Tips and suggestions for a first-time skiier
November 16, 2009 9:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to Whistler for a conference. I've never been skiing or snowboarding before and I'd like to. But I know so little about winter sports that it is hard to make the right choices or to even know what I need to know.

I'll be at the conference for two days, and there's a break from 10:30 a.m.–3:45 p.m. on the first day, and 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m. on the second day. Whistler Blackcomb says that this is adequate time for their half-day ski or snowboard lessons. So here are the questions:

Skiing or snowboarding? This is probably a religious debate, but I haven't been able to make the decision, so maybe someone will have some points that will help me. I have no experience water skiing or skateboarding. I'm in good shape although I've had some minor knee injuries from overuse in running. I'm not fantastic at learning new sports skills, so if you think one of these were easier I would probably go for that.

The second day. I was going to take at least one half-day lesson (CAD 89, CAD 139 with lift ticket and rental). On the second day should I take another half-day lesson (CAD 79/CAD 129)? Or should I try to do an easier trail on my own? The lift ticket and rental alone is CAD 104, so the lesson can be had for only CAD 25 in additional cost. Again, I'm not necessarily so fast about picking these things up, but if the second lesson will mainly be duplication of the first, then maybe it isn't so helpful. I'm sure a whole-day lesson would be ideal but I can't come up early or leave late. I suppose I could always do something else like go tube sledding the second day but I'd rather build on my sure-to-be meager skills.

Gear. The rental includes "skies, boots and poles" but I have U.S. size 15 feet and a Whistler Blackcomb agent said in an e-mail that they should be able to fit me but I am always a bit wary of that. Hopefully it will be okay. The question is what other stuff do I need? Because honestly I have no idea. I assume I probably won't be very happy in jeans, and I don't know whether my light parka will cut it either. Do I need other stuff? What should I get? Where? I live in Seattle.

All other comments and tips welcome. I feel like there are probably other questions I should be asking but I don't know what they are.
posted by grouse to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (40 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about Whistler specifically but having gone to a "ski meeting" I will say that sitting in a conference after trying to learn how to snowboard for an afternoon was painful but hysterically funny.

Go for it.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2009

Best answer: I've been skiing at WB for 25 years. If you're a complete beginner, I don't think you have enough time to get changed, work your way through the lift lines, get all the way to the top of the mountain, take your lesson, race down the mountain and make it back to your next meeting in time without feeling totally lost and very, very rushed. Better that you stay an extra day and just do things at your own pace, and hang around on the hill after your ski lesson so you can try practicing what you've learned.
posted by randomstriker at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2009

Be careful about green runs from the the higher parts of Blackcomb--they're really cat tracks and not at all fun or easy due to their narrowness and iciness.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2009

As for Snowboard vs. Skiā€”one has to sound more appealing to you than the other. Just go with that one. Snowboarding is a lot of fun in powder, but you have to strap in and out all the time, and have a higher risk of falling (as a beginner) getting off the lift. I've always been a snowboarder but I'm switching to skis because I hate strapping in and out all the f$&@ing time.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2009

Response by poster: Better that you stay an extra day and just do things at your own pace, and hang around on the hill after your ski lesson so you can try practicing what you've learned.

Thanks for the advice but as I stated before this is not an option—I have other conference commitments elsewhere. If you think I should abandon the attempt to learn to ski or snowboard whatsoever during the conference, then I can just do it some other time.
posted by grouse at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2009

Best answer: Gear: Go to REI and tell them what you're planning and they will hook you up.

You will want waterproof pants and jacket, a hat, gloves (or mittens), and googles. Feel free to get the cheapest of everything; if you like it and decide to do it all the time you can buy nicer, more expensive stuff then. Right now you won't know what sort of gear works for you and what doesn't, so save your pennies and buy whatever is on sale. Long underwear is a good idea too. Don't even think about going on the hill in jeans with no waterproof outer layer.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:00 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been through both learning processes (first ski, then I stopped for years, and then snowboard), and I'd say snowboard really feels counterintuitive at first, and the first day is hellish. When I learned to ski, I could pretty much stand on my own and negotiate curves after my first run. It took me a good day and a half of snowboarding (and a lot of back and legs pain) to be at the same level of comfort.

I would second randomstricker and recommend an extra day (especially for WB, it is so huge, and you really want to spend some time atop!). You definitely need some form of winter clothing (even if the weather is fine downhill, it can be drastically different on the top!). Check if they rent ski suits, I'm sure they're used to that by now.
posted by ddaavviidd at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2009

If you think I should abandon the attempt to learn to ski or snowboard whatsoever during the conference, then I can just do it some other time.

No, don't do that. But if you find yourself out there not having fun, or hurting yourself, give up, go sit in the hot tub, smoke a cuban and then have a nice dinner. You can have a lot of fun at Whistler without ever getting on the mountain.

But do give it a go. Odds are you'll find something about it you can enjoy. Take it easy the first time out. If you live in Seattle, you can always go to Steven's or Crystal Mountain (YAY!) over the next few weekends and continue practicing. Crystal has a great green run that goes from near the top to the base so you can practice on some varied terrain and not just some lame, 3 degree bunny hill.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2009

Common knowledge used to say that snowboarding had a really unpleasant first few days but once you start to get the hang of it you get good really quick. On skis it's easier to go down the hill without falling but harder to learn how to turn properly. Now, this was before the days of parabolic skis which are much easier to turn on, so maybe skiing is not so hard to get the hang of. Chairlifts are much easier to navigate on skis than snowboards if you're a beginner.

Temperatures at Whistler are usually relatively mild, but at minimum you will need a winter coat, toque, goggles, and gloves. For the coat, anything that will stop wind and moisture is fine; a light jacket with a fleece sweater underneath is OK, especially since you'll be on beginner hills that are in the lower parts of the mountain where it's warmer. Goggles are standard and the shops won't rent them for hygiene reasons, you'll have to buy a pair ($30 at minimum). However, if you have some good sunglasses you can get away with those since you're a beginner and will be going slowly (wind in your eyes won't be a big deal). For pants, you'll be hitting the snow a lot on your first day so jeans are a bad idea. You need a waterproof outer layer, either proper snow pants, or simple rain pants (check thrift stores). Wear something comfortable and flexible underneath. Whistler is a huge mega international resort, I'm sure they can deal with your big feet.

As for the lessons, it depends on the format. Usually you get a group of people who are led down the hill by the instructor a bit at a time, and you stop and go over techniques continually as you go down the hill. It will certainly be valuable for you, even if what they teach is the same, because you'll be figuring it out and improving. However, part of the fun is getting to the top and skiing all the way to the bottom; the stop and go of lessons can get tiresome. If you learn enough in your first day to make it down the hill on your own, I would say try it by yourself on the second day.

Finally, one more thing. Whistler is a huge mountain and you will get to see only 1% of it on the bunny hills. You're paying a lot of money for the privilege. If you can take some beginner lessons before you come to Whistler, a lot more of the hill will be open to you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:04 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

For gear, you'll probably want something that will repel water a bit more than jeans (which will just soak up all the snow that you'll inevitably fall into a few times and take forever to dry and just be really heavy). Cotton's a great fabric, but not when water's involved. Ski pants would be best, but you could probably get by with wool, silk, or synthetic long underwear under nylon exercise pants. A light parka will really probably be fine-- you'll want to layer a warm sweater underneath, but skiing and snowboarding create plenty of body heat.

If I were you, I'd pick skiing, because it's easier to keep your balance. After one lesson, you might be okay to do an easy trail by yourself on skis-- not so sure if you could pick up snowboarding as well in a day.

And don't forget to warm up afterward with some hot alcoholic drinks!
posted by oinopaponton at 10:07 AM on November 16, 2009

Best answer: As PercussivePaul mentioned the first few days of snowboarding tend to completely suck for most people, and while there are many persuasive arguments to push through that get to the fun part chances are you will have a very sore ass and knees by the end of the first day.

That being said you probably do not have enough time to rent equipment, take a lesson, and get anything resembling quality skiing/snoboarding in before you need to head back and be sweaty and sore for your afternoon meetings.

Alpine snow sports are fun, challenging, and expensive, they deserve more time than a few hurried hours. I personally dont really like to go skiing when I have less than a week to devote to it.

Also, you need good quality gloves that you can get on and off easily.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2009

Can you rollerblade? I've been on two snow skiing trips in my life, for a total of 5 days, and I've found snow skiing to be remarkably similar to the feel of rollerblading.

It is insanely fun. You're in the fucking mountains! There's snow! It's beautiful!

Hit your dugout on the ski lift; enjoy the ride down. If you crash near a tree, don't kick it, unless you want to be buried up to your neck by the falling snow.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:22 AM on November 16, 2009

Honestly I would not try to do "quick halfdays" if you've never done snowsports before. I love snowboarding (and was quite the fan of skiing when I was young), but they're both challenging sports that require a couple full days to really get into it. Plus you have to deal with the heavy equipment, awkward clothing, getting on and off the lift, etc etc. You may also have to schlepp back to the rental store to get different size boots. Or buy new gloves because you end up hating yours. Everything just takes forever! Plus afterwards you are going to want to go soak in the tub and drink hot chocolate, not pay attention at a conference. It's not something I'd want to rush.
posted by radioamy at 10:27 AM on November 16, 2009

I agree with everyone that a half day is nowhere near enough time.

Last time I went to Whistler, I went on a snowshoe hiking tour one morning -- IIRC, you take the lift up the mountain, then strap into snowshoes and walk through the forest for a few hours. Great views, and it was fantastically calm and quiet. Entirely different than skiing or snowboarding of course, but it was a lot of fun, and didn't wipe me out for the rest of the day.
posted by xil at 10:33 AM on November 16, 2009

A beginner skiier's advice:
It's only a half day, so don't feel like you have to get perfect clothing. I wore a hiker's rainjacket (basic REI/Colombia-type shell) over layered sweaters. Lots of layers, whatever I had. I was fortunate enough to be going with friends, so I borrowed goggles and gloves from them. I have a pair of polarfleece "sweatpants" that worked just fine (with a layer underneath) for keeping the damp out. And hey, it's just a half day, so if you're cold and damp by the end of it, fine! Go take a hot shower, and enjoy putting on fresh clothes for your evening meeting.
As a sub-point, yes, you've got time constraints. 10:30-11:30 you will feel rushed while you're getting skis. 2:30-3:30 you will feel rushed while you'r editching skis and getting changed. But there's 3 hours in the middle, and 3 hours of skiing is about as much as the average beginner honestly wants to do all at once. You'll have plenty of time to get damp, cold, and worn outm with tired knees. radioamy et al are right that two half-days is not enough to really "get it" but it's waaay better than nothing. You're going to be in the mountains!! with snow!! it'll be fantastic!! Only downside is if you're frugal-natured, and you're concerned that the time constraints would make you feel like you hadn't maximized your value.
posted by aimedwander at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2009

I borrowed outer-shell clothes (jacket, pants) and some gear (goggles) for my first ski trip--if that's an option, I recommend it.

Otherwise, I am in the camp of you can't really squeeze your first skiing / snowboarding ever! into the breaks at a conference, even if the time slots fit. But life is short, so why not try?
posted by crush-onastick at 10:50 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend picking up your rental equipment the night before and dropping it off that evening if possible. The lineups for picking up rental gear in Whistler can easily be an hour on a busy day. Also you don't need to buy any winter gear. They rent everything: jacket, pants, goggles, gloves, helmet...
posted by metaname at 11:10 AM on November 16, 2009

The last conference I was at in Whistler saw quite a few people blow off a good chunk of the meetings to enjoy skiing for longer.

Which is probably why the conference was only at Whistler for one year, and has moved back to Florida for every meeting since.

What I'm trying to say here is this - if the session seems like you might be better off spending your time elsewhere, hey, you're in Whistler, might as well ski instead.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:12 AM on November 16, 2009

At what time do your conferencing duties end?
Hills are generally open late-ish, and you could get extra time in then.
Phone the hill and ask them when they close at night.
[I think you will be fine getting rental boots. Whistler is pretty big.]
posted by Acari at 11:18 AM on November 16, 2009

Hills are generally open late-ish, and you could get extra time in then.
Phone the hill and ask them when they close at night.

There is no night skiing at WB. In December/January the last upload is as early as 3pm, since the sky is dark by 4:30pm.
posted by randomstriker at 11:26 AM on November 16, 2009

I went skiing in the Alps in a leather jacket once because that's what I had with me. I was the fliest guy at Chamonix, and I got lots of jealous stares.

If you are only giving yourself a couple half days, go with skiing. Falling on a snowboard hurts more and I think you'll have me immediate fun on skis. As mentioned before: getting changed and into gear takes time. A lot more than you think. It's better if you have your rented gear ready so that when the break lets out, you are ready to go and don't have to stand in line to be fitted.

You'll need a shell and pants and gloves- both of which are expensive to buy. There may be somewhere to rent a shell and pants there, then just layer up underneath (something breathable near your skin). Any old hat will do, and goggles are a maybe depending on wind/snowfall/sun. You won't be going fast enough to default need them. Go with thin socks if you ski - thick socks cut off circulation and make your feet cold. (Snowboard boots don't need to clamp at your ankles so much).
posted by yeti at 11:29 AM on November 16, 2009

Phone the hill and ask them when they close at night.

Whistler's last run at the top is around 3:00 (this depends on time of year and amount of daylight left). The trails don't have lights since the place is too big. The lifts near the base operate a little longer.
posted by yeti at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2009

Seconding the visit to REI - you can rent equipment from there, return it when you get back. One of the worst experiences is learning in crappy rental gear that doesn't behave the same way two days in a row. Take the class if you don't have someone who can show you around.

I'm putting in my vote for skis because, hey, at least you can always stand up.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:35 PM on November 16, 2009

If you rollerskate/rollerblade and/or ice skate at all, skiing will probably be quicker for you to pick up.
posted by juv3nal at 12:46 PM on November 16, 2009

Skiing vs. snowboarding: I teach skiing, and watch people teach snowboarding. If you only have two days, I'd suggest skiing. You will get more run time in; it's easier to move in the flats, you'll fall less, and it's a LOT easier to pick yourself up. By the end of a half-day ski lesson your class will be off the bunny slope and on easy green trails. On your second half-day lesson your class will be pretty high up the mountain, on green trails and easy blues. I think new boarders spend more time on the bunny slope, and they definitely spend a LOT of time on their butts. In the long run either sport is a blast.

If you're a klutz like me, skiing lets you get away with a lot more, balance-wise, than snowboarding. This means less face-plant time. Again, in the long run they're both a lot of fun.

Take lessons both days. You will be assigned a group according to your skill, so the second lesson will build on the first. Also, your instructor will take you on trails you'd never think you'd be capable of doing, so you'll get a sense of accomplishment and see a lot more of the mountain.

Either sport, tell your instructor about your knee injuries so they can focus on getting you moving properly without stressing the injury. My hunch is that skiing will stress the knees less, but I'm not a good-enough snowboarder to know that for sure. Also, concentrate on turning uphill to slow down and stop. Let gravity do the work for you whenever you can. Slamming on the brakes in the snowplow position is necessary sometimes but hard on the joints.

Snow togs: A full ski-specific outfit is overkill for one or two days out. The previous advice about nylon over layers, top and bottom, is very good. The light parka should be fine as an outer top layer. For the inner layers choose wool or synthetics. Cotton gets very cold when wet from snow and perspiration -- so no t-shirts and NO JEANS!

For the lower layer, cheap hiker's or runner's nylon rain gear over long underwear and/or tights should be fine. By "cheap" I mean the stuff they sell at Wal-Mart (yeah, I know.) The pricier stuff is more delicate. Or swing by TJ Maxx. They often have excellent ski and outdoor clothing at deep discounts. If you can pick up a set of Columbia ski pants for like 40 bucks that'll work too.

Don't overdress; if you're chilly when you first head out then you'll be perfectly warm when you start moving. Make sure your arms and legs can move freely.

Helmet: Rent one. Best wind-proof hat I own. And until you get your balance, ski or snowboard, the risk of hitting your head is pretty high.

Goggles: You need eye protection, BUT, if you have sunglasses those will be fine. I usually teach in sunglasses. Wraparounds are better if you have those. If you decide you really like skiing/boarding and start getting out more than once/twice a season, then get goggles.

Do you wear prescription eyewear? That might complicate things just a little.

Gloves: Buy or borrow snowsports-specific gloves or mittens. These will not get all caked up with snow the way knit wool gloves do, and are not harmed by moisture. You can usually find a perfectly-good pair at Target or Costco for 10-15 bucks.

Socks: Don't overthink the socks. The boots are insulated. Thick socks like hiking socks will make it harder on you. Wear thin socks. Like mafia socks, even. That's it. NO COTTON! Keep your pants and tights outside of the boot.

Anything else?
posted by Opposite George at 1:19 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think skiing is going to be easier for you to pick up in one afternoon. It is easier to control your speed. Pizza goes slow (ski tips pointed together) French Fries go fast (Tips straight).

I haven't been snowboarding, but I've heard it is harder to get the hang of. I've been told over and over that it takes at least a full day of practice to get used to. Most people I've talked to say that the first days of the first snowboard trip is mostly spent on their backside. These are people who spent most of the 90's on skateboards, so YMMV.

For another angle, you might want to see if they have tubing or a sledding hill. I know they do that mostly for the kids, but think how much fun it would be to get video of your boss flying down the slopes on a huge black inner tube. You get the fun of the speed without the need to learn a new skill. You are also less likely to get hurt, and the rental fee would be significantly less.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:24 PM on November 16, 2009

I'll summarize that you'll be pushing things but I think you might be able to get two half days in. Skiing is generally considered the easier sport to learn in the short term. To maximize your time on the mountain, you will want to be able to get on the hill as soon as possible at your break time. That means not having to eat beyond a granola bar or two while on the slopes and being ready to leave the conference almost dressed to go skiing. Not sure where your conference is located at in Whistler (it is a very large place so walking could take a big chunk out of your break time).

I'd definitely pick up rental gear the night before if possible (this is true for any ski trip...picking up the night before is always worth it). I really like renting from Summit in Whistler. They are super convenient for you since their location is about 30 or 40 meters away from where the ski school meets. They also will do boot (small surcharge) and ski (free) valet service for you so that you don't have to lug the gear around with you while at the conference.

As for whether to ski by yourself the second day vs. a lesson, chances are you will be able to book a lesson right after you first one if you liked it and wanted to do another one the next day. This only holds true if the conference isn't for one of the more popular times but I assume that is probably true. You can call and check to see how likely it is they would have room the next day for a late booking.

As for clothes, your waterproof jacket should be fine if you layer up but jeans will not be...especially for a beginner since you will fall. You might be able to get away with shell pants layered over sweat pants but that might be pushing it. Waterproof gloves are a must as is hat. Goggles are a close to a must have and can double as sunglasses.

Have fun and I am super jealous.
posted by mmascolino at 1:37 PM on November 16, 2009

I've skied (badly), and snowboarded (badly). Based on my admittedly limited experience I would have to put in a vote for skiing, based on your time limitations. In a couple of hours you can be somewhat-tooling around by yourself on skis, whereas for me two hours into my snowboarding experience on Blackcomb was about the time I found myself wishing I had packed kneepads and a scarf since I had caught about the 50th edge and slammed facefirst into the snow... again.
posted by barc0001 at 2:07 PM on November 16, 2009

I see now that you already thought of the tubing. Sorry about that, I must have had a brain fart.

Really though, my favorite winter activity is the tubing. It is so much cheaper, and I think it's a lot of fun. A much smaller chance of bodily injury too. Those ski and snowboard boots are just too hard on my knees. Call me lame if you want. I don't know how it is at Whistler, but around here (Northern Utah) the Resorts will actually haul the tube back up the mountain for you, so you just take the lift up and coast down. All the fun, none of the hassle. With the short amount of time you have, and the length of lines for the lifts, I really think you should consider it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:10 PM on November 16, 2009

I think going for a half-day lesson is a better use of that time than just flopping around on the bunny hill by yourself. I'd highly recommend a private lesson if you can; I had some really enjoyable private snowboarding lessons on Blackcomb many years ago (though my semi-private lesson was really fun, too). With a lesson you often get to skip lift lines, so you'll have more runs. You also won't have to worry about ending up on some nasty kilometers long cat track by accident. With a smaller amount of time to spend a lesson can help make the most of that time.

As for skiing or snowboarding, I'm not sure, because I've never skied. The first days of snowboarding were kinda hellish though. Still fun.

If you have some synthetic bike pants or hiking pants you can wear those over one or two pairs of good thermals. Heck, I've snowboarded in Italian wool army pants, and once even a long skirt over velvet leggings. Just stay away from cotton anything. Have good gloves, good heavy-duty hiking socks, good thermals, a hat, scarf, and goggles along with several layers of synthetic, silk or wool and a windproof shell. I admit that I have fancy gore-tex bibs now that I love, but for a half day you just need to be able to move and stay warm.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding radioamy.

You need a full week of lessons to learn how to ski, and a bit longer than that to learn how to snowboard. By knowing how I mean you're doing reds/blue without falling over at a decent pace.

However, this is your chance to do something you've never done before, so go for it! Both sports are equally fun, skiing is easier to begin with.
posted by wolfr at 4:06 PM on November 16, 2009

Not just thin socks. Buy ski socks. Worth every penny.

Most thin socks have ribbing or other textures, and in ski boots these will be very painful.

Renting equipment in town is often cheaper than on the mountain, and may work out better with your schedule. The advantage of renting on-mountain is that you can swap out for different equipment if yours isn't working for you.

I don't think you have enough time to get changed, work your way through the lift lines, get all the way to the top of the mountain, take your lesson, race down the mountain and make it back to your next meeting in time without feeling totally lost and very, very rushed.

In the US, beginner lessons usually meet at the bottom of the mountain. How to get on and off the lift will be covered in the lesson, and most mountains let those in lessons cut ahead in the lift lines. There are multiple groups based on your abilities, so you will learn something new on the second day. If this is your one chance to learn to ski, why not go?
posted by yohko at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2009

Best answer: I went skiing for the first time in March! I went to Stevens Pass with a friend. My recommendations

-do one lesson and then decide. The group I was with seemed to be all people who'd never seen a hill and probably couldn't stand up in bare feet indoors, so fortunately for me one of the instructors took me off to go down actual slopes on my own. That was awesome, but I gather it's kind of unusual. After your first lesson, you should still be able to book for the next day if it sounds like there's one at whatever level you end up at, otherwise you will probably be able to have fun just going down some easy slopes for a few hours (and it's exhausting, so a half day will be plenty long enough for your first times).

-I totally did the 'go to REI and say I'm going skiing' thing. The guy I asked was amazing, and I ended up with long johns, goggles, an undershirt, THICK socks, waterproof pants and I had borrowed an outer shell jacket. A scarf, hat and gloves are also necessary. Really, don't forget gloves like I did.

-check the lesson times in advance. It's kind of annoying to arrive 2 minutes after one starts, and have to wait for the next one in three hours.

-I've had knee and ankle issues and neither of them bothered me skiing. The risk to knees, I think, is if you take an awkward fall and get tangled up in your skis, but as a beginner you should be prepared to just collapse onto the ground if you feel you're getting out of control, and then nothing bad will happen.

Overall, two half days is absolutely worth doing. Don't skip it! You're at Whistler, it's a great chance!

(That reminds me, is there going to be a whistler meetup this year?)
posted by jacalata at 8:05 PM on November 16, 2009

I went to Whistler for a meeting and I totally wussed out on skiing due to lack of money and feeling like the break between morning and late afternoon sessions was not long enough to ski. Since I had a bad fall a while back, I think it's going to take me a dedicated ski vacay for me to get back on the slopes, sadly. BUT, I think you should go for it, and I'd opt for skiing over snowboarding because I personally found it easier to pick up. Best option for ski pants and jacket and other winter wear: borrow from friends before you go. 2nd option: you can rent ski pants/jackets, etc. And, yes, many people there for conferences do blow off a morning or an evening to get skiing time in.

You can also ride the peak to peak gondola as a "tourist" rather than a skiier. I wish I had known that while there.

I did go ziplining while up there, since it was easy to fit in between sessions ( and a lazy adrenaline rush.) It was fun, (and hopefully this won't happen to you too.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2009

Snowboarding is really hard to learn, and you'll fall a lot and be sore and wiped the next day. Skiing is easier to learn in a short period of time.
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:20 PM on November 16, 2009

Response by poster: After your comments, it does seem like maybe I was being too ambitious, and I am leaning toward tubing and snowshoeing this time. But I can always go to Stevens Pass some other time and learn to ski, so feel free to keep answering the question. It'll still be useful.
posted by grouse at 10:26 PM on November 16, 2009

Well no reason you can't go to Stevens Pass ahead of time to see if you like it/learn a bit and then use your time at Whistler to ski some more.
posted by mmascolino at 1:21 PM on November 17, 2009

Response by poster: This is true. That would be ideal yet it seems hard to find the time to do it right now.
posted by grouse at 1:51 PM on November 17, 2009

I took my first snowboarding lesson at Steven's Pass, and was the single adult female goofy-footer among a group of pre-adolescent and adolescent boys. Though the lesson wasn't stellar, it did get me started with tips on how to get up once you've fallen and getting on and off the lift. However, my lessons at Blackcomb were far and away much better- with adults, better instruction at all levels, and much more individual attention. I think if you can get a half day in at Steven's Pass, you'll know if you're being too ambitious for Whistler. I still don't think you are, especially if you have access to a hot tub later that night to soothe your aching muscles.

I might be projecting though, because Whistler is an awesome place to be and I'd jump at the chance for a half-day in an instant. I think that if you do a half day lesson of some type you'll pack in some good experience without completely destroying yourself.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2009

Response by poster: The tube park was closed because there wasn't enough snow yet. Sad. Snowshoeing was great fun, though. I highly recommend it to anyone.

I eventually took a couple of lessons at Stevens Pass, which was a fun experience (simultaneously easier and more difficult than I expected), and I could definitely see how I wouldn't necessarily have wanted to cram in my first lesson ever in the middle of conferencing. If I ever get a chance to go back to Whistler, I will be better prepared.
posted by grouse at 6:15 PM on June 14, 2010

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