OK you know it’s beyond big, it’s massive. So looking at this just where do you start? We asked the top instructors at YES Improvement celebrating their 20th birthday season at Whistler – for the lowdown on finding the goods. You’re getting over 200 seasons’ teaching experience at Whistler here, so pay attention..
Bob Brett 28 seasons instructing
Answer#1 Anywhere! When was the last time you didn’t enjoy a fresh pow line?
Answer#2 (during the storm) Mid-mountain on Blackcomb has a ton of different named and unnamed lines through the trees, especially skier’s left of Solar Coaster. The best thing is you stay below the trees, so you can actually see something when the snow is blowing sideways. Garbanzo Chair on Whistler is also spectacular on a big pow day, and often no-one is there.
Answer#3 (after the storm) Head straight to the Peak Chair and do laps on Glacier Bowl and Whistler Bowl. When the fresh lines dwindle, head to Doom and Gloom or West Bowl where you can’t go wrong. The Blackcomb Glacier may be the closest thing you get to heli-skiing without actually getting in a chopper if you’re on the Blackcomb side.
Best max vert thigh burner?
Go to the top of Whistler Peak, inhale deeply, then turn right 180 degrees onto Whistler Bowl. Ski the bumps on this long, steep bowl and stay left at the bottom to the rollers and powder pillows on Doom and Gloom. Keep your speed as it flattens out and leads to gnarly bumps on Grande Finale. You get a bit of a rest as you meet Highway 86 which takes you to the top of Lower Franz’s, possibly the best cruiser on either mountain. Take another deep inhale before hooning at top speed for another three or four minutes to the Creekside base. If you made it without stopping, you’ve earned a cold one at Dusty’s!
Alternate late season thigh burner?
When the spring bumps are gigantic, there’s no better way to finish your day (and your legs) than to push off from the top of Seventh Heaven towards the sun. Blast towards treeline under the chairlift, then veer slightly right onto The Everglades where the bumps will greet you like an old friend who won’t let go. As the pitch eases, turn right towards Raptor’s Ride, a gladed run that keeps tricking you into the middle, ugly bumps (tip: stay in the trees either left or right). Take the cat road at the bottom to ski a short gladed run called Pruned Paradise (but which is neither), and you’ll find Lower Gearjammer. If you’re lucky, it hasn’t been groomed, and you’ll have another 600 vertical metres of beautiful bumps to enjoy all the way to the bottom.
most ridiculous (and fun) fall-line?
Seppo’s Run is named after a crazed Finnish Logger who apparently had one leg shorter than the other – maybe that’s why he cut this run to be so off-pitch. I love it – it’s like skiing a big skate park. Oh, plus because it falls away to the right which means I spend way more time turning left (my better side). Great on powder days, and also any time the bumps have built up. Bonus run for big snow years: head left at the bottom of Seppo’s to ski the open area under the gondola.
Whistler: I love Glacier Cirque, and the tricky little double black entrance that protects a beautiful, wide powder bowl. It’s also a great lead-in to the deceptively steep pitch below and skier’s right on Surprise. Lots of variety, lots of great turns, and best of all, it’s only a 10-minute total turnaround on the Peak Chair.
Blackcomb: Diamond Bowl is the middle bowl accessed via Spanky’s Ladder and, for my money, the best. Hike up Spanky’s then head straight across Garnet Bowl to a hidden entrance (if you don’t know the route, make sure you have a guide, preferably me). There’s a tricky S-turn that you really want to nail since it’s a long way over rocks if you slide. Then you have a narrow chute to survive before it opens up into the huge playground of powder and steeps. The options are simple and are all enticing: left through a wide chute for comfort, right for maximum steepness, or straight down the middle for efficiency.
Lots of the runs I talked about above serve multiple duty as steeps, bumps, powder and/or trees, depending on the day and your line. For something different, and quite a bit friendlier, I love taking all levels of skiers through the trees around the Emerald Chair on Whistler. You can start from left to right, right to left, or just mix it up. Whatever you do, make sure you sneak through the terrain park to find lots of lines through the gentle-gradient, super-fun, and seldom-skied trees. Just make sure to duck if a park rat with his pants hanging low flies over your head.
Wayne Deane 20 seasons instructing
Best be first pow line?
The Inukshuk at the top of the Harmony Express on Whistler has more than one purpose. It is a tourist attraction as well as a guard for the Best Be First Pow Line. Just behind the Inukshuk, there is an area by the name of White Spots, which one of my favorite powder spots on the mountain. This run has everything from views to gully’s and trees. On the right aspects, when the pow is deep, it is the most mind blowing run around. Don’t tell anyone!
The best trees are on the way over to West Bowl, through the lower passage. Its a place that is easy to miss, because there are many other skiing options before finally getting to the area called Christmas Trees. Most people enjoy the main chute, however there are many other amazing lines throughout the run to explore. On average, the steepness is about 45 degrees of tree-line.
All time favourite?
My favorite spot is the top of Whistler Mountain, heading over towards West Bowl. It can be a little hairy getting into it, but the views at the top of the gorgeous valley below make it all worthwhile. This spot is called West Cirque, a perfect 500m slope of 45-50 degrees. The reason why I enjoy this spot so much is because there are not many people daring enough to ski it.
Best max vert thigh burner?
The Best Thigh Burning run is Ruby Bowl, a run at the top of the Glacier Chair on Blackcomb Mountain. It is part of Spanky’s Ladder which can be difficult to get into at the best of times. Ruby Bowl might be one of the toughest runs on the mountain, but it is difficult to determine that from standing at the top of the ladder. It isn’t until one traverses across, where the true steepness is shown. This kilometer and a half run can be one of the most thigh burning places, especially in good conditions when the speed is extremely fast.
Rob le Blanc 29 seasons instructing
All time favourite big mountain riding Whistler?
My favourite run has everything a mountain should have. Start at the top of Whistler Bowl. Head towards Doom and Gloom. Nice and steep. Blast from turn to turn, or straightline it to get the adrenaline going. Stay right to enter the wide open and rolling terrain of the main part of the bowl, punctuated by the occasional rock drop or snowdrift launch. Hang a hard right to play in the small sub-alpine trees.
Skip the moguls on the last pitch of Grand Finale by sneaking into the trees, navigate the lower VD Chutes and finish off by flying through the gladed run above Highway 86. When the snow is good (which it usually is) and you are motivated to get up early, this route is just like being dropped off by the chopper. Heli-skiing in-bounds! Now if you want to know what my favourite route is when I’m heading out of bounds, well come ski with me.
kevin schmoll 26 seasons instructing
All time favourite otherwise?
Left Hook, Whistler. I love this run because it’s steep and faces east. Early morning sun casts a soft glow on the snow, and since the run faces east, you ski into the sun. It’s a one run wonder though, because it’s only good if it’s fresh and untracked. Since it’s somewhat well known, it’s so sweet when you get it at its best. So definitely a best be first line.
Best intro to big mountain skiing/riding?
Blackcomb Glacier is my favourite spot to bring people with few experiences in the mountains. Here you can expose them to everything the mountains have to offer in a safe way. One, it’s wide open and provides some of the most awesome mountain scenery here at WB. It’s removed from the central ski area, and so offers you the feeling that you are away from it all, which is part of what skiing is all about. It has one of the best picnic spots in the area, with views of the glacier, some of the surrounding couloirs and the valley. In terms of skiing there’s something for everyone, from easy blues to the “heart stoppingest” steeps.
Linc Phillips 29 seasons instructing at WB
All time favourite (also a thigh burner to be sure)?
With so many to choose from, my ‘favourite’ run has always remained the same. Really though it’s a series of linked runs that make up one of the most challenging lines in WB.
Heading off the Peak chair, start down upper Peak to Creek and carry some speed to make the hard right turn gliding (and skating) uphill to the top of West Cirque. Study the cornice well and find the least innocuous line to survive the entrance into the narrow bowl. At this point you’ll wish you had brought some water as the excitement, nerves, adrenaline and cold wind will parch the entire aesophagus as you stare down 500 meters of 45% gradient bliss.
Temperatures and snow quality are often the best in this north facing behemoth, with winds constantly circulating to fill in earlier tracks and keeping the snow a deep chalk like consistency. Personally, I think snow gnomes are continually shaking the slope clean – similar to how one would reset an etch-a-sketch board.
About 3/4 of the way down cut right, along the ridge of the Whistler Bowl moraine and find a wide open steep and deep pitch to leads you into Doom and Gloom. Complete with dense and/or sparse trees, chutes and steep pitches there are lines to challenge all. When the pitch starts to flatten out and you think you’ve finally reached the end, it’s not over. Pause here, look back at what you’ve just skied. This is one of my favourite views of the Whistler Peak, a reward for what you’ve just accomplished. Once the appropriate pics are taken, follow the traverse that leads you through a saddle and into the best ‘named’ run (in my humble opinion) on Whistler mountain.
Grand Finale is just that. Having never been summer groomed, nor having ever been winter groomed, this is the final curtain call. Already out of breath, sweating and thighs burning, you’ll have to face this often icy plethora of steep-bumpy, tree-stumpy, rock strewn chaos. The smooth ride down Highway 86 to the Red Chair will be much appreciated at this point, although you’ll be back with the masses. Now, if you survived it and loved it, no problem – from the top of Red it’s an easy slide down to the Peak Chair and do it again!
To me this is an iconic run that I’ve had the pleasure to guide many lucky skilled skiing souls down. However, it’s not a run that you just do, in fact it’s not a run, it’s an adventure. The snow, entrance, visibility, abilities etc have to be just right to keep this one safe and enjoyable.
When it’s my time, this is the run where the boys will spread my ashes. Hope the snow’s good boys!
Dave McPeake 29 seasons instructing
All time favourite?
One of my favourite runs on Whistler is Harvey’s Meadow. It’s a great pitch as it usually has great snow on it due it it’s aspect as well as a very good gradient which allows you to focus on a skill or tactic that you are developing. You can take it easy or you can gun it like a champ and it will be nice to you. If you’re not digging the off piste, you just ski to the left and a groomed run follows Harvey’s Meadow. There are many fantastic runs on Whistler, this just happens to be one of my go to runs.
PJ O’Heany 30 seasons instructing & the original YES man
All time favourite?
Grab a quick water from the Roundhouse, then drop off the back through the powder of Roundhouse Roll to the steep and sometimes bumpy but always exciting Pale Face, then burn down Franz’s Meadow to top of Jimmy’s Joker – 4 pitches of steep staircase bumps and your legs are saying “you’re kidding!”, then a quick dart down the cat track to Mother-In-Law that connects to Lower Franz’s, for some high speed roller-coastering fun to the bottom. The goal is to keep turning – it’s easy to back off when you’re legs aren’t listening.
At the bottom of the 6km run the piéce-de-resistance, icy cold beer at Dusty’s, on the patio even better. Remember the Golden Rule: as one of our YESTurians “Crossy” has scientifically discovered after more than 25 years skiing Whistler – his double blind study has proven that if you don’t have a peach schnapps at aprés then your legs keep turning all night. So make sure you give your legs a chance to turn off and enjoy a round of schnapps!
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