Snow is amazing and winter is awesome but it can all come crashing down quite quickly if your feet are cold and wet. Happy feet equal epic days and avoiding the classic winter mistake of not having the right footwear for Whistler has to start from the ground up.
“In Whistler you have to think function first and fashion second,” says Ellen, a local boot afficiando out shopping for new kicks on the first day of snow in Whistler Village. “If you don’t get the function right the fashion will never leave the closet.”
This means leaving your skate shoes, suede loafers and Uggs at home (at least until about April). Luckily, Whistler has a lot of shops selling a lot of boots that offer both function and fashion. Here are a few tips to start your winter season off by doing right by your feet.
Winning the “Slop” Style
With over 1600 meters (5,250 feet) of elevation change from Whistler Village to the top of Blackcomb Mountain, the constant hammering of coastal snowstorms that brings pow to the mountains can also result in a mix of snow, ice and rain lower down in the valley. These varying phases of precipitation can soak poorly dressed feet en route to the ski hill, and wet feet are a terrible way to start a powder day.
L to R: Hatley, The Beach, Sports Stop
When conditions are slushy, look for a boot that can plunge through calf-deep puddles. The Beach carries stylish and sturdily built Wellington-style gum boots from Hunter and Aigle, brands that have both been making footwear since the 1850s. Hunter even manufactured boots for the trenches of both World Wars so they should be able to handle walking to the slopes, to the bar and back to the hotel.
For more affordable options, check out the Canadian-made Kamik boots or Bogs at Sportstop in the Village across from Moe Joes and Tapley's. SportsStop carries kids' boots too and the range of children's gum boots at Hatley is stylish, waterproof and very popular. Hell hath no fury like an upset child with wet feet (and if it helps, Hatley also has ice cream!)
Duking it out with Mr Freeze
Of course, mountain weather can change very quickly – today’s slush can be tomorrow’s sheer ice and when the mercury drops into the finger-numbing, sub-zero, champagne powder temperatures you will need a sturdy insulated boot to keep your toes warm and happy. For years the classic black and tan Caribou from Sorel was “Canada’s winter boot” and with its grippy tread and warm liners Sorel continues to be one of the more popular choices for getting around on freezing cold days. Check out the line of mens’ and womens’ Sorels at Escape Route or The Circle in Whistler Marketplace or Sportstop Source for Sports in the Village, but act fast.
“I just tried to order some more Sorels,” says Kevin at Sportstop, “but it looks like they might be out of boots for the winter. I think the big snowstorms in Buffalo and back east really ate up a lot of their inventory.”
Left: Why you need boots. Right: Adult Sorels and kids Native boots at The Circle
The good news is, Whistler boot shoppers have lots of options. Footlocker carries the classic Timberland line and the Columbia Sportswear store has a pretty solid winter footwear line as well.
Of course, there are also boots that preserve that high-fashion feel without sacrificing warmth or function. Soles of Whistler, in the Westin, carries fancy looking Merrell and Paladium boots that will keep the weather at bay and Skiis and Biikes in the Marketplace has handmade-in-Switzerland boots from Ammann and sweet looking kicks from Patagonia. (Both Merrell and Patagonia and Helly Hansen also have flagship stores in Whistler with some nice boots).
Get a Grip
What’s worse than wet feet? Slipping on invisible black ice and smashing your butt into the hard, frozen ground. While maintenance crews do an incredible job keeping the paths safe within Whistler Village, once you venture off the beaten path you need to stay on point. Dog owners have long been fans of strap-on ice cleats which turn your regular rubber boot soles into ice-crunching studded monsters that offer maximum traction. Escape Route stocks the line of Korkers which feature durable carbide-tipped studs that will show that ice who's boss. They’re like urban crampons.
Left: Ammann boot at Skiis & Biikes. Right: Icebreaker socks at Escape Route
Sock It To 'Em
No matter how warm or fancy your kicks are, staying warm is about retaining the heat from that endlessly combusting furnace that is the human body. The best trick is to get a decent pair of socks and keep that warmth where it belongs – next to your skin. The same rule applies for inside your ski or snowboard boots on the mountain, so don't cheap out on cotton Walmart specials. Merino wool socks offer the most warmth without the bulk but look for the ones that blend nylon and elastic for added durability. Icebreaker is a good brand but every ski shop in town will have options and expertise to help keep your depleting sock collection stocked up. Happy feet make for epic days. Have fun.
For boots that will keep your feet warm while simultaneously maintaining a strong “cool” factor head to The Circle for a pair of Adidas Jake Blauvelt Hiking Boots. Built with a traditional look and made from premium leather the boot is more for walking around the snowy Village at après than trudging through knee deep pow but it does have a gusseted tongue to keep snow and slush at bay and has good sturdy tread. “This is what I wear,” says Jon at the Circle. “And Sorels are amazing too, they last forever, your dad probably has a perfectly good pair in his closet.” - Feet Banks