Moving to Whistler: One year on

When I moved to Whistler, I had no real idea of what lay ahead. I could hardly believe it was really happening till I stepped off the coach and looked up at mountains dusted with their first layer of snow. My main reason for going out there was to ski. After years of wanting to learn, I finally got into skiing at uni and loved it. A season in Whistler would give me the chance to work hard at this new skill and an excuse to go back to Canada: a country I fell in love with on a family roadtrip seven years before.

One year on I’m back home in the UK, but my time in Whistler will always stay with me. If I’d never gone to Whistler, I would never have gone on a solo roadtrip in the US; I would never have felt the excitement of the snowline creeping down the mountains in the fall; or rung in the new year surrounded by 300 other seasonnaires following the snow; I would never have ended a busy shift enjoying beers with my workmates as the sun set over distant peaks, before skiing deserted twilit trails back home; I would never have met the incredible people who forced me down black slopes, off piste and through gladed runs and the incredibly brave ones who followed me down them; I would never have had the feeling of waking up in the morning, knowing the mountains were out there waiting for me and thinking “this is my life”.

Moving to Whistler not only taught me how to ski, gave me unforgettable experiences and introduced me to friends from around the world, it allowed me to see all those tiny things I love about home so that I now know, home is exactly where I want to be. I’ve had a taste of what the world has to discover and meeting other travellers has inspired me to add dozens more destinations to my bucket list, but Whistler was my one big adventure; from now on I’ll always be back home before long.

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IEC Visa: Immigration at YVR

When you’ve gone through the whole Canadian visa application process, finally setting foot on Canadian soil is a big deal. There’s just one final barrier: immigration. It can feel pretty daunting, especially when you’ve heard horror stories about people not being given a full length work permit or even getting turned away. Being well prepared is the best way to ensure immigration goes smoothly. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s how the process went for me…

As soon as I arrived in Vancouver airport, I was struck by how super friendly all the staff were. Even the staff at border control, who can be quite intimidating, wished me a warm welcome to Canada. On the plane, every passenger is given a customs form to fill in. It can be tricky to work out what to put if you’re moving to Canada long term. Border control were happy to confirm the details and make necessary corrections to my form once I arrived. So if you are unsure put your best guess or just leave it blank.

I was instructed to collect my luggage before heading to the immigration office which is really simple to find and will be pointed out to you. The queue took about an hour but there were plenty of seats and tonnes of other people coming in on the IEC to chat to. Our group grew considerably while we were waiting! There’s a long row of desks at the front of the room, to which people are called one by one.

When my name was finally called, I was just asked for my POE letter and passport and then asked to sit down again. Moments later I was called back to collect my documents and the holy grail: my work permit! It seemed so easy there was a strong temptation to run out the room in case the dude changed his mind! But I took a moment to check over the details before leaving and luckily everything was in order.

Overall it was a fairly painless process. I wasn’t asked for insurance details, proof of funds or any other documentation except my POE and passport, but I knew I had copies of everything which helped me feel more relaxed. Definitely look on the queuing time as an opportunity to meet other newbies. A girl I met in the queue became one of my best mates.

So if you’re about to head over to beautiful BC, as long as you remember your POE, you’ve got nothing to worry about! Good luck and enjoy!

Vancouver: Top 3 attractions

Vancouver is an outdoors city. The silver towers of this coastal metropolis are set against a backdrop of green forest, vast ocean and distant mountain peaks. As beautiful British Columbia’s largest city, Vancouver showcases the province’s stunning natural beauty and recreational culture. Despite the ever-changing weather, Vancouver’s star attractions can be enjoyed throughout the year.

  1. Stanley Park: Vancouver’s 1000 acre park, almost entirely surrounded by ocean, is unmissable. A visit to Vancouver is not complete without a cycle or rollerblade along the sea wall. With breathtaking views, wide sandy beaches and an award-winning aquarium, this is an urban oasis like no other.
  2. Granville Island: For the ultimate public market shopping experience, visit Granville Island. A reclaimed industrial area, the quirky island is home to an array of craft shops, galleries and a glorious covered food market. Grab some samples and indulge on a waterside bench, as you watch tiny boats ferry visitors across the harbour and seaplanes soar overhead.
  3. Adventure day-trips: A range of day-trips are possible from Vancouver, the most popular being Capilano Suspension Bridge, Bowen Island and Grouse Mountain. For a low cost option check out Lynn Canyon Park, with its suspension bridge, waterfalls and trails through gorgeous temperate rainforest, for the price of a bus fare.

With such a rich array of outdoor attractions, the most important piece of advice for your time in Vancouver is that as little of it as possible should be spent indoors.

Finding a place to live in Whistler

Housing is probably the only thing you’ll catch a Whistler local stressing about (aside from litter related bear safety concerns of course!). There’s a shortage of affordable housing in Whistler due to the amount of holiday homes and lets, many of which spend large amounts of time unoccupied. Let’s take a look at the options:

  1. Hostels. When you first arrive, staying in a hostel might be your only option. There are 3 south of the village and 1 to the north, with Southside Lodge in Creekside being the most well connected and the cheapest (though perhaps the most basic). Also, the diner on the ground floor offers to die for discounted breakfasts for guests (think giant blueberry pancakes and bacon laden breakfast poutine).
  2. Staff accommodation. Several employers in Whistler have staff accommodation for first season employees, including Whistler Blackcomb and the Fairmont Chateau. These cheap rentals make up for low wages and also offer a very social and supportive living environment with your fellow first season colleagues. Honestly, it’s a bit like being back at uni.
  3. Private rentals. The best way to find private rental accommodation is through personal recommendations or on the Whistler Housing for Locals Facebook page. Use websites like Craigslist or Kijiji with caution, as not all ads are genuine. Start looking early and persevere. You should be able to find a decent single room in a shared house for $700-1000 per month. The closer to the village you want to be, the more you will need to spend. However, the difference could be less significant once you factor in transport costs. The Whistler Winter 16/17 Facebook page is a fantastic place to get friendly advice from locals and heads up on bad landlords or properties.

Wherever you end up living, you won’t be spending much time there. So long as you’ve got somewhere warm to rest your head after a long day working or on the slopes (often both!) you’ll be just fine. Living in Whistler, the mountains will be your sanctuary.

Arriving in Whistler

Getting the coach up to Whistler from Vancouver on November 1st felt almost as momentous as boarding a rocket headed for the moon. After two years of planning and preparing, I was finally on the last leg of the journey. As we drove up the Sea-to-Sky highway my excitement soared. The road curves it’s way along the verdant cliffs as it skims the shores of Howe Sound; evergreen islands rising from the calm waters as sunlit clouds roll over distant peaks. It’s literally impossible to describe it without sounding like you’re setting the scene for a fairytale.

My coach was organised by The Working Holiday Club, so it took us right up to Whistler Blackcomb staff housing (HOUSE). Two guys from the HOUSE team helped me haul my luggage up to my new room where I met my flatmates and got settled in. After a quick Skype with family back home, I headed down staff hill to meet friends I’d already made while staying in Vancouver. They were nursing Halloween hangovers in popular bar and restaurant, El Furny’s – a locals favourite thanks to its $5 menu. We’d be spending a lot of time there in the run up to opening day…

How much does a season in Whistler cost?

You will not make money in Whistler. At least not if you’re doing it properly. Unless you work so many hours that you don’t have time to ski/board or enjoy Whistler’s many other activities (read: nightlife), don’t expect to add to your savings. This is largely due to the effects of shoulder season, when your hours are reduced, on the precarious balance of already low wages and relatively high living costs. Make peace with the idea that a season in Whistler is an experience worth paying for.

Taking into account the cost of flights, insurance, visa application and spending money for before you start earning and for when wages drop dramatically towards the end, you’re looking at spending £3-4k over the course of the season. However, there are ways of making more money and making your money go further if you really need to cut costs. Look out for future posts on this and in the meantime, start saving!

Planning a Ski Season in Whistler

If you’re thinking of spending a winter on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb’s Olympic resort, start planning now for the 2018 season. These are your top considerations:

  • Working Holiday Visa
  • Job & Accommodation
  • Cost

Planning these aspects takes time, care and patience. The need for a visa prevents you from heading off on a whim, so you may as well take the time to get the rest right. There are tonnes of resources out there to help you, from Facebook support groups to working holiday package providers such as The Working Holiday Club. Getting these major points sorted in advance will set you up for a fantastic season in Whistler. Good Luck!

 

Welcome to LifeGems

LifeGems is a collection of notes, designed to provide honest insights into real life events. Shorter than standard blog posts, LifeGems present only a glimpse of the experiences that inspire them, allowing each one to deliver a focussed message. Some offer advice, some review places or events and the rest are purely snapshots from someone’s true story. Pick a category or search for LifeGems relevant to you. For now, LifeGems are the thoughts of just one person, but hopefully the future will make room for many more to share their experiences.