Opinion » Maxed Out

You're not in Vail anymore

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On the cusp of the greatest American invasion of Canada since the War of 1812 — which, by the way, the U.S. lost, just so there's no misunderstanding — Whistler is ready to welcome weary visitors from south of the border. Welcome, American brothers and sisters! Whether you've come here to simply celebrate your version of Thanksgiving or to ski the copious snow that's been falling the past few weeks or, what the heck, if you just need a break from the unsavoury antics of your PussyGrabber-in-Chief, you are more than welcome here.

And if you look closely, you'll feel more at home than ever! Now that 13-of-14, the resort formerly known as Whistler Blackcomb, has been assimilated by VailBorg, you'll notice some important changes. If, for example, you have a version of EpicMix — the coolio Vailcentric app that's replacing the Whistler Blackcomb app — you'll no longer have to scratch your heads and try to remember how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. Notwithstanding Canada's decades-long embrace of that commie-pinko metric movement, the new EpicMix will happily if ethnocentrically report temps in °F. You're welcome; sorry about that whole metric thing.

I do have to point out though, reporting snowfall in inches is, strictly PR speaking, self defeating. At 2.5ish centimetres to the inch, it sounds way more, well, epic to report a dump of, say, 40 centimetres rather than a mere 16 inches. On the other hand, it is still more impressive to measure terrain in acres rather than hectares, whatever they are.

Yes, now that the frequently ranked No. 3 ski resort in North America has assimilated the frequently ranked No. 1 resort, they're doing their level best to show us how to be No. 3, assuming, perhaps, bronze was always the medal Canadians preferred, with the possible exception of hockey. After all, we're humble to a fault and frequently apologize for just about everything we do, say or think. After all, in the recent words of the U.S. PG-in-Chief, what the heck's Canada ever done? I believe he was specifically referring to the field of medical research at the time and, apparently, no one in his family ever had a brush with diabetes or AIDS. Oh well, never one to let facts get in the way of bombast....

But I digress. And I've joined fellow Whistlerites in promising to do everything we can to make you feel welcome and, if only for a long weekend, help you forget what a hash that man has made of world politics. Americans will always be welcome in Canada and particularly welcome in Whistler. I know because I am, er, was one. And judging by the declining amount of hate mail I receive, I feel welcome. Why not you?

After all, many of Whistler's pioneers were American. I won't bore you with details; just take my word for it, there were lots of them. And they were fantastic. Amazing. The best. Wait a minute, now I'm starting to sound like what's his name.

Just kidding. For all you who have been schlepping up here for years to kick off the ski season and celebrate American Thanksgiving, most of what I have to say is old hat. But with the assimilation of 13-of-14 and the tsunami of Epic passholders expected to journey up to the Great White North and find out what all the hubbub about the resort formerly known as Whistler Blackcomb is about, I feel compelled to offer a few dollops of helpful advice.

First and foremost — and this is aimed squarely at those of you who generally ski Vail — we have alpine terrain here like you've never seen before. For example, on some of the new season passes floating around, there's a picture of a skier on a snowy hill. It looks a bit like a mountain, only smaller. I think it might have been taken at Vail.

Vail has a peculiar way of lulling skiers into a false sense of security and making them believe they're better skiers than they are. I discovered this on an assignment to Vail a number of years ago. Thrilled looking at the trail map, I was eagerly anticipating all the steep and deep skiing the next day had to offer, it having been snowing since before I landed in Denver.

At some point early in the morning, accompanied by a ski school guide, I asked if perhaps I was disoriented. "It seems like we're right about here on the map. Is that correct?" He assured me I was indeed correct.

"But it shows where we are as a black diamond. Frankly, this slope is so shallow I'm not sure we'll be able to get down it in all this fresh snow. How can this possibly be a black diamond?"

He explained that any terrain not generally groomed at Vail is designated as a black diamond. To help those of you who are used to skiing at 13-of-14, if you could imagine, say, Upper Olympic being ungroomed, that's the kind of black diamond I'm talking about.

Needless to say, and I'll only say it as a heartfelt warning to any of you used to skiing Vail's black diamonds, you might want to scope out the black diamonds here before plunging headlong to your doom. Blacks on either mountain here, and especially double blacks, will have your sphincter clacking like a castanet keeping time to a fast tango if you've been deceived as to your skill level by Vail blacks. Just sayin'.

Other things worth noting include the surprising fact Canadian beer is stronger than American beer, for the most part. Not to worry though, with our lower elevation you ought to get more or less the same buzz you're used to, not to mention being able to breathe easier. And Vail Resorts management has graciously limited your on-mountain intake to keep things safe, which explains the sudden popularity of old-school wineskins being seen in greater numbers on the mountain.

Should any of this make you feel in the least bit disoriented, please just ask anyone who looks like a local for assistance. Obsequious to a fault, any true-blue Canadian will be happy to help you in any way possible up to and including guiding you around the mountain all day for no more than a heartfelt, "Thanks."

That having been said, with the strength of the U.S. dollar, coupled with the generally more socialistic tendencies of Canada, you will get funny looks if you don't tip your servers 20 per cent of the cheque, which is how we spell check here. Sorry, I know it's confusing. Please accept our apology; it's what we're best at.

In closing, happy Thanksgiving, welcome, please let us know if there's anything we can do to help and, just for good measure, sorry.

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