Ski and Snowboarding

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Blackcomb Glacier late April

Through meeting many of the exchange students at UBC it is obvious that many of them choose Vancouver and BC for the world class skiing available. So I thought I would write a blog to let potential UBC exchange students know about the details of what it’s like to ski here.

Firstly I’ll say I’m not a HUGE skier, I have only been resort skiing and haven’t been involved in any back country here. Although if you are involved in back country and looking to study at UBC you will probably know of many other sources to get information about this rather than myself.

Over the year I have mainly been skiing in Whistler but have also visited Revelstoke in the BC Rockies.

Whistler Blackcomb

Whistler is a huge resort (I’m guessing one of the biggest in the world). It spans over two mountains (Whistler mountain and Blackcomb mountain) both of which have world class resort skiing. You can access each from the base  of each mountain or by using the Peak to Peak gondola which links the two mountains whilst you are on the slopes.

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7th Heaven Bowl on Blackcomb Mountain

Whistler Blackcomb offers students at both Simon Fraser and UBC a reduced season pass for $600. This may seem like a lot of money but the usual price is $2000! If you buy it early enough in the academic year (as soon as you arrive at UBC) you can get a further reduction from the Ski and Board club at UBC. I wasn’t wanting to part with such a considerable amount of money but looking back on it, the season pass is totally worth it! A day pass in peak season is over $100 so you only need to go 5/6 times to get your money back.

The season usually last late Nov/early Dec to the end of May.

Whistler also offers some great night life where you can party with the locals, 90% of which are either Irish or Aussies doing a ski season.

Equipment

Many student who are looking to do a lot of skiing over the year bring their own equipment. Others buy second hand from a number of places around Vancouver. I decided to rent a pair of boots, skis and poles from a place called ‘Sports Junkies’ which is on Broadway near a number of other outdoor retailers. Rental for the season is $200 for a beginners skis, $250 for intermediate and $300 for a pair of good powder skis (price also includes generic boots and poles). They also ask for a $250 deposit. Sports Junkies is certainly cheap and easy, they also sell a lot of second hand gear if you want to actually buy a equipment. If you don’t have the correct clothing as well I would 100% recommend having a browse here for bargains! The one problem I had with Sport Junkies is they gave me really short skis. I also have heard they can be a bit dodgy with the return of the deposit, many students only receive a portion of it back ($150/$200). I’m not entirely sure about the details of the deposit issues but I haven’t heard about anyone receiving less than that back.

Transport to Whistler

Whilst you are at UBC you will find it easy to get to and from Whistler, students travel up every day of the week and are keen to fill spaces in their car to cover fuel.

Join ‘Hitching the Sea to Sky’ facebook group which is the highway 99 from Vancouver up north past Whistler. From here you can post and look for rides to and from Whistler, usually you can find someone within the hour if you post at least a day before. Fuel usually costs between $10-$20 if the car is full. The great thing about this facebook group is that many of the people travelling up are also from UBC so you will be able to be picked up from residence.

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Bagel Bowl on Whistler Mountain

Alternatively you can rent a car from many of the car rental places on campus.  I’d suggest opening up a zipcar or modo account if u have a UK license once you get here. You can book instantly on an app then just tap a car against the windscreen and your set and ready to head to whistler. People will only need to cover the cost of the rental as zipcar pays for fuel! This usually is $80 for a day, split between 4/5 it’s a bargain!

Many students also buy cheap cars and vans if they have friends that want to split in. This is also a great way to provide yourself with transport and the motivation to travel if u have extra cash. I know one guy who bought a van for $500. After that you only need insurance for the car and fuel. If this is split between 3/4 people it can often work out cheaper to get a car for the year. Plus you are able to sell it at the end. Or travel with it after…

Ski and Board Club

The ski and board society organises many trips to Whistler at the start of the season, and then over winter (mostly Jan and Feb) to other resorts around BC and into Alberta and the Rockies. If you are interested in having a great weekend away full of skiing and even more partying then I’d highly recommend jumping on one of these crazy trips. They usually leave UBC early on the Friday morning around 8-10am. About 30mins in they will buy a ridiculous amount of alcohol for everyone to consume throughout the weekend (included in price of the trip). The trips vary in price a fair bit.

‘Condo Cram’ is extremely popular which is the opening weekend of Whistler Blackcomb. The club books out a hotel/hostel for the weekend in the heart of Whistler and everyone has a responsible 2 night stay… Don’t expect to get much sleep on this trip as your room will be packed with students. Full weekend price $80 (bargain for whistler prices), includes, accommodation, transport and alcohol.

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Revelstoke in the Rockies

They also run trips to Revelstoke, Big White, Kicking Horse and a variety of other places. I was on the Revelstoke trip which was also pretty crazy and one of the highlights of my stay.

Other Resorts

Vancouver is home to 3 other small ski hills just on the north shore of the city. Grouse, Seymour and Cypress. Skiing here is great for beginners or evening trips, it comes at a lower price and is easy to get to. One of the big events of these ski hills is the 24hr over night skiing that each will hold once a year. This is quite a cool event which many other exchange students will also book onto.

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Early April flying over Vancouver with North Shore mountain resorts stripped of snow.

Anyway, hope this information helps if you are looking to come here to ski. There will be plenty of good advice you’ll find upon arrival but it hopefully gets some ideas for how to fill your year with great experiences!

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