Tag Archives: Peak to Valley

Peak-to-Valley: A Whistler Tradition

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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

Peak to Valley Race & Fundraiser

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Peak to Valley race, taking place January 31st and February 1st 2014.

The Peak to Valley race is a very unique race that has a definite place in Whistler’s history. The brainchild of legendary ski-racer, Dave Murray, the race starts at the (almost) top of Whistler Mountain at the Saddle and finishes at Creekside.

Peak to Valley Race, ca. 1988.
Photograph by Greg Griffith
Griffith Collection, Whistler Museum

The average GS race has 35 gates and a vertical drop of 250 metres. The Peak to Valley race has a vertical drop of 1,443 metres, with 180 gates and a course that’s over 5 km long.

Judging by interviews with the racers a lot of the Peak to Valley is about overcoming pain. Whistler resident Sarah Lynch described the experience in 2010 “I was just trying to remember to breathe and then your legs are just burning.”

Alongside the pain however comes a lot of fun and camaraderie. The Peak to Valley is not just for professional racers; anyone can join in – if they dare! The fastest time on record is 4.52.03 – the longest – 29.03.50. Despite these discrepancies both record holders had an awesome time taking part.

The race is a team effort with four people per team. Teams must have at least one woman and all must be 19 or over. Two team members race on the first day and two more race on the second. Their times are combined and the winning team is crowned.

There have been some questionable conditions facing the racers over the years, but to date, no race has ever been cancelled. In 1991 the weather was so stormy that the entire mountain was closed, but the race still went ahead. Racers could upload on the Olive chair and then get a snowcat the rest of the way up, as the conditions were too dangerous for a lift to be run. One racer, Simon Wiruntene from the New Zealand National Ski Team even hiked up, as he knew he was one of the last to start, and actually managed to get the fastest time of the day!

Quilt up for auction: Made out of the race T-shirts spanning the entire history of the Peak to Valley Race

To mark the 30th anniversary Whistler Blackcomb has commissioned a quilt made out of the race T-shirts spanning the entire history of the event. The result is an impressive memento of one of Whistler’s best-loved races. The quilt will be auctioned off to raise money for the Whistler Museum. To make a bid for this piece of Whistler racing history check out the Whistler Museum website (www.whistlermuseum.org) or call us on 604 932 2019. The quilt will be displayed at the Peak to Valley race itself and then afterwards at the Whistler Museum. Bidding will close on February 8th, 2014.

Link to auction here.

Quilt up for auction: Made out of the race T-shirts spanning the entire history of the Peak to Valley Race