You might see some weird stuff in Whistler. PHOTO: Ashley Barker
You might see some weird stuff in Whistler. PHOTO: Ashley Barker

Rethink Your Vegas Bachelorette Party

There's no choice but to go deep in Whistler, BC

For the second time that night, we followed strangers to a bar. Two Australian women getting off their shift at the chic tapas restaurant 21 Steps invited us to a dive of a club called Moe Joe's. Inside, we lost them when we veered off to let a girl in a Level 1 tall-T paint our faces with neon tribal designs that pulsed under the black lights. I tapped into a part of myself that only exists outside the continental U.S. and after midnight—a phenomenon I call my Third Wind.

Gyrating on the DJ stage, some girls were wearing beanies, still in their long underwear, while others danced in outfits that more resembled underwear underwear. Shouting over house music with too much bass, people in the crowd greeted each other with, "Where did you ski today?" and "What time are we going up tomorrow?" in any number of accents. Skiers from all over the world come to work and play in Whistler for one thing—$4 Jaeger bombs, of course—but also for a chance to get down as hard as they ski, surrounded by a sea of like-minded strangers and mountains that offer some of the best skiing in North America.

For the same reasons, I opted to throw my best friend, Sarah Almond, a four-day bachelorette party in the Great White North. Five childhood friends flew into the Vancouver airport with their skis, high heels, and standard penis paraphernalia to celebrate her pending nuptials in what has been the epicenter for those looking to ski and party since the 1970s.

At the pace we were keeping, we expected our bodies to creak like ancient willow trees by the time we went back across the border—if we made it that far. Last call came mercifully, at 2:45 a.m., and we wobbled home through an empty Whistler Village in a misting rain, fingers crossed it was snowing up high.

At Whistler, you really can ski all day and party all night. PHOTO: Ashley Barker

The blaring of my alarm came early and violently, the way it does after just three hours of sleep and twice as many tequila sodas. I clambered down from the top bunk, stepping over two girls sleeping below me, one hanging halfway out of the bed, sheets wrapped around her ankles. The floor was a minefield of ski boots, goggles, and short black dresses spilling out into the hallway of our condo. I knocked over a half-empty beer can trying to find the light switch in the dark.

By 7 o'clock, we were in line for first chair. A heavy fog had rolled in overnight, concealing the peaks of the Coast Mountains above us. From the top of Excelerator Express, we followed the bride-to-be as she peeled left, the rest of us filing one after another over a blind roller—brightly colored dots of Gore-Tex floating in a dim, milky void.

And there we were, clicked in above 4,000 feet of some of the most influential ski terrain in the world, spraying cheap champagne from a phallic pink squirt gun into our mouths.

Brooke Wilson, a ski coach from Breckenridge, led our gaggle into a grove of hemlock and cedar trees for better visibility and to smoke some weed we bought off a cherub-faced rental shop employee. In high school, Wilson convinced me to quit the swim team so we could ski more, and her ability to make quick, technical turns through tight trees is rivaled only by her graceful power through a mogul line. The snow was warm, but the slope had enough angle to keep us moving down the mountain as we wove between the trees and back onto a steep, wide-open groomer.

It was a weekday morning, threatening rain, and it felt as if we had the place to ourselves. The quiet stillness of the mountain was punctuated by shrieking laughter as Almond, Wilson, our friends Amy Herrington and Tori Vendegna, and I moved fast and loose in the flat light—our technique digressing to absolute shit.

Had I not spent a week in Whistler the previous winter, trailing behind two locals willing to play host as they toured a few first-timers around the expansive terrain, we would have gotten very lost. The March 1997 merger of Whistler Mountain with neighboring Blackcomb created North America's largest ski resort with 8,171 acres—it would take a lifetime to ski it all. We had four days and we needed to get to higher ground, so we hopped on the Glacier Express quad to get to the top of the Horstman Glacier.

More than a decade before Blackcomb Mountain opened in 1980, Jim McConkey introduced skiers to the thrill of the glacial terrain through Whistler Mountain's early heli skiing operation. The mid-'80s brought skiers Trevor Petersen and Eric Pehota, and then the New Canadian Air Force, led by Mike Douglas, descending on the glacier to pioneer the so-called newschool. Greg Stump's Fistful of Moguls was also filmed on the glacier in 1998. The fall of 2000 saw the release of Parental Advisory, a freeskiing film shot almost entirely on the Horstman Glacier.

And there we were, clicked in above 4,000 feet of some of the most influential ski terrain in the world, spraying cheap champagne from a phallic pink squirt gun into our mouths.

We chose our line down the eastern slope, skirting below the Spanky's Ladder bootpack. As the sun burned away the clouds, we plunged into a harvest of springtime corn and hugged the shoulder as we linked turns for close to four miles.

It wasn't until we'd reached the bottom I realized we zigged when we should have zagged, dumping us out somewhere I still can't determine. The bus driver who shuttled us back to the village said it happens all the time at a place this big.

The best cure for a hangover is a dash through the Whistler trees. PHOTO: Ashley Barker

Back at our condo, we had less than 45 minutes to make our evening reservation at the vodka tasting room inside Barefoot Bistro. We scuttled through the village like a huddle of penguins, holding down our skirts and bemoaning the pain of wearing heels after clocking a full day in spring conditions.

Wrapped in oversized parkas, we filed into an igloo-like freezer lined with more than 50 different bottles of vodka, of which we sampled at least six in rapid-fire succession. We feigned refinement. Back in the lobby, we made our way below deck to the wine cellar where the level of sophistication exponentially exceeded our own the longer we stayed.

We'd been invited into the ornate cellar where the Prime Minister occasionally dines to sabre a bottle of champagne—a tradition reserved for ceremonial occasions (like remaining upright after six heavy pours of vodka).

The longer we stayed, the more it became clear we had no business being somewhere so elegant—a suspicion confirmed less than an hour later when the bride was wiping whipped cream from her cheek after taking a Muff Diver shot from the lap of our waiter, applauded by the nearby table of silver-haired Austrian men coming off their second day of heli skiing.

Sushi Village is a must-stop during any Whistler trip. PHOTO: Ashley Barker

In the morning, we began our sunrise ritual of trying to find our phones, soaking off day-old mascara, and forcing down a breakfast of bacon, water, and tiny penis-shaped candies. By 11 a.m., we made our second lap on the steeps below an eroding traverse called Goat Pass. Like us, the snow felt sticky and slow.
Pillow-sized chunks of slush were dropping from the fir trees all around us, like dead birds falling from the sky. Despite a storm that had brought 41 inches of snow to the mountain the week prior, temperatures were warming quickly below mid-mountain.

Almond, sporting a bedazzled pink sash over her jacket, and two others split off to find nachos and the hair of the dog at the GLC. Only halfway through the trip, she was starting to pace herself—a rarity for the girl who once, with Herrington, swam in the Bellagio fountain at a Las Vegas bachelorette party. The security guards who called them out ended up posing for a photo. She never quits, but 5,020 feet of vertical can slow anyone down.

Wilson and I rode the Peak 2 Peak Gondola from Blackcomb to Whistler where we dropped down to the Peak Express. It was cooler up top where the wind was whipping snow into frenzied tornados around our skis. We went right off the lift, skating 100 yards across the wind-scoured summit before I watched Wilson drop out of sight through a narrow gate. Strong gusts had filled the bowl with six to eight inches of fresh, dry powder. She swished her turns down the first pitch of Whistler Bowl in a complete whiteout, laughing as we squinted to see any variations in the snow. Nothing. Still, it was the best snow we skied in days.

On our second run from the top, we skied through a narrow corridor between rocky outcroppings on either side, mostly untouched since the last storm. Weaving in and out of each other's tracks, we moved fast through soft powder for 300 yards, reveling in the lightness of our turns, until warmer snow slowed us down, burning our quads as we held on for the long run-out to the bottom.

With a huge mountain and village that parties nonstop, you will burn the candle at both ends at Whistler. Time to suck it up. PHOTO: Ashley Barker

Dressed for another night of dancing, I looked at the couch lustfully. There's no way I can do this all over again, I thought. My legs were shot. I felt old. But I remembered my maid of honor oath—honor, courage, commitment—and sacked up.

We crowded into a booth at Sushi Village and ordered one of everything, including two pitchers of strawberry sake margaritas. When we caught the bride almost nodding off halfway through dinner, we woke her up with a round of sake bombs. And she's back!

That night at the bar, the pool table became a dance floor filled with wind-burned faces and sweaty hair whipping back and forth in time with the DJ. A sign on the wall read, 'Ski Hard, Party Harder' —a tacky cliché we took as the mantra we needed to push through sore knees from afternoon mogul laps, aching feet from ski boots and other senseless footwear, and tired eyes heavy from 14 hours of sleep in three days.
Last call. Last song. Lights on. Everyone out.

We pushed our way to the front of the crowd spilling into the street to the front of the line for a late night slice at the only place still open. Huddled around a metal table on the sidewalk, we inhaled lukewarm cheese and pepperoni, checking Instagram and the weather forecast. Nowhere left to go but home, we scampered back to our beds through a misty fog. The lifts would be spinning again in a few hours.

And we’re spent. PHOTO: Ashley Barker

Details, Details

Getting there: From the Vancouver airport, catch the Pacific Coach Line bus to Whistler. It's a three-hour ride with incredible views and will run you $100 round-trip.

Best après: The Garibaldi Lift Company, known as the GLC, is the spot for nachos and Caesars at the base of the mountain. For $7, get the double. Live music keeps the party going until 1 a.m.

Where to eat: No trip to Whistler is complete without dinner at Sushi Village. A staple since 1985, it is the place to fuel up on fresh fish brought in from the docks in Vancouver. Start with a pitcher of strawberry sake margaritas and don't skip the Hiro Roll, named after one of the original chefs. Just a short walk from the Blackcomb and Whistler gondolas, you can show up with your ski boots on. Party of six or more? Make a reservation.

This story was first published in the November 2018 issue of POWDER. Subscribe here.