30th January – Happy Pre-Birthday

Due to the nature of Whistler Blackcomb, there are times one can’t use their staff perks. Specifically the free lessons – they can’t be used in blackout periods, which as it turns out is a good chunk of December and January. This means I haven’t had any more lessons and thanks to the flu, haven’t gotten out to practice as much as I wanted.

However, all that is about to change. In expectation of my Birthday tomorrow, I’ve got today and tomorrow off from both jobs, and I’m determined to make my way onto proper ski runs – starting with my third (and hopefully final) ski lesson. I don’t want to spend my birthday ‘in class,’ so I’m hoping to learn enough to finally go out on my own.

As it happens, the ski school is quiet, and I’m paired up with one other woman on my level. Our first stop is the beginner area of Olympic, but we’re almost immediately up the green run to see how much we’ve retained. I’m still losing control every now and then, but I’ve definitely improved – by lunchtime, we’re heading up to the top of Whistler, and I’ll be facing my earlier nemesis once again, Upper Whisky Jack.

Things are definitely more in my favour today. For one thing, there’s no wind, and fresh snow on the ground means it’s not as compacted as last time. It’s also slightly quieter so I don’t have to worry about people behind me as much.

The first part is as nerve racking as I remember – steep cliff on one side, and ground on a deceptive angle – and given how wide my turns still are, no way to not get in at least one person’s way. However, my instructor reminds me that whoever is in front gets right of way, and the people behind me are the ones who need to pay attention to me, not the other way around.

As such, we make it past the area I called it quits after crashing, and head down a viciously steep hill. I take one look at it and can’t believe he wants me to try – yet as it happens, I get down without losing control once. I have to dig in my skis and bend my need at a ridiculous angle a couple to times to keep it that way, but I’m skiing down a steep slope with something resembling competence.

Our instructor thinks so too, because the next time we go up, it’s to try our luck at the Ego Bowl, a run I’ve never been on that’s just as steep if not worse, as Whisky Jack, and we make it down. My fellow learner does have some knee issues though, which cause us some problems, but honestly, by the time we achieved completion of Ego Bowl, my legs were killing me too and I was happy for the reprieve. I finally, FINALLY, made it down a proper green run!

…So tomorrow, rather than dipping my toe in the pool, I’m diving in again. I’m heading to Blackcomb to try my luck at the blue runs so I can start skiing down from work at the end of the day.

 

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15th January – And the Mighty Must Fall

Goddammit.

We’re having some of the best snow I’ve ever seen right now. We’re practically swimming to the front door of Rendezvous to get the ski racks out, and almost nobody is able to enjoy it.

Why?

Well, for some of us it’s because the free lessons haven’t quite started up again yet.

But mostly, it’s because Whistler Flu: Extreme Version has set upon us all.

It’s been picking people off left and right through most of December and January, and I managed to avoid the worst of it (which I’m putting on getting the flu shot), but by mid-January, after several weeks of working two jobs on a vicious schedule, I finally fall victim. Calling in sick is the only option, and two of my room-mates are in the same boat, so we all sniffle in silence while we struggle to get back to work.

To be fair though, whatever strain this is, it’s taken out everyone. Even the Canadians – ELI fell victim to it, and I was genuinely starting to think he never got sick in his life. Both of my jobs are working on skeleton staff while we desperately try and recover. Let’s just hope it’s the last one of the season so we can handle the rest of it without issue.

 

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31st December – Happy New Year

No real Christmas update this year. I was working at Rendezvous and my relationship with one of my room-mates took an odd turn so there was no real celebration. I did get some token gifts for my room-mates and two of them returned the gesture with a Blackcomb mug which I loved, and did a Secret Santa with my Mexican stand co-worker’s (which resulted in me obtaining another mug…I think I might have a reputation). I also worked an additional shift at IGA for a few weeks to help with Christmas and New Year which wiped me out far more than I expected – pay check was glorious but I was dead on my feet – but didn’t actually get that many extra hours due to the timetable and my availability.

As such, I don’t have to work doubles on Christmas or New Years, and after a day at the Rendezvous serving customers, I have New Years Eve to myself. It’s a Sunday, which means they’re serving the Roast Beef Meal at Mountain Meals that lets me get a more traditional meal in, and in the evening I have some company in my flat when the quiz host of Mountain Meals comes round to swap musical entertainment.

Seriously, while he copies my small-but-classic collection of Musical soundtracks, I go to town on his, grabbing Les Mis in about a dozen languages along with a few other musicals. I’d never considered musicals in other languages but I’m hitting myself over the head for not considering it given how much I enjoy J-pop and K-pop. I’m told ‘The Little Mermaid’ in Japanese is well worth a listen.

After a few hours though, I say goodbye to my new Musical friend and head into the town to catch something I’ve been hearing about for a while but never seen. The Fire and Ice Show. Normally held earlier in the evening, this regular Sunday event is being held half an hour before Midnight for the Countdown. It’s a mix of fire dancers and pro skiers and snowboarders showing their stuff – the bottom of Whistler gets a giant snow ramp ploughed into it, and the winter sportsman get ferried up to the top, where they head for the ramp and perform a variety of jumps and flips…all after leaping through a ring of fire at the edge of said ramp.

At the bottom there are also fire dancers with hoops and batons, dancing and entertaining people on the ground – while music plays in the background and hosts work up the crowd as they wait for the finale.

Come 11:59, it all comes together, with every skier and boarder leaping through the hoops, surrounded by explosions and fireworks shooting through the air. Farewell to the very odd year of 2017 (whose only saving grace is that it wasn’t 2016), and here’s hoping for a more optimistic 2018.

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17th December – Wilful Ignorance

Lord, it’s not even January yet but my desire to punch someone is reaching critical levels. I don’t know what it is about having to wait ten minutes in a line for food, but people were really taking their complaints and selective hearing to eleven today.

The most memorable case today was a gentleman who ordered six plates of tacos and wanted ‘rice and beans’ to go with them. Since that’s a specific side, I asked him if he wanted six rice and beans to go with the six plates. To which he nodded and said ‘enough rice and beans for the tacos.’

Since he gave a positive confirmation to a question with a number, I put together six beans and rice, and pass them down the line. When I look up from the next customer I’ve served? The man has only taken three of the bowls, leaving the other three on the glass.

The most frustrating thing of all? I saw the man WATCH me bowl up the six bowls. He could have told me at any time that he only wanted three, but chose to stand there and watch me waste 3 portions of beans and rice.

Although considering the complaints we were getting today, maybe it was revenge? Everyone seemed to have a problem with our portion sizes. Now, we are not a cheap restaurant – we’re on top of a mountain, it’s a top rated resort, and there’s little to no competition. As such, prices are high. That said, professional loyalty aside, I think the station portions are pretty good for the price, especially on the Mexican stand. If you choose to have everything in your burrito or salad, that meal can feed two people very easily. Heck, there are dozens who just order one plate for two every day – staff who get FREE meals sometimes just grab the kids meal because they know it’ll fill them. Yet it seemed every single person got frustrated with the amount of anything they were getting. Everyone wanted an extra spoonful of rice, or an extra scoop of meat, or more cheese, and the classic ‘rice and beans’ on tacos in addition to meat (which we’re not supposed to do). For burritos, we can’t add extra because by the time it gets all the other additions, it’s so big it WILL burst, and managers have been breathing down our necks lately about the sizes of our plates – we HAVE to keep them within their requirements, which are by no means skimpy. Not that customers cared, we were being cheapskates or shirkers and ruining their trip by now letting them get three different kinds of meat on their burrito or making them pay for extra rice.

Honestly, by the time I got out of there I needed some retail therapy, and thankfully I had to buy some necessities anyway. First stop was Showcase, so I could buy some staff-discounted thermals. It’s getting colder and colder on our way up the mountain, so I want to be prepared should the weather take the same kind of chill it did last year. Grab a shirt and leggings for about $45 each with the discount, and then head towards a Whistler Blackcomb store to buy something I’ve had my eye on for a while, a new helmet.

Now, I bought a second hand helmet via Facebook in the summer, but lessons have really taught me that it’s not good enough, and maybe I should be investing in a better one. I get a staff discount on helmets too, and I’ve had my eye on one for a few weeks. It sets me back close to $100 after tax even with the discount, but with the amount of falling I’m sure to do, it’ll be well worth the price. The colouring ‘almost’ matches the lining of my ski jacket too, so that’s practically fate.

As a final triumph, I also get to enjoy a roast dinner at 18 Below tonight, which is quickly turning into my favourite staff meal. I love a Sunday roast, especially when I don’t have to cook it.

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15th December – Ski Take 2

Today will be my first shift at the IGA, but I have something much more important to worry about in the day. Staff lessons will be stopping for the holiday period, and I need to get a second lesson in so I can start getting some proper skiing done. So at 9:30, I’m down at the bottom of Whistler hoping to wrangle my way into a lesson.

Luck runs out, when I’m put in a group with 2 other woman who have had a few lessons – and warned that if I can’t keep up I’ll have to bow out since they’re ‘technically’ a higher level than me. Our teacher today is an Australian called Oli, who takes us up to the Beginner Area to see how much we’ve retained. I’ve been coming up here for an hour here and there on my days off, so I’m hoping I can make my way up to the green runs today.

Most of the day is spent getting our confidence on the slope up, heading up the slightly higher magic carpet to give us less angle and more room to stretch out our turns. Specifically the J turns, where you ski down in a straight line and then curve to the side. As someone whose panics when she gets a little too fast, they’re an interesting thing for me to learn, especially since I need to count seconds before I can turn and it feels like a ridiculously long time.

I do manage to keep up with everyone though, and at the very end of the lesson, we finally head up the chairlift to the beginner green runs in the Olympic area. One of the woman is not happy about it, because she went up here on her previous lesson and crashed multiple times, wrecking her confidence, but Oli manages to coax her back up for another try.

When we finally get up there though, I’m getting Whisky Jack flashbacks and doing my turns as slow as possible so I don’t lose control, which gets harder and harder as we reach the steeper sections. I lose control twice and go careening off down the mountain twice before I manage to get my skis into position for J turns. Since Oli is mostly focused on the more nervous woman, I’m left to fix myself…and I manage to each time without crashing, which is something of a relief.

In fact, we all get down the mountain without incident, but to the glee of the woman positive she couldn’t do it, so the entire day is considered a huge success. I might actually come to this hill and practice this green run a few more times, and then try my luck on the mountain again.

But that’s plans for another day. For now, I’ve got to head home, shower and get ready for my first shift at IGA. I’m in the Grocery department which means no till work (thank god) and should mostly be shelf stacking and helping customers.

However, since I’m new, and it’s Christmas season, I spend 90% of my shift at the front of the store bagging groceries for customers, so that the longer term employees don’t get pulled off the floor. This works for me since the work is simple and constant, and has an additional perk I didn’t expect – some people tip for bagging in Canada! I end up making an additional $5 from people with large trolleys to take home.

Later in the evening I’m told to shadow my co-worker’s to check out the various closing duties, mostly cleaning the toilets and doing delinquents (finding items customers have left on the wrong shelves and returning them to the proper aisle). They’ll probably be my main closing jobs for the foreseeable future.

All things considered my first day seems to go well – the work is constant but easy, with the biggest issue just being the time I get out (10:30, which means I don’t get home till 11:15 thanks to the bus timetable) as I have to be awake by 6 for Rendezvous, but if it gets too much I’ll drop a shift or two.

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13th December – My Quiz Fail

Today, when we make it up to the Rendezvous, it’s a beautiful day. The sky is completely clear…unfortunately, so are the slopes.

The temperatures dropped significantly overnight, meaning there’s been no new snow, and all the slopes are covered in ice, so only the more confident skiers have come out. This means low traffic for us, and a quiet day for us.

However, this evening saw yet another quiz night at 18 Below with a Disney theme, and I found myself heading there solo to prove my worth. When it comes to Disney, I’m pretty solid – I even spent half an hour googling certain trivia pieces to help myself out.

And considering I was taking it on alone, I did pretty well. Only started struggling in round 2 when they started bringing up live action Disney questions – the animated movies are my real skill so asking me about who played who is going to trip me up. As did one of the riddle questions about one of the princes (the answer was Shang, not Philip, and I kicked myself over it).

Sadly, I really fell behind with the last round being a musical one. They would play the first few notes and we’d have to figure out the song. I got about half of them (and learned that the first few notes from quite a few Disney songs sound a lot alike), but lost completely when it came to the bonus question – naming all of Ariel’s sisters.

All that said though, I still came second overall, with two girls just beating me in points thanks to said Little Mermaid question, so I consider that a valiant effort.

I also got into a great conversation with the guy who ran the quizzes again. Turns out he’s a huge musical fan, and very interested in a copy of a certain musical I managed to acquire this year, while he has dozens of musical soundtracks in other languages, so we’ll have to do a trade off sometime.

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9th December – Brace for Impact

Good thing I’m more or less recovered from that early onset flu, because today was our first real rush.

From what I’ve heard, this has been a quiet start to the season, so we haven’t had quite as much traffic as one would expect, but today finally pulled us over 30K for the first time.

Unfortunately, with crowds comes chaos, and my new co-workers are getting their first taste of Rendezvous at its worst. When they first arrived, I warned them that customers would drive them crazy, especially when it came to the phrase “I’ll have the chicken” – since we do not HAVE chicken, yet people will spend ten minutes in the queue looking at the menu and still ask for it.

Today was no exception. Seemed every other person who came to Mex decided they wanted chicken. But that was the least of the communication problems – customers did not want to listen at all.

Mexican is not a complicated station, but it does have a lot of options. In order to speed orders up, we have a system to help speed it along, especially with the salad section. People are offered the three toppings first (cheese, slaw and picked cabbage for tacos and salads, or just cheese for burritos), then the salsas, before going onto cilantro, lettuce and guac.

NO customer wanted to follow the rules. I swear every customer would hear us offer the three toppings , then point to the salsas and the lettuce and even start looking at the salad on the other edge of the bar (in winter, the salad bar has two identical sections so we can serve two people at once, but people seem to think it means they’re are two different cheeses, salsas etc). My favourites were those who asked for burritos, ignored me offering cheese to pick salsas and salad, and then ask me if we had cheese, just to make sure I knew they hadn’t been listening at all.

And with customers also comes to multiple requests for quesadillas, especially for kids who just want melted cheese, but we can’t do anything about that since we don’t have the ability, and wheat can’t go near the hot plate since it’s where we heat the gluten free tacos. It was a constant rush of complaints and special requests and by the time we closed, everyone was so happy to see the our area get closed off so we could clean and get ready for tomorrow.

I really hope that’s not what every busy day is going to be like, because I’ll snap and kill a customer if I have to handle six months of that.

There is one good piece of news though. We heard rumours of it happening earlier, especially since we’d been in charge of all the training, but the three returning staff have all been promoted to prep cooks, which means a small wage hike, and means I’m now in charge of the Mexican stand officially (although this basically just boils down to being the one spoken to if something goes wrong). Definitely something I’m happy about.

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