By Shannon Kilgariff
When walking through the beautiful white snow- covered paths of Whistler, you are overwhelmed with the surreal, magical atmosphere that feels as if you are happily trapped inside a Canadian Christmas snow globe.
Once you begin to explore, however, you realise that this strange foreign place is not all that different from home.
The ski shop you wander into is playing the familiar sound of Amelia Marshall from Triple J and the shop assistant calls you ‘mate’ when you try on snowboarding boots while talking about the cricket.
Once you hit the slopes, the lift operator tells you that the snow is ‘heaps good’ today and when you take a lunch break, you notice that the person serving you has a small Southern Cross tattoo on their arm. Yes, you could do a whole season in Whistler and only socialise with Australians.
Before exploring the wonders in their own backyard, many young Australians choose to embark on a 20 hour journey across the Pacific to discover Canada, which might as well be the other Australia.
With an expensive plane ticket and less than half the average Australian wage, thousands of Australians choose to travel to Canada each year. Why? It’s not just for the ski-bum lifestyle.
Jake Gluis, a travel consultant from Student Flights, frequently books Australians’ holidays to Canada. He said that it is more common for people in their early twenties to choose Canada above other travel destinations.
‘If it’s their first time overseas, it’s relatively similar to Australia, I guess, so they aren’t worried about things. Parents are happy to send them to Canada. They are the friendliest people you would ever meet in your life,’ Gluis says.
Gluis has holidayed and worked in Canada and believes that it is such a hot spot for Aussies because of the small cultural differences, high job availability and visa accessibility.
Let’s not forget the world renowned ski slopes that we in Australia seem to miss out on.
‘You can actually get a job before you go away, so if you do something like Working Holidays Club, you’re guaranteed a job within the end of June before you get over there for your season. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting a job,’ says Gluis.
Obtaining a two-year working visa in Canada is very simple. Australians can also continue to renew their visas until they turn 30, unlike other popular destinations such as the United Kingdom where you can only obtain a working visa once.
‘I think Canada and the UK are the top enquired places for working holidays; Canada is probably a bit more popular. It works well because you can go over for the winter, have a ski season and still come back for uni,’ Gluis says.
Gluis worked in a restaurant in Vancouver, just two hours away from the biggest Australian hub, Whister, which to him seems like home.
‘In Vancouver, everyone always asks you why you’re not in Whistler because that’s predominantly Aussies. When I was homesick I went to Whistler for the weekend because I got to go see Aussies. I could get an Aussie beer in Whistler and chill out with people who say “g’day.”
Max Burford, 22, from Adelaide, did a snow season in Whistler beginning in November 2013, where he worked nights at a hotel and skied most days.
Burford says there are a huge number of Australians in Whistler in particular and in his opinion, it is probably one slight drawback from being at this world renowned ski resort.
‘There are so many Australians there that you almost don’t feel like you are in a different country half the time because you are just as likely to strike up a conversation with someone who lives down the road from you in Adelaide as you are a Canadian local.’
‘But having said that, most people you run into who aren’t Australian love to talk about our country and how much they love it, so it isn’t all bad.’
Despite the huge number of Australians in Canada and even more in the ski fields, Burford, like thousands of other young Australians, highly recommends Whistler.
‘Do it. Whistler is a fairy tale town for adults. On the one hand, it is quaint and pretty with fairy lights and snow, but then on the other hand, you get to go and do extreme sports in your backyard and party every night with a bunch of people who are there with the sole purpose of having fun.’
It is obvious that the vibrant nightlife and regular party regime that we all hear about in Canadian ski resorts such as Whistler is also a high contributor to attracting Australian travellers.