General

Shopping in Whistler

We had a feeling of home coming when we got into our room in Whistler and particularly after we unlocked the owner’s lodge, which is an inside room of about 20 sq ft within the room and where we keep our personal effects including clothes, skiing equipment and unused groceries. The hotel room itself is about 600 sq ft, complete with a sizeable bath room and toilet, wardrobe, a safe and storage area, a kitchen with utensils for wares for a dinner for six, a countertop which doubles as a bar and work area, a sitting or living room area, a balcony with two garden chairs and of course, a queen size bed. When we were packing for this trip, Su couldn’t find some key items for skiing and we assumed that they were in Whistler. She was therefore slightly disappointed when she could not find them in the room. Su said she would compile an inventory of items in the lodge before we leave. Su had also suggested making one in respect of our store rooms at Tai Wo Hao. Keeping an inventory can be a rather tiresome exercise. I suppose that those who really live for and in the present moment, as opposed to those who say they are or who preach that other people should, would never need to do so, but I am just another ordinary mortal, so I probably need to do that, somehow.

Everything looked familiar in the room: the bed, the desk, the kitchen with its dishwasher, microwave oven and refrigerator, and other furniture. Before I could ask myself whether we would be here every year, Su promptly ruled that we should while we could. And why not, if one believes in living in the present moment. Somehow, there was that “I have arrived” feeling when we got here; and it couldn’t be bad. On arrival, I promptly set up my working area and took the soiled clothes to the coin operated laundry room before we went for groceries at the rather well stocked Market Place. Whistler turned out to be warmer than the last two years; at least that was how we felt. It was sunshine and blue sky when the coach pulled up at the Village around 4:30pm. It must be close to 10 degrees Celsius. At 7pm when we were doing or groceries, there was still light, but the streets were rather bare. There was practically no snow or ice on the streets, and people were wearing very little, some in short sleeves and shorts. We were assured that there would be snow on the mountains. After all, the official skiing season would stay open till 21 April. Later on, we learnt that the comparatively lower patronage this year could be due to Easter coming later than usual, such that some people would have scheduling problems with holiday planning.

We met our favourite instructors on Day One, Jim Moore and Marlene Gervais. As in previous years, Jim happily took on Su and Marlene, me. Marlene took me and three other ladies on a Level Three Class. At Whistler, each instructor typically started a class in the morning with four students. Depending on the commitments and skills of the individual students, the composition may change during the day and so on. Two of my lady classmates, Debbie and Sandy, for example, stayed for two days, while the third, Joanna for one only. Her slot was taken up by Lindsay who stayed for two days, so that on the third day, I had as my classmates, Lindsay, Mint, and Katie. Student skiers came to Whistler for a variety of reasons, but most of them are business and professional people. Some had come because they had time between appointments, or for holidays, or because they were accompany their families who were either around for business or holidays. Many were taking lessons so that they could catch up with the skiing skills of their spouse.

Su’s plan was to sign up for two packages of three days each back to back, so that we would be skiing six days non-stop. Her reason was mainly financial. She wanted to take advantage of the best offer in town at this low season, which was to take out three-day packages of instructions at a time, and which offer would end on 6th April. She signed for the first package on 1st April after we met Jim and Marlene who became our respective instructors throughout. Notwithstanding that both would not around on the fourth day; Su signed us up for a second package anyway, but with some modifications. After the third class, we went to shop for skiing equipment, which was educational on the one hand and which opened our eyes to how a professional ski-boot fitter operated with integrity on the other. But first, what motivated us to buy our own boots.

We both have small feet. It turned out that mine were even smaller than hers. We had always relied on rental boots, which came with the instructions packages we took out every year. Now, Su had often contemplated owning her own boots which could be stored at no extra costs in our room. So, in the morning of the third day, we called up at the retailer in our hotel which had been keeping our rental skiing equipment for free, and to our horror, discovered that I had been using rental boots that were two to three sizes bigger than what I needed. Little wonder why my skiing skills had not improved too much. We presently asked whether they had anything on the shelf that would fit our feet, and were told very politely that they had sold out smaller size boots at this time of the year. They also advised us to go to another reputable dealer which also sold their products.

Ernie was the shop operator who greeted us when we called, tired and wet. He measured our feet, which was when I found out that I had smaller feet than Su, and said that he could probably find something for Su, but would need to check his inventory before he would know whether he could help me. It did not take Ernie long to find a pair for Su, but he took great care in sizing up her feet, making adjustments here and there and putting in an additional feet padding, before asking Su to test the boots, which fit rather well. He then turned to help me, beginning with an apology that he would need a few minutes to go to the shop next door for the product. He came back with a pair of shining bright blue boots, took out the in-sole which he warmed on a machine and asked me to try them. The boots fit very well, and we were about to buy them, there and then. But Ernie was not in a hurry to improve or increase his sales records. He began to ask about our skiing skills, again very politely, and in particular whether our skills had been improving of late; and went on to explain that the boots we had tried on were meant for better and more advanced skiers rather than for beginners. Su proudly told him that she had more than ten years skiing experience and that she habitually used the blue and black runs, while I modestly replied that I had just been promoted to Level Three. Ernie went on to explain that the model I had my eyes on had a rather high flex index, which meant that a small mistake from the feet and toes would be magnified and transmitted instantly to the skis which would in turn react accordingly, implying that they would be better suited for more advanced skiers. He then suggested that I went to another shop three minutes away which might stock a junior model with lower flex and which would probably be cheaper, but which his shop did not have on stock. In the meantime, he would reserve the boots for us.

So we went next door to find a very busy shop with lots of customers ready and willing to clean out the shop. The shop manager came to us, looked at the model number on the card that Ernie had given us and took out the product. I tried it, and even with his assistance, I could not get my feet in. I asked whether he had another pair with half or one size bigger and he said no. We went back to Ernie who volunteered to call the shop manager, who gave him a similar reply. Ernie then suggested that he could take out a screw from the boots, which could reduce the flex by 20%. We agreed; and he began explaining to us how flex operated and in the process, revealed his rather impressive credentials on skiing and on running businesses on skiing equipment. He had been assisting his father who owned five businesses related to skiing. When his father retired at 67, he sold all the businesses; and he decided to work as a shop manager in Whistler. Ernie is very proud of what he has been doing, assisting skiers to find the right equipment and helping them to improve their skills and maintain their enthusiasm in the sport. In the end, apart from the two pairs of boots, we also bought two pairs of poles, and a pair of skis for Su.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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