So what should you buy, where? Being a skiing town, Whistler obviously has many equipment stores which you can buy from and your staff pass will give you discounts on equipment in most stores.
Generally around 50% of the people we send to Whistler need to buy equipment when they first arrive. We always recommend that everyone arrives with at least the basics (good ski jacket, trousers, hat and gloves). This leaves needing to buy skis, boots, poles and a helmet in Whistler.
Lots of our participants might already have boots, or skis, and just need to complete their collection on arrival.
During the orientation weekend in Whistler, we try to arrange for a small discount to be offered to Oyster participants. This is usually with Fanatykco who have been kitting out Oyster participants for years.
Fanatykco are expert at fitting boots, often spending a couple of hours with participants, making sure that the fit is just right. A bonus of buying boots in Whistler is that, if they don’t fit perfectly when you get the on the mountain, it’s easy to get them adjusted at the shop. Particularly for instructors, it is vital that your boots fit well. Fanatykco will spend time with you making sure they were moulded in the right places and they adjusted the plastic so that they were just right. You don’t want boots that are going to hurt whilst working! However a lot of people did buy boots out there and were able to go back to where they bought them and that shop would adjust them for free (not all shops do this).
If you are looking to invest in boots and skis and your budget is tight, we would always suggest spending more on the boots. You will be wearing them everyday so they have to be comfortable. I remember chatting to a ski instructor on a chair lift in Whistler once who told me, as I was complaining about my uncomfortable rentals, that her boots were the most comfortable footwear she owned!
With your skis there are a few different options:
- You could bring across either some old or borrowed ones
- You could buy some demo skis which have been used the previous season on a trial and should still be in pretty good condition, these are usually pretty popular as they are quite a bit cheaper but may not come in every size (a lot of people choose to do this)
- You could buy some brand new skis for the current season which will be more expensive but very on trend
- Some people buy a good pair of skis which they use for their personal day-off skiing and buy a cheaper, not so great, pair of skis for teaching, as the children do often ski over your skis!
- You could either use your old/borrowed/new but cheap ones bought from a friend or classified ad etc and then buy yourself a semi decent pair in the Boxing Day sales which run until around New Year. This could give you some good savings and mean that you can get some good new season skis at a demo price!
One thing I would say about buying skis though is that you should take time to do your research. At Oyster, we give you the discount list a month before the season starts, giving you plenty of time to read reviews and compare prices on the current models.
Poles, believe it or not, can vary in price massively! You probably only need some of the cheapest ones. If you are teaching, you may not even use them when running your lessons, they just in the way!
As mentioned earlier, clothing, goggles, hats, gloves and snow/hiking boots should be brought to Canada with you. Snow boots are pretty vital – you need decent footwear during the evenings when you are not in your ski boots. These need to be warm, waterproof and comfortable. You’ll learn that style is certainly not the most important feature of footwear in Whistler!
If you know that your extremities suffer from the cold, check out our product review of Blazewear heated gloves, written by former Oyster instructor Laura.
Gathering this equipment can, in itself, be expensive. My advice would be either:
- Have an early Christmas before you leave home and put all the essentials on your list for Santa
- Take what you have, even if it is a bit old, and replace it in Whistler once you’ve sourced some good discounts
- If you don’t own the equipment already, buy it at home and research online. Prices in Whistler can be high, even with a discount, as this is a tourist resort.
Another hint: always split and separate your skis with a friend as new skis can get stolen especially around the gondola stations from the bottom and the busiest times of year i.e. Christmas and New Year. You don’t want your brand new skis to be stolen! Also, do remember to pack a decent ski lock!