Whistler: The school trip of a lifetime
Wow, it’s already been four years. It still feels like yesterday when I fell in love with Whistler.
It all happened on Easter Sunday 2018, which was weirdly the same day as April Fools. Our group was to meet at Trudeau Airport. We were a total of fourteen students with three teachers who accompanied us. My dad gave me a brand-new pair of Kastle skis – freshly designed for big mountains like the Whistler. We all went through security smoothly, and I grabbed a quick breakfast at some local café. Peter lectured us on which airplane types were currently docked, demonstrating his dream of following in his dad’s pilot footsteps. As we boarded the plane and took off for Vancouver. I was neatly in the back on the left-side window seat. Mr. Martin, the history teacher sitting next to me, watching First Blood on his own laptop. I couldn’t remember any turbulence during the 4-hour ride. After touching down, we waited in the airport for our shuttle bus ride to the resort. The Vancouver airport’s marble green walls and Indigenous statues are memorizing. I spent most of my time staring at the runways heading toward the sea.
When we left Montreal, the streets were still slushy. Rain and snow were splashing all over the sidewalks. Oddly enough, Vancouver was completely dry. The city known for its pouring rain had a bright and sunny day. We made our way through Richmond, Burnaby, downtown Vancouver, the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge, the swirly suburban roads of West Vancouver, and then the Sea-to-Sky Highway. I couldn’t think of a better name for such a heavenly passageway. It felt like the snow-capped mountain was born right out of the oceans. We stopped at a waterfall, and I practised my parkour skills, jumping among the slippery boulders. The warm BC weather felt like it was truly spring. After a while, we arrived at Whistler and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening shopping, touring the resort and enjoying a pizza picnic for supper.
The next day, we started skiing for the first time. We had a guide to help us choose the best slopes to ski on. At first, I felt my skiing was very sluggish and stiff. I got used to the rough and sometimes-icy slopes back here in Quebec. Whistler’s snow is very different compared to Mont-Tremblant or Bromont. At the top of the mountains, it was more powder than a flour factory, lighter than a feather, and quieter than walking on a sandy beach. At the bottom, it was the same sticky snow that you’d use to build snowmen and the snowfort from La Guerre des Tuques. It was the perfect ski conditions. Did I forget to mention we were barely in subfreezing temperature? We ventured on as many trails as possible – from mountain bowls to the same trails Olympian athletes competed eight years prior; it really felt we were surfing among the clouds. It took an entire hour to ski down from the peak to the bottom resort. I’ve never been happier.
Later in the evening, we went to a 4-star restaurant to fancy by ourselves to some of Whistler’s finest meals. I let my gluttony explain why I forked out $100 on my supper. As always, I impressed my peers and teachers with my knowledge of the province’s political landscape. We also spent the evening relaxing in the hotel’s pools and hot tubs. We tried to break the 9 pm curfew imposed by our teachers, but we were too tired to act as rebels after a day of skiing.
The following day, we went to Blackcomb, the other mountain facing the main mountain. In all honesty, Blackcomb is my favourite mountain among these two. Why? It’s all because of one trail – the Blackcomb Glacier. Yes, you heard me right. You can ski on an actual glacier. There were no lifts that could take you to the glacier. You had to climb up a steep slope to access the back of the mountain, but every climb was damn worth it. Then you can find the snow-covered glacier. Visibility that morning wasn’t great at the top. In fact, there were moments on the glacier you couldn’t make up what was ten feet in front of you. But once you were out of the glacier, there was a valley floor where visibility was restored. Our guide was sitting by a log and breaking pieces of a granola bar. He gave us the little bits in our hands and asked us to raise them. The seconds we raised them, a flock of whiskey jacks came and snatched the bar out of our hands. It was such a surreal experience. Feeding those whiskey jacks made me realize how I needed to get out of the house to enjoy nature in the country. There was something so memorizing about the name whiskey jack. Little did I know back then that I would adopt the name a little while later.
After supper, I spent the evening with my comrades at the local Tim Horton gossiping about all of our friends to the slow melody of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” Lord, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that song that winter. One thing that our gossiping made me realize was how unique we were. We were a bunch of kids from Quebec in the middle of British Columbia speaking French in a drawl native to where we grew up. It was the first time I’ve ever felt proud being a Quebecer.
The following day, our guide and teachers let us venture off on our own. It was the first time since the beginning of the trip that we were allowed to ski by ourselves. I paired up with Simon, Peter, Chloe, and Jasmine with Mrs. Laurence, who was my math teacher, tagging us. We started the day at the main mountain before switching to Blackcomb via the iconic Peak 2 Peak gondola. We were suspended 1,430 feet above the ground, three times the Statue of Liberty. We did the same thing the next day but the other way around. After doing our four straight skiing days, we went to a local ice cream parlour before sadly kissing the resort goodbye.
It was a rainy Friday morning when we left Whistler and flew back to Montreal. I don’t know where all my Whistler friends currently are, but I hope at this time of year, they will look back on all the fun memories we all shared together.
By Jacques “Jack” Wang