I love winter. It’s a phrase you’ll hear often in Canada—typically uttered outside the winter months when we look forward to the first snowfall, holiday festivities, hot chocolate by a fire, and all the other romanticized features of winter. I won’t lie; I don’t love winter, certainly not past January 1. But I do love the cold because I love to ski. Media Profile’s Work Away and Health and Wellness benefits allowed me to chase that love like never before.
Growing up in Toronto, I was lucky to spend weekends skiing with my family. My parents met as ski instructors and had me in my first pair of skis before my third birthday. That is my romanticized winter: Waking up early, grumpy from lack of sleep, to drive over two hours to ski the best little hills Ontario has to offer. Wind burns your cheeks from screaming down a run at the limits of your control, telling stories, and making memories on frigid chairlift rides. The sweet release of taking your boots off at the end of the day. Then piling in for the long drive home. All to do it again next weekend if you’re lucky and the weather holds.
If you’ve read other blogs, you’ll know that MPers have gone all around the world with the Work Away benefit. Many, like Aaliyah and Tyonna, have jetted off to warmer locales to get away from cold and wet Toronto winters. Others have visited Italy, St. Martin, and even Dubai. From the day I learned about the benefit I knew I wouldn’t be chasing the sun.
I’ve always felt a strong pull to the mountains and Canada’s west coast. Since 2017, I’ve visited Alberta and British Columbia annually—and been made small by the grandeur of the mountains I’ve seen and climbed. Travel is expensive. To make it feasible I’ve traveled with friends and split the costs, but as it worked out, I’d only ever traveled to those places in the summer months. I’ve stood at the base of mountains, yearning for snow, knowing that if my feet were set in the same spot a few months earlier or later, I’d be staring at snow-covered slopes ready to be conquered. I knew I needed to go. I had to experience the mountains, real mountains, in that way. Media Profile made it possible. With the $3K Work Away benefit I was able to travel to Vancouver, find accommodations just outside of downtown, immerse myself in the west coast lifestyle, and finally experience west coast skiing.
Maximizing the Experience using MP’s Annual Health & Wellness Benefit
I was in the city for all of March. Starting work before 6 a.m. every morning meant that I could spend my afternoons walking and biking through Stanley Park, trying new restaurants, and spending time with new and old friends. I love to be active, so it was a perfect fit for me. Last year, I used my $500 Health and Wellness benefit to add some new pieces to my ever-growing home gym. This year, I spent it on a month-long membership at Crossfit 604 in Vancouver and ski passes at North America’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb.
I tried to think strategically about when I could head up to the mountain. While not as far from Vancouver as Blue Mountain is from Toronto, a drive to Whistler is nothing to scoff at; the sea-to-sky highway is a winding coastal and mountain road, unlit and frequently slick with rain. I knew I wouldn’t be driving up every night. But I also knew that I didn’t want to go for a week at the beginning of the trip and then be unable to go back for the rest of my time in beautiful BC. I drew up a balanced itinerary, and as the benefit allows, took vacation at the beginning and end of my trip and a couple of days in between. That way, I maximized skiing opportunities throughout the month.
Hitting the Slopes & What Comes Next
I can’t properly express my excitement during those first days on the mountain. Two of my best friends Chris and Shannon decided to come with me for the first days at Whistler. We drove up to the mountain on a Thursday afternoon, and as we pulled into the resort, I remember Chris saying “look at the top!” and I turned around smugly, having studied the resort, with its 250+ runs and 40+ lifts for weeks, and said, “that’s not even halfway up.” We spent the day walking through the village, dipping into local shops and tourist traps but never taking more than a few minutes before directing our attention back to the mountain itself.
We decided to go to bed early. After the hundreds of stories I’d heard from my parents over the years about how much more difficult and intense big mountain skiing could be, I knew I needed my rest. But like a kid on Christmas Eve, sleep was hard to come by that night. I woke up at 5 a.m. and it was still dark outside. I tried to close my eyes and fall back asleep, but I was about to fulfill a lifelong dream; there was no going back to sleep.
It might seem a little silly to describe skiing at a very popular resort that sees millions of visitors each year in such a lofty way, but I believe dreams and desires are personal and valid. They’re built on our experiences, our values, and our own happiness. Believing that, I can unashamedly admit that the first steps I took at the base of Whistler’s alpine felt almost spiritual. Standing in awe of the sheer enormity of the mountain, feeling unbelievably elated and intimidated, I was almost lost for words.
My friends and I started off easy, but quickly learned that the stories were true: There’s a difference between east and west-coast skiing. A green run out west is as steep as a blue run in Ontario and maybe ten times as long. It’s humbling. I’ve skied my entire life, and I can’t ever remember my legs feeling quite so sore. As we progressed throughout the day, taking on harder runs and exploring more of the mountain, I’m happy to say that my excitement never faltered. Taking in the beautiful views from atop the peak, watching incredible skiers drop off cliffs like they were speed bumps, and making tracks in fresh snow, the mountain kept offering memorable moments.
I spent six days of my thirty in British Columbia skiing, each day built on the last. I experienced more of the mountain with other friends, basking in some other first-time reactions. It was a dream fulfilled, and I owe it to Media Profile. Without our Work Away and Health and Wellness benefits I would still feel that unquenched yearning. Though, I should say, while that initial yearning is gone, I’ve developed a new one, to chase that excitement and ski as many big mountains as I can. So even though I don’t know where I’ll be going next year, I think it’s a safe bet that it won’t be warm. After all, I love winter.