General

Our Second Home?

It looks like Whistler can become our second home now. On her way back to the hotel, Su was stopped by someone conducting a survey possibly on tourism, but as soon as the interviewer learnt that she owned property in Whistler, she gave her up, on grounds that Su was a local. Against that background, we have decided to learn more about the environment of our second home and what it offers.

Perhaps the single most striking and most important feature of Whistler is its capacity as a holiday resort, in particular one for skiing, mountain biking, hiking and golfing, not necessarily in that order. In the two days following our two rest days, Su took charge of the skiing programme, taking advantage of the fine weather. On the first day, she took me to the Harmony Express, or more correctly known as the Harmony 6 Express which only officially started operation on 14 December 2013, shortly after the start of the current winter skiing season. It boasts being the only ski lift with six seats each – hence the “6” in its name – and replaces the Harmony Chairs which had only three seats each, thereby doubling the carrying capacity. The lift carries skiers up to the highest point of Whistler Mountain, known as Little Whistler Peak, at elevation 2115m, compared with the Whistler Terminal of the famous Peak 2 Peak at elevation 1850m. One needs to be a skier to get on the ski lift which is only accessible by skiing downhill from the Peak 2 Peak Terminal. The views at Little Whistler Peak are stunning; and Su was rather pleased in the same way as I was relieved that I made it there.

On the second day, Su took me to explore the runs and scenic spots on Blackcomb Mountain. It is difficult to compare the two mountains and take a view on which has the more to offer. In the past, skiers were required to purchase different passes to access the ski lifts on each side, but since then the management has rationalized its administration so that one pass now takes one everywhere between the two mountains. In general, instructors prefer to take students on the Whistler side because of the structural characteristics it offer, but to be fair, both sides have different features to offer, and when the sun is out, the views and vistas on either are equally unparalleled and unbeatable. It was thus Su took me to ride on a few ski lifts and do a few runs, stopping for a drink or bite and some photos in between. In a way, it was as exhausting, if not more, as following an instructor.

It is not as if one must be a skier to enjoy the mountains. There are other options. For example, in the summer, hiking trips and biking tours are extremely popular, but even the amateur skier would tell you that it takes much greater efforts to cover a smaller part of the landscape on foot. The skier on the other hand generally can cover a much wider area in a short time, aided by the ski lifts and the snow. Then of course, there are the golf courses most of which are open to visitors and hotel guests, albeit at a premium, but the prices are comparable to what one would pay to golf in Hong Kong. The mathematics appears to be that whereas one pays for golf membership in Hong Kong, one pays for the airfares to play in Whistler.

Perhaps a key cost component of living in Whistler, apart from accommodation, is the lift passes. These lift passes not only take the holders everywhere between the mountains, but also entitle them to 20% discounts on food purchases in the mountains. I have discussed before that the costs of equipment rentals and lift passes are in general factored into the instruction fees. But if one is to take advantage of the competitive packages for lift passes offered for different times of the year, one needs to plan ahead, which was what Su did. On the premises that we would use our room or apartment at Whistler Hilton as our second home, it would make economic sense, on the one hand, to stay in our room as often as we can afford and during the low seasons, and on the other hand, to acquire seasonal lift passes as early as possible when the prices are more competitive, which means now. Thus, from today, we do not need to pay extra for skiing in the mountains, for we have both acquired the key skiing equipment and our mighty lift passes, which we do not need to pay in full until some six months later. By the way, as a senior, I am entitled to a big discount on my lift pass.

Su has also found that Whistler offers even more generous discounts for super seniors, or anyone at 75 or above; and she has already started working me towards that status, adding that it would be better to move around and about between the lovely mountains when we still physically can, and when the mountains are still there. And we welcome all our friends to visit us when we are there! On this happy and optimistic note, I would sign off, but before so doing, must thank all of you for the good wishes and happy birthday messages which continue to trickle down through the system. I am very grateful to all of you and I feel good.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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