"Itll be at least a two hour wait and we dont take reservations."
"Sorry, weve run out of nachos tonight."
"Youre drinks are coming soon, I promise."
I heard them all and more this holiday season.
It would seem that the reports of the pitiful snowfall early in the season did nothing to deter Whistler-bound travellers from strapping skis onto their roof racks and coming to visit over the holiday season.
I was wholly unprepared for the hordes; sometimes you just forget that you live in a resort town.
You somehow get used to ambling through village without having to jostle through the crowds and you grow accustomed to getting prime seats on patios for apres.
Thinking back I should have been ready for the deluge. I vividly remember strolling from restaurant to restaurant last year around the Christmas holidays with no luck. The stroll soon turned into a frantic rush around town, the rumbling in our bellies getting louder by the minute. There was no room for us anywhere.
As a last resort we jumped in the car and tried our luck in Creekside and ever since Hozs has been one of my favourite pubs in Whistler a place where you can generally always get a beer and a burger no matter what the season.
That memory must have faded over the two slow shoulder seasons since.
Or maybe I had just convinced myself that Whistler would be ours (by "ours" I mean those of us that live here year-round and endure the rainy shoulder seasons) for the whole winter. I thought those nasty reports about this being the worst start to the season since 76 would have kept all the tourists at bay. It was not to be.
Now, dont get me wrong. Its not that I dont like the tourists. Lets face it, Whistler wouldnt be Whistler without them.
It just takes a little while to get back into the swing of the busy winter season, for all of us. Things like the wall-to-wall cars in the Marketplace parking lot vying for spots, the lineups halfway down the aisles just to buy a piece of gum or a carton of milk in the grocery store, the sold out movie theatres, the hordes of people in the lift lines and of course the interminably long waits to get a table at any local restaurant.
I should have been expecting all these things. Instead, they caught me completely by surprise.
The village and all its amenities are primarily for the tourists during the busy season, as they should be, and I should have stayed clear for the past three weeks while they were here. Instead, I decided to try my luck going out for dinner a few times. Each time it was a mistake and reports from a few friends point to the same experience.
It is completely reasonable to expect long waits and a no reservation policy at this time of year in Whistler. But when we went out this holiday season, it was more than the long waits that got us frustrated.
All things being fair, its not really right to name names and point fingers at certain establishments. But here are a few snippets of things that happened over the holidays.
At one restaurant we waited for 90 minutes for our food (it was 30 minutes before our first drinks). Despite repeated requests for a few more morsels of bread, none were forthcoming.
Fair enough, the restaurant was slammed. The waitresses and waiters were running around frantically. People continued to stream through the door. Tables were turning over faster than the kitchen and the bar and the wait staff could cope.
Meanwhile in the middle of the restaurant we waited and waited and waited.
A few of us were more than disappointed by what was finally presented to us. I think its fair to say that four forkfuls of lettuce do not a Caesar salad make.
Another night one friend waited two hours for his take-out order only to find out at the end of the long wait that they had run out of food for his particular order.
Later that night, as a last ditch attempt, we decided to go to another local restaurant. One friend asked for nachos only to be told that they were all out. How can a restaurant ever run out of nachos?
One friend summed it all up when he said: "Ive been trying to eat dinner since five oclock and its now 10 p.m."
Are these all just strange coincidences?
I think its fair to say that I wasnt the only one who was unprepared for the crowds this season. Some restaurants seemed totally taken aback too. The question is, why?
Heres the thing. I was a waitress to help pay the bills in university. I know how hard it is. I know it can be a thankless job sometimes. Heres the other thing. Ive done the Spirit Course put on by the chamber of commerce to get a deal on my pass, and it wasnt until then that I realized how important customer service is in a resort town.
Now maybe I experienced a few unfortunate and obscure incidents that were completely isolated events.
As a local I can understand somewhat when a restaurant runs out of a certain type of food, or a take-out order doesnt appear after two hours, or my dinner takes more than an hour and a half to arrive. Its our busiest season after all.
As a tourist visiting the best resort in North America I wouldnt know what to think.