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Survival tips for a Whistler winter

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Well, it's that time of year. The turkeys have been sold, snow is capping the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb, tourists are so scarce we can actually park — OK, not at Marketplace — inventories are up, sales are down, and fresh-faced seekers from the far corners of the world have begun to arrive for another fun season we can only hope is nearly as good as last.

Welcome. Whistler opens its arms to you, one and all.

Wherever you're from, wherever you're going after this, just keep this one thought in mind during the trials and tribulations about to hit you from every direction — you're here and your friends are back home workin' in the store and wishin' they were you. Little do they know.

There are several things you need to know to get the most out of your season in Whistler. Picking up Pique was a good start. Glancing at the Whistler Survival Guide will be another. Finding a wallet full of platinum cards will be even better if you act quickly before the owner has a chance to cancel them. And paying careful attention to the wisdom I'm about to lay on you will distinguish you as the kind of person Whistler values most — gullible.

Over the years, experts on survival have analyzed reports of people suddenly finding themselves in strange, hostile surroundings. They have distilled their findings into a priority list of things you need to make sure you live to tell the tale of your bizarre journey. That list is equally applicable to each and every one of you who are, right about now, asking yourself just how long you need to be in this town before you too can call yourself a local.

Here's the list: Shelter, water, food, first, then alcohol, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

Assuming you didn't bring shelter with you all the way from Australia or Trois-Rivières, you've probably come to realize what an uphill struggle it's going to be ticking that one off the list. Well, living in Whistler is a bit like writing an exam in school; if you get stuck on one question, move on to the next one.

Assuming you're not thirsty or hungry, you can just slide into the alcohol-fuelled troika of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Having done that, you can indeed call yourself a local. At least until you wake up some morning with an overwhelming urge to get your real estate license. When that happens, you can call yourself a long-time local.

But sooner or later, you are going to have to come to grips with the whole issue of finding a place to live. The easiest way to find a place to live in Whistler is to have parents who love you and are fabulously wealthy. If that describes you, housing won't be a problem and I'd be happy to personally guide you through the rest of the travails of living here; just leave your number with the Pique receptionist and I'll be in touch.

If you're not lucky enough to come from wealth, but are lucky enough to find yourself employed by someone offering staff accommodation, take it without hesitation. Staff housing not only solves the shelter problem, it also pretty much takes care of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll issues as well.

If you're unfortunate enough to have to throw yourself into the dog-eat-dog housing market, the single most important thing you need to remember to up your odds of finding a place to live is this: Lie! Lie like you ski — big and often. Some whoppers that generally will give you a leg up include:

• "I can handle the rent by myself; I don't want any roommates."

• "I own my own home in ________ (Quebec, Australia, London, Toronto). Let me know if you're interested in staying at my place if you ever visit there."

• "I'll treat it like my own."

The reason these lies are important is because British Columbia has a landlord-tenant act so skewed towards tenants that once you're in, it'll take the better part of the ski season to get you out after the landlord discovers you've packed the place with 87 roommates. So all you need is a lease. After that, you can rent out enough floor space to other skids to not only cover the rent, but quite possibly pay for the rest of your round-the-world trip and a new snowboard.

OK, housing out of the way you'll need food. If you've landed a job in a restaurant or food and bev at the mountain, you're not only covered, you now have the makings of a small business, if you know what I mean. Otherwise, there is a food bank in town if things get desperate. Learn to cook soups, stews and beans; they got me through college, they'll get you through Whistler.

On the off chance someone with real money comes to town and offers to take you out, remember these names: Red Door, Rim Rock, Araxi. Otherwise, what follows is an exhaustive list of restaurants you can afford on what you'll make working a couple of Whistler jobs:

Contrary to what you've heard about B.C. Bud, pot is not legal... yet. Suffice it to say, like smoked salmon, it is one of the things this province is known for and as long as you don't walk up to the RCMP and blow smoke rings in his/her face, — or be unfortunate enough to find product some lowlife cut with fentanyl — you're probably safe. Of course, if you haven't worked out the food thing yet, caution is advised.

Finally, no matter what job you end up with, you're working in guest relations. It's what we're all about. Guests are our raison d'être. They can also be a royal pain in the ass. Sooner or later, one or more of them will be in your face. Quite possibly — probably — for something entirely outside your control or influence. No matter what you hear from others who have been here longer than you have, you are not allowed to tell one of them each season to f--k off. Besides, that is so unimaginative.

When a guest is upset and yelling at you, listen placidly. Empathize with their plight. Look them in the eyes and nod your head occasionally. At the right moments, say things like, "Oh dear," or "I understand." Let them vent; that's often all the situation requires. Sooner or later the bluster will blow over and they'll start running out of steam. This is the Moment o' Truth. When you sense a break, an opening, a wind down in their rant, don't say anything for a count of five, let the moment hang.

Then blink twice, look vacantly into their face and say, "I'm sorry; what did you say?"

Works every time. Good luck.

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