Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow, Spa, Seven Bottles of Wine*

*plus two more bottles in the fridge
First thing we did was unpack the snacks and determine that the main difference between the guys going to Whistler (two weekends ago) and the girls going to Whistler (last weekend) was that guys see no difficulty in refugee camp-like accommodations (one bedroom, one bathroom, six dudes), while we three ladies had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge.

It was pouring rain when we arrived on Friday and it continued to rain as we headed into the Village for the evening's entertainment. We ended up in the Irish pub which was packed, but somehow managed to find three stools at the bar next to a guy with a wolf-hat. Brooklyn-Keith and his brother Dan were basking in the glory of West Coast snowboarding, and the guy next to them, Gordy, was up from San Francisco. The difference between resort towns that center around an activity and resort towns that center around simply atmosphere (like Puerto Vallarta), I've discovered, is that everyone wants to chat about the central activity, so there was much talk of snow conditions, Vermont versus Tahoe versus Stevens Pass, fashion accessories made from stuffed animals, and why the Shake Shack on Columbus Avenue is better than the one in Midtown ( - in Puerto Vallarta, I can easily go three days without anyone talking to me.

On Saturday morning, Wendy, Christina, and I headed to Blackcomb for our first day of snowboard and ski camp. We split into our individual groups: Wendy to the intermediate ski group, Christina to the bad-ass snowboard group, me to the intermediate snowboard group, and then spent the day battling massive snowfall and not being able to see our own feet. It was a tough day and when we compared notes before getting into the hot tub at the hotel, Wendy had had a great day with her group and an exceptional coach, Christina was a little skeptical of her class having spent most of the day in the terrain park, and I was sadly disappointed with my coach, having received little to no actual instruction, but just basically spending the day snowboarding with a bunch of very nice women (ranging in age from 20s to one lady who was probably 60) with the coach just acting as a guide to the runs, which is not what I'd paid for. It takes more than a bad coach to make for a bad vacation though, so I was still happy as a clam to be outside, not at my desk, hanging with such lovely friends, and the aforementioned many bottles of wine were there for the taking, so we poured ourselves some red and headed for the hot tubs.

People come to Whistler from all over the world. The highest "foreign" population is from Australia, and it seems like half the workers in the Village are from Oz, with a fair number of Kiwis thrown in the mix. The place is also full of Brits, some of whom we chatted with in the hot tub. After soaking for a while, we changed for dinner and ran into Gordy from the Irish pub in our hotel lobby and ended up having dinner with him and his friend Paul at the restaurant at the Whistler racket club, which was totally dead on a Saturday night, but we had a very fun dinner. Christina and I split the surf n' turf -- an incredibly mediocre steak which would have come with two prawns had Gordy not had the foresight to inquire about the quantity of "surf," the answer to which prompted us to order an extra side of surf to go with it, and Wendy had a pasta dish that appeared to have been made with an entire can of tomato paste. But once again, the important point that good company trumps bad weather and bad food was illustrated, and it was a very nice evening.

On Sunday we woke up to blue skies and sunshine and headed back to camp. Unfortunately, my coach really seemed to be phoning it in and after crashing onto my rump twice in quick succession on a narrow run which was lousy with ice and herds of skiers, I was done. I bailed on the rest of class and headed back to my room and a soft bed and HGTV. I went back for the camp's wrap-up events and actually had a chat with one of the managers about my experience. I debated whether or not I was going to do that but then I realized there were some safety issues at play. My instructor never made a point of checking on the riders behind her, let alone actually coaching us, and when I was on that narrow run, I was a couple minutes behind the group with a pretty steep cliff of powder on one side - if I'd gone over the edge, I wouldn't have been found until spring. Wendy said her instructor went down every run first then watched every member of her group descend and gave individualized comments after each run; Christina said her group was big so one coach went down first while a second one rode sweep to make sure everyone was accounted for -- this made me think some feedback might be in order, but the clincher was when a couple of us in my group realized that two girls weren't back yet even though most of us were already settled into our beer and waiting for the wrap-up events to start. One of the missing girl's friends tried to call her, no luck; I noticed that some friends of the other girl were back and we checked to see if they had heard anything; turned out one of the girls had taken a bad fall (oh, and she was ten weeks pregnant), the other girl was waiting with her for the ski patrol. The friend of the injured girl rushed off while our coach didn't seemed concerned at all, and um, said she had to get home and left. The manager I spoke to seemed fairly appalled by all this and apologized for my experience and told me she'd be glad to give me a discount if I'd like to come back to camp again some other time. I think my experience was unusual and I appreciated her response and was glad that Christina and Wendy got much better value for their camp dollars. But AGAIN, I had a good time... any vacation in a beautiful town is better than the best day working, and unless you shatter a femur or something, I think you have to be trying pretty hard to have a bad time in Whistler (hopefully the injured girl from my group wasn't hurt too badly).

Sunday night we hit the hot tubs again, this time we chatted with a couple of guys from Ontario who worked at the resort, and one of the guy's father
who was out west visiting his son - none of these gents were surprised that none of us could name the Prime Minister of Canada. Stephen Harper, people... THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA IS STEPHEN HARPER!! After our soak, the three of us went out to dinner (mediocre pizza, a large pitcher of sangria), and then to a nice bar where a dj was spinning in a corner while the bartender crushed up gooseberries for Wendy's cocktail and Christina and I had something hot and chocolaty and topped with whipped cream.

And then on Monday we had an awesome morning at the Scandinave Spa down the road before heading home. Jenine had been there before and I was really hoping we could hit it this time since I missed it last time I was in Whistler. 
( We managed to book three massages for 10:15 and quickly checked out of the hotel. The place is beautiful -- you walk from the parking lot down a path to a lovely building nestled in the woods. The property is terraced with pools of different temps on different levels, there are two relaxation solariums, and I sat in the nicest steam room and sauna I've ever been in - both huge, and the steam was so thick in the steam room it took me a minute to realize Wendy was already in there when I walked in. We soaked and lounged into the afternoon and finally hit the road for home around 2pm.

Great way to spend four days.