Home for me for the next little while is Whistler, a ski resort town on the west coast of Canada. It was a nice introduction to my first winter in four years, to arrive while the leaves were still flaming with the change of colours, and be eased in through fantastic fall.
Leaving the airport, two year work permit in hand, I encountered my first friendly Canadian, my shuttle driver to Whistler. His chirpy conversation described the passing highlights as we hurried through downtown Vancouver and quickly out along the sound. Water and mountains sculpted the view to the left, as far as Squamish, then we headed inland along the Sea to Sky highway. The leaves were beautiful, the mountains towering high above us even as we gently climbed. His enthusiasm for everything that goes on, the lifestyle in the mountains was infectious and I was filled with a buzz about being part of it.
Once I had checked into my accommodation, the friendly driver continued the tour for a few hours more, including all the different suburbs of the alpine town, the Olympic village which housed the athletes during the 2010 games and the stroll through the village.
I had accepted a job with Whistler Blackcomb as a reservations host, making bookings for guests to visit. Luckily the job came with housing and so the big things were sorted and I was able to make myself immediately comfortable in exploring. Still the first week was filled with the extras which come with building a life. There were numerous new coffee shops to explore, bank accounts to set up and hikes to do.
Whistler made a name for itself in hosting the Olympics and Paralympics for Vancouver. It was became a popular destination with Canadians in the 60’s and the mountain opened for skiing in 1966. Very quickly it was put forward as part of a bid to host the Winter Olympics, and after four unsuccessful bids, the dream came to fruition in 2010. The mountain was originally named London Mountain due to the fog which can hang over the mountain, but patriotically renamed Whistler after the calls of the hairy marmots in summertime.
Arriving in shoulder season seemed a great chance to train for the new role, whilst exploring the town in relative quiet. Still there was lots going on. Whilst volunteering at the Arts Centre there was a screening of The Rocky Horror Show which brought people put in full costume. There was a local funk band, Five Alarm Funk to raise the roof a few days later. The Whistler Sliding Centre hosted the North America Cup and International Cup in Bobsleigh and Skeleton, and in one frosty day I helped out at the start line, collecting the athletes clothes before they race and Iceboxing the equipment to bring it to a temperature suitable for the course. Whistler was already turning out to be a fun place to live with comedy nights, artistic meet ups at the pub, and being able to fulfil my dream of being part of a bookclub.
In the lead up to Halloween, a group of us drove north to Pemberton to do pumpkin picking at North Arm Farm. The colours reflected on the beautiful waters as we passed and the mountains towered over us demonstrating the scale of the coastal mountains. Once at the farm, we walked into the fields to choose the prime pumpkin for a Jack O’Lantern.
One weekend day we made for Creekside to walk amongst the forest to the train wreck. Several carriages of a train wrecked in 1969 were moved to the forest and are now the site of artistic photographs and colourful graffiti. The freight train, once a major transporter of the logged wood, still chugs along the line from Vancouver, dividing the forest with its persistent hooting. We ended up crossing the train line and ending up off trail in bear country. We ended a tiring day was a Canadian classic, Poutine, chips covered in gravy and cheese curds.
I can’t wait to find out what is in store when winter descends..