This weekend marks the annual return of Whistler’s proudest traditions, the Peak to Valley Race.
The brainchild of Dave Murray – the retired Crazy Canuck racing legend, turned Director of Skiing for Whistler Mountain – this event was one part of his tireless efforts to popularize ski racing amongst the masses. No doubt, Dave also considered it a creative way of showing off Whistler’s massive vertical. Many a race goer over the years has certainly left wondering “how much is too much?!?!”
With its 32nd iteration wrapping up today, sold out as usual, Dave’s vision has been more than vindicated.
Peak-to-Valley visionary Dave Murray came up with the brilliant idea to promote ski racing amongst the general public by creating a race far more gruelling than anything he had encountered on the World Cup circuit. It worked.
From the top of the Saddle all the way down to Creekside base, the concept is deceptively simple; people ski out from the valley to the alpine all the time. But turn on the clock and throw down a 1400 vertical metre, 180-gate gauntlet and, well, thighs begin to burn. For comparison, a world cup GS course can be no more 450 vertical metres, with a maximum of 70 gates. It is, quite simply, the longest giant slalom ski race on Earth.
Hopefully the legs aren’t burning yet! A long way still to go for this racer running the upper section of the course, circa late 1980s. Note the absence of the Peak Chair. Greg Griffith Photo.
Superlative course aside, what makes this event special is the tradition that it has developed over the years. This is one of the few races in the world where you can have world cup-level racers competing against, even with octogenarians.
The race is battled over by teams of four. Teams must include a member of each gender, no more than one “carded” racer (ie – pros, ringers, etc), and categories are sorted by the cumulative age of each team, from 149 & under all the way up to 250 & above. Some of the teams have been together for close to two decades.
Local rabble rouser G.D. “Max” Maxwell wrote a great feature in 2004, celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. In the article, former national team racer and P2V course record holder Chris Kent described the feat of endurance as such:
Coming off the first section, you’re gliding across the flats before Upper Franz and you’re beginning to really feel your legs. The first time I ran it, about there I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, how can I possibly finish this course?’ This is where you have to start getting tough.
Keep in mind that this section is only about a third of the way down.
But for every team grunting it out in the quest for Peak-to Valley primacy, there a handful of others who are in it for the camaraderie, and perhaps a personal best.
A racer heads for a gate on Upper Franz, 2016. Brad Nichols photo.
This year we’re excited to have the return of the full-course, after snow conditions prevented the race from running all the way to the valley last season (only the 3rd or 4th time this had happened in the history of the event). Good luck to all the teams today!
Whistler-Blackcomb has now uploaded the results for every race since 1985, viewable here.
2016 results available here. Congrats to all the racers!