This past month, the Whistler Museum opened a temporary exhibit on the Sea to Sky volunteers of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The exhibit will run through March as Whistler continues to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Paralympic Games. One of the groups included in this exhibit is a group that formed well before the Games ever came to Whistler.
The Weasel Workers formed in the 1970s when Bob Parsons bad his crew of six prepped the course for the first World Cup Downhill races in Whistler. Most of the early volunteers were parents of Whistler Mountain Ski Club members, but membership grew over the years as Weasels continued to work on the courses for large races on Whistler and began sending volunteers to help build courses for World Cups, World Championships, and Winter Olympics on other mountains. When the Games were awarded to Whistler and Vancouver in 2003, the Weasel Workers began recruiting and building their team well in advance of the alpine events held on Whistler Mountain.
Weasels on the course with no sign of the sun. Photo: Lance the Ski Patroller
During the 2010 Games, the number of Weasel Workers swelled to about 1,500 volunteers. Volunteers came from across Canada and other nations to join a core group of 400 to 500 volunteers from Vancouver and the Sea to Sky area. About 300 volunteers worked specifically for the Paralympics, and a couple hundred Weasel Workers volunteered to work for both the Olympics and Paralympics. Weasel volunteers began their work for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) on Whistler Mountain as early as mid-November 2008 and continued to clean the courses well after the Games had left town.
Even during the Games, the Weasels continued to be a family affair. Bunny Hume, who began volunteering the with Weasels with her husband Dick in the early 1980s when their grandsons began ski racing, volunteered alongside multiple family members. She handed out and collected race bibs, her son Rick was the Chief of Course for the women’s course, and her grandsons Jeff and Scott worked on the dye crew. Rick’s wife Lynne also worked as a Weasel during the Paralympics.
Weasel Workers working on the downhill course for the Olympics. Photo: Lance the Ski Patroller
Some of the Weasel Workers who began volunteering as ski club parents even had children competing in the Games. Long-time Weasel Andrée Janyk, who could often be found working on a course with a smile, saw two of her children, Britt and Mike, race in the Olympics in their hometown.
Karl Ricker, also a long-time dedicated Weasel Worker, was on the mountain trying to prevent people from crossing where the winch-cats were working when he received the news that Maëlle Ricker, his daughter, had won a gold medal in snowboard-cross on Cypress Mountain and become the first Canadian woman to claim an Olympic gold on home soil. He went down to Vancouver to attend her medal ceremony, but was back at work on the course early the next morning.
Despite rain, wet snow, and warm weather over the first few days of the Games, and the postponement of three races, the Weasel Workers created and maintained courses for the men’s, women’s, and Paralympic alpine races that were seen around the world in 2010, and those who came to Whistler to work with the Weasels became just as much a part of the team as the long-time volunteers. Patrick Maloney, then the Weasel president, told The Whistler Question that, “Anybody that’s on that track is a Weasel Worker.” This sentiment was echoed by Weasel Worker Colin Pitt-Taylor, who claimed that, “as soon as you started working on an alpine course, you became a Weasel Worker, whether you like it or not.”