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Five things I wish I knew before moving to Whistler

Forty-two weeks in and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the skiable terrain, the numerous hikes in the area, and the tasty happy hour deals.
The view from the top of Whistler Blackcomb's Crystal Hut, where you can buy waffles with a view.

In just a few weeks, I’ll mark my first anniversary of living in Whistler, and boy, has it been quite the year already. As I've slowly morphed into a Whistler local, I have learned much about this region and have a better understanding of what makes it unique.

Over my time here, I've learned dozens of things I wish I had known about when I first moved to town. So this week, I decided to share some of this knowledge, so you'll have a head start if you move to the resort municipality or if you’re looking for new ideas on something to do. This list might help with that.

You should explore the mountains as much as possible

One thing I have learned about skiing Whistler Blackcomb over the last couple of months is the massive scale of the skiable area. While the ads say it is the largest ski area in North America, this reality didn’t hit home for me until I tried a new lift on Blackcomb and experienced a new side of the mountain on a scale I didn’t expect.

I recently tried the Crystal Ridge Express the other week for the first time and was blown away by it. The Crystal area featured fantastic snow, shorter lines, and just the right amount of intermediate runs that a novice skier like myself could handle without too much trouble.

There were even buttermilk waffles for sale in the Crystal Hut at the top of the run, another thing I wish I had known about earlier in the season because you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back up to grab another one soon!

I wish I had known when I first came here that there is much more to skiing Whistler Blackcomb, and it's worth taking the time to explore, stop for a snack and take it all in. The Crystal zone is now my favourite area, but I still have lots more to explore, so I will see if that changes.

You should embrace the Valley Trail

When I first moved to Whistler, I didn’t explore much of the town’s trail network by foot or bike, which I kind of regret after having experienced more of it over the latter part of the year.

I didn’t start learning the resort's extensive path system until late September, and by then, the leaves had already begun to turn orange and brown. However, when I did some exploring, I discovered the trails around Alta Lake and the connections through Rainbow, Lakeside and Blueberry Parks. They were fantastic, especially on a sunny day.

My advice is to embrace the Valley Trail as much as possible if you're new here, and if you can buy or rent a bike in the summer, it's definitely worth the ride around the lakes. There are still tons of trails around here that I need to explore.

Go check out the waterfalls and hikes

Another one of my favourite activities in the region is hiking, especially to one of the many waterfalls in the area. One of the things I wish I had known about when I first moved to Whistler is just how many impressive waterfalls there are within less than an hour's drive from the resort.

From Nairn to Rainbow and down to Brandywine Falls, the waterfalls and hikes range considerably, but are worth checking out. My favourite is Alexander Falls, and I’m surprised it's not that busy, considering how spectacular it is.

The number of hikes to waterfalls, up to the top of mountains, or to world-famous lakes is astounding. My goal this coming summer is to do more hiking and finally cross Joffre Lakes off the Sea to Sky bucket list. Though, if you’re also planning to hike Joffre this summer, don’t forget to grab a mandatory pass before heading up.

Search for those happy hour and local deals

Another thing I’ve learned about Whistler, which is not favourable, is that food is costly. Before moving here, I knew life in the resort would come at a premium, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to places charging over $25 for a burger.

The high food cost is why I’ve come to appreciate the happy hour and local deals offered by many restaurants in town. Finding the perfect restaurant deal is a challenge in itself, but with Whistler having over 170 places to eat, you can spend weeks searching, but it's worth it once you find a great deal you like.

My favourite spot right now is Alpine Cafe in Alpine Meadows; the happy hour before 6 p.m. is one of a few places in town where you can grab a pint and a burger for under $20. Plus, if you’re lucky, maybe Gene Simmons will stop by and play a tune or two.

Farm stands are worth visiting

Speaking of food deals, as I've said in previous opinion pieces, I love the Pemberton Valley. With its vast open meadows, lush, hay-strewn fields, potatoes and all sorts of goodies, the valley is one of my favourite places to grab fresh produce or an award-winning pint.

However, there's one thing I wish I had known about when I first got here: there are a lot more local side-of-the-road food stands, both in the Pemberton and Birken Valley, than you would expect in such a small region.

Many of these stands rely on the cash and honour system and offer excellent straight-from-the-garden food at prices well below what it would cost at the local Whistler grocery stores.

If you’re new here, it's well worth going for a drive up the valley on a summer day and checking out the Pemberton Farm Tour. Your wallet and budget will appreciate it.

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