Tag Archives: Whistler

A TEDActive Packing List

Are you joining us in Whistler NEXT WEEK and wondering what to bring? Worry no more: Here are tips on what to pack!

Practically speaking

One of our hosts, Kara DeFrias, recommends leaving most of your wallet at home. She recommends bringing: your ID, one credit card, an ATM card, and a health insurance card. (Make sure to photocopy both sides of each, leaving a copy at home and another with you — just in case!)

Preparing for the weather

Whistler weather will likely be cool and wet: Expect the temperature to range from the high-20s ℉ to the mid-40s ℉ (-2.7℃ to 7.2℃). Luckily, Whistler’s winter has been milder than most, and highs may climb into the 50s ℉ (12℃). Though Whistler hasn’t seen much snow this month, you might still see a few snowflakes, so bring a coat! See current weather conditions »

TEDxMontreal organizer Katy Yam wants to make sure you stay warm enough to focus on the talks! She recommends bringing a pair of mittens or gloves, even if you don’t think you need them… otherwise “you won’t be able to join a genuine snowball fight or build a snowman when you really need to!”

The key to staying warm and ready for anything is to bring thick socks, comfortable shoes and clothing that you can layer, in order to adjust for warmer days and cooler evenings. Consider thin, insulating layers like t-shirts and tights under long-sleeved shirts and heavier pants. Garments made of wool or made with Gore-Tex also work well for the wintry climate. For those of you who want to ski or participate in winter sports (like a snowball fight!), bring wool socks, insulated gloves, warm jackets and snow boots. Is this your first time traveling to a cold climate? You might find these reviews on snow boots, gloves and other snow gear useful.

Still worried? Here are one, two, three packing list recommendations!

Advice from the experts

Comfort and informality help define the TED experience, and this is especially true of TEDActive. The dress is casual for all events, but as we like to say, elements of personal style are always welcome and even encouraged.

One of our hosts, Niki Dun, notes that “TEDActive attendees seem to give an above-average amount of attention to their choice of socks.” She also suggests bringing a waterproof jacket with a hood or an umbrella, for practical purposes. And for fun? These are the “kind of things you should consider bringing because you might just want them on hand: face paint, confetti and little treats for your new BFFs.”

Katy and Niki also suggest that you bring a bathing suit so you don’t miss a chance to visit the hot tub or some local hot springs.

One TEDActive veteran recommends dressing as though you are going on “a third date with someone you really like.” As members of the TEDActive team, we loved this advice and wanted to share some of our looks with you.




Happy packing and don’t forget your phone/tablet/laptop chargers!!

By Diana Enriquez

WHISTLER-BOUND FOR TEDACTIVE! Travel hacking tips from 2015 Host Leigh Rowan

In little under a month, we’re all gathering for one of the best weeks of our lives: TEDActive! In advance of that, I thought I’d share some travel hacking tips and tricks to making your arrival into Whistler a fun, inexpensive and engaging journey.

Flights to Vancouver (YVR) cost a lot – save money by flying to Bellingham or Seattle!

That’s right – due to some pesky international taxes, flights into the closest major international airport to Whistler (which is YVR) can sometimes be $140-$250 more than comparable flights to Seattle (SEA) or Bellingham (BLI). Using one of my favorite travel search engines, Google Flights, I was able to find flights from LAX-BLI for $224 roundtrip for TEDActive dates. The cheapest flights I saw for those same dates into Vancouver were nearly $120 more!

Takeaway: before booking flights into Vancouver, check alternate (close by) airports to see if you can save some dough.

Global Entry and Nexus: Your key to an easy border experience

A lot of hassle can be saved with these two handy travel tools. Though you may not be able to get it in time for TEDActive, if you’re a US Citizen and a frequent international traveler, read up on Global Entry (and its associated TSA Pre-Check benefit) and how to cut the line at Customs and Immigration on the way back into the United States — it’s an incredible time saving tool. Bonus perk: a lot of credit cards offer waived Global Entry application fees, so check with your card issuer to see if that applies to you!

Nexus is just like Global Entry, but it’s for folks heading into Canada. If you love our TED host country as much as I do, you’ll think about getting this to avoid the long Canadian Immigration lines, as well!

Takeaways: save time at the border with these five-year border fast passes!

You’re in Canada….but still two hours from Whistler

Though they make it look close on a map, your first port of entry into Canada through the Great White North and Whistler are not actually that close. Whistler is two hours from Vancouver by a scenic mountain road. There are a few creative ways of getting there with or without your own wheels, including:

Takeaways: however you choose to arrive, be sure to book in advance and bring a credit card with no foreign transaction fee (see below) to pay for it!

Paying in loonies, toonies, and plastic

Unless you’re one of the approximately 30 million folks lucky enough to call themselves Canadians, you’re going to be paying for the few things you buy in British Columbia in Canadian dollars. As of today, the one Canadian dollar is about $0.80 US cents, meaning that you can purchase a $10 CAD pint of Okanagan Spring Pale Ale for $8 USD. Not too terrible. Here’s the kicker: unless you’re paying in cash, your credit card company may be charging you a nasty two to five percent foreign transaction fee, which can quickly add up. Take a few minutes to learn about credit cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees as well as how to avoid ATM withdrawal fees overseas.

Takeaways: cash is always king (and easiest to use — it’s accepted everywhere), but your cards will work well too. Just make sure you’re not paying too many fees when paying with plastic!

Hotels abound in bountiful Whistler

Be sure to get the best possible perks out of your hotel stay at TEDActive. If you booked at the Hilton or Westin, two of the official TEDActive properties, be sure to add your HiltonHHonors or Starwood Preferred Guest, respectively, loyalty number to your reservation. That’ll ensure that you get the maximum points towards things like status and free future stays!  And, if you have elite status with either hotel, you could be getting extra perks like more points, free breakfast, or even room upgrades.

For hotels that don’t have a loyalty program attached (I’m looking at you, Aava, Crystal and Pinnacle), you can sometimes get better rates by booking via online portals like Hotels.com or Orbitz (plus, you can earn valuable rewards credits through both).

Takeaways: be sure that you’re getting return on the money you’re spending to sleep at night. Whether hotel points or credits for future stays, remember to claim those available perks!

Leigh Rowan is a long-time TEDActive Veteran (he’s been to every TEDActive but one!) and COO of ThePointsGuy.com, a website dedicated to maximizing travel experiences. He’s a self-fashioned travel hacker, and today he’s offered to share some handy TEDActive travel tips to make your trip to Whistler an amazing one!

It’s Bobsled Time

Feel the rhythm!
Feel the rhyme!
Get on up,
It’s bobsled time!

I know, too easy right? I couldn’t help it. Like most children of the nineties, my relationship to bobsledding is inextricably and pretty much exclusively linked to the 1993 Disney flick “Cool Runnings,” the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team to compete in the Olympic Games. But not to worry, this is not a story about a Jamaican bobsled team.


This is a story of a group of TEDActive attendees ready to face their fears. I, along with my new friends, ventured over to the Whistler Sliding Center, preparing to channel my inner Chris Hadfield. “So, what’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?” he had asked, after regaling us with his tale of being temporarily blinded in space, which makes racing a bobsled feel a little bit like braving the kiddie ride at a carnival. Despite that, the only thing running through my head was the thought of shooting down a swerving, curving ice slide of doom in a giant tube of metal. Well Astronaut Hadfield, in case you’re still wondering, this definitely makes my top 10.

At the sliding center, I warmed up my courage with some gold-medal distractions, including a sled-side chat with Kaillie Humphries, two-time Olympic gold medalist and reigning Olympic champion. The average bobsled athlete begins around age 24, but Kaillie started as a brakeman when she was 17 and eventually transitioned to a pilot, and a winning one at that. After watching from the sidelines as an alternate on the Canadian team in the 2006 Games in Turin, Kaillie went on to win the gold medal in Vancouver, and then again in Sochi last month.


Clutching to our enormous helmets and our last shreds of sanity, we listened as Kaillie explained the ins and outs of the bobsled, or the bobsleigh as it’s called in Canada. Here are the basics: Men compete in two-man and four-man bobsleds. For now, women compete only in the two-man (women’s bobsledding made its debut in the 2002 Olympic Games, and the sport still continues to grow). In bobsleigh, mass equals speed, so the heavier you are, the faster you go. The sled itself weighs a lot; as an athlete, you want to make yourself as heavy as possible so that big hunk of bobsled feels light as a feather, so to speak, as you push it past the start.

Sled technology in the last five years has taken off, in particular for the Canadians, the Americans and the Germans, as top auto companies invest and contribute to the development and innovation of building better, faster sleds. For example, in the United States, BMW has created a state-of-the-art sled for the men and women’s teams that is shorter, lighter, and distributes weight more efficiently across the carbon fiber body. Sleds are about 50% faster than they were even just five years ago, Kaillie notes, also pointing out that although these new technologies and opportunities have won her a pair of gold medals, they are limited to countries with the resources to invest top dollar in the program and the equipment.


Kaillie walks us outside and over to Corner 16, the fastest curve on the track. The sky is a deep royal blue, with the last remaining bit of light reflecting off the snowpack piled around the course. The track is lit like a bright, white glowstick spiraling down the mountainside.

This 1,450-meter (nearly 5,000 ft) track makes 16 turns, and has about 80% vertical and 20% horizontal-to-vertical surfaces, accepting forces exceeding 3,150 kg (7,000 lbs.) and up to 5Gs. The ice varies from 2-5 cm  thick and is formed by specialized ice makers known as Ice Meisters (great name, eh?). It takes about 10 days to make the ice for this track and requires pumping ammonia up Blackcomb Mountain through a system of embedded pipes in the concrete track, cooling the concrete track. The Ice Meisters then spray thin layers of local mountain water, waiting for each layer to freeze before adding another. The ice on the track is kept up by hand 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s not long before we hear a rumbling down the track and it isn’t more than a second or two before a blurred vision of a bobsled has come and gone, the sound of scraping ice and muffled yelps along with it. I look at my fellow attendee next to me. “You ready?” he says. You better believe it.


The next thing I know, an Olympian bobsled brakeman is buckling my helmet, tucking me into the cold, metal bobsled, and beginning the final push. It seems inopportune to make a Jamiacan bobsled joke at this point, so I let the moment pass. That’s alright, since I’m absolutely terrified. Bulk up, he says. Shrug your shoulders up, flex your muscles, channel your inner Hulk, and don’t let go. No problem.


The first few seconds are quite lovely, like a nice, tame roller coaster at some stepsister-version of a theme park. And then the thing begins to pick up speed. A lot of speed.

75 miles per hour.

4 G-force.

40.32 seconds.

Check it out.

By that 16th turn, we’d hit our fastest point. I was laughing and screaming and petrified all at the same time. The G-force at that speed felt like the weight of my body times five, sitting right on top of me. Had I wanted to wiggle my nose or close my mouth or do anything else for that matter, I would have needed to actually be the Incredible Hulk. To remain composed, in control and able to make decisions within tenths of a second while hurtling down this track at what might as well be warp speed is an absolutely staggering feat. Kaillie Humphries, you’ve got my respect, big time.

And Chris Hadfield, you were right. Within moments of jumping out of the bobsled, dizzy with delight, it was clear this was an experience I would always remember.

Next up? Make the Olympic bobsled team.