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Questioning my decision-making re:Whistler.... Affirm or talk me out of it!

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

East coast family, ski the berkshires in MA and lower VT several weekends each year.  Have taken one trip out west for the past seven or eight years.  Snowmass (x3), Telluride, Deer Valley, Steamboat, Beaver Creek.  Just returned from Snowmass over pre-Christmas week and it was amazing.  Of the above, all were Christmas time with exception of Beaver and Snowmass over spring break...and they were absolutely fantastic.  I've also skied many other CO and UT resorts over the past 25+ years.  

 

Anyway, Whistler has been on my bucket list.  Wife doesn't want the long trip, though from NJ it's really only an extra hour or two compared to Snowmass, and probably close to Telluride considering the connections and/or drives.  But she and the older teen can't go in March, so I decided to take my 12 year old on a nice father/son quick trip.  Here's what I've booked (and with exception of a relatively inexpensive night, I can change all of this if necessary)-  

 

7 pm direct flight from Newark-Vancouver.  I have oodles of miles from extensive business travel, so we're up front on the AC Dreamliner.  Should be comfortable flight, though it tends to be late.  Land in Vancouver, drive to Whistler.  

 

Decided to stay in Creekside.  I was advised against this by my CA friends who ski there all the time.  Two reasons.  One, we don't love crowds (another question below).  Two, the two of us like to ski pretty hard, then collapse in a condo with decent space.  We will go out to dinner most nights, but early and nothing too fancy.  Probably eat in half the nights.  Go to sleep early, especially on pacific time.  

 

I'm obviously concerned about the weather and crowds.  We've been very lucky on weather- usually bluebird or consistent snow (sometimes both), the last few years.  I know Whistler is a "who knows!" situation, but what do people usually experience weather-wise in March?  Am I more or less likely to get the pea soup/rain mid-level and higher?  We're both good skiers, and usually spend our time on the more difficult blues and groomed blacks.  He made his way comfortably down the groomed trails off of High Alpine in Snowmass last month, but anything more difficult is probably out of question.  Along those lines...are we going to be dissapointed by long lift lines? Granted, Telluride and Snowmass have spoiled us and that's not our expectation, but in second week of March (arriving 10/10), will we see tremendous waits?  

 

Has anyone done the night flight to YVR, then skied the next day comfortably from the east coast?  Ideally don't want to waste a day, but a scheduled arrival just before 10 pm, customs, bag collection if we check, car pickup, etc...  I can't imagine us getting there prior to 1 am (4 am my time).  

 

Should we have just done an easy CO or UT place, or am I ok in thinking this was the time to hit Whistler?  

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 32

There's no reason you shouldn't do this trip.

 

March tends to be a snowy month. You don't often get rain mid mountain and higher in any case--it's lower down where that can be an issue, though really it's the freeze/thaw that is the issue lower down--rain itself is much exaggerated. There is no weather reason not to go in March. 

 

Is this for the weekend? There will be some lines in some places, but it's not a particularly bad time, like Xmas or President's Day. Vancouver spring break is around then and so weekdays would be busier than average then (if it is break). So as with the weather there's no real crowd-related reason not to go then. As much weekday skiing as you can do is best, but sometimes you'll be there on a weekend and that's that. Also, if you've been to those places you listed at Xmas and didn't think they were hellish that is a good sign Whistler's crowds might not bother you much.

 

Creekside sounds fine for you. Yes staying near or in the village is great for the convenience of having everything right there, but if you don't care about all that, then you don't need it. And, you can easily drive to the village. Parking in the big lots is free at night, and there are metered spots tucked here and there in the village. Drive in once, walk around, have dinner, then you've done it. For years we only stayed at Village North and I kind of poo-pooed Creekside as not having anything there, until I discovered Nita Lake Lodge which became my favorite place to stay. And then I discovered I really liked Creekside. I really like Southside Diner (a very locals place), I like the casual sushi/Japanese place (Samurai), and the grocery is smallish but good. I also like the happy hour at Nita Lake but with a kid I'm not sure if that will work. Oh, and Fix Cafe is a little place at Nita Lake that has terrific breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, sandwiches, homemade ice cream, etc. They do fondue on Friday nights. There are 20 restaurants in Creekside so maybe that's enough.

 

If I were you I'd drive to North Vancouver and stay in a motel there overnight. It's late, I'd be really tired, and I'd rather get some sleep then get up and drive up there in the morning. I also don't love driving the Sea to Sky in the dark. In fact I hate it. I've done it many times but I do try and avoid it. Especially if conditions are snowy, and this year I've heard the highway has been snowy since freezing levels have been low, it won't be fun to drive that at night. There's a cluster of chain motels in North Van--Best Western, Comfort Inn, etc. You'll be well position to get out of town the next morning. If you do that, head for lot 6 at Blackcomb/Base II. It is a sweet, free lot right by the Excalibur Gondola. How it remains free and how I'm able to get a spot there when I try is beyond me. Lots 7-8 work too. https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/get-to-whistler/by-car/parking-in-whistler

 

Oh, I just remembered the Creekside Garage is free too. That might be more convenient if you are staying there.


Edited by Christy319 - 1/11/17 at 3:34pm
post #3 of 32
Just got back from Whistler and skied early and got ahead of crowds and experienced very few long lift lines. Was virtually skiing onto lifts on Monday after a 5-6" storm.

Some stoke for you:
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post #4 of 32
More photo
post #5 of 32
I took that same flight in Dec and I am taking it again in Feb. it gets in late even if on time. If you don't have Nexus you might have a wait, so expect to not be out of customs with bags until 10:15. I overnight at Fairmont YVR and pick up car early Sunday and get on the road as soon as light. If parking at creekside garage I imagine you could be on hill at 10 and get a good day in. Motel north shore as mentioned a good idea too. Sea to sky at night during bad weather sucks. Even in light it can be bad with black ice. Some of my most tired drives have been on that road late at night. I try to avoid it now. (And - you will be on EST)

I've stayed all over in whistler and am a fan of their bus system. Look in to that if going in to village. Creekside has lots if you want to lay low. IGA in town better bet for groceries but creekside market is good.

We too have been to many of the big US western resorts. With the CDN$ as it is and a direct flight whistler is perfect for a week trip.

March can be great for snow (like last year). Enjoy!
post #6 of 32

We've been to Whistler twice in March and had good skiing conditions both times--snow--not heavy, and sun. I wouldn't rent a car--it's just as efficient and a lot cheaper to take a bus shuttle. A car will just sit in the lot for your whole trip, although I don't know if you can get a bus that late. I would assume you can get a private shuttle. (And you might manage some sleep if you don't have to drive yourself.)It is possible you would need chains one way or the other if you drive.  Personally I would stay near the main base because I would want quick access to Blackcomb and to Whistler's Peak Chair.  Be sure you ski the Blackcomb Glacier. The only place we encountered  a lift line was waiting for the Glacier Express to open on a powder day. There were a couple of restaurants we wanted to hit that we couldn't go to because we didn't make a reservation.  Great area with a huge amount of terrain for every ability level. Well worth the longer trip.

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 

Ok....So some REALLY great advice here.  Thank you all!  

 

The advice to stay in Vancouver the night we arrive is looking sound.  If there's weather, that's not a drive I want to make for the first time in the dark.  Plus, arriving around 1 am, checking into the condo, etc... We probably don't get out onto the sloped until after 10 anyway.  We'll be on east coast time, so I imagine waking at 6 am isn't going to be an issue.  On the beginning of spring break weekend, how will the traffic be from Vancouver-Whistler on Saturday morning?  Is it anything like I-70 in CO?  

 

As far as creekside....in Snowmass we stay off to the side near the gondonal midstation, and usually head into Aspen an afternoon or two for the vibe and the food.  But in all of the above places we've skied, we've always tried for the "out of the way but slopeside convenience" places.  My expat Canadian buddy swears I'll regret it...we'll see!  

post #8 of 32

Sounds like the kind of trip that gives you jitters before, but you look back on and are very glad you did it! I snuck in two days only last April, so only half the mountain or less was available, and still think it was an amazing time and a very good decision. Don't overthink it, enjoy!

post #9 of 32

@golden23, we seem to have quite a bit in common.  Snowmass and Telluride are also some of my favorite places out West just for the exact reasons you mentioned (great combinations of wonderful terrain with no crowds).  Like you, I've always been intrigued by the siren song of Whistler.

 

My wife and I will be there in two weeks.  Having the Mountain Collective Pass and seeing just how favorable the exchange rate is, I figured it was now or never for Whistler.  We also enjoy similar terrain as to what you and your son will be looking to ski.

 

So...I'll try to remember to come back to this thread and give you my thoughts knowing that I can use Snowmass and Telluride as comparisons (actually, I'm familiar with all of the places you mentioned that you have been to recently).  I won't have any advice on Creekside though as we are booked for North Village, but I can definitely give you an idea as to weather, crowds (both on the runs and the lift lines) and what runs will be up your alley.  Until then...

post #10 of 32

If you are happy in that Snowmass location and with driving in to Aspen occasionally, I can't imagine you'll have an issue with Creekside. It's a very short drive to the village should you want to go. (You could take the bus but since that bus ride isn't free, I'd just drive and not be wedded to bus schedules). I don't think anything is like I-70, but hopefully someone will give you an idea of what a Saturday morning in March is like. A lot of it will probably depend on conditions that day--a powder day is going to be a lot busier of course.

post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

@golden23, we seem to have quite a bit in common.  Snowmass and Telluride are also some of my favorite places out West just for the exact reasons you mentioned (great combinations of wonderful terrain with no crowds).  Like you, I've always been intrigued by the siren song of Whistler.

 

My wife and I will be there in two weeks.  Having the Mountain Collective Pass and seeing just how favorable the exchange rate is, I figured it was now or never for Whistler.  We also enjoy similar terrain as to what you and your son will be looking to ski.

 

So...I'll try to remember to come back to this thread and give you my thoughts knowing that I can use Snowmass and Telluride as comparisons (actually, I'm familiar with all of the places you mentioned that you have been to recently).  I won't have any advice on Creekside though as we are booked for North Village, but I can definitely give you an idea as to weather, crowds (both on the runs and the lift lines) and what runs will be up your alley.  Until then...


Yes, we certainly seem alike!  Would love your feedback.  We spend most of our time in Snowmass at the top of Elk Camp (we LOVE hiking Longshot) and Big Burn.  

post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Christy319 View Post
 

If you are happy in that Snowmass location and with driving in to Aspen occasionally, I can't imagine you'll have an issue with Creekside. It's a very short drive to the village should you want to go. (You could take the bus but since that bus ride isn't free, I'd just drive and not be wedded to bus schedules). I don't think anything is like I-70, but hopefully someone will give you an idea of what a Saturday morning in March is like. A lot of it will probably depend on conditions that day--a powder day is going to be a lot busier of course.


I guess if it's going to be a powder day that'll mean it will likely have snowed the night we arrive....in which instance I'd prefer to stay in YVR and fight the traffic on Saturday over driving up late in the snow.  

 

I imagine the only time we'd regret not staying in the village (based on our desires) would be if it's a pretty heavy snowstorm and the transit between Creekside and the village would be ill advised.  That was the only time we were not thrilled in Snowmass...even though it was a 2 minute drive to the main village there, that's a steep hill.  

post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden23 View Post
 


Yes, we certainly seem alike!  Would love your feedback.  We spend most of our time in Snowmass at the top of Elk Camp (we LOVE hiking Longshot) and Big Burn.  

 

Just to see how much our skiing tastes align, check out my trip report from last year's trip to Aspen: http://www.epicski.com/t/145306/2016-aspen-gathering-trip-report/120#post_1975940

post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden23 View Post
 


I guess if it's going to be a powder day that'll mean it will likely have snowed the night we arrive....in which instance I'd prefer to stay in YVR and fight the traffic on Saturday over driving up late in the snow.  

 

I imagine the only time we'd regret not staying in the village (based on our desires) would be if it's a pretty heavy snowstorm and the transit between Creekside and the village would be ill advised.  That was the only time we were not thrilled in Snowmass...even though it was a 2 minute drive to the main village there, that's a steep hill.  

Since there's enough to keep you fed in Creekside, it wouldn't be the end of the world if that were the case. 

post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden23 View Post
 
Quote:
I imagine the only time we'd regret not staying in the village (based on our desires) would be if it's a pretty heavy snowstorm and the transit between Creekside and the village would be ill advised.  That was the only time we were not thrilled in Snowmass...even though it was a 2 minute drive to the main village there, that's a steep hill.  

Just to clarify, I guess you mean you might want to get to the village to shop or eat because if you get a big dump you would just grab the Creekside Gondola. You don't have to go to the Village to access lifts.

post #16 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

 

Just to see how much our skiing tastes align, check out my trip report from last year's trip to Aspen: http://www.epicski.com/t/145306/2016-aspen-gathering-trip-report/120#post_1975940


Wow....while it seems you might be a shade better (or at least the current version of me), I love everything about the runs you took at each mountain.  I also chickened out on the bowl at Highland, and my need to take a break halfway up the tame hike to Long Shot is the main reason.  

 

Would love to hear feedback on your Whistler trip...I suspect I will heed your advice quite a bit!  

 

Enjoy!  Seems like there might be a storm track on the way in a few days...

post #17 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Castle Dave View Post
 

Just to clarify, I guess you mean you might want to get to the village to shop or eat because if you get a big dump you would just grab the Creekside Gondola. You don't have to go to the Village to access lifts.


Yes.  Exactly

post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden23 View Post
 


I also chickened out on the bowl at Highland, and my need to take a break halfway up the tame hike to Long Shot is the main reason.

 

That's hilarious...like I said, we are very similar in what we ski and what we like to ski.  I have a couple of goals for the upcoming Whistler trip: to ski Blackcomb Glacier and Dave Murray Downhill.

 

I will be sure to provide a lengthy trip report as to all the good (and bad, if any) of WB.  Here is a thread which has a lot of helpful info: http://www.epicski.com/t/147700/decision-17-whistler-or-alta-bird/30

post #19 of 32

You asked about the weather and snow typical of March, and have hardly had anyone answer.  That's not because folks didn't notice, I imagine, but because Whistler offers a pretty mixed bag at that time of year.  You could have anything from warm spring days to huge dumps, to rain; maybe all three in the same trip.  This season has been colder and snowier than average and it's a decent bet that you'll have good weather and possibly some powder days.  I've seen March be the month of dump after dump.  It just depends.  If you're invested in fantastic ski conditions and your trip will be ruined if you don't have sunny powder days, then stay home.  Otherwise the odds seem good for this year's March skiing to be excellent.

post #20 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
 

You asked about the weather and snow typical of March, and have hardly had anyone answer.  That's not because folks didn't notice, I imagine, but because Whistler offers a pretty mixed bag at that time of year.  You could have anything from warm spring days to huge dumps, to rain; maybe all three in the same trip.  This season has been colder and snowier than average and it's a decent bet that you'll have good weather and possibly some powder days.  I've seen March be the month of dump after dump.  It just depends.  If you're invested in fantastic ski conditions and your trip will be ruined if you don't have sunny powder days, then stay home.  Otherwise the odds seem good for this year's March skiing to be excellent.


Thanks!  I'm always invested in fantastic ski conditions with snowy nights and bluebird days....but if I held out for that I'd either never ski or have to move out west and and only ski those days!  We've skied in rain in Snowmass is March, and while I prefer not to ski in rain, I'm more concerned with the pea soup and low to no visibility.  That's the variant I was concerned over...I don't mind cloudy, snowy, or even the occasional rainy day if conditions are late season solid...but I don't enjoy skiing without seeing the person in front or to the side....

post #21 of 32

The thing I remember most about my trip to Whistler ( conditions didn't cooperate ) was riding the B.C. rail from Vancouver to the mountain.

I still tell people about it today , it was 1990.

There was something about it that just added some coolness to the whole adventure.

post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden23 View Post
 

 I'm more concerned with the pea soup and low to no visibility. 

Remember, this place has one mile of vertical. You don't have to ski the entire mountain.  The chairs are set up so that you can ski in roughly 2000' vertical chunks. On days with fog you can usually find a level to ski where the visibility is at least OK. 

 

I was there one day when the Alpine was fogged in terribly; I was being guided by a local and he got lost on a groomer it was so bad.  I fell twice on a green run because I couldn't tell where up was.  We dropped down below the fog level and had one of the most memorable days of my life on the mid to lower mountain.  Your chances of being entirely fogged out are fairly slim.

post #23 of 32

With your schedule, I'd spend the first night in an airport hotel, then take the bus to Whistler.  You don't need a car.  The local bus from Creekside to Whistler base costs C$2.50, coin exact change only.  Get Canadian currency from an ATM.

 

The Creekside gondola leaves you at the Red chair.  The cafe at the Red chair base is vegan, very good, and a good option when the huge Roundhouse at the top of Red chair is too busy.  The Peak-to-Peak gondola from Whistler to Blackcomb is amazing (and not the peak on either mountain).  They have two glass bottom cars that have a separate waiting line.  On a clear day Symphony chair on Whistler Mt. is my favorite.  In the clouds, skiing below the Roundhouse below tree line is good, as is most of Blackcomb mountain, also below tree line.  I rarely ski down to the base, prefer to download on the gondola, but on a clear day the Peak-to-Creek (Whistler peak to Creekside base) is worth doing for the views.  It is steep, and can get scraped off and slick.

 

As mentioned above, Whistler is subject to maritime weather.  It can be anything.  The powder will never be as dry and fluffy as in the Rockies, but it's still great.  And, sometimes it's Garibaldi Glop or even Canadian Clear Flake (rain).  I ski Whistler in December, January, and April with my group.

post #24 of 32

March is usually a pretty good month for fresh snow. 

Clouds associated often make visibility variable but as mentioned it is not too hard to just go to another level or mountain to avoid them.

 

Re the drive up the sea to sky

I do it all the time but prefer doing it in daylight when i have a choice, its a pretty drive.

 

But renting a car to drive to Whistler only makes sense if you have another purpose for it you do not need it once there.

Check your hotel policy for those which charge for parking the cost to park may even be as much as the shuttle

 

don't recommend leaving the airport after 2am ( eastcoast time) and driving you will be bagged when you get there and it will wreck your next day.

Just take a shuttle let someone else stay awake and watch the road they will drop you at your door.  start when your up,   you might miss a few hours at most on first day 

 

Also easier than checking into a room halfway then getting up after a few hours nap in time to be that slow guy in the Saturday am road race.

By the time you find your hotel and get checked in you will have missed more skiing than the walk from the room to lift took. 

post #25 of 32

I only visit Whistler on average twice a season for the past eight years. I stayed at a Creekside condo many years ago and I've used their parking lot for day trips on several occaions. If you're looking to avoid crowds in the village then yeah, this is the place for you. There was a good sushi place (Samurai Sushi Creekside) at the bottom of the hill as well as a pizza place that was ok.

 

In terms of long line ups at the lifts, it's always hit and miss, every day is different. But Creekside gondola hasn't been all that bad the years I've been using there. I don't ever remember lining up there for longer than five minutes, even during Christmas season. 

 

As for the weather, well, if you've been paying attention the past few years it's been unpredictable throughout the country but especially in the Pacific Northwest. The last two seasons late March and into early May were the best times to be at Whistler. They got lots of snow at that time.

post #26 of 32

Couple thoughts:

 

1) If it dumps that Friday night, traffic on Saturday will be bad if you leave the airport after 6am.

 

2) In March, it's pretty rare for it to snow to the valley in Whistler. Even if it does snow to the valley there, even more uncommon for snow on the Sea to Sky highway until you get pretty close to Whistler. I would still rent a car with winter tires though. I'm just saying the drive is not that bad, the road is well maintained. As long as you are not rushing or driving aggressively it's totally fine.

 

3) I would drive to North Van or even better to Squamish (1h20m from YVR on a Friday night at 10pm driving conservatively). This will set you up for the next morning. If it doesn't snow then line-ups won't matter, but if it dumps you don't want to start your trip stuck in traffic, then waiting in line at customer service, then finally waiting in line for the lift etc. etc.

 

Weather is unpredictable. Crowds will not be an issue unless it snows on the weekend. 

post #27 of 32

1) Go.

 

2) Stay the evening in Van so you can enjoy the beautiful ride up the Sea to Sky highway. Squamish is another potential, but at that point you're only a half hour away, so why bother? The 7-11 in Squamish does sell discount tickets (maybe?), so check that out.

 

3) Do NOT stay Creekside unless you enjoy getting shuttled back and forth and back and forth and back and forth from the Village. One of the best things about WB is to be able to walk around the village, pick a place to eat, then walk back to your hotel. I've never understood why anyone would want to stay Creekside. OK, if you're right along a main street maybe it can be noisey, but it's never bothered me.Also, depending on the season, the trail may not be open all the way to Creekside, so you'd have to download on the Gonjola.

 

4) Weather - it's Whistler, who knows. USUALLY March is very good but in 20 years of 3-5 trips a year, if I've learned anything about WB it's that you don't know what it'll be like. I've had (wet) powder in May, 18 feet in November, not a freaking thing in Feb, so....

 

5) Also true that you don't need a car. Sometimes I stay for 10 days and just leave the car with the valet. If you take a bus, sit on the left side going up to enjoy the view.

post #28 of 32

A lot of people are saying don't get a car, but what is he supposed to do with his stuff when he drives up the next morning and can't check in to his condo, but wants to ski? A hotel will store your stuff, but a condo is probably rented from the owner or property management firm, and there's likely no check in. I've rented 15+ different condos at Whistler and there was a check in desk at exactly 1 of those. Also, it means he has to stay the night at YVR--it makes North Van not an option. And shuttling from the airport to the airport hotel, then back to the airport for the bus, with skis and luggage--what a hassle. He's already decided to stay in Creekside, and with a car it's zero problem to drive to the village at night for dinner if that's what he wants to do. 

post #29 of 32
Often I've found really cheap rental cars at YVR. Cheaper for a week than two bus tickets round trip. Driving in to the village is easy at night with free parking in the day lots.
post #30 of 32
Thread Starter 
Ok.... I can't thank everyone enough for their advice and input.  I've decided to do the following-
 
Fly into YVR.  I'm Star Alliance gold, so based on our timing I'm heavily leaning towards bringing our skis.  It won't cost any $, and since we'll be staying at the Fairmont YVR, the extra few minutes shouldn't be that harmful when we land.  Yes- staying in the airport.  I'm also Fairmont premier, and I have an expiring suite upgrade that they agreed to extend a few days and I got a really good rate on the lowest level room...upgraded into a suite when it otherwise would've expired.  Not that I care about room size when crashing that late....but it was nice and doesn't cost me anything.  
 
Renting a car.  Rates are pretty good for a small SUV.  Less than back and forth transfers.  I do have a nightly charge in Whistler, but that still is close on price, and as a poster above said...I will have my personal items on me.  My son wakes up at 5 am like clockwork the first day skiing out west, and we'll be on the road by 6- assuming there's no issue picking up car.  
 
We're staying in creekside.  I called, and they said that there's a small chance they could check us in early.  If not, we can either leave our bags locked in the car or we can store them at the remote check in.  I might opt for the latter, depending on time of arrival.  If it's before 9, I'll probably do that.  We won't ski bell to bell on the opener, so as long as we're on the mountain before or around 10 I'm good.  
 
My son doesn't drink (that I know of...but he's 12, so I'm confifent in this for now) and hates going into stores unless they are sports or ski related....but he does enjoy eating at fun/good restaurants.  The plan is to ski during the day from Creekside, relax for a bit, then drive into town most nights.  Parking is apparently not bad, and we're probably going to walk the village for 15-30 minutes and then grab dinner and go home.  I don't know how spring break is, but yes...I value quiet.  We've stayed ski in/out and had to transit to the main village/towns everywhere we've been, and we are comfortable with it...  
 
Heading back after skiing the last night and staying at the Fairmont again prior to flying out on the 9:15 am flight.  I tried to use my upgrade on that night, but it was too far from expiration apparently and they wouldn't extend.  
 
All in all, we're super excited.  I'll absolutely provide a report on our trip.....Thank you all.  
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