A Guide to Staying Safe on Whistler’s Mountains
From taking an unexpected detour into the Cakehole on the backside of Whistler, to simply finding yourself on the wrong side of the boundary tape, there are many pitfalls to avoid on the mountains.
Sure, the locals know what to do. Sure, there is a strong ski patrol roaming the slopes, and yes, there is even a Search and Rescue team that can be mobilised for those unexpected detours into backcountry forays…but wouldn't your ski vacation be all the better if you could steer clear of such incidents?
The problem is, it happens to the best of us (even locals who have been skiing Whistler since the age of three), so here are some tips to get to après without hobbling around on a new cast and crutches.
Helmet, Meet Head. Wear it!
It used to be that helmets were only for kids, and even in the 1980s most kids just wore toques. These days, you will look odd on Whistler or Blackcomb if you DON’T wear a helmet. Make sure you get one properly fitted and be sure you clip it back on after eating lunch. An unclipped helmet is basically a useless helmet. And if you suffer a major fall, replace your helmet right away.
Don’t Try to Do What the Pros Do
In the middle of winter, we all like to watch ski racing (even better during an Olympics year). And it IS inspiring. The problem is that after watching the pros do what they do, you may wake up the next morning thinking you are the next Lindsey Vonn. And ride to the top of the Peak chair and think your TV moment is starting as you set off down the Peak to Creek. Try to keep those emotions in check. If you overdo it, you will end up with a “yard sale” (local lingo meaning all your gear flies everywhere in every direction) and you will ski in agonizing pain down to Creekside with a separated shoulder. Leave the racing to the professionals, unless you are, well, a professional.
Stay in Bounds – The Conservative Choice is Best
Unless you have extensive avalanche training, and a probe, shovel, and transceiver, why are you following a group of people out of bounds? The Whistler Search and Rescue gets too many calls each year to go rescue skiers who simply are not prepared for what the backcountry involves. If in doubt, the Whistler SAR has some precise tips on what you need to bring with you, and what kind of training you need to take the leap from resort skiing to backcountry skiing – which is written about constantly as the cool thing to do. As experts will tell you, be prepared to spend the night.
Finally, Know the Code
From knowing the rules of merging, to skiing safely in a crowded area, every skier and snowboarder must follow the alpine responsibility code. Enjoy the mountains and stay safe!