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Aussies in Whistler: Arse-hats or getting a bum wrap?

Posted by on Oct 19, 2016 in Australia, Canada | 5 comments

Aussies in Whistler

With the news that Vail Resorts has confirmed the purchase of Whistler you can rest assured that means one thing: more Australians in the BC behemoth this season.

If you weren’t aware the Epic Pass has been available for a few years in Australia because of the Vail Group’s ownership of Perisher in NSW and now Whistler is part of their cache or resorts, pass holders are entitled to five days there in 2016/17.

Great say the many Aussies who have enjoyed an excellent product. But if some recent stories about what Aussies are like Whistler hold true will as many Canadians be as pleased?

The most recent story that caught my eye with a bit of Aussie-bashing was this one: Whistler named most livable city in Australia.

It takes a rather pithy swipe at Aussies in Whistler but like most good satire there are uncomfortable elements of, well at least some things approaching the truth.

“From cashed-up bogans to regular bogans, Whistler truly represents everything that Australia has to offer,” the article offered before a mock quote from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “Good, solid Australian values like homophobia, xenophobia, getting hammered, and a blatant disregard for speaking at a respectable volume are on display every day in Whistler.”

Ouch. If you are looking for some other stabs at blunders from down under you’ll find them in places like Vice: ‘Australian Dudebros Are Turning Canadian Ski Towns into a Never-Ending Bachelor Party’ and posts on Reddit like ‘Why so many Aussies, why so racist‘ amongst other places.

Yet there’s also plenty more positive, or certainly a lot more balanced looks at the ‘Aussie’ experience too. For a Canadian look try Pique Magazine’s ‘Call of the Wild’ or for the Aussie look at his his own countrymen: ‘Why we took over Whistralia’.

I reached out to Whistler Blackcomb for some stats about Aussies working for the resorts and they got back to me promptly thus:

Out of Whistler Blackcomb’s 4,100 employees there are approximately 500-600 Australians or between 12 to 15 per cent of the workforce. After Canadians, Australians make up the largest nationality demographic there. One would assume there would also be hundreds more not working for the resort itself though I couldn’t track any reliable data on this.

What I found was interesting was that Whistler Blackcomb actually only hires between 200-300 new Australians each year – which suggests a pretty good return rate based on those previous numbers. Plenty of Aussies are having a good enough time to want to come back and obviously WB want to have them.

And the official line from Joel Chevalier, Vice President, Employee Experience at Whistler Blackcomb: “Australians have been a part of Whistler and the Whistler experience for decades.  We really appreciate the fact that young Australian’s want to work and play in our town.  We find them to be outgoing, friendly, charismatic and a lot of fun to be around.”

Then add your general Aussie visitor numbers. It’s very hard to get a handle on but the suggestion seems to be anywhere between 30,000-60,000 Australians travel overseas to ski or snowboard each northern hemisphere season. Before the whole Japan thing took off in the early 2000s a travel agent told me that 80 per cent of their bookings were to Canada and “80 per cent of that 80 per cent was to Whistler”.

No doubt that market has splintered plenty these days but anyway you look at it Whistler is a big market for Australians.

And with this Epic deal you’d have to think it’ll only get bigger.

The question is Canada – are you ready for Whistralia to go next level?





  1. Back in 1996, I asked a young Aussie working at Whistler why there were so many Australians. She replied that no one else, especially Canadians would work for the poor wages paid. Is this still an issue?

    • I believe the wages aren’t great but that isn’t specific to Whistler Blackcomb, an industry and North American thing to a certain extent. Benefits not too bad when working for the resort itself … rents of course in WB would be higher than some other resorts no doubt. Probabaly not unlike fruit pickers here – easier to get backpackers who’ll do it as part of seeing the country and not worry too much about wages. For locals perhaps getting a better paying job in Vancouver and commuting on powder days becomes more attractive.

  2. Showing my age, but I was one of the bogan Aussies who streaked down the whole of Blackcomb mtn on Bicentary day, Jan 26 1988. These were ugly scenes, especially when the skier in front of me went into a racing tuck. Ahem. Nothing further to add, except that I’m slightly better behaved these days and have not been back to Whistler. Sorry for being the tone setter! It was all my fault!

    • There are still wanted signs around Squamish and Whistler for you … explains why you didn’t cover the 2010 Games I suppose.

  3. ….get a kick out of all this Aussie/Canada/Whistler hyperbole, they are all johhny-come-latelys. When I immigrated to Canada in the early 70s, Australians were really welcomed as being a part of the British Commonwealth brethren, unfortunately that welcome has been worn out by the overt action of quite a few irresponsible Aussie skiers.

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