I have lived in Whistler as a seasonnaire for two years. Initially I was supposed to stay for one winter season, but Whistler is a bubble; a beautiful, creative, loving and just downright amazing bubble – and I ended up staying for as long as my visas would let me. Although the town (recently voted best ski resort in North America) is a snow lovers playground, where young adults go to never grow up, it can be hard to get by. If you are thinking about doing a season here, make sure you consider the following.
Whistler is catered to its guests and most of them will have a substantially bigger amount than you do. Wages are low and most seasonairre’s live off their tip money, or employee perks. Many residents of Whistler have more than one job, I had three. If you are doing a season here, you will most likely be living pay check to pay check. Serving jobs in more upmarket restaurants are the best paid jobs, not in terms of your actual pay cheque, but tips in this town are the money maker. Jobs with the mountain give you a free ski pass and other benefits, but usually you don’t make any tips. My advice is to get a job serving or behind the bar, in a busy restaurant in town. These are the jobs that everyone wants though, keep trying and keep talking to people – knowing someone to get you in the door is very helpful.
Try to save up as much money as you can before you arrive in Whistler. However everyone has no money and being a close-knit community, the more people you know the less money you will have to spend. For example if you get to know a tuning shop boy, you can get your snowboard waxed for a couple of beers. At my work we get vouchers to spend at work, so I can swap these for discounts in shops, free t-shirts, free drinks, even a taxi home if I’m lucky. Use your employee perks to your advantage and pay it forward, it will come back around.
Possibly my favourite thing about Whistler is the people that live there. It truly is a special place where residents look after each other. Join Facebook groups ‘Whistler Winter 2015′ and in the summer the summer version. This is where you will find a wealth of knowledge on Whistler, where the deals are, where to go, things to do and just some generally hilarious comments. Whistler is a mecca for travellers from all over the world. Most of the town is made up of new seasonnaires, or those who had come over for a season and then ended up staying forever. Because there are so many foreigners, most of the people you meet will have been in your position at some point. A newbie, trying to find their feet. Because of this you will find people are incredibly happy to help you get started, talk to everyone and be friendly – when I first arrived I found out about jobs and houses just from talking to waitress’ and shop assistants. I have lost a phone and a wallet and both times they have turned up. Whistler is a great community, people look out for each other, they are all there for the same reason: to experience the outdoors and have fun.
Whistler is abundant with activities in both the summer and the winter. In the winter the obvious activity that thousands flock to Whistler for is the snowboarding and skiing. Not only will you be able to hit the slopes daily, with two mountains to choose from, you will also get to experience several snow events hosted by the town. Other activities are quite costly, but if you have some money saved up you could experience activities like; snowmobiling, tubing, bob sledding, fondue on the mountain and dog sledding.
In the summer the main activity is downhill biking, which again is a huge deal in Whistler. The summer is beautiful, Whistler really has great seasons; with long, warm days in the summer. Check out The Adventure Group for some adrenaline junkie activities such as; zip-lining, rafting and quad biking. Theres also bungee jumping and sky diving. If you want something a bit more relaxing head to the Scandinavia Spa – their baths are amazing
If you are short on money by this point, because lets face it you were probably smashing it out at apres or in one of the nightclubs all winter, then there is also some free activities. Whistler’s lakes are beautiful. I love Lost Lake and Rainbow Park, if you can find a friend with a car check out Hippy Lake or Joffre Lake. There are also some really cool hikes, on and off the mountain. The ‘Train Wreck’ is worth the trip and the ‘Ghost Town’ is quite eerie.
Housing in the winter is like a gold rush. There are so many people trying to find somewhere to live for the winter that housing is sparse, it is also quite expensive. A lot of houses will have large groups of people to cut costs, and you could end up sharing a room with three other people. Join the Facebook ‘Whistler Housing for Locals’ page, it is the best place to find a house. Houses go quick so make sure you make it a priority when you get there, and set up viewings asap. If you need somewhere to stay the Hi Hostel in Cheakamaus is really good, but it is quite far from the village. It can take a 20 minute bus ride to get into the village, but if you aren’t working yet it isn’t a big issue. My first season I paid $500 for a shared room in a ten person house, 20minute walk from the village. In my second season I paid $750 for my own room a ten minute walk from the village, which I then shared for the summer for $300 each.
Whistler is abundant with drinking holes. You can easily go out any day of the week, as long as you have enough money to! Get a locals sticker for as many places as you can, it will save you money throughout the season. Garfs, Tommy’s, Longhorns, Maxx Fish and Bills all do stickers. Moe Joe’s also do a membership card. Lsat season the locals nights were as follows: Monday – Maxx Fish, Tuesday – Tommys, Wednesday Bills/Moe Joes (live in the house), Thursday Garfinkels, Sunday – Moe Joes. Saturday and Sunday locals tend not to go out, this is when the city folk come up from Vancouver, or sometimes even further afield like Seattle or Washington. I worked in one of the nightclubs and it was probably the most fun job I have ever had, so if you can get a job in one of them, definitely do it. Aside from that Whistler has some great Apres. Definitely one of the biggest apres events this past season, was ‘Swedish Apres’ at Cinnamon Bear. It is on a Wednesday and if they bring it back for 2015 make sure to check it out.
Whistler truly is a beautiful place, with amazing people. It is Never Never Land and I am not sure if I will ever find somewhere as amazing as Whistler. Enjoy every minute.