly... there was so much snow the conditions were exhausting! Stayed here almost until close then headed home.

 

Day 2, Friday:

Decided today would be our Blackcomb day. After a quick warm up on Emerald waiting for the Peak 2 Peak to open, we headed over to the Solar Coaster area. Ross' Gold and Springboard were two amazing cruisers... loved these runs and their fun rollers. I could have spent all day here.

 

Worked our way over to 7th Heaven once it was open. Oh my... what an area. Hugh's Heaven and Cloud Nine were some of the best skiing I've done anywhere. Loved how the main part of the runs were groomed (although covered in about 6 inches of powder) but filled with plenty of side track adventures into ungroomed feet of powder. Loved this area, although lift lines started creeping to 15 minute waits.

 

We headed over to middle mountain to escape the wait times, and figured we'd take a leisurely blue in the form of Blackcomb Glacier. Was not prepared for the massive hike it takes to get there, nor the entire glacier essentially being rated double blacks apparently. Beautiful area though. We were pretty tired and short on time after the hike and traverse back from the Glacier, so we didn't lap Crystal Ridge like we planned.

 

Instead, it was almost closing time so we headed over to the Whistler Peak and took one run of Peak to Creek to call it day. Very bumpy, crowded, and icy on this day, but still awesome to ski "The Vertical Mile."

 

Day 3, Saturday:

Made a tactical error early. The Olympic downhill course was on our Whistler Bucket list, so we hit rode the Gondola up at 8:15 sharp and started started our day with Dave Murray downhill. Such a fun run! But we crested the last roller of the run to see a 30 minute Gondola line and no alternate path. It was 9:30 by the time we reached the top of Big Red again...

 

Lines looked bad everywhere, but Peak Express was the shortest. Took the Saddle down from Peak - an awesome fast blue! Headed over to Symphony, which had apparently been closed for the past few days. Absolutely loved this area! Beautiful mix of groomers, powder, and trees. Could have lapped this forever, but the lines! The Symphony lift line was spilling out past the queues and onto the run itself. We timed a 25-30 minute for the few runs we could manage before heading to Harmony, hoping for some relief.

 

Harmony lines were about 20 minutes as well, so we got a few runs there before it was nearly lift closing. We headed up Peak Express one last time for a groomed run of Peak to Creek. Amazing.. just amazing. When it's groomed, this has to be one of the best blue cruisers anywhere. Thousands and thousands of vertical drop, miles and miles of cruising.

 

Conclusion and Tips:

All in all, an awesome trip. The conditions were skiing heaven... over 20 inches during our 3 days on the mountain. A few random thoughts and tips for other Intermediates:

 

  • This place is HUGE. Tiny traverses on the trail map actually go on for miles and miles, and short runs on the trail map are long runs in real life.
  • Blackcomb Glacier is hike to terrain, despite what it looks like on the map.
  • Symphony Express is an awesome area with a bit of a back country feel.
  • I would never, ever ski here on a Saturday if I had a choice. First Tracks breakfast would have been worth it on our Saturday to get an hour of less crowded runs before the 30 minute lift lines built up for every single lift on the entire mountain.
  • Peak to Creek gets crowded and skied out at the end of the day, especially if ungroomed. If groomed, ski it in the middle of the day, and it will be absolutely amazing.
  • Whistler's trail rating is conservative... a lot of blues could be blacks in Colorado/Utah, and many blacks skied more like double blacks.
  • Ross' Gold and Springboard are perfect cruisers.
  • 7th Heaven really is heaven.
post #7 of 9

Great report. We used to go to Whistler 4x/year but I can't do weekends there anymore. I know that good skiers especially can get away from people once skiing but there's not many ways around those lift lines. I think you are probably right about the trail ratings. They are in line with my home mountain (Crystal Mt) so I think they are fair, but I'm often surprised, when I travel other places to ski, how mellow the runs are in comparison.

 

I haven't done Blackcomb Glacier in ~5 years but I remember it being a 10 minute hike and I'm sure there is at least one blue route down, because I was a very middling intermediate when I skied it. It was skiing it at the end of a clinic weekend then skiing all the way to the bottom from there trying to keep up with the instructors where I thought I was going to die.

post #8 of 9

Thanks for the report as I will be there next week, skiing Sunday through Thursday.  My bucket list includes a number of the runs you listed: Dave Murray Downhill, Blackcomb Glacier, Peak to Creek (good thought on not going to the bottom of Creekside until mid-day).  I am hoping that I won't have to deal with those waits on the lifts...my goodness, that's bad.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Christy319 View Post
 

Great report. We used to go to Whistler 4x/year but I can't do weekends there anymore. I know that good skiers especially can get away from people once skiing but there's not many ways around those lift lines. I think you are probably right about the trail ratings. They are in line with my home mountain (Crystal Mt) so I think they are fair, but I'm often surprised, when I travel other places to ski, how mellow the runs are in comparison.

 

I haven't done Blackcomb Glacier in ~5 years but I remember it being a 10 minute hike and I'm sure there is at least one blue route down, because I was a very middling intermediate when I skied it. It was skiing it at the end of a clinic weekend then skiing all the way to the bottom from there trying to keep up with the instructors where I thought I was going to die.

On Saturday, two from our group went back to the glacier and reported that after the initial hike off the t-bar, the drop in/traverse to the glacier was groomed. This would make skiing over to the far side of the glacier, where it flattens out considerably, much easier. I could see that terrain being a blue steepness.

 

On our visit, the traverse wasn't groomed, so everyone was hiking all the way to their drop in point. I got tired of the hike, and I dropped in pretty close to the Showcase t-bar. From the looks of the map, I'm guessing I accidentally dropped in on Blow Hole.

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